UW-Eau Claire selected for national academic advising project

| Denise Olson

UW-Eau Claire is committed to supporting students through a holistic approach to advising, and our unique academic advising model has earned our selection as the only Midwest university to participate in a national program aimed at furthering excellence in academic advising.

UW-Eau Claire will take part in a two-year national study of academic advising set to establish institutional benchmarks to evaluate and improve academic advising, and acknowledge the central role of these services in student success.

The “Excellence in Academic Advising Project” is sponsored by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. The Gardner Institute has earned a reputation of being at the forefront of evidence-based strategic planning for student success and change management in higher education.

In year one of the study, UW-Eau Claire will work with an EAA fellow who will guide the school through an institutionwide, evidence‐based, decision-making, planning and implementation process to improve its academic advising efforts. Based on the nine EAA “Conditions of Excellence in Academic Advising,” we will have the opportunity to refine our already successful model.

Billy Felz, director of the Advising, Retention and Career Center (ARCC), is extremely proud of the selection for this project, and very much looks forward to the role UW-Eau Claire will play in shaping the future of academic advising on a national scale.

“The Excellence in Academic Advising program is going to change how college campuses can support and empower their students,” Felz said. “The UW System was very interested in participating in this cutting-edge concept and wanted a campus to participate in the initial cohort. UW-Eau Claire rose to the challenge and took the initiative to apply. We had a compelling application because our newly implemented advising model is an idea many schools across the country are looking to move toward.”

The consolidation in 2016 of the previously separate offices of Advising, Career Services and Service-Learning brought an opportunity to change the advising model used at UW-Eau Claire. What was adopted was a new, three-pronged approach in which an ARCC academic advisor, a faculty advisor and a career counselor combine to create a more holistic and comprehensive approach. Students remain under the advisement of one counselor for their entire academic journey. This continuity already is proving to be advantageous.

Julia Diggins, formerly an assistant director in the previous Advising office and now a major gifts officer in the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, sees a lot of merit in this new approach.

“I love the idea of a student making a connection to a counselor when they start, and being able to keep that connection throughout their time here. Some students — depending on their background, their family life, the type of high school they attended — need an anchor. They had that in other ways previously, so making sure that they have access right away to create that kind of anchor with someone in the ARCC is really important,” Diggins said.

Our selection in this national cohort is clear recognition that the work being done in the ARCC is a successful model — and one that has proven to be successful and worth emulating.

Junior political science major Charlie Johnson could not be more pleased with the guidance and services he has been able to find in the ARCC.

“It's been incredibly valuable. I'm not sure if I'd have been as successful if this ARCC wasn't here,” said Johnson, a frequent visitor to the ARCC since his freshman year. “From planning far in advance for study abroad to last-minute scheduling jams, they are the experts in seeing and removing road blocks in our paths. Everyone is there to help guide us cohesively through this whole college experience.”

Eleven other institutions from across the country were selected from a large pool of applicants with a variety of advising structures. The institutions included two- and four-year institutions; small liberal arts colleges; historically black colleges and universities; large online, four-year regional and state institutions; and both online and on-campus institutions.

The charter cohort institutions are:

  • College of the Mainland.
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College.
  • State University of New York at New Paltz.
  • Florida International University.
  • Frostburg State University.
  • American Public University System.
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
  • University of Hawai’i-Mānoa.
  • University of Southern Maine.
  • Johns Hopkins University.
  • Claflin University.
  • Wheaton College Massachusetts.

Provost Patricia Kleine is focused on the overarching message that this selection points out about UW-Eau Claire.

“Participating in the charter cohort along with institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, SUNY New Paltz and Florida International University provides Billy Felz and the ARCC staff a unique opportunity to examine the current practices in their work with students and to curate best practices in advising and career counselling learned from other institutions,” Kleine said. “And it shows the respect the Gardner Institute and NACADA have for UW-Eau Claire’s efforts to develop a new model for professional and faculty advisors’ collaboration in facilitating student success.”

UW-Eau Claire has been a national leader among similar institutions in many areas over recent years, most notably in collaborative student-faculty collaborative research, study abroad and LGBTQ programming and services. Selection in the EAA project indicates that we can now add academic advising to a strength earning UW-Eau Claire national recognition.

“Participating in the cohort will allow us to assess our relatively new program, evaluate our best practices and create a strategic, evidence-based plan going forward,” Felz said. “We are excited to improve our service to students, and at the same time, contribute to the development of best practices in our profession that will serve as an example across the UW System and the country.”

Photo caption: ARCC advisor Kim Wellnitz works with students from the College of Business on ways to keep their academic plan and graduation date on track.