Jennifer Cannon , University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
Editor’s Note: This article is based on a presentation by Jennifer Cannon and Danna Magness at the 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN.
There are usually numerous campus activities advisors can be a part of during the first few weeks of the semester. By being active on campus during New Student Orientation or other welcome week activities, advisors get the opportunity to meet and mingle with students. This is a great way to build relationships and get to know students outside of the office.
Advisors should also consider emailing students early in the semester to provide an introduction and spell out advisee/advisor expectations and responsibilities in the advising process. Students should be encouraged to reply with their own introduction. Do not wait for advisees to make the first contact; it might not happen. Be proactive and reach out to advisees early in the year. Not all students will respond but it begins fostering a relationship with those who do.
Advisors should continue to be involved and attend campus activities. Contact with faculty and staff outside the classroom is a researched best practice and retention tool. Most campuses offer numerous opportunities, whether it is residence hall activities, sporting events, or student award ceremonies. An advisor’s presence at these events will be noticed and appreciated by students. “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Maxwell, 2003).
Be Prepared for Advising Appointments
Being prepared may be one of the most important steps to practicing intrusive advising. Advisees will feel more welcome if we ensure we are prepared for the appointment. First, make sure the office and desk area is warm and inviting. Put away any other projects before the student arrives. This gives students the impression nothing is more important than they are. Second, review the student’s past advising history including advising notes, early alerts, and current degree plan prior to the appointment. This step will allow the advisor to ask important follow-up questions and have an understanding of the student’s goals before s/he arrives. Next, make sure to schedule plenty of time for each advising appointment. Otherwise, the student may feel rushed through the process. Lastly, since advising requires a vast arsenal of tools, always have chocolate, candy, and tissues on hand. We never know what might be needed!
Ask Questions and Make Appropriate Referrals
The more an advisor knows about his or her students, the more personal and specific the referrals will be. Advisors should ask pointed and detailed questions to really get to know their students and make a connection. If resources are available to
help single parents, veterans, or other special populations, do not be afraid to ask difficult questions. Use open-ended questions that solicit detailed responses requiring more than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Students do not mind if we ask about their personal lives if they understand the purpose behind the question.
Questions advisors can ask students:
- Do you work or have a family in addition to going to school? How many hours do you work? This will allow us to select an appropriate number of courses.
- What do you plan to do with your degree and what do you plan to do after graduation?
- What do you consider a “good” course schedule?
- Are you happy with your grades from last semester?
- What challenges did you face last semester?
Building relationships with students is great, but the next step is to use the information to connect students with useful and appropriate resources. Not all students need to be referred to the honors college and not all students can benefit from the math lab. Use information gleaned from advisees to make referrals to campus resources for which the student qualifies and can benefit. For this reason, it is essential that academic advisors be aware of all campus student services. When making referrals, advisors should try to provide students with as much information on the resource as possible including a contact name, phone number and email address. When practical, walk students to their next campus destination.
Maintain Regular Contact With Advisees
Advising should not be something that only occurs once a semester before registration opens. Maintain regular, ongoing contact with students by sending emails; follow up regarding their mid-term grades; call any time an early alert is received from a faculty member; and use social media to your advantage. All of these practices will help build and foster strong relationships with advisees which allow advisors the opportunity to be intrusive without intruding.
Intrusive advising can and should be a system which focuses on bringing campus services to the student, rather than passively waiting for the student to identify their own needs and search for solutions. It is not a means of intruding where we are not wanted. When done well, intrusive advising models lead to greater retention and student success in college (Cuseo). By employing a few simple techniques, advisors can ensure the relationship is positive and welcomed by both parties. Intrusive does not always mean intruding.
University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
Cuseo, J. (n.d.). Academic advising and student retention: empirical connections and systematic interventions. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from University of Wisconsin: Cuseo Collection: http://www.uwc.edu/administration/academic-affairs/esfy/cuseo/