Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Far Too Long

I thought about several topics for this post. One was "Confessions of an Overwhelmed Job Changer." Another was "I Need a Third End for My Candle." But rather than make excuses for how quiet this blog has been, I'm trying to ramp up prior to the conference in Nashville, in preparation to hand the Commission off to your new chair, Donnie McGovern. I'll do so with the recommendation that a blog manager be identified from the Commission's volunteers ;)

Now, on to the business at hand--let's talk national conference. How many of you are attending? what sessions look the most interesting to you? We're a little less than a month away, so, let's look at what the list of U/E topics from which we'll choose. Here is the list from the conference home page:

Commission Meeting: Undecided & Exploratory Students
Esposito, Virginia Commonwealth University

Adding New Life to Your Grand Ole Course
Hurt, Wetzel, Purdue University

Are Students and Faculty Singing the Same Song?  Student Advising Priorities
Conlon, West Chester University

Coaching Students to Find their Path: A Collaborative Approach to Serving Undecided Students
Clark, Heineman, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Empowering Student Career Stories in Times of Change and Challenge
Wilcox, Kansas State University

Empowering Students to Make "Gourmet Goulash": Advising Interdisciplinary, General Studies, and Student-Designed Degrees
Coleman, Enriquez, Swackhamer, Western New Mexico University

Enhancing Advising Strategies by Instilling Pride, Identity, and Empowerment in Exploratory Students with Student Engagement
Self, Bruno, Aguayo, Arizona State University

Enhancing Career Adaptability and Decision Making to Prepare Students for the Future
Hughey, K., Hughey, J., Kansas State University

Explore, Inform, Assess: 3 Programs that Put Students on the Path to Success
Horn, Ferguson, Barleen, Northern Illinois University

Best of Region 5: Group Advising, With a Twist
McKamey, Venske, Jackman, Indiana University School of Public & Environmental Affairs

I Declare! Strategies to Increase Timely Major Declarations
Ford, Artis, North Carolina A&T State University

Listen to Me: I'm Undecided
Ellis, University of Mississippi

Moving up the Charts, I'm No Longer Business Undecided!
Hahr, University of Central Florida

Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Utilizing the Advising ePortfolio and Self-Reflection for Undeclared & Exploratory Students
Payne, Anderson, Virginia Commonwealth University

Professional Advisor or Professional Dream Crusher? When a Student's Goals and Expectations Collide with Reality
Bigger, Brafford, Loe, Clifford Kelso, University of Memphis

Residents Engaged in Academic Living (REAL) and Exploring Majors
Fields, Curtis, University of North Texas

Stories in Academic Advising: In the words of an Exploratory Student
Himes, Gugino, Pennsylvania State University

Striking a Major Chord: Peer Mentoring to Maximize Success in Major Declaration
Axe, Atkinson, Clemson University

Striking the Right Chords in Career Research
Elliott, Sulzbach, Harford Community College

Three Assessment Methods to Improve Major Decision-Making
Rust, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Cartmell, North Carolina State University

Lots of goodies there--it's hard to know which ones to highlight. With everything from decision-making to the use of story in advising and rounding it off with the power of self-reflection, there simply appears to be a ton of really engaging topics. You have living/learning communities and peer mentoring to choose from, and even a best of region winner. Lot's of good stuff to look forward to... let's just hope we can all clone ourselves in case there are conflicts in the schedule.

OK, I'll wrap this one up here, but tell me what you think about the offerings above. Let me know if there's one you want to talk about, and if you're one of the presenters, how bout sending us a little preview?  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quantifying the Un-Quantified

Greetings Commissioneers!

As I struggle with the request for assessment data on my campus, I've found myself (yet again) in a very familiar place--wondering how to quantify qualitative results. When Associate/Assistant Provosts/Deans/Presidents ask "what students taking away from meetings with advisors," they are usually uninterested in anecdotal responses. So, we're left with the chore of producing some sort of quantitative data to show students are mastering concepts in our learning outcomes. This is an issue across the advising continuum and not just one for U/E advising units, but I thought we could benefit from a conversation here despite the universality of the issue.

So, what do some of you do? Do you have U/E-specific learning outcomes? If so, what methods do you have in place to deliver an advising curriculum in support of those outcomes? And how is the student's mastery of the outcomes measured--are there assignments they complete, how are they collected, what is done with the data, etc?

OK, dazzle me with your knowledge, Commissioneers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Old Story About A Continuous Problem

The article below speaks of an experiment conducted a handful of years ago, but seeing it shared by a student on Facebook made me reconsider it in another light:

I've been thinking a lot lately about how to advise Undeclared/Exploratory Students (UES) in these uncertain economic times. Yes, I said it--curse me if you will for admitting that it's OK to think about an investment in one's (or one's children's) education as an actual investment, but it is legitimate to consider. You'll find no academic more convinced in the transformative power of a university education than I--I transformed my own life with my two degrees and believe everyone should have an equal opportunity to do so. But with the skyrocketing costs of university education, and the ever-growing disparity between rich and poor in this country, not only can many students not afford college, but many others are confusing it for job training and an opportunity to earn higher wages (that last statement is half true, after all).

So where does this leave us in a conversation about UES, you ask? simple, with this question. How to engage them in conversations about what really matters in college when the world around them is telling them everything from the truths like each additional degree you add typically increases your earning potential by $10k to $20k per year, to the inaccuracies that you need to go into a STEM field, Medicine, or Law to get a decent job (read Daniel Pink: "A Whole New Mind" to have this one debunked).

I'll be damned if I think I can tell you the answer to it, I wrote this blog post in order to spur conversation...

So, discuss.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

The linked article talks about my new institution and highlights it as a "Top Gap Closer" when considering the disparity between graduation rates of demographic groups. I'm proud to have been hired by such an institution:

Now, that having been said, I want to know how we can do better (as is my wont to do). Coming from an advising program that made tremendous gains in first-year retention and having guided my Undeclared/Exploratory (U/E) unit to perhaps some of the biggest increases, my impetus at my new job is to focus our efforts on specific academic populations to identify how to better deliver resources to them. Data will, of course, need to inform decisions we make, but it seems obvious to me that focusing on each academic population and their unique challenges would be the most effective choice of how to begin.

I've not seen data yet on how U/E populations perform here, but given the complexity if my institution's general education structures, and the number of majors here that start from day one with major-specific course sequencing, it seems a "no-brainer" to deduce U/ES are going to struggle. Maybe that's an observation I can easily make because my focus has been on the U/E population for most of my advising career, but I still think it's a safe bet. I also think, perhaps because I've always focused on academics first, that by identifying academic obstacles to success, we can more-efficiently help students attain higher rates of persistence and graduation. But this is where I want to hear from the advising community. Help me understand how short-sighted I might be. Help me understand ways academic advisors can focus on non-academic obstacles and help students address cultural, socio-economic, and/or familial barriers to their academic success. How can non-academic issues inform the way we work with not only U/ES, but with all of our students? What approaches have any of you tried?

OK, hit me with it!

Art Esposito
Chair, NACADA Commission on Undeclared and Exploratory Student Advising
Associate Director of Academic Advising, Montclair State University

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Connect With CUES on G+

If the title of this blog post confuses you, I sincerely apologize. If, on the other hand, you maintain a profile on Google Plus (G+), then you'll understand the weight of what has just happened. That's right, G+ has allowed organizations to begin creating pages, rather than personal profiles. This is an exciting turn of events for a couple of reasons.

The creation of G+ has amounted to the the existence of a social network that empowers those who wish to stay above the fray of posts by student populations. Though I personally value seeing what my students are posting, and fully appreciate the mutual benefits of my interactions with them about their online activity, it is also nice to have a place to share with my social network that does not include the student population. G+ also allows for group video chats (therein referred to as "hangouts"), seemingly easier "focused sharing" (sending comments and discussion topics to specified populations), and the ability to share more than 140 characters at a time (I realize this is possible in Facebook and LinkedIn as well, but G+ seems a bit more ... seamless, shall we say?).

Finally, the G+ NACADA CUES page will merely be an experiment. We continue our attempts to identify more ways in which to share more efficiently, effectively and engagingly. So, if you're so inclined, follow the NACADA CUES G+ Page, or place us in one of your circles. If you're not yet on G+ and all of this has made you curious, contact me and I'll walk you through it.

All the best,
Art Esposito (
Chair, Commission on Undeclared & Exploratory Student advising

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jobs on Education

A colleague from the Student Affairs Collaborative posted these thought provoking nuggets from Steve Jobs--they're comments he made over the years when discussing education. There is a healthy mix of K-as- and HigherEd-focused statements, but there are some specific comments I find somewhat troubling. First, the list:

15 Quotes About Education From Steve Jobs

Now, I completely understand that Jobs was a remarkable business man, true visionary, and a ridiculously creative individual, but I think it bears mentioning that none of these make him an expert on education. He leveraged both his street smarts and the formal education he tolerated to become monumentally successful, but that was his path. Should we not be encouraging our students to be seeking their own open road through life rather than encouraging them to mimic the approach of others?

These two quotes I find to be particularly interesting to what we do as advisors:
“I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out.” – Steve Jobs
“The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.” – Steve Jobs
The first one seems to have a bit of a negative tone to it, but that may simply be due to my own filters. It may be constructive, however, to view it as a common perspective. It seems Jobs simply didn't understand that part of the purpose of a university education is to find one's life goal. And perhaps he didn't have access to strong academic advising programs to help him discover it, but I wonder how many of my current, and past, students are feeling, or have felt, this same disconnect. Perhaps it isn't as self-evident as I believe that the ideal place to discover what one wants to do with their life is in college.

The second quote above simply irritates me. It seems to support the idea that one should seek a college education to continue to explore only that which interests them, or those subjects at which they already excel. This attitude further solidifies the aimlessness expressed in his previous quote. If you don't know what you want to do with your life, how on earth can you think you'll discover it by only exploring things in which you already have interest? Why wouldn't you think to explore new things? I'm sometimes surprised by the student who thinks s/he has come to college to collect a degree for simply doing that which they already know how to do.

Perhaps I'm reading way more negativity into the quotes in the linked post than really exist, but I wonder what some of you think.

Art Esposito
Chair, Commission on Undeclared & Exploratory Student advising
Associate Director of Academic Advising, Montclair State University
Twitter: @ArtEsposito

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Request For Ideas and Observations

Hey everyone,

After attending the NACADA conference a few weeks ago, my institution has gathered a committee to create an undeclared advising program that would be housed in our Academic Resource Center.  Currently, all undeclared or exploratory students are advised by faculty advisors and our committee is developing a proposal for the VP’s of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to demonstrate the importance of professional advising and a program for these students.  We realize that this shift would possibly require additional staff and budget allocation.  We are trying to configure what the cost would be for this program to be successful. 

My questions:  How much, annually, do you think it would cost per student to run this program?---considering a welcome BBQ, workshops, excursions, events, printing, etc.  We would like to present all imperative information in our proposal to ensure that we do this right.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Katie Miller, Academic Advisor
Western State College of Colorado
Taylor Hall 302D
Gunnison, CO 81231

Katie Miller 1 small