UA Improves Student Advising on General Education

David Barber
Oct. 23, 2003


Changes in the academic advising process at the University of Arizona should help students make better decisions on what classes to take and when.

The overall results besides better informed students should be a bump in retention, says Lynn Tronsdall, assistant vice president for student retention.

This past summer during orientation, the new advising process was piloted to evaluate its effectiveness. It was so effective in re-routing some 14,000 students to their own colleges that nothing was tweaked and the project moved forward. To support the new advising process, an Academic Advising Center was established to support those who advise.

"We worked 18 months on examining the conditions of academic advising," says Tronsdall. "We're going from an average of one adviser to 1,200 students to one adviser for 300 undergraduate students and one to 400 undecided students."

The significant difference is that advising has become decentralized and is now being offered to students at each individual college.

Most colleges had already provided both general education and major advising within the college unit. However, major colleges including Science, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities, and University School - which serves nearly half of all undergraduates -- did not. Now, students within each of these colleges will use their own "Advising Centers" and staff. All student files have been transferred to the new academic advising centers, including all notes and adjustments.

Since 1998, there has been a growing demand for improvements in the academic services available to undergraduates at the UA. The initial meeting of the Academic Advising Task Force was held in December 2000. It involved multiple representatives from the student body, faculty, professional advisers, academic and student support units, and University administration. Students, faculty, administrators and professional academic advisers all expressed concern with the delivery of academic advising services.

"It was recommended that all advising be college-based," says Tronsdall. "In other words, they didn't want it centralized."

Students with no major selected will be a part of University School until they have selected a major. Tronsdall says the number one major at UA is "none."

In addition, University School accepts responsibility for advising two additional groups of students: Those who have been disqualified from their college and have not gained entry into another, and those students who have been excluded from future enrollment in their present college due to failure to qualify for advanced standing and are also undecided about their academic options.

"That requirement that we advise them in no way holds us to having to admit them to University School," says Tronsdall. "We can advise them of what their options are, but we are not bound to take them."

The projected cost about $1.3 million annually in continuing funds, mostly tuition revenue earmarked to improve undergraduate advising.

Resources for Advisers
In a supportive matter, the UA also has established the Advising Resource Center to assist new advisers with training, manuals and policy workshops so they can become better advisers. The center maintains a web site that lists all the University's academic advisers and a variety of resources for advisers.

The Advising Resource Center, located in the first level of the University of Arizona Bookstores in the Student Union Memorial Center, is directed by Ann Parker. Parker served as director of Enrollment and Student Services at the Arizona International College since 1999.

"Most of the information on our web site was out there, but we have put together everything advisers need to know," Parker said. Right now the center has joined with the multicultural student centers in creating a series of workshops for advisers on advising students from diverse backgrounds.

Each workshop will feature a panel of professionals and a student to discuss issues unique to their cultural background. Shortly after each workshop will be an open house at the featured student center to introduce academic advisers to campus resources for students.

The first workshop, Advising Hispanic Students, will be held Thursday, Sept. 25, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Hispano-Chicano Student Center, Economics 117. The open house will be held Friday, Sept. 26, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Similar cultural panels will be held this academic year at the African American Student Center, the Asian/Pacific American Student Center and the Native American Student Center.

A brown bag series that will encourage academic advisers to come together informally to discuss topics relevant to advising on campus also has been planned. Topics this fall include Advising Honors Students, Advising Pre-Law Students and Advising Pre-Health Students.

Parker also directs the Undergraduate Academic Advising Council (UAAC). The Council, composed of one academic advising representative from each college or school with undergraduate degree programs and one student representative from ASUA, will meet regularly to discuss issues pertinent to undergraduate academic advising.

"The task force has done its job and now it is our turn," Parker said. Contact the Academic Advising Center at 626-8667

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