Action Project: Student Advising

Charge and Members

Action Project Team

Chris O’Connor, Debra Knutson, Dale Taylor, Bob Trusz, Ann Wiard, Kelly Hatas, Paul Madden, Mary Ann Malone, Rhoni Maxwell-Rader

Charge to the Team

This project will address the needs of SSU students, particularly "at-risk" students, through improved advising procedures, structures and training. The student advising action project will build on advising changes and improvements achieved during a Title III grant at Shawnee during the past three years. The work with incoming and current students will expand into an advising system that serves all students and results in improved retention and persistence to graduation. One possible structural change, such as the creation of a University College, has been much discussed on campus. This project will include planning for any structural change.

The "Improving Student Advising" Action Project Team is charged with implementing this AQIP project over the next 18 months. A copy of the project description that was submitted to AQIP is attached for additional background information.

The Action Project Team is responsible for:

  • Gathering information about the current status of advising, including:
    1. retention and persistence to graduation statistics,
    2. review of the Noel-Levitz/Culver report,
    3. student satisfaction with advising, and
    4. other possible measures of advising success.

  • Examining advising systems and structures at peer institutions.

  • Communicating regularly with appropriate campus groups concerning AQIP Action Project #1, including:
    1. preparing information for campus-wide review,
    2. updating the Strategic Planning Committee on Action Team #1 progress,
    3. coordination and meeting with the Director of Institutional Planning and other Action Project Team leaders, and
    4. obtaining input from campus offices that advise students.

  • Submission of recommended changes in advising systems and structures that will enhance student retention, persistence to graduation and student satisfaction to the President, Cabinet, and Strategic Planning Committee for preliminary review.

  • Reporting on project progress and outcomes, including:
    1. minutes of all meetings, hearings, focus groups, etc.,
    2. preparation of a final report at the end of the project,
    3. monitoring implementation of recommendations,
    4. assistance in preparing annual AQIP updates, and
    5. participation in building the Shawnee State AQIP Systems Portfolio.



January–March Committee organization and data collection concerning advising status
March–May Peer institution investigation of advising systems, structures, and procedures
April–June Discussion and input from campus community
June–September Preliminary recommendation of changes in advising system, structure and procedures reviewed by President, Cabinet, and Strategic Planning Committee
September–October Revision of recommendations for submission
October and November Campus-wide discussion of proposed changes, governance approval where appropriate


January–March Monitor implementation of proposed changes as appropriate offices and campus groups begin faculty and staff training, changes in structures and procedures, and communication with students
April–May Report on Action Project activity, challenges, successes, recommendations, etc.

Project Description

Institution: Shawnee State University
Submitted: 2005-12-19


Planned project kickoff date: January 9, 2006
Target completion date: June 1, 2008
Actual completion date:

A. Give this Action Project a short title in 10 words or fewer:

Improve Student Advising

B. Describe this Action Project's goal in 100 words or fewer:

This project will address the needs of SSU students, particularly "at-risk" students, through improved advising procedures, structures and training. The student advising action project will build on advising changes and improvements achieved during a Title III grant at Shawnee during the past three years. The work with incoming and current students will expand into an advising system that serves all students and results in improved retention and persistence to graduation. One possible structural change, such as the creation of a University College, has been much discussed on campus. This project will include planning for such a structural change.

C. Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Category 3: Understanding Students' and Other Shareholders' Needs

D. Describe briefly your institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project now -- why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

Shawnee State University is an open admissions institution that serves an Appalachian region where many students are first-generation college attendees. The recently concluded Title III project addressed the challenge of serving "at-risk" students. Freshman to sophomore retention has improved (need number here), but still remains low when compared with other Ohio public institutions. Improved advising of entering as well as advanced students is seen by faculty and staff as an important element in increasing retention and keeping students on track to graduation.

Advising was in the top five opportunity areas that emerged from the Vital Focus Survey and eight action project ideas were put forth from Shawnee's Conversation Day. There is a recognition that there are different student audiences (initial advising, freshman advising, undecided student advising, semester-conversion advising, major advising, etc.) for advising and that coordination can improve among the different staff groups responsible for the different types of advising.

E. List the organizational areas – institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units – most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

Advising functions are currently housed under both the Vice-President for Academic Affairs (two colleges and academic departments) and the Vice-President for Student Affairs (Student Success Center, TRiO programs, and various student affairs offices). Some student advising related to financial assistance, grants and scholarships is done by the Financial Aid Office under the Vice-President for Business Affairs. Because advising impacts all employee groups at Shawnee, the various governance groups at the institution (University Faculty Senate, University Administrative Assembly, and University Staff Assembly) will be involved in the Action Project. In addition, advising is addressed in the contract with the faculty bargaining unit, so the Shawnee Education Association will be involved in this project.

The groups most affected by this project will be the College of Arts and Sciences and its six departments; the College of Professional Studies and its three departments; and the Student Success Center. Other offices on campus such as Admissions and Financial Aid may be indirectly affected by the Advising Action Project.

F. Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

Advising is a key organizational process that will be changed and improved through this Action Project. Other processes such as registration, new student orientation, and mathematics and English placement may also be affected.

G. Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

Shawnee State University is transitioning from a quarter calendar to a semester calendar. The semester calendar will begin in the fall of 2007. This project will be in place during the switch to semesters and beyond to assure the implementation of new procedures and structures and the collection and analysis of data regarding the impact of the project.

H. Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

An Action Project Team of 6-8 members will be formed to provide the detailed planning, implementation, and assessment of the Advising Action Project. The university's Strategic Planning Committee will provide an oversight and coordination role with the Action Projects. Administrative responsibility for monitoring and assisting the Action Project progress will be with the Associate Provost/Director of Institutional Planning.

I. Describe the overall "outcome" measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

  • The overall goal of this project is increased student retention and improved persistence until graduation. Both of these measures will be used to determine the success of this project.
  • Student satisfaction surveys (Noel-Levitz) and staff surveys (Vital Focus) have given data on perceptions about advising. Future surveys of students and employees will be used to measure changes in satisfaction with advising.
  • Other possible outcome measures that will be considered are indirect measures of advising success such as fewer course deficiencies or course waivers at graduation, loss of students because of the transition to semesters, increased visits by students to faculty during office hours, etc.

J. Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):

An institutional concern and need identified during the Vital Focus and Conversation Day was improved communication on campus. This project will consciously model good communications by regularly informing the campus community about progress through multiple communication approaches including, web postings, emails, newsletters, and reports to governance groups (faculty, administrators, staff and students). The project will also seek input from campus groups by a variety of means that may include surveys, focus groups, meetings with key individuals, open meetings, and requests for information.

Meeting Minutes

January 6, 2006

Scribe: Chris O'Connor

Present at the Meeting: Kelly Hatas, Deborah Knutson, Paul Madden, Mary Ann Malone, Chris O'Connor, Rhoni Rader, Dale Taylor, Bob Trusz,. Ann Wiard

The team agreed that our next meeting date would be on Friday, January 20th at 11:00. Chris will reserve a conference room and e-mail the location to the rest of the team.

Dale agreed to collect some of the more easily accessible existing information on the current status of advising for distribution at our next meeting.

Bob agreed to bring a list of peer institutions that has been used for various purposes in the past.

Prior to the next meeting, we will all read the university's current advising policy, review the charge to the team, and study the Action Project Details distributed at the Kickoff of AQIP Action Projects. The Noel-Levitz report should be available on the web sometime during the week of January 9th; team members should begin familiarizing themselves with its content.

Concerns were expressed regarding various topics including the advising of undecided students, students seeking to be accepted into selective programs, and at risk students; the very large number of advisees assigned to some advisors; advisors' readiness to answer students' questions; and the impact of our transition to semesters on student advising.

At our next meeting we will review and discuss the charge to the team and the implementation of the timeline attached to the charge to the team.

 Annual Update Report to AQIP

Note: The AQIP explanation of each question is italicized at the bottom of the question.

1. Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

Action Project One on Student Advising has a team of nine members (four faculty, three staff, and two students) who met regularly in the winter quarter after the Action Project Kick-off event on January 6, 2006. Between January 6th and the end of April the team met five times. The Action Project Team met less in the spring because of busy schedules and campus activity focused on the final curriculum work for the transition from quarters to semesters.

The Student Advising Action Project focused on information and data gathering in its early meetings. Information about advising at Shawnee State as well as peer institutions was collected. The team reviewed existing information on advising at SSU (including the academic advising policy, NACADA report, and the student satisfaction inventory). A survey was developed and administered to faculty with questions parallel to the items most connected to advising on the student satisfaction inventory. Data was collected regarding:

  • The number of drops and withdrawals per student since changes were made to our advising system as part of our Title III grant: there were no obvious trends here.
  • The distribution of advisees per advisor in the academic departments: about half of the advisors were assigned fewer than twenty advisees and about 25% of the advisors are assigned between 40 and 110 advisees.

Survey result from the Vital Focus survey in the winter of 2005 and a more recent faculty survey in spring 2006 indicate a widespread recognition on the importance of advising and the need to improve advising processes.

Item # Description Measure Overall - all groups Faculty Adjunct Faculty Fulltime
70 Student access to faculty IMPORTANCE




71 Advising processes work IMPORTANCE




70 Student access to faculty PERFORMANCE




71 Advising processes work PERFORMANCE




A spring 2006 survey by the faculty development Action Project team indicated a high interest among faculty in learning more advising and counseling skills. The need for faculty development on advising was ranked third from the list of 42 faculty development opportunities.

The team is working on collecting information regarding the advising systems of that were identified by the strategic planning committee and the Restructuring to Enhance Recruitment and Retention Committee as in some ways similar to us but having higher retention and graduation rates than we do.

SSU has a collective bargaining relationship with its faculty. The faculty contract is negotiated once every three years. Without making formal recommendations, the task force asked that the administration and the union pay extra attention to issues related to advising during this contract negotiation.

While the charge of this Action Project did not include all of the advising issues surrounding the calendar change from quarters to semesters, the Action Project Team members have been very involved in this transition. The Advising Action Project is about 3 months behind the original time-line set for the project.

Describe concrete achievements: meetings, data gathered and analyzed, plans made or implemented, changes in processes, and measured results. If you haven't made much progress, explain why you think things are moving slower than planned.

2. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

With recommendation from the university-wide Budget and Academic Quality Improvement Planning Committee (BAQIP), the President appointed members of the Action Project Team and provided a charge and timeline for the project. Dr. Chris O'Connor, a faculty member in the Math Department, agreed to Chair the Action Project Team.

Meeting minutes have been placed on the institution's AQIP web pages. The Action Team members have met with numerous individuals and groups on campus as they collected information and data about advising. Regular reports concerning the Student Advising Action Project progress were made at the monthly meetings of BAQIP.

AQIP wants Information about motivation and communication: how you kept this Project on the institution's priority list, how you maintained general awareness of the importance and progress of the Project, and how you kept those working on it directly active and motivated.

3. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

The Action Project on student advising will focus on analyzing collected information and data. From this analysis and discussion, a preliminary recommendation of changes in advising system, structure and procedures will be submitted to the President. An institution-wide discussion of the preliminary recommendations will result in a finalized proposal(s) that will be submitted to the appropriate governance levels for approval.

As the Action Project Team develops recommendations, they will review department advising plans. Creative solutions is some departments to advising challenges will be shared across campus. In addition, department advising plans that appear to have gaps will benefit from the analysis and suggestions from the Student Advising Action Project Team.

Be specific about the next critical steps you are planning to move the Action Project ahead. If your planning is vague or there is no planning at this point, explain why.

4. Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

This project has not resulted in changes in procedures, processes, or policies. We are examining advising at Shawnee State University in light of the calendar change from quarters to semesters. This significant change at the institution is a good opportunity to introduce improvements to the advising system. When this project is completed, it is anticipated that the results will be useful to other institutions going through major institutional changes.

Share practices (or processes, policies, procedures, or initiatives) that could be adopted or adapted at other institutions. AQIP is most interested in practices that would give value (better educational services, cost-savings, improved morale, more satisfied stakeholders, etc.) to another institution if they copied your innovation. If you believe that your work on this Project has little or no value for other institutions, explain why.

5. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

The challenge of staying on task and keeping a timeline when you are involving very busy people in the process has been seen in this project. Immediate concerns of meeting deadlines for curricular change have interfered with keeping this project on time. The original timeline may have been overly ambitious.

This Action Project has not been totally successful in collecting information from peer institutions. The Team reviewed websites and contacted appropriate individuals at peer institution campuses, but the results were spotty. Some institutions do not share much detail on advising through their websites and reaching the right person on peer campuses to email/phone was a challenge. Suggestions on collecting information from peer institutions would be welcome.

Another challenge faced by this project is the long-term nature of the Action Project. While the project has been moving forward, other advising related initiatives that impact the advising action project are occurring. For instance, advising procedures for current students who will be caught in the quarter to semester transition have moved forward without the wisdom of recommendations from the Action Project on Student Advising. Another example is the plan to implement a freshman experience/University College, which is included in the charge for this Action Project, but may proceed faster than the Action Project recommendations. A third example is that departments that face significant advising problems cannot wait for this project to make recommendations, they need to find a solution immediately.

This is an opportunity to get constructive, actionable feedback and advice from our review process. Use this question to specify where your blocks, gaps, sticking points, or problems are. If you have already fashioned strategies to deal with any challenge you face, share both the challenge and your strategy for meeting it.

6. The optional question:

If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s), and tell us who to contact and when?

Page maintained by Marketing and Communications.