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

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