By Derek Stadler
Student advisement is a crucial step in the academic process, guiding students to the courses and resources they need to succeed. This is especially true in CUNY community colleges where the majority of students are the first in their to attend higher education. Recently the UFS Community College Caucus (CCC) asked their colleagues how advisement is accomplished on their campus. (Not a survey, but a preliminary exploration.) It seems, the majority of faculty responding said that full-time faculty members are required to advise students but do not receive compensation for the work. If advisement is part of faculty duties remains an open question–in this post I will explore what we have learned about advisement practices at CUNY. While almost all the faculty responding to the inquiry said that their campus had an advisement office, there was no common or streamlined approach among community colleges as to how a student is advised and by whom.
Upon arrival at Bronx Community College (BCC) as Provost in 2013, Dr. Claudia Schrader recognized that the advisement strategy in place did not sufficiently meet the needs of students. Now President of Kingsborough Community College, Dr. Schrader provided comments for this blog post, paraphrased here. In regards to the state of academic advisement at BCC in 2013, Dr. Schrader noted that students, faculty, and, staff felt angst about the program. Faculty feedback by way of department chairpersons stressed that advisors needed to be more connected with academic departments. In response, Dr. Schrader and BCC’s academic leadership set out to closely align advisement with academic programs.
Some noted innovative changes to the advisement program included renaming advisors as “success coaches.” Success coaches were assigned cohorts based on degree programs and worked closely with faculty by attending departmental meetings, providing office hours for the department, and training to faculty and staff on advisement tools and success initiatives. Additionally, on designated “department days,” success coaches spent an entire day in a department advising students and engaging in other activities. This plan hoped to connect coaches to department faculty.
According to a BCC survey, faculty and staff satisfaction with the advisement program steadily increased from thirty-seven percent in Fall 2014 to sixty-five percent in Spring 2018. However, Dr. Schrader commented that more needs to be done. Developing the program was an iterative process. Some governance was done in the early stages in conversations about the state of advisement at College Senate meetings and there is an ad hoc committee in place focusing on advisement issues and resolutions.
Advisement models of this type can serve as a benchmark for pilot programs at other community colleges and perhaps also stress the need for change in student advisement. Hopefully, faculty are engaged with both advisors and administration in the creation of such models in order to provide the best guidance for students.
Derek Stadler is an Assistant Professor in the Library at LaGuardia Community College, a member of the UFS, and convenes the UFS Community College Caucus.
Image: US Dept. of Agriculture, cc 2.0, attribution