Over the summer of 2016, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW-Eau Claire) began its transition to a centralized advising model with the opening of the Advising, Retention, and Career Center (Center). This model will help students remain on track toward completing their degree, provide them support needed to graduate in four years, and connect them with campus expertise and programs to promote career preparation and academic success. New students in summer 2016 were assigned to advisors in the Center; current students on campus continue to be advised as they have been.
Each subsequent incoming class will be included within the Center so that within four years all students will be advised by centralized advisors.
The new advising model is collaborative in nature. Each student will partner with an academic advisor, a faculty advisor, and a career counselor as represented in the Blugold Advising Triangle. Academic Advisors will provide comprehensive academic and career advising to approximately 300 undergraduate students per advisor, while working with campus offices to provide up-to-date referral information regarding their advisees. Advisors will also increase students' awareness of campus resources and participation in high-impact practice opportunities such as study abroad, undergraduate research, and internships.
Recently, I was speaking to prospective students and their parents about Materials Science and Engineering. In general, conversations about engineering go well because I don't have to work very hard at "selling" it.
I described the requirements and pre-requisites for the major, how many credits were required and how "structured" it is, and the great interest local companies have shown in developing new internship opportunities, all to parents who were nodding enthusiastically and smiling as well as the prospective students who smiled politely and sort of drifted off.
Almost as an afterthought, I switched to talking about "The Power of [AND]" and was amazed to see the students light up. Suddenly they were talking about other things that interested them, how they could see connecting different areas of learning, and that "no one major defined them".
The academic advisors will work in one of seven Advising Center Major Clusters. Each cluster consists of five to ten academic majors developed through an analysis of major changing patterns of students over the recent ten-year span. The goal is that once a student declares a major or cluster, they will have the same academic advisor through graduation. Students who are not ready to declare a major in their first year will start in an exploratory cluster. Advisors in this cluster will provide specific programming and resources to help students choose a program cluster by the start of their second year. Lead advisors will supervise one or two program clusters, maintain their own advising caseload, serve as the primary liaison between academic departments and the advising staff, and oversee the administrative needs of their cluster.
Career Counselors are also part of the Advising, Retention, and Career Center. While academic advisors will lead first-year students through the initial major and career exploration process, career counselors will partner with students to prepare them for internships and job searches, readying them for life after UW-Eau Claire, as well as providing alternative career advising.
Faculty Advisors will continue to provide ongoing consultation to help their students develop comprehensive, long-range academic and career plans, especially the selection of major specific courses that align with the students' career goals. Additionally, faculty advisors will collaborate with academic advisors to monitor the student's progress toward fulfillment of all applicable degree requirements and connect students to opportunities for high-impact practices, especially those opportunities available in the faculty member's department or academic discipline.
All academic and faculty advisors on campus will have access to predictive analytics and intrusive advising tools supported by new software, Student Success Collaborative Campus. This tool will help identify students who are off track or potentially at risk, help facilitate and track referrals to campus support resources, and streamline communication processes to improve our advising and retention efforts.
Priorities and Actions
Provide pathways and preparation that promote timely degree completion to students who are undeclared or seeking degrees in selective programs.
- Identify coursework common to cluster majors that students should complete in the first 30 credits.
- Provide alternative pathways for students not admitted to selective majors such as nursing, teacher education, kinesiology, accounting, and actuarial science.
- Promote interdisciplinary majors such as liberal studies as an option for undeclared students and those who are not well served by more traditional majors.
- Ensure availability and accuracy of four-year degree plans for each program.
Reform policies, procedures, and curriculum to promote student success, persistence, and four-year graduation.
- Require Personal Advising Code (PAC) registration codes for all students each semester.
- Review all academic curriculum policies and practices, particularly in areas that significantly impact transfer, exploratory, and major-changing students.
- Review each academic program's curriculum to generate data-driven solutions to curricular bottlenecks, high-failure gatekeeper courses, and opportunity gaps.
Use a multi-dimensional approach to assess the Advising, Retention, and Career Center's effectiveness.
- Create a process and identify criteria to assess individual advisors based on appropriate lead measures such as engagement and rapport with students, record keeping, and contributions to overall operations of the Center.
- Collaborate and consult with campus stakeholders in monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of the Center.
Focus Center efforts to be on track to reach the 2024 goals for first-to-second-year retention (84%-90%) and second-to-third-year retention (73%-83%).
- Develop processes to support all students to attain 30 credits in the first year.
- Implement an early warning system.
- Develop and deploy a priority registration follow-up process.
Provide effective career counseling for students across their entire academic career.
- Provide interest inventory and career assessment for all first-year students.
- Partner with deans, department chairs, and program directors to determine career counseling services that are required for students in each college.
- Develop tools to help students explore major selection, career exploration, and post-academic planning from the point of admission forward.