Posted at 1:10 p.m., March 10, 2015

Holistic advising collides with registration

We’ve all been there…you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting patiently for your turn to go. You try to peek around everyone to see just how far back in line you are. You think, “Maybe I should get off on this exit?” But the opportunity comes and goes, and you’re still stuck wasting time in traffic. Then the next number is called and you realize you’re actually stuck in Laramie County Community College’s annual semester rush hour traffic jam: registration time. You have an hour and a half with this holistic stranger to answer all of life’s questions and to decide in which direction you want your life moving and don’t forget to check-in twice a semester…go.

In January 2014, LCCC implemented an holistic advising model in which professional advisers instead of faculty advisers work with students on their “personal and vocational goals by encouraging students to take responsibility for their own progress and success.”

Under this model a new student with 0-24 credits is assigned one holistic adviser for their entire time at LCCC who is “intrusive” and serves as a resource for campus services. At the 25-credit level a student is expected to take a greater leadership role in determining his academic plan.

According to this holistic advising model, a student’s success pathway begins with admissions, orientation and exploration, then moves to focus, maturity and exit/transition.

At LCCC an incoming student now must attend a mandatory orientation where he is assigned a holistic adviser and must schedule an “initial intake” appointment before he can register. He will learn to navigate college and community resources, understand his placement scores and their effect on prerequisites, and identify a program of study in order to develop an academic plan.

If a student is undecided about a specific program, his holistic adviser will help the student determine a major.

To avoid the rush hour, students in certain programs have their own “HOV lanes.” The “modified advising pathways” for a certificate-seeking student has an accelerated entry process and an immediate connection to faculty.

Competitive entry programs such as in the health sciences also assign faculty immediately to a student.

For other incoming degree-seeking students, their journey requires a stop at every port of entry.

During the “0-24 credits toward program completion,” holistic advisers are supposed to refer a student to campus and community resources and personally check in with the student early and at midterm.

Program faculty are supposed to connect with first-year students through open houses and social events, becoming involved with new student orientation and by teaching COLS 1000 (first-year seminar, “Intro to College Success”). They are supposed to be given a list of students in the program each semester.

A student is supposed to connect with his holistic adviser at least twice a semester. The first meeting must be in person, while the second may be done by phone, email or in person. A student is supposed to connect with program faculty to learn details of program content.

During the “25+ credits toward program completion,” holistic advisers are supposed to maintain progress updates and contact with the student either through in-person meetings, phone calls and/or emails. They are supposed to facilitate academic recovery with a suspended student and work on building “five senses of success: connectedness, capability, resourcefulness, purpose and culture.”

At this level faculty are formally assigned as program advisers and are supposed to meet with the student each semester to explore personal goals, academic skills, relationships between courses, career fields, internships and program transfer. The program advisers are also supposed to work with students on building the “five senses of success.”

A student is supposed to connect with a holistic adviser at least once a semester and with a program adviser regularly.

Starfish Early Alert program

In order to keep traffic flowing, LCCC has identified areas to be implemented including professional development for those involved in advising, and the implementation of a software program called Starfish for the fall 2015 semester.

The Starfish Early Alert module would allow advisers and faculty to collect information and manage concerns. For example, automatic and manual flags could be put on a student’s secure folder when he has not declared a major or when his class attendance is a concern. Faculty and advisers may also put kudos in the student’s folder. Starfish will be piloted during the B8 course block and during the summer session.

Almost immediately faculty had concerns about this holistic advising model. So at the April 18, 2014, Faculty Senate meeting, Judy Hay, vice president of student services, and Kathryn Flewelling, director of advising, were both guests.

“The advisers will be doing advising for each student and the faculty will continue to develop relationships with individuals and groups,” Hay said.

Instead, Brian Uzpen, astronomy and physics instructor and Faculty Senate member, outlined a dual model favored by faculty, in which both the faculty adviser and the holistic adviser have to sign off on the academic plan.

“The reasoning for this is that the faculty are content experts and can help guide classes that students take,” Uzpen said.

The faculty provided its suggestion of how the advising program should work in the dual model.

The mission of the faculty within advising should play an active role in preparing students to succeed academically in college-level learning, to guide students through programs so they remain on the proper track of completion, to assist students in entering transfer programs and to explore career opportunities. The goal of faculty is that it should make connections with students that will facilitate academic success and enrich the students’ experience at LCCC.

To accomplish the mission and vision, an incoming student should select and area of study, in which case a faculty adviser will be assigned. Once a student has declared a major, faculty advisers should have the ability to lift registration holds in order to enable the student to register. If a student decides to change his major, he should remain with the assigned holistic adviser but be reassigned to the faculty adviser within the program of the student’s choice. When the holistic adviser facilitates in the student developing an academic plan, the faculty adviser should be notified and the plan shared electronically.

If a student expresses interest in a major, he should be directed to the faculty members within that area immediately. A student should meet with his faculty adviser each semester to ensure he is staying on track academically. Whenever either the faculty adviser or holistic adviser meet with the student, he should share a summary with the other adviser. Faculty advisers should also assist in student learning outcomes development, explain the logic of the curriculum within the program, and advise the student regarding self-advocacy.

The faculty adviser should also identify specific career fields and advise a student of available internships as well as transferring programs. Students not in a faculty adviser’s program should be told to meet with a holistic adviser. Faculty advisers should also tell students who seek to drop a course to consult with his holistic adviser.

Hay said she was concerned the dual model would prevent students from registering because they would have to wait for the faculty adviser’s response. Ironically, many students have complained about meetings with holistic advisers being two weeks out because of apparent backlogging in the advising center.

Faculty involvement

Meghan Kelly, librarian and Faculty Senate member, questioned who is responsible for identifying students intending to transfer. She added the faculty feel very strongly they have the expertise of the content and the networking resources to work with the student to substitute courses and develop a beneficial plan.

Dr. Mohamed Chakhad, physics, math and engineering instructor and Faculty Senate member, asked that some type of guarantee be developed for faculty involvement in student advising. Hay responded by requesting a workgroup be developed on what the mentoring component would look like. The Faculty Senate agreed that would be a positive move forward and would develop a recommendation of three to four faculty members to work with advising on this idea.

Rob Van Cleave, instructor of computer information systems and then Faculty Senate member, voiced concern about the caseload for holistic advisers once the model was fully implemented. Reassurance was offered to him this would be evaluated and advising positions implemented if needed to keep the caseload between 200-300 students for each full-time professional adviser.

Hay encouraged faculty members to remember this is an evidence-based model, and, as with any new program, there will be points of assessment and revision for continuous improvement in advising.

Yet, it’s been almost a year, and faculty members still have many concerns because most requested changes have not been made.

On Jan. 30, Flewelling sent a follow-up email to faculty members regarding a holistic advising model forum held on Jan. 13.

“We heard in the forum that many faculty want to speak with students early in their careers at the college,” she said. “We know this is especially important for the more technical programs.”

“We will make this a prominent part of the advising curriculum and ensure that advisers are referring students in their first semesters to connect with program faculty,” she said.

Keeping traffic flowing

There’s just one fender-bender in this traffic jam: Students have reported this is not happening. Not only are appointments backlogged for weeks at a time, but some holistic advisers are not scheduling the “initial intake” meeting or requiring follow-up meetings. Some students who registered before January 2014 do not have a holistic adviser or faculty adviser, they are simply cruising through the system unnoticed. And while some students have reported a good holistic advising experience, consistency is key to keeping traffic flowing. The lack of communication is not fair to faculty willing to be advisers, and it is not fair to students seeking that expertise.

While the advising model redesign is moving closer to common ground, Wingspan feels that students’ needs are still not being met. How is a professional adviser with a caseload of 300 students supposed to keep one individual student on track while maintaining close, personal relationships with each of those students, and all while becoming knowledgeable about each and every program and the specific courses therein?

Before students register for the summer and fall semesters on April 21, Wingspan recommends these two changes:

To ease the flow of high-volume traffic at registration time, faculty should be allowed to play a bigger role. Faculty need to be able to lift holds on student accounts within the major that are preventing them from registering.

To maintain a steady cruising speed, a student who has been referred to the faculty adviser in his program should no longer be required to check in with a holistic adviser unless he wants to.

With mandatory orientation and a required three-credit-hour COLS 1000 class, surely students will have earned the permit that allows them to drive their own education.

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