Navigating the complex sea of undergraduate academic programs and course selections can be a daunting task for students. A strong advisement program, consisting of professional advisors and faculty working together to chart a course for student success, is essential to ensuring that their journey to graduation is as short and direct as possible. Academic advisement is a key focus of GRU’s efforts to impact positively student retention, progression, and graduation. Prior to June 2013, our undergraduate academic advisement efforts consisted primarily of a decentralized model, in which some academic departments employed a professional staff advisor but faculty advised the majority of students.
Today, GRU has a centralized Academic Advisement Center on the second floor of University Hall to support advisement of students in pre-professional undergraduate programs and for first- and second-year students of any major. This initiative involved the reorganization and centralization of eight professional staff advisors on the Summerville Campus into one location and plans to add six additional advisors this fiscal year. The office is conveniently located near Career Services, providing students with a better integration of career counseling with academic planning.
Aside from the Academic Advisement Center restructuring, faculty will continue to provide vital guiding influences in both early- and late-stage advising. Faculty members within a specific discipline offer the greatest insight into their fields’ curricular plans, or ideal pathways, as well as valuable mentoring. As students declare a major, the faculty will continue to advise the final phase of the student’s successful matriculation.
In addition to reorganizing and bolstering the personnel efforts around student advising, we are strengthening the advisors’ toolkit through the implementation of several software systems designed to capture, analyze, and communicate student performance information in ways not available previously. In October, Academic Advisement launched GradesFirst, an early alert and communications platform to track and engage students in the advisement process. This system interacts with the Banner student information system to provide advisors real-time knowledge of a student’s academic enrollment, coupled with a notes system to log advisor interactions with the students and track student performance.
Additional features, such as the early alert progress reporting and tutor tracking capabilities will allow advisors to see current enrollment and performance trends of students. This, combined with recent updates to JagTrax (Degree Works), can help with degree audits to enhance students’ timely degree completion.
In the coming year, an additional software platform from the Education Advisory Board (EAB) will be introduced and provide yet another link in the advisement process by offering predictive modeling analyses to include the following:
- A robust analytics platform based on 10 years of our university academic data, including grades.
- Nightly system updates to keep advisors abreast of critical changes.
- Predictive analytics on each student’s likely performance across majors and courses.
- Executive dashboards to identify and drill into the areas of greatest graduation risk within specific colleges and majors.
It is important to note that the efforts to build a new foundation of undergraduate advisement do not rest on staffing and software alone; rather, they must align with policies and practices that advocate student engagement and success. Such policies alignment includes the introduction of a five-term “W” withdrawal limit on courses, the “Four Years for You” campaign to encourage enrollment in 15 credit hours each fall and spring, and determining the pathways and pitfalls that can impact student progress through the curriculum.
These initiatives reach far beyond a centralized Academic Advisement Center and engage every core component of undergraduate education at GRU. Our goal is to integrate increased advisement staffing, technology tools, and the talents of our faculty and administrators to revise the student success platform of GRU.
We want our students to be successful in navigating their academic plans in the shortest time possible and with the highest level of success. Our newly designed Academic Advising Center is just one more commitment GRU is making to enhance student success.