When Mercy College moved from a decentralized approach to advising to a new, central advising organization staffed by dozens of professional “student mentors” (each managing a caseload of students across their academic careers), they took care to ensure the faculty had a clear and regular forum through which to engage with new hires.
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Ease skepticism by creating a formal mechanism for faculty input
After creating degree maps for their programs, faculty train centrally-hired but college deployed advising staff through a series of face-to-face meetings and program requirement discussions. Faculty also answer frequently asked questions and provide any additional contextual items that they feel advisors should be familiar with
Following the trainings, advisors submit any questions through a post-training survey, which informs ongoing mini trainings with faculty that occur throughout the academic year.
3 parts of faculty-led curricular trainings
- Trainings provided opportunity for faculty to meet advisors in person, not just over email
- Advisors gained faculty trust and connectedness
Beyond the Catalog
- Faculty leveraged as experts in major-specific curriculum
- Divisional faculty train advisors on degree maps and pathways
- Faculty share “not in the catalog” curricular highlights and pointers
- Advisors shared examples of student scenarios and questions where curricular advice would be beneficial
- Faculty impressed by depth of questions and sensitivity to student needs and outcomes
The leadership at Mercy College noted that faculty perception of the new advising model changed dramatically after these trainings occurred.
Offering faculty a chance to meet the mentors and formally hand off curricular knowledge helped ease their mind around the level of service that the new advisors would be able to provide students.
Create a career path with advising career ladders
The best way to mitigate concerns about the quality of professional advising is to recruit and retain high performing advising staff. At most institutions, the lack of a viable career ladder in distributed professional advising organizations has severely limited their ability to do so.
In conjunction with their transition to a centralized professional advising model, Mercy College created a fourtier career ladder for student mentors, who could be promoted to Assistant Director, Associate Director, and Director within their college advising center units. Mentors are evaluated annually, based on student performance, engagement, collaboration with faculty members, professional development, and financial aid counseling.
This combination of rigorous assessment (focused on critical outcomes, not just processes or qualitative input) and a viable upward trajectory to management has enabled Mercy to build an incredibly strong team of advisors over time. Faculty rest easy knowing that students are in good hands, and can focus their efforts on equipping fulltime advisors with the most up-to-date curricular information and helping students through mentorship, undergraduate research, and supplementary instruction.
Annual evaluations track advisor performance on concrete objectives
There are three benefits to this career ladder including promise of upward career mobility attracts better-quality candidates, less staff turnover and greater employee engagement, and metric-based evaluation and promotion process incentivizes high performance.
More resources on advising
Faculty are key to any top-down student success initiative, but too often they are not involved in implementation decisions. Our study profiles 16 best practices to engage faculty as major allies in student success efforts.