This summer, we began rolling out Advising: The Volunteer Experience, a new approach that will significantly improve our academic advising of students and help us take the next steps in boosting retention.
All freshmen have been assigned a professional advisor, and they will continue to work with a professional advisor in their college throughout their undergraduate career. Over the next three years, our goal is to ensure that all students are paired with professional advisors.
Advising: The Volunteer Experience has six goals:
- An integrated academic advising model. Advisors will help students explore their strengths, interests, and values; support them in creating an academic plan; assist them in identifying Experience Learning opportunities; and guide them toward continued career exploration.
- New advisor and faculty roles. Advisors will work closely with college faculty and will help link students with opportunities to engage in their majors and with faculty mentors. As we strengthen our advising team, faculty should not have to perform the administrative tasks associated with advising and will be able to focus more intently on mentoring students.
- Grow our advising team. Our goal is the national best practice—one professional advisor for every 300 students. The Tickle College of Engineering, the College of Social Work, and the College of Architecture and Design are already at this level; other colleges still have a way to go. Through a centrally funded model, we’ve added 16 professional advisors this year, bringing the total to 56 campus-wide. At our present enrollment, we need to add at least 15 more over the next few years. If our enrollment increases, we’ll need more.
- Provide transition advising. We now have three transition coaches housed in First-Year Studies who specialize in helping students in transition, including transfer students who don’t get into the college or major of their choice, students who must change majors because of grades, students who voluntarily change majors, and Volunteer Bridge students.
- Focused retention strategies. Our advisors need to work closely with students to identify when they are struggling—academically, financially, or personally—and connect them with appropriate resources.
- Advisor effectiveness. New advisors must have a master’s degree and experience working with college students in a campus setting. A career path allows advisors to use their growing knowledge and experience to move from advisor to senior advisor to master advisor. We’re hosting our first academic advising conference in September and bringing in nationally known speakers to talk to our advisors about best practices. We want this to become an annual event. We also plan to increase effectiveness through improved technology, reporting, processes, and assessment.