Task force seeks to improve impression of student advising

Spinnaker

Less than one-fourth of UNF students evaluate undergraduate advising as “excellent,” based on the recent National Survey of Student Engagement results.

And regrettably, that group decreases as students continue in their education from freshmen to seniors, said UNF Provost Mark Workman.

The NSSE survey attempted to estimate the overall satisfaction with advising services rather than point out what needs to be changed, Student Ombudsman Tom Van Schoor said.

To find out what makes students happy, the committee formed a focus group, which, as opposed to a survey, provides answers that offer better information to work with, Van Schoor said.

The Undergraduate Studies Council formed the Task Force for Undergraduate Advising as an effort to improve and restructure the existing advising system in January 2008.

This initiative was designed to increase the effectiveness of guidance when providing students with information pertaining to achievement of their main academic goals – degree acquisition.

The committee’s task is to review all national models and best practices and provide recommendations to the Workman, who will have the final say as to what changes will be implemented, said Ana Linares, program coordinator in Student Affairs and a member of the Executive Committee.

“[The purpose of the committee] is not to criticize; it is to analyze,” Linares said. “We want to get all the things that are not working and replace them with what works.”

As the executive secretary and a member of the Undergraduate Studies Council, Melody Taylor informed the 21-member committee comprised of faculty, staff and advisers, which started to meet in April last year.

The Provost met with various groups on campus including the Council of Chairs and deans of all colleges to see who was interested in serving on the committee. Workman made sure they had proper representation for all colleges, Taylor said.

Van Schoor, who collected data from more than 250 students, said the survey results will be transcribed and analyzed in order to find out whether the students’ dissatisfaction should be attributed to the model of advising or to the advisers themselves.

Participants included classes that were volunteered by the faculty across all colleges.

Recorded responses will be put into categories based on common themes and later analyzed by focus groups.

Workman’s early suggestions included centralization of advising services.

The bifurcated structure divides student advising between colleges as well as lower and upper level divisions, he said.

The new system would then “allow for a synergy among our advisers that they cannot achieve when they are dispersed across [the Academic Center for Excellence] and the colleges,” Workman said.

Centralized advising is not an option anymore because the goal is to bring students more in contact with their intended college and department, said Dr. Lisa Jamba, senior instructor at the school of computing and a member of the committee.

Members of the committee are more inclined toward a mixed model of advising and maintaining some level of centralization while implementing additional structural changes, Jamba said.

“[We want] to see increases from year-to-year in the percentage of students who rate ‘strongly agree’ to the qualities we expect from advisers,” Jamba said. “As an example, from spring 2007 to spring 2008, all qualities saw a gain between 2 [percent] to 10 percent.”

Better training for our advisers or even their replacement – “anything is an option right now,” Linares said, “we have to wait for the data to be completely analyzed.”

Changes might not be implemented immediately because it depends on funding, Taylor said.

E-mail Andrea at [email protected]