Student Success Insights Blog

How three academic advisors are ‘pioneering’ advances in the profession

by Lindsay Miars

This past September, my team and I headed to the NACADA Annual Conference in Phoenix to represent EAB.

This year, our booth’s theme was Advising Pioneers: Exploring the Next Frontier of Student Success. The theme was inspired by more than just the desert setting and my obsession with season two of Westworld (I still have so many questions about the finale); we chose it to honor the work of advisors who are at the forefront of major changes in the advising profession.

At NACADA, I spoke with hundreds of frontline advisors about successful projects, new theories and ideas, and persistent challenges, and it was inspiring to connect with so many true advising pioneers at once. These conversations confirmed much of what I uncovered during my previous year’s research on next-generation advising practices:

  • Next-generation advisors are taking greater ownership of student success. Schools are strategically assigning student caseloads and giving advisors the tools and latitude to manage those caseloads. For some advisors, this means adopting proactive advising and “case management” practices from athletics, TRIO, and even social work. A few schools have even updated advisor evaluations to account for student outcomes.

  • Advisors are adapting their practices (and getting creative) to reach students. It’s no longer enough to throw your hands up and say, “students don’t respond to my emails.” Next-generation advisors are leveraging student data, attention-grabbing email subject lines, nudging principles, and intrusive advising tactics to reach disengaged students. These students are often the ones most in need of a conversation—and an experimental approach to communicating with them might make all the difference.

  • Advisors are willing to connect with each other to share promising ideas and best practices. NACADA has led the charge to professionalize academic advising for decades. Today, advising research is not just an intellectual pursuit, but increasingly urgent and action-oriented, to ensure that students are progressing and not leaving with debt and no degree. We are beginning to see innovative, technology-enabled best practices gain traction, and many schools are creating more robust new hire training, professional development, mentorship opportunities, and career ladders.

With these trends in mind, my team and I were excited to honor three advisors with the EAB Advising Excellence Award at NACADA. Through their work, these advisors embody these trends and the spirit of the “advising pioneer.” Congratulations to our 2018 EAB Advising Excellence Award winners:

Richard Gamble

Richard Gamble is an academic advisor at Western Carolina University and the coordinator of the Finish Line program, which helps “stop-out” students return and finish their bachelor’s degree. Richard uses EAB technology to elevate his advising practice and ensure that Finish Line students have the support they need, from him and other offices.

Megan St. Vigne

Megan St. Vigne is a senior academic advisor in the Student Advising & Mentoring Center at Sam Houston State University. In addition to advising her caseload, Megan serves as an in-house trainer and problem-solver for EAB technology—creating training materials for both staff and students—and coordinates the center’s outreach and targeted campaigns.

Jonathan May

Jonathan May is the associate director of the Center for Academic Advising, Retention, and Transitions (CAART) at George Mason University. Jon is a leader for academic advising at GMU, has served in leadership roles with NACADA, and mentors other advisors on a variety of topics, including use of technology. Jon uses EAB’s advising reports to understand office traffic and advising demand, and he oversees targeted campaigns to connect with more undeclared students.

Congratulations again to these exceptional advisors (as well as the dozens of others who were nominated this year). We look forward to following the continued leadership of these advisors and seeing what new frontiers they discover.

How does your advising program stack up?

Explore the Advising Program Diagnostic One-Pager to evaluate how well your institution supports advising practice and growth.

Take the Diagnostic


  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague