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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cool Things I Heard at the NACADA-CUES Hot Topics Session in Denver

Greetings, Commissioneers!

I wanted to reach out this morning and simply share some stuff I picked up at the NACADA conference last week. There was some great stuff said at the conference in a lot of sessions. As the most recent set of thoughts came to me via the conference-ending hot topics session, I’ll limit my comments to that one, but encourage you all to chime in with your favorite take-aways.

Let’s face it, Virginia Gordon has given U/E advisors so much! Her exploration model is so important in the major-selection process that all our presenters on the panel referenced her approach as foundational to what they do at their home institutions. Self-exploration is the only way students can reflect on who they are—and that’s vital to helping them find a major in which they can be successful. We’ve three great Gordon pieces cited on our Reading Room page, but here’s a capture of them to save you some hunting:

Gordon, V.N. (1992). Handbook of Academic Advising. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Gordon, V.N. (1995). The undecided college student: An academic and career advising challenge. (2nd ed.). Springfield, IL: Thomas.

Gordon, V.N. (2007). The undecided college student: An academic and career advising challenge. (3rd ed.). Springfield, IL: Thomas.

“No student is as one dimensional as the choice of a single major”
This quote from Tara Stopfel Warden at the University of Cincinnati is one of my favorites. As I’ve written in the past, I’ve a bit of a problem with how prescriptive and one dimensional our use of "personality" and temperament assessments can be (even though Holland and Myers-Briggs focus on more than just one or two sets of traits). But this idea, in specific, empowers us to encourage our students to be open minded about the broad range of reactions they have to outside stimuli. I use the phrase, “appreciate how your reasonable sensibilities express themselves within majors and careers” when encouraging students to consider their whole selves in the major-exploration process. This, I think, is another way of saying that.

“Think about how much of your resume is dedicated to your college major”
David Spight laid this gem on us at the session, and it was as though choirs of angels sang behind him (at least that’s the way it played out in my that weird?). Given the rapidly changing world of work, job change statistics, and the economy, It’s important to remind our students that, when they select an undergraduate major, they’re not signing a contract for life. It was said in the early 2000s that we’re educating students today for jobs that don’t necessarily exist and will be developed by the time they graduate from college. Think about this--who among us had heard the words “green,” collar,” and “job” uttered consecutively in a sentence prior to the Spring 2008 Presidential debates?

I also once heard a statistic that the average American would have three career changes prior to retirement. And that was career change—they weren’t talking about changing departments, they were talking about butcher, to baker, to candlestick maker. One more stat I've seen is that 50% of the American work force is working in their major field. I, tragically, can’t lay my hands on the sources of those little bits of data, but I’m still digging (feel free to share if you’ve other stats).

Finally, think about that young adult entering the field of investment banking, for example. They wanted to make a boat-load of money, so they thought, “I’ll major in Business” in the fall of 2005. Then they graduated into the worst economic crisis the planet had seen since the 1930s. When we allow students to confuse university education for job training, we not only run the risk of allowing them to miss valuable and diverse educational experiences, but we also propagate the sometimes mythological existence of a career path that moves in a straight line from graduation to retirement with no detours or switchbacks along the road. We also allow them to put themselves at the mercy of the job market, in one filed only, when they graduate.

These are just a few of my post-conference thoughts—what are some of yours?

I just need to add that it was so nice to meet so many of your for the first time, IRL (in real life) in some cases, and to reconnect with colleagues I only get to see once a year! looking forward to #NACADA12! (come on, you knew I was gonna work social media and hashtags into the post somewhere ;)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Best of Region 4 Conversations, Clarification and Collages: Innovative Workshops for Undecided Students

Greetings, all!

Former CUES Chair Kathleen Smith and a team of advisors from Florida State University won the Best of region with this great CUES topic this spring. have a look at what they plan to do in Denver:

The Advising First Center for Exploratory Students at Florida State University is ready to present an encore session of Conversations, Clarification, and Collages: Innovative Workshops for Undecided Students.   This session was first presented in March at the NACADA Region 4 conference in Birmingham, Alabama, where we were thrilled to learn that our team had earned the Best in Region Award for this program!

The Exploratory major at Florida State is the largest major for freshman students and we encourage our advisees to place passion and purpose at the center of their major selection process.  In addition, we emphasize a third p, planning, where we coach our students to take active steps towards self, major, and career exploration, and informed decision-making.   As a team, we work best when fresh ideas are flowing and new techniques are tried.   A few years ago we experimented with our programming to include time with our students outside of the office.  We held lunch and learn workshops in the student cafeteria, visited residence halls in the evening, and even held advising sessions from a canoe on a hot summer day in the middle of the campus lake!   We have come up with several engaging and interesting workshops designed to showcase major selection strategies and encourage our students to reflect, interact and collaborate with us, but more importantly, with one another.

If you are looking to advise ‘outside the box’, join us on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 in Room 605.   We promise this session will be like none other you’ve experienced!
What a great session this looks like--don't overlook it in your planning

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Wonder What The Commission is Doing in Denver

Greetings, Commissioneers!

I wanted to make this next blog post about the Commission events that will be happening at the Conference in Denver. You’ve already read about the Pre-conference workshop Kathleen and I will be delivering, but there are the Commission Meeting, the Commission and Interest Group Fair (CIGF), and the Hot Topic session still to Discuss

The Fair happens every year at the conference—it’s essentially a great big poster session in which all Commissions and Interest Groups let you know what they’ve been up to and what they’re planning. This year, it's happening during breakfast on Monday, and the CUES table will be all about this blog. I’ll have my lap top at the session and will be talking about the easiest ways to subscribe and talking about all the functionality we’ve tried to load into the space.  Stop by to chat about stuff, sign up to volunteer, or to simply say, “hi!”

Commission Meeting
The Commission Meeting is happening Tuesday, October 4, at 11:15 in room 707. We’ll again be talking about the blog, as I’m actively seeking guest bloggers and contributors to our content pages. I’d also like to have a meaningful conversation about the ways we stay connected throughout the year. Given the rich communication tools the World Wide Web has to offer, I’m interested to identify how enthusiastic you may all be about periodically hosting our own web seminars. Finally, a conversation about off-line social networking seems in order as well—given that undeclared and exploratory students represent a significant number of the student population at most universities, I can’t imagine it being difficult to locate and connect with others, on our own campus or in our region, who advise the same population as we do ourselves.

Hot Topics Session
On Wednesday, at 10:30 in room 710, I’ll be leading a Panel/Round Table Discussion focused on facilitating a conversation about program building. The panel will be comprised of those who have successfully built or invigorated their CUES programs. Our desire is to help you think about doing on your campus what we’ve done on ours. Given this audience-centered approach, a significant amount of time will be dedicated to hear your concerns and answering your questions.

We hope you’ll consider joining us for one or more of the events above and are excited about seeing you all in Denver.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Know What I Want: Academic Advising and Foreclosed Identity

On Monday at 3:15, Marion Schartz will present what looks like a really compelling presentation on an intriguing theory with very real implications for our day-to-day advising...especially when working with exploratory students. Here's the run down in Marion's words:

James Marcia described foreclosed identity as making premature life commitments without adequate exploration. Advisors recognize foreclosure in students who refuse alternatives to unrealistic goals, ignore general education, or insist they don't need a career because their sport is their future. Such narrowness is risky.

But foreclosure is complicated--conditioned by cultural background and family relationships; manifest in one area of development, such as academics, but not in another, such as sexual orientation or cultural identity. In a life full of uncertainty, foreclosure can actually support academic success, giving students the discipline and motivation to persist. 

This session will review some of the literature on foreclosure, explore its relation to student-centered advising, then apply it to case studies. Attendees will learn to approach students in foreclosure positively, building on strengths while helping them achieve reach informed decisions about their academic choices.  

So, don't overlook this session in your personal planning for the conference!

Marion Schwartz, PhD, is an academic advisor int he Division of Undergraduate Studies at Penn State. She's also terrifically active in presentation and leadership within NACADA 

Friday, September 16, 2011


I’m excited to announce a series of blog posts we’ll be featuring leading up to the conference in Denver. We’ll be soliciting posts from all our CUES presenters to highlight the topics that will be covered by our commission members and and posting them here. As a sort of “kick off” of this series, My co-presenter Kathleen Shea Smith from FSU will begin by discussing the pre-conference workshop she and I will be presenting on Sunday, October 2. And for those of you who won't be attending the conference, fear not! We're also going to encourage our presenters and posters to include contact information so you can reach out to discuss their topics with them personally.

“Exploration at High Altitudes: Maximizing Resources to Create or Strengthen Programs for Your Undeclared/Exploratory Population”
As the calendar turns from August to September, for many advisors the change of season from Summer to Fall brings the anticipation of cooler temperatures, a new group of eager advisees and the promises a new college football season. For this advisor, as soon as September arrives, so does the official countdown to the NACADA national conference. This year is no different and each day includes focused time on preparations for upcoming sessions. Art Esposito, our fearless CUES leader, and I are launching the Denver experience with a two hour pre-conference session, Exploration at High Altitudes: Maximizing Resources to Create or Strengthen Programs for Your Undeclared/Exploratory Population.  It will combine meaningful dialogue with an overview of useful tools and resources, including dedicated time for the development of advisor action plans. Art and I have both developed programs with limited resources and we are excited about sharing our lessons learned and exchanging ideas that have been very successful in our work to support Exploratory students at our institutions. 

We hope you'll consider joining us for this session if you're going to be in Denver. We appreciate, however, that not everyone will be, so below the Abstract you'll find our contact information--feel free to reach out

Session Details:
Exploration at High Altitudes: Maximizing Resources to Create or Strengthen Programs for Your Undeclared/Exploratory Population. According to a 2004 ACT report on what works in student retention, developing advising interventions with selected student populations was identified as one of the top three initiatives to successfully address student persistence. All together, the study surveyed over 1000 institutions, citing eighty-two different initiatives, ranking special populations advising along-side freshman seminars and learning support. The current and past chair of the Commission for Undeclared and Exploratory Student (CUES) advising have both built their respective programs, “from the ground up” and with extremely limited resources, resulting in significant gains in persistence rates for first year undeclared/exploratory populations (boasting retention gains of! up to 9%!). In this session, the presenters will illustrate the programs they developed, identify the guiding principles and theories upon which they were developed, share lessons they learned along the journey and share resources collected by the CUES steering committee and housed on the newly developed CUES Blog. Attendees will be given a guided tour of the Blog and the resources housed therein (including examples of exploratory workbooks and annotated links to assessment tools for major/career exploration). Attendees will develop action plans for implementing undeclared/exploratory programming on their campus or strengthening that which already exists.

Kathleen Shea Smith Art Esposito
Associate Director Director of Discovery Advising
Advising First Virginia Commonwealth University
Florida State University

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Listserve Question From Sharon Mendes: Online Course For Exploratory Students

I believe this question has been asked before but I can’t find the information, so excuse the repeat. Our department is considering creating an online 1 credit course for our Exploratory students, so I was wondering what others have done and was it successful? Please feel free to respond to my individual email
Thanks in advance for your time. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blogging Our Way Around Limited Resources – Providing Guidance to Undecided Students Online

By: Guest Blogger Kyle Bures

Undecided students at many community colleges can be viewed as being dealt a stacked hand.  Without campus-wide career centers or advisors specifically trained to work with undecided students, many are allowed to fall through the cracks – often times leaving graduates without direction.

So, as the Transfer/Career Advisor for our Student Support Services program, I set out to develop an online major/career exploration resource geared specifically to our TRIO students.  Once launched however, it could then be utilized by any student interested in gaining access to resources valuable to career development.

The interface was Blogger (which is also the home to the NACADA CUES Blog), chosen for its user-friendliness.  It also allowed tabbing to create a network of pages containing different information.
Over the course of nearly two years, the site has grown to include sections on:
  •          What Can I Do With A Major In____? (featuring schools with major selection sites)
  •          Which Career Is Right For Me? (providing information on a variety of assessments)
  •          Do I Actually Need A Resume? (supplying resources on resume development/critique)
  •          How Can I Get Involved? (listing campus clubs/organizations and community service)
  •          What is a STEM Career? (linking to information on various STEM careers)
  •          Major & Career Exploration (gathering helpful links to guide students in exploration)
  •          Career Spotlights (highlighting individuals in a variety of occupations, with varying academic backgrounds)
  •          Workshop Schedule (showing a list of upcoming TRIO workshops)
  •          Advisor’s Corner (offering helpful resources to be used by advisors on campus)

A blog can be a creative solution for departments/units without the resources to provide a career center or ample time toward one-on-one career advising.  Although knowledge of webpage development could be helpful, blogger makes it simple for anyone to create content online.  Once created, the blog can serve not only as a resource for students, but advisors as well! 

*Kyle Bures is a Transfer/Career Advisor for the TRIO/Student Support Services project at Neosho County Community College. The blog Kyle created is now linked in our blog roll in the right hand bar of this blog.