Mandatory advising for incoming students

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Next year’s incoming students will experience a new advising process at Portland State, which will be influenced by the research of two PSU academics who are conducting a new survey that admitted undergraduates can now take.

Next year’s freshmen and incoming transfer students will be required to partake in a mandatory advising process, according to Casey Campbell, Undergraduate Advising and Support Center’s academic advisor.

In addition, students with declared majors will be reporting to their major departments for advising needs. Undeclared students will be advised by the UASC on the fourth floor of Smith Memorial Student Union.

Incoming freshmen will be required to see their department for advising prior to registering in fall 2011 classes.

“Each department will implement its own advising system,” Campbell said. “For example, maybe one-on-one, peer or group advising.”

Campbell said the ratio of one advisor to every 600 students is a “goal for the near future.”

This goal is based on the model built by the National Academic Advising Association, which defines an ideal ratio as one advisor for every 300 students.

Though PSU’s current ratio does not meet the ideal ratio put forth by the NAAA, a budget requesting more advisors has recently gone through to Provost Roy Koch.

“One advisor to every 300 students would be ideal,” said UASC Director Mary Ann Barham. “To achieve this, the provost must look at the budget and be able to fund more.”

At PSU, Barham estimates that out of each new pool of students, 60 percent are transfer students and 40 percent are first-year freshmen.

“Transfer students’ needs are different than incoming freshmen’s,” she said. “[And] PSU has different needs for advising than some universities.”

Psychology Professor Emeritus Cathleen Smith, Ph.D. and Education professor Janine Allen, Ph.D. are conducting research on student advising through data received through surveys completed.

“[Smith and Allen’s] research has been involved in advising policy,” Barham said. “[It has] changed the focus from faculty-led advising to professional advisors.”

Smith and Allen met a decade ago while serving as co-chairs under former PSU President Dan Bernstine.

“We got interested in effects of advising on student success,” Smith said.

Their first advising survey was sent to PSU students in 2003. Allen said the response rate was low.

“It is important to note that [the first survey was] sent out before DARS implementation,” Allen said.

In 2005 and 2006, additional advising surveys were administered, as well as a companion survey to faculty in 2006.
“Student satisfaction and experiences did not change,” Allen said.

In 2005 and 2006, in addition to PSU students, the survey was extended to Concordia University and Western Washington University distance-education students. Survey data reported that PSU students were less satisfied with advising than the students at the other two schools in the study.

“It was disheartening comparing PSU to Concordia and Western Washington, and see their students were more satisfied with advising,” Allen said.

Western Washington University distance students had mandatory advising requirements through e-mail or phone contact.

In the data that is being collected, Allen predicts PSU students will be less satisfied than in previous years.

“I hope I’m wrong,” she said.

“An email was sent to all admitted undergraduate students,” Allen said. “Embedded in the e-mail is a link to the survey.”

The current survey is being sent to multiple schools: PSU, University of Portland, Concordia University, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Western Oregon University and Portland Community College.

As an incentive, those who complete the survey are entered in a contest to win one of four $50 gift certificates from the PSU Bookstore.

Participation is voluntary. Students’ answers are kept confidential and anonymous.

“Your answers to these questions are crucial to our continued efforts to improve student experiences at PSU,” Koch said.

Allen and Smith are working on a five year study of how advising has an impact for students, including the impact on student satisfaction and effects on retention.

“[We] encourage students to take the survey,” Smith said. “The more students we have responding…the larger the sample size…the more representative it will be. Decision makers will look at the results.”

The survey is active until May 21.
 

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