Group to rework advising

Some school leaders want to standardize the process and integrate more technology.

by Raj Chaduvula

University of Minnesota leaders are hoping to address inconsistent advising and overworked and unhappy advisers in the coming months.
A group — made up of school administrators and students — has recommended six proposed practices to improve academic advising. The recommendations’ creators hope they’ll be able to standardize advising across colleges, among other goals. 
The first recommendation aims to make advising more accessible with a new outline. The University currently has no common guidelines for advising structure.
The group also recommended a list of practices that would guide advising through four years, including emphasis on transition in a student’s first year and career discussions in the third.
LeeAnn Melin, co-chair of the task force and assistant dean for undergraduate student initiatives, said the group also wanted transfer students to have an easier time transitioning to the school’s advising system, and a uniform structure could help.
The level of technology and data in advising could be increased, Melin said. Advisers already use tools like APLUS, which allows advisers to create logs based on student interactions, and APAS, which lets students plan out their classes.
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson created the task force last summer to look at the state of academic advising, Melin said. During the summer, a survey was sent to students and advisers asking what could be improved.
The recommendations, which are based on the survey and later discussions, are being presented at student group meetings and meetings of individual colleges’ leaders and students.
“We are kind of 80 percent there,” Melin said.
The list of recommendations will be modified as meetings continue, she said.
The task force will conduct 30 listening sessions before the final model is created, said Joelle Stangler, president of Minnesota Student Association and a member of the task force.
Melin said the final model will be submitted to Hanson in December, after which administrators will take a look at the feasibility of the recommendations based on funding and how soon the changes can be implemented.
Melin said a few of the recommendations will likely pass and will go into effect quickly, while others will need more time to discuss or might not be 
approved at all.
Stangler said there will be a campus discussion session on Dec. 15 that will be open to students to share their experiences with academic advising.
“This is simply what the unified voice of faculty, staff and students wants advising to look like,” she said.