Welcome to the wonderful world of academic advising! Over the years, theory-based practice in academic advising has evolved in response to changes in student populations. In the early 1970’s, for instance, Burns Crookston coined the term “developmental advising.” As opposed to prescriptive advising, which merely emphasized the process of assigning academic courses, developmental advising considers the “holistic student” (i.e., the composite profile of an individual’s skills and aptitudes, career plans, goals, academic plan, decision-making abilities, behaviors, co-curricular activities, ethnicity, and hosts of other factors). Building on this paradigm of developmental advising, Robert Glennen advocates “intrusive advising.” Instead of waiting for students to seek help with problems, the intrusive advisor works pro-actively to help students avoid crisis situations. The intrusive advisor monitors academic progress and helps students set and achieve goals. Furthermore, the intrusive advisor acknowledges the link between advising and student persistence. Indeed, in most cases, the greater the contact between a student and a faculty advisor, the greater the chance of retaining that student:
Advising is a key to student retention. The best way to keep students enrolled is to keep them stimulated, challenged and progressing toward a meaningful goal. The best way to do that—especially among new students—is through informed academic advising.
With such theory in mind, then, the goal we should have as advisors at Mars Hill College is developmental and intrusive advising, aimed at retaining the students most likely to succeed and giving them the tools they need to do so.(i)
Certainly, advising is a process by which faculty help students make connections between curricular and co-curricular experiences and the world beyond college. But, significantly, advising is also another form of teaching.(ii) Simply put, “the purpose of academic advising is student learning and personal development.” Thus stated, academic advising affords unique one-on-one pedagogical experiences built on relationships between professors and students.
Most colleges articulate philosophies of advising that identify responsibilities for both advisors and advisees. Additionally, many schools clearly state goals, policies, and procedures in terms of advising models and delivery strategies. Further, schools create advising systems that feature faculty development and evaluation protocols, which include rewards for high quality advisors.(iii) These are some of the topics that the Mars Hill College Academic Advising Committee is in the process of addressing. Title III funding helped Mars Hill College uniquely position itself to revise and rejuvenate our commitment to academic excellence through advising. More explicitly, the Title III grant laid out specific goals for retention as they relate directly to advising—as faculty advisors we are on the very forefront of retention by nurturing critical links between students and the college. As the Title III grant comes to an end, as faculty advisors it is incumbent upon us to continue the good work in advising that we began under that program.
Accordingly, this advising handbook is as a work in progress. The pages herein will most assuredly be revised, supplemented, and amended as we make systemic improvements to our advising program here at Mars Hill College. Make use of this handbook: the documents, forms and guidelines will hopefully help us better advise our students.
i Anderson, Edward "Chip". Academic Advising for Student Success and Retention. Iowa City, IA: Noel-Levitz. 1997.
ii Gordon, Virginia N. and Wesley R. Habley and Associates. Academic Advising: a Comprehensive Handbook. Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company: San Francisco, 2000.
iii Gordon, Habley and Associates.