New model for academic counseling aims to improve the already existing program; advisers will now have liaisons to help strenghthen their ties with students.
By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ
In Spring 2017, Pima Community College revised its academic advising model from strictly adviser generalists to adviser specialists in an effort to provide more thorough assistance to students.
This involved taking old vacant positions and repurposing them to create 13 new program advisers for the college.
“The recently created program advisor positions serve as liaisons to 13 of the academic divisions, further strengthening our efforts to bridge student affairs and instruction to holistically serve our students,” Irene Robles-Lopez, vice president of student affairs said.
According to Robles-Lopez, the 13 positions were filled through a competitive recruitment process and were selected to serve as liaisons to specific divisions based on their educational background and work experience.
Robles-Lopez said utilizing this model supports the colleges goal of students having an assigned program advisor and support team.
The generalist model which was the only model prior to the creation of the 13 program advisors, centers on making sure advisers all have basic knowledge of all certificates and degree programs at PCC.
“It was called the one-stop model,” PCC Program Advisor Susan Kuenzler said. “Advisers were responsible for a huge load of information literally over a hundred programs,”
The generalist model had garnered negative feedback from staff and students who indicated that the model was ineffective in helping students. Students voiced dissatisfaction about receiving varying answers from different advisers.
This led Robles-Lopez and her staff to consider revamping the model.
Kuenzler believes the model was ineffective, because it’s impossible to retain and disseminate that amount of information.
“It was a little too hard for advisers to wear so many hats,” Kuenzler said. “We were responsible for financial aid, veteran services, academic advising and registration. We were really like four positions in one when I started five years ago.”
The new advising model aims to foster a proactive advising approach, build relationships with university advisors and programs and provide personalized advising.
“It’s a win win because we still have the model where they can go to an advisor at a student service center for general information but there is also an advisor who will take them to graduation in their program,” Kuenzler said.
Meet and greet and information advising sessions were held this semester, in order for students to meet division advisors and learn about academic divisions at PCC.
In September, Kuenzler took it upon herself to send out surveys to students to better understand individual student needs and goals.
“I’m really big on continuous growth and improvement so I created my own survey,” she said. “At Pima, we don’t have set concentrations in journalism, writing and literature.”
This led Kuenzler to sift through students course loads to see if they fell in line with her division.
“If a student was taking two journalism courses I pretty much assumed they were on a journalism track,” Kuenzler said. “I then sent them a survey.”
According to Kuenzler, over 100 of the 700 students she contacted took the survey.
“About 60 students requested an appointment,” Kuenzler said. “Most of the students were new to the new program advising concept. They were very responsive to the idea of a person who ‘oh is just for me in my program.’”
With the new model, students are able to acquire more personal support from program advisers in person, over the phone, Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout.
Kuenzler said it’s important for advisers to build a connection with students.
“I recall my own experience in college. I had this model,” Kuenzler said. “First I had an adviser who was not interested.”
Kuenzler had been struggling during this time. The advising situation was a factor in her decision to leave college for the time being.
“I came back and switched programs and had an adviser who was there for me all the time,” Kuenzler said.
Kuenzler feels that advisers can have an enormous impact on students.
“I’ve been advising for 17 years and have had so many great experiences,” she said. “I’ve met with students when they first started and worked with them till graduation. It’s really a friendship as well as a mentorship. It’s a really important role at the college.”