Academic advising is a vital part of undergraduate education. Advisors help students find the resources and tools to explore, define and accomplish academic and career goals. The process can be complex and challenging, and it consistently rates as an area in which students have concerns and questions.
As part of its goal of improving student services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates Oversight Committee set aside $1.5 million in April 2010 to comprehensively enhance academic and career advising.
After a yearlong process that involved reviews of peer institutions, examining campus advising reports and surveys, meeting with students, and consulting widely with campus advisors and others across campus, the MIU Advising Working Group has developed recommendations for allocating these resources.
The recommendations, which will be forwarded to Chancellor Biddy Martin and Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. for action, is available for download here.
The campus community is invited to email email@example.com with thoughts and feedback by May 4.
"Excellent advising is essential to almost all aspects of students' education," says Annette McDaniel, chair of the working group, assistant director of the Center for the First-Year Experience (CFYE) and coordinator of the Transfer Transition Program. "It's fundamentally a teaching/learning enterprise that has a unique interpersonal dimension."
Each of the working group's four recommendations includes concrete steps to improve the campus environment around advising.
Improved access to advisors: The working group recommends funding 20-24 new full-time academic staff advisor positions, allocated as follows:
- 12-16 full time equivalent (FTE) to schools and colleges through a competitive proposal process;
- Two FTE to the Exploration Center for Majors and Careers to enhance early career and major exploration opportunities;
- Two FTE to augment advising for undergraduate transfer students (1 to the Transfer Transition Program and 1 to the College of Letters and Sciences);
- Three FTE to Center for Pre-Health Advising to provide long-term resources for pre-health advising, and,
- One FTE to augment pre-law advising on campus.
Creating a system for campus-wide advising leadership and coordination: The working group recommends the creation of a campus-level unit to provide centralized leadership and coordination for undergraduate advising. The unit will be led by a newly created director of undergraduate advising and report to the Office of the Provost, through the vice provost for teaching and learning.
The mission of the new advising unit is to facilitate the success of advising units at UW-Madison by:
- Articulating a campus vision for undergraduate advising;
- Providing leadership, advocacy and expertise related to undergraduate advising;
- Creating a structure for cross-campus communication and collaboration;
- Providing financial and human resources, coordination and leadership for advisor training/professional development;
- Providing financial and human resources for coordination, creation and integration of advising technologies and information systems;
- Facilitating campus-wide assessment to maximize the quality of undergraduate advising;
- Improving the understanding of undergraduate advising's role in reducing the achievement gap, and,
- Bringing visibility to the role of advising in undergraduate education.
Improve advising-related technology: The group recommends the director of undergraduate advising encourages development of new advising-related technologies and better coordination of existing technology resources that impact advising. Priority technology projects include:
- Continuing development and maintenance of the Advisor Notes System;
- Developing an early warning system for detecting students who are at risk;
- Creating a web portal that will help students find campus advising resources and events, and online tools for helping students identify appropriate majors and careers;
- Coordinating the delivery of resources needed by advisors to be more efficient and effective;
Improved advisor training and assessment: The group identified an absence of, and strong need for, coordinated training for new advisors as well as ongoing professional development for experienced advisors. To improve advisor effectiveness, the group recommends that the director of undergraduate advising's office develop a comprehensive training and assessment plan that will include:
- Creating coordinated training opportunities for all new advisors;
- Increasing the ability of advisors to be effective with students from diverse backgrounds and those with documented disabilities;
- Enhancing knowledge of career advising subjects among academic advisors, and,
- Helping advisors respond appropriately to students with mental health issues, especially those students who may be a threat to themselves and others.