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1999 NCA Report


As a part of the North Central Accrediting process, the advising staff undertook a comprehensive self-study of the UMM advising program. The report includes:

the conceptual basis for advising;
comparisons with other colleges;
operational expectations;
chronic issues;
and suggestions for improving advising.


A Report to NCA Sub-Committee II on
The Quality of Student Academic Life: The UMM Years


UMM is committed to developmental academic advising by the faculty and to encouraging the special relationships possible between students, faculty and staff. Broadly defined, advising is accomplished through events such as New Student Orientation; through staff of programs such as the Career Center, Counseling, the Academic Assistance Center/ Disability Services, the Minority Student Program, the Center for International Programs, and the Advising Office. Advising support is offered by academic advisers, classroom instructors, peer and residence hall advisers, and students and staff across campus. More narrowly defined, academic advising refers to the academic advising program. In 1970, in order to ensure formally that academic advising occurs at the individual level, UMM initiated a program to match each incoming student with a faculty adviser in the student's area of study [UMM 1970]. Academic advising within this framework is the focus of this analysis.


Advising documents approved by the UMM Campus Assembly in 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1998 provide a developmental framework as a conceptual base for advising as well as a formal structure to facilitate advising relationships. The documents can be found on the Advising Web at: <>.

UMM's definition of advising is consistent with the developmental theories of leaders in the field, such as Arthur Chickering [1]. It fits well with the criteria for the John Tate Academic Advising Award initiated at the all-University level in 1986 to reward advisers who practice developmental advising by helping students "formulate and achieve intellectual, career, and personal goals" [2]. The 1975 UMM advising document lists these developmental goals appropriate to successful advising:

1. Faculty should help the student assess existing strengths and weaknesses.

2. Faculty should help the student clarify educational goals....

3. Faculty should inform the student of the range and scope of academic experiences available at UMM and encourage the student to experiment.

4. Faculty should familiarize the students with policies and regulations which might influence his/her program....

5. Faculty should communicate to the student what decisions he/she will have to make at what stages of an academic career. The student needs to understand how today's decisions may limit possible alternatives later on.

6. Faculty should initiate a continuing evaluation of the adviser-advisee assess the extent to which the advising relationships is meeting the students needs and goals.

Clearly, the expectation for academic advising at UMM, as expressed in its advising documents, is extremely high. UMM's philosophy of developmental advising is worthy of a "best" liberal arts college.


UMM's advising program is more like the advising programs of the Morris 14 than of the COPLAC institutions [3]. As part of her Master's project, "Academic Advising and Students of Color," Brenda Boever of UMM's Advising staff held phone conversations with advising staff of the Morris 14 and several COPLAC institutions. The operational principle in all but one of the Morris 14 is that faculty, rather than professional advising staff, advise students who have chosen a major. In most instances, advisers come from the discipline of the major and are assigned either in the first or the second year [4]. In a few colleges, advising during the first semester or year is carried out by the instructors of the freshman course, whether it is called a seminar or symposium. The option of assigning undecided UMM students to their Common Course instructors has been talked about informally here, but the first priority of those involved is firmly to establish the course as part of the semester curriculum. Undecided students are advised by the faculty as well as by professional advisers. With the exceptions of St. Olaf and SUNY at Geneseo, the other colleges don't separate the advising needs of students of color from those of other students [5].


The UMM advising system is focused on matching students with advisers and ensuring that meetings between them occur. As administered by the Advising Support Services Office (Advising), the system has these key components: All new students, with the exception of students of color and high school students attending UMM under the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) Program, are placed with faculty advisers in the disciplines of their major whenever possible. Undecided students are placed with faculty whose advising loads are below their maximum or who have special interests in working with students who are undecided about their majors. Students may transfer freely from one adviser to another. PSEO students are advised by the Advising staff, though the program is administratively based in University College. Students of color are placed with counselors from the Minority Student Program (MSP) during their first two quarters and are moved to a faculty adviser by annual planning in May. Discussions are underway to strengthen the advising of students of color in their first year by linking each student with a faculty adviser in addition to the MSP adviser (to be discussed in the Chronic Issues section of this report).

Faculty advising loads are kept to no more than 30 advisees, unless the adviser agrees to carry additional advisees. Advisers are expected to be well informed and to be available three hours per week with at least one of these hours before or after the popular 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. class times. The first adviser/ advisee meeting for all new students takes place in the fall during new student orientation; advisees meet with their advisees during each registration period, culminating in annual planning in spring. The adviser's signature on the registration form indicates that advising has taken place. Under semesters, adviser signatures will be required throughout the first two years. Annual Planning is required at the end of each of the first two years. At the end of the second year, students are expected to plan for the final two years.

The responses to the questions about advising in the 1999 Student Quality of Life Assessment Survey show that 78% of the freshman respondents met with their advisers, and from 92% to 98% of the respondents met with their advisers during the next three years. Their answers to "how often" show that a large percentage of respondents in each class met with their advisers more frequently than the policy requires: 40.4% of the freshmen, 81.2% of the sophomores, 94.5% of the juniors, and 74.5% of the seniors.

Table 1

How often have you met with your adviser?

# meetings with adviser

Yr 1

Yr 2

Yr 3

Yr 4

1 more than 2x a qtr.





2 2x a qtr





3 1x a qtr





4 1x a year





5 never





* Freshmen are required to meet with their adviser once a quarter; sophomores and seniors meet once a year. There are no required meetings for juniors.


The advising system was adjusted throughout the 1970's and has maintained its basic tenets through the present day. A study of the four advising documents and of the available data, along with recent discussions with two focus groups of advisers [6]--those who are relatively new and those who are experienced--shows that no matter how much the advising system is adjusted and improved, many of the unresolved issues remain about the same. To be "best", we should address them. For example:

1) Disparity of advising assignments:

An underlying principle since 1970 has been that students and faculty should be able to work with people with common interests. An experienced adviser noted that "students will go where they are the most comfortable," and that "they and their parents want assurance that the adviser knows the field." Initial assignments are made by the staff based on the student's intended major identified during summer registration of the first year. Assignments thereafter are made at the request of the student or adviser. A summary of adviser assignments by division in spring 1998 shows the following advisee averages per unit: Administration 13; Education 11; Humanities 10; Science/ Math 19; and Social Science 19. However, individual advisee loads range from 0-50. One of the ongoing problems leading to disparity in advising assignments is that some majors are more popular than others. In addition, many students change their minds about their major three or four times during their college years but ask to stay with their original advisers, even after changing their major. The Advising staff processed 1153 adviser or major changes in 1997-98: 383 were changes of adviser only; 302 were changes in both major and adviser. The Quality of Life Survey confirmed that among seniors surveyed, 78.2% of the respondents had changed their adviser at least once, and 55.6% had changed their major.

We do need to consider whether there are alternatives that would reduce the inequity of advising assignments. To illustrate, an Advising study of Biology majors shows that advising loads range from 32-50 per faculty adviser, significantly higher than for any other discipline. For the past several years, the number of incoming students who indicate Biology as their choice of major has been between 70-85. The 1997-98 Data Book shows the five-year average of Biology majors to be 216. However, the average number of Biology graduates in that period has been 32.4, representing a student shift away from Biology while students are here. The Advising staff, after consulting with the division chair of Science/ Math, began to reduce the Biology overload by shifting incoming Biology majors to other advisers within Science and Math. It is nonetheless true that the Biology advisers, more than other UMM faculty, expend their advising resources carrying advisees who will change their major within the first year or two. When focus group advisers were asked what would prevent faculty from advising first year students in other divisions, the response was "nothing but their willingness to learn how." But, as one preprofessional adviser commented, "Training advisers does not address the credibility question: 'Is this person I'm talking with really familiar with premed?'"

2) Uneven advising:

Retention studies consistently show that students who have positive relationships with college personnel are more likely to be continuing students. The studies by Steve Granger over two decades measure student satisfaction with advising from the perspective of the senior year. These studies consistently show that seniors are very satisfied with the advising they receive as upper-class students. However, in his 1996 study Granger reports, "The results suggest that, from the perspective of the senior year, the faculty advising during the freshman-sophomore years was not considered satisfactory for substantial numbers of students." In fact, 37% of the 1996 seniors remember it as 'poor' or 'very poor'-the same poor showing as in '89 and '92. Means are based on a five-point scale. Tables comparing mean satisfaction ratings at UMM and public colleges are found in the appendix.

Table 2

Granger 1998 Student Opinion Survey

Rate the quality of advising you received from:


89 mean

92 mean

96 mean

Fresh-Sophomore Advisers




Junior-Senior Advisers




Your Major Department




Special Programs




The tabulations of responses about advising in the 1999 Student Quality of Life Assessment Survey in Table 3 below provide separate ratings from 459 students by class, confirming very high ratings in the last year and very solid ratings in the second and third years. Minority response was 14.7%, similar to the percentage of minority students in the UMM student population as a whole.

Table 3

Student Quality of Life Assessment Survey

Evaluation of Current Adviser

Your current adviser:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

1. Is Consistently available





2. Keeps regular office hours





3. Becomes acquainted with me





4. Is a beneficial relationship




5. Discusses academic goals





6. Provides information I need





7. Interested in my performance





8. Keeps me up to date on change





9. Refers when necessary





While advising among first year students is rated lower than advising in years two and beyond, and some areas could be strengthened, the ratings overall are strong. In trying to reconcile why seniors in the Granger studies later report dissatisfaction with the advising of the first two years, faculty focus groups provided several explanations: closed classes, waiting lists that get "longer and longer," "being placed with an adviser they didn't choose," or that students often don't know their major. Certainly the advising relationship deepens as students become immersed in their majors. Advisers in both focus groups found that students undecided about their majors are difficult to "give specific answers." One concluded, "We are not necessarily failing them in the first two years." Though one adviser looked for opportunities to discuss the importance of the liberal arts with undecided students, another asked, "Without a major, how can you advise [them]?" The faculty focus groups identified advising undecided students as an area needing attention.

A statistical analysis comparing the responses of minority and non-minority students to the Student Quality of Life Assessment Survey advising questions showed an overall similarity. There are two exceptions. While all non-minority students knew the names of their advisers, a very small percentage of minority students (2.78%) did not. In response to the question, "My adviser keeps me up to date on change," non-minority students stated their adviser keeps them up to date 72.3% of the time, whereas minority students report that they do and they don't in equal proportions (50%). In another analysis, responses to each question were compared by minority group. Table 4 identifies only those minority groups and questions in which differences were significant.

Table 4

Comparison of Minority Response to Advising Questions

Student Quality of Life Assessment Questionnaire Evaluation of Current Adviser

Your current adviser:


Native American


5. Discusses academic goals




6. Provides information I need




9. Refers when necessary




We would need to be able to compare responses by class level and know whether or not students of color were responding to their faculty adviser, MSP adviser, or both, to interpret these data.

3) Advising students of color:

There is a continuing perception, expressed in print in advising documents as early as 1980, that "too many minority students at UMM received inaccurate advice, which resulted in program difficulties for them." Table 2 shows that special programs, which include MSP, rate only slightly higher than freshman-sophomore advising. The academic progress chart in the appendix identifies minority students from out-of-state as one of two groups with a higher proportion not meeting academic progress requirements. Faculty focus groups expressed "serious concerns about minority advising at UMM." The evidence is also anecdotal, from advisers who work with students advised by others, from students who face the consequences of misdirection, and from administrators charged with solving resulting problems. As one focus group adviser noted, "The batting average for minority students is particularly poor." Said another, "The sad part is that most problems could have been solved by a phone call."

Rickey Hall, UMM's new MSP director, has proposed a pilot program to bring faculty academic advisers into the advising of first year minority students by linking them with MSP advisers. There was unanimous support in both faculty focus groups for this project. Faculty felt that "you'd have to carefully select the faculty advisers-they're probably the ones who have a lot of advisees already." While acknowledging the importance of contact with MSP, they felt each student who has selected a major "should have an adviser in that field," and that the faculty could "train the MSP adviser." Another said, "I tell MSP, 'If you get a biology major, send that person to me!'" One suggested a faculty mentorship with "clumps of students" where someone from the major would "talk about what it entails." One thought "group advising would work, with faculty designated to be 'expert' in the field." Faculty could go to MSP. "It would be good for faculty to get out of our offices and go to an environment where we are uncomfortable. Let's try to eliminate some of the fear and power that comes with our positions."

The MSP staff read an earlier draft of this advising report. The director responded by memo; three MSP staff participated in a focus group organized for that purpose. The director, who arrived this year and is the second director in the history of MSP, believes that "MSP may receive unfair criticism. I don't want finger pointing," he said. "If there are problems, it would be helpful to MSP if we can know specifics. It is unfair to make broad statements." A staff member noted, "From the beginning, I heard complaints about advising in MSP.... When I see half-hour appointments with all students, I have a hard time believing we are messing students up. In 8.5 years, I've never heard a specific." For reasons that are complex, the campus has seldom provided feedback to individual MSP or faculty advisers when reports of poor advising are received. Few criticisms have been specific, for fear of giving offense. Using the same words as the faculty, the director added, "The sad part is that most problems could have been solved by a phone call." The staff also noted that their ratings in the Granger studies "are higher than faculty for freshmen and sophomores." MSP staff don't think it's fair to be blamed for summer advising, when much of the advising is done by faculty or by the Advising staff. " Admissions continues to admit students until right before classes start, when, of course, there's nothing to take." An Advising Office adviser pointed out that it is a huge problem to register students at a distance when there is little information and no placement tests. "It's a gamble. The student says, 'I had calculus in high school,' so I believe them. But I'm registering them blind."

The intent of the pilot would be to "train" in two directions. The faculty can provide greater insight into majors and preprofessional programs with the MSP staff. The MSP staff, in turn, can provide faculty with greater awareness of cultural issues. When asked what information the MSP staff would want to share with the faculty, staff responded: "MSP staff can help faculty become more aware of how to relate to students of color; of issues students face on a rural campus, often as first generation college students; to become aware of concerns and dynamics that might come into play; and to understand why students of color behave as they do." The director added, "People in general want to be helpful to students of color, so they tell them what they want to hear. The MSP role is to tell them what they need to hear."

4) Rewards for good advising:

As early as 1974-75, an Advising Task Force proposed that "some system should be provided by which advising effectiveness can be emphasized, recognized, evaluated and rewarded on the UMM campus" [UMM 1975]. Three areas were identified in which advising should be emphasized: in hiring; making decisions to retain, promote or grant tenure; and in making salary adjustments. There was a consensus in both focus groups that "on this campus, we don't really value advising" and "there are no institutional rewards." Support for advising is characterized as "capricious." One adviser pointed out that advising "never comes up in evaluation or promotion." Others described support for advising as "a lot of rhetoric." "Advising is not something we the same level as the other two areas [teaching and research]." When efforts are made to survey advisees in one division, "the return rates are abysmal."

Advisers' recollections of whether they knew when they were hired that they would advise varied. One felt that "historically, the message has been clear that advising is an important part of teaching." Two said advising was mentioned in the interview process, but another adviser reported "a controversy between two members of my interview committee whether advising was service or teaching. " An adviser from the Professional Staff said that it "was not part of his job description." An adviser who had taught elsewhere "just assumed that that's what faculty do." The division chairmen, who are given the responsibility to inform prospective faculty about their advising responsibilities, stated that they emphasize that "advising is part of their regular teaching responsibilities." One noted that "I think it usually gets very little attention," perhaps because "our tradition of not assigning any advisees to new faculty, which I still believe is prudent, unfortunately reduces the impetus for discussion of advising with most candidates."

When questioned about the role advising places in retention, promotion and tenure [7], two chairmen mentioned that though the effort is made to include advising as a factor during reviews, it is "difficult to evaluate its quality." "Indices of advising effectiveness have not been well defined." One commented that assessment and evaluation of advising "would seem to be a matter better taken up at the campus level rather than the division level." Experienced advisers expressed their concerns about whether an evaluation of an adviser can be fair. One described advising as "subjective." "I can have essentially the same advising session with two different advisees, and the outcome will be the opposite." Another expanded, "Assessment of advising presents problems. It is not a steady sort of activity such as a class...I am assigned undecideds, and after one or maybe two years, they're gone.... How are they going to evaluate me...?" Another added, "Evaluation is problematic because it has to do with the question of student expectations of what their adviser is to do for them." Perhaps because of these concerns, an evaluation tool for advisers has never been developed, and rewards for good advising, if any, are intrinsic.

The relatively experienced advisers expressed even more concern. One adviser quoted a colleague as saying, "[I]nformally, everybody knows who is a good adviser." Another adviser added, "You can't build something or destroy something with 'informal.'" One commented, "Every time a student walks in the door, I wonder, 'Oh, Lord, did I do it right?'" Another adviser worried, "I have lots of advisees who don't respond to email. I've never seen them. I wouldn't want to be evaluated based on these non-existent advisees." Another asked, "What about all those things that are not quantifiable? Are they evaluated?" There was agreement that while advisers have responsibility, advisees have responsibility too. This group suggested ways "to establish a norm of good advising and of what students can expect; then in four or five years, they will have a standard to judge [by]." One method could be to "use a chunk of time in freshman orientation to tell students what to expect from their advisers" as well as to communicate expectations we have of them.


UMM has a superb advising philosophy and builds its program using components similar to those of the Morris Fourteen. In all studies, advisee satisfaction is very strong in the senior year. The surveys taken as part of the NCA review suggest that advising is strong in the final three years. The Granger studies suggest it is weakest in the first two. If we ascribe to be "best", then one of the first steps should be to address the chronic issues that continue to be unresolved.

1. Reduce the inequity of advising assignments:

The Advising Office will work with the faculty of oversubscribed majors, such as Biology, to reduce their advising loads by assigning students to advisers outside the discipline or division. Faculty volunteers "willing to learn" about the major or preprofessional program would work closely with the faculty of the oversubscribed major. The faculty focus groups noted, "There would have to be a lot more communication than there is now." Credibility is the key issue. Several students agreed, "It wouldn't be so bad if I knew that they knew what I had to take!" Both students and parents would need to be assured that "students are getting good advice." This pilot would not begin until semesters were underway for at least a year.

2. Improve advising during the first year and after:

The statistics provided earlier, along with the comments from three student focus groups, show that advising is uneven across the campus [8]. Adviser availability and uneven knowledge of the curriculum are the biggest complaints. One student said, "My adviser doesn't seem to know much. He just talks briefly and signs the sheet." Another said his "adviser never helped me [decide what] to take." Several noted their "adviser is never around." "She had posted offices hours, but she wasn't there." Another noted, "My adviser doesn't even know me when she sees me on campus." Freshmen discussed their vulnerability and the importance of good advising. "As a freshman, everything scares you. You don't want to wreck your college." All student focus groups made clear that they want advisers to be "knowledgeable about the generals" and about pre-requisites for the majors. They "don't want to miss out on anything because of semester conversion." Several students wanted advisers to "help us choose a major" or another adviser. One hoped the adviser would "help me plan for the future, not just the first year but later on." A student who is happy with his adviser liked it that his adviser "makes suggestions, gives options, encourages." Another thought her adviser is "cool...she encourages me to talk. She asks me, 'How are these changes going?'" Several freshmen who don't have this kind of relationship said they would appreciate hearing from their advisers that "registration is coming up," or "maybe just an email, 'What do you need? How are things going? Any questions?'" To address the unevenness of advising, several approaches will be taken with both students and faculty:

. Advising will work with Orientation and the Common Experience faculty to teach incoming students about their responsibilities in academic planning.

. A mentoring program pairing new advisers with established advisers will be initiated for those new advisers who would like a mentor.

. A new effort will be made to improve advising of students undecided about their majors through identifying advisers who wish to advise undecideds and providing training and support tailored to their requests.

. An advising sub-committee of the Scholastic committee will be formed to review the suggestions of the adviser and student focus groups, such as providing workshops for faculty to update their advising skills every few years and providing additional written or video materials about various learning alternatives.

3. Develop team advisers for first year students of color:

Boever's study identified two colleges, SUNY College at Geneseo, NY, and St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, that offer programs for students of color. These models suggest the importance of honoring the role of the MSP adviser, serving all students with these needs, and selecting advisers carefully [9].

Given the strong support from the faculty focus groups, the Advising Office will work with MSP to:

. identify majors and faculty to be included in a pilot during 1999-2000;

. contact faculty volunteers in one or two majors from each division to participate in the project;

. facilitate discussions with both groups to decide how the pilot will work;

. make dual advising assignments for a small group of students. If the pilot is successful, other students of color will be assigned to advising teams in 2000-1001;

. design an evaluation process comparing the students in the pilot with students who are not. The evaluation could be an interview about the quality of their experience or methods suggested through contact with programs on other campuses.

4. Notify students in academic difficulty:

The Appendix contains a study by Jeri Mullin of the Registrar's Office of UMM Students in Academic Difficulty 1992-98. Students are tracked based on class, residency, ethnicity, high school rank (HSR), ACT composite, and gender. In general, more white men than white women are in difficulty, while the gender numbers among men and women in the minority population are about equal. Because the number of credits to be completed increases with each year, there are almost as many seniors in difficulty as there are freshmen and sophomores. The percentage of out-of state students (12%) in difficulty is higher than that of in-state students (4%), as is the percentage of out-state students who are minority (14% minority and 4% white). Interestingly, fewer in-state minority students (1%) fail to meet academic progress than any other category. Since 1994, more students with ACT scores over 25 have been in difficulty than students with ACT scores below 20. Nineteen percent of the students in difficulty did not provide either an ACT score or high school rank as a basis for admission.

Beginning with the conversion to semesters, current methods of informing students of their academic status will be improved or expanded to adapt to the new semester academic progress requirements:

. Individualized warning letters to students in academic difficulty will be sent at the end of each semester.

. Instructors of courses containing ANY freshmen will be asked to prepare a midterm grade or evaluation for those freshmen who are doing less than C work in the course.

. A new probation system will be instituted. Those students who fall below a 2.0 cumulative GPA or an annual completion ratio of 75% will be placed automatically on probation.

5. Reward Advising:

The 1974-75 Advising Task Force urged the campus to develop a system to emphasize, recognize, evaluate and reward advising on the UMM campus" [UMM 1975]. Special attention should be given to hiring; making decisions to retain, promoting or granting tenure; and in making salary adjustments. In response to this concern, Advising will ask the Academic Dean to stress the importance of advising in all hiring interviews and promotion, tenure, and salary discussions. The faculty sub-committee on advising will "establish a norm of good advising..." in written form to be communicated to students and advisers. An advising brag sheet will be developed to provide faculty with a format to summarize advising efforts in their vitae or as part of annual or promotion reviews.


Some of the suggestions in "Becoming Better" can be achieved as time and responsibilities permit after the move to semesters. To become a "best" advising program, the campus needs to agree on what "best" is and locate the resources to change, either through grants or through reallocation of funding to provide for additional staff. The directors of Advising, the Minority Student Program and Academic Assistance support all recommendations in this report for serving students in academic difficulty and for addressing problems jointly.

1. Develop a system to provide evaluative feedback to advisers:

The discussions with the faculty focus groups confirmed the depth of concern about student evaluation of advising. Though the changes suggested above may make advising a more integral part of faculty responsibility and begin to reward those who do it well, faculty need direct feedback about their advising, and the college needs to be able to speak more than anecdotally about its advising success. The data in this report has been some of the first available outside of the Granger reports, but it is general, rather than specific. As one adviser noted to Advising staff, "When I had to provide information [about my advising], all I could do was ask you for a letter, and all you could do was based on anecdotal evidence." MSP has requested that "specifics" rather than "broad statements" be provided, and that we report to each other at once, rather than "finger pointing." In spite of the formal commitment to advising, the success of the advising program depends upon the good will of the individual faculty adviser. There is no process for providing feedback to individual advisers, whether positive or negative. The advising sub-committee of the Scholastic Committee will be asked to look into advising evaluation. One method could be to provide a praise/ concern box in the Advising Office for positive and negative feedback. An adviser evaluation could be developed, with questions similar to those in the recent Student Quality of Life Assessment Questionnaires. Evaluation forms could be distributed when a student changes adviser, as a part of annual planning, or as a part of the graduation approval process. Developing the evaluation, deciding on a process, and determining how to use and interpret the results must be carefully considered and would require the involvement and support from the faculty.

2. Expand services to students in academic difficulty:

In reviewing students' records, staff have been able to identify courses that appear to be causing students the most difficulty, such as introductory courses in Biology, Chemistry, Calculus and Psychology. The Psychology major recently has been revised for the semester curriculum to address that problem. Can we as a campus help a larger number of students to succeed in these courses, either through workshops, summer programs, developmental courses or redesigned courses?

UMM does not do well enough with under-prepared students-those students whose high school preparation is inadequate as well as those students who never learned to study. At the operational level, this is a retention issue. At the individual level, it is a matter of helping students who have been recruited and have made an initial commitment to UMM to succeed. With additional financial and staff resources, there are several approaches we could take as a college to address the concerns expressed throughout this report.

. Students with ACT scores above 25 are in academic difficulty as frequently as those with low scores. We need to find ways to help these students who test high but who are not performing.

. UMM could offer additional developmental courses, such as Fundamentals of Writing and College Algebra currently being offered, to help students make up academic deficits.

. UMM could request resources for faculty to reevaluate and possibly to redesign existing courses in which a disproportionate number of failures occur.

. We could provide transition programs for freshmen who are not succeeding in pre-medicine or pre-engineering.

. We could introduce a five-year, rather than a four-year program, for students who find the adjustment to college work difficult.

3. Implement an intervention program for students in academic difficulty:

Our academic warning system identifies those students who may be in academic difficulty. However, additional steps could be taken to be sure that students received the warning , are thinking through its implications, and have developed a plan to address their problems. We cannot expect often-overworked advisers to add intervention responsibilities to their advising / teaching roles. In developing UMM's new probation system, the Scholastic Committee sub-committee contacted several other Minnesota colleges that provide individual intervention programs by administrative personnel to help students establish better academic records. For example, Macalester College expects students on probation to have individual conferences with the Dean or Associate Dean about academic progress expectations. Hamline students are expected to meet with a counselor in the study resource center every two weeks. A similar intervention program should be implemented at UMM to help students assume responsibility for and to develop a plan to improve their academic performance.

Developing an intervention program would require additional personnel to coordinate programs among the various offices and to meet with individual students in difficulty. Depending on the definition of the program, the staff could be located in Advising, Counseling, the Academic Assistance Center, or Administration [10].

4. Address advising issues cooperatively:

Finding solutions to advising issues will involve planning, cooperation and coordination among the Advising Office, MSP, the Academic Assistance Center, the Career Center, discipline faculty and others. The informal discussions that have taken place about this report with Assistant Dean Nellis, the MSP and AAC directors, the Scholastic Committee, focus groups and others have shown that workable progress can be made in identifying the issues and in designing solutions for them, if we address them collectively.

Some of the goals in the earlier portions of this document can be implemented with current staff as time permits, after the move to semesters. However, all of the goals in the "Becoming Best" section and several of them in the "Becoming Better" section would require additional staff. A proposal will be drafted to identify options and costs.


UMM has a long-term commitment to and tradition of developmental academic advising that is more like the advising programs of the Morris 14 than like those of the COPLAC institutions. For years UMM seniors have indicated satisfaction with the advising they receive in their last two years. The responses to questions in the recent Student Quality of Life Assessment Survey show high satisfaction among respondents in the second, third and fourth years as well. Though in general the advising program is successful, it could be better. This report identifies four chronic issues: 1) Disparity of advising assignments; 2) Uneven advising; 3) Advising students of color; and 4) Rewards for good advising; and proposes how to address them. We also suggest that to become "best," the college will need to provide evaluative feedback for advisers, locate the resources to expand services to students in academic difficulty, and introduce an intervention program to help them. These changes will require cooperation across campus as well as additional staff.


1. Brenda Boever, "Academic Advising and Students of Color: Essential Components for a Thriving Program," March, 1999 Master's paper. Boever, a member of the UMM Advising Office staff, reviews the theoretical structures of advising as presented by Terry O'Banion, Burns Crookston, Walter Earl, and Arthur Chickering.

2. In 1987, the University of Minnesota initiated an advising award through the John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising. Criteria include "contacts with individuals or small groups outside the classroom that help students: 1) Clarify their goals and better understand their interests and abilities, 2) Explore educational options, 3) Explore career options and the links between academic preparation and the world of work, 4) Plan educational programs consistent with their interests and abilities, 5) Integrate the institution's many resources to meet their special needs and aspirations, 6) Monitor and evaluate their educational progress, 7) understand the institutional processes, nature, and purpose of higher education." These criteria are thoroughly compatible with those expressed in the UMM 1975 advising document.

3. The Morris Fourteen colleges include: Carleton, Concordia, Evergreen State, Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline, Macalester, Mary Washington, St. Benedict, St. John, St. Mary of Maryland, St. Olaf, University of Maine- Farmington, University of Minnesota-Morris, University of North Carolina-Ashville. The COPLAC institutions contacted by Boever for her study include College of Charleston, Fort Lewis College, Keene State College, SUNY at Geneseo, Truman State University, and the University of Montevallo.

4. As a part of her study, Boever held phone conversations with advising staff of the Morris 14 colleges as well as with several Co-PLAC institutions, posing questions such as: Who advises students who have chosen or declared a major? At what point are those assignments made? Who advises students who have NOT decided on a major? Who advises students of color? Her discussions and summary, referred to in this paper, show that UMM's advising program resembles that of the Morris 14.

5. The special emphasis in the Boever study, which is also addressed in this paper, is advising of students of color She found that while "many of the institutions acknowledge cultural variation among their students through other means, ...only a small number purposefully separate the advising needs of students of color from the rest of the campus population." Details of this study will be referred to later, when we examine advising of first year students of color by the professional advisers of the UMM Minority Resource Center.

6. The faculty focus groups included from 8-10 advisers in each group, selected for experience (over 10 years or between 3-7 years) and availability. They were invited to a luncheon discussion of these questions:

1) When you were hired, to what extent did you understand that advising would be a part of your responsibility?

2) When you have been evaluated, to what extent was advising a part of the evaluation? On what basis?

3) How are YOU rewarded for being a good adviser?

4) What would you consider appropriate rewards for advising?

5) It has been a campus goal to even out advising assignments across campus. How could this be done? Would you be willing to share what you know about advising in your major so that faculty from other disciplines or divisions could advise in your discipline during a student's first year?

6) We are developing a pilot program with MRC to assign first year minority students to a two person team, including a MRC adviser and a faculty adviser. In the institutions that have done this, the MRC adviser remains the primary adviser. How could this work?

7). If there were to be an assessment of individual advisers, what would an appropriate format be?

7. The division chairs were asked to comment on four areas recommended in the 1975 document: 1) "In hiring of new faculty, emphasis should be placed on the advising role to be expected." 2) "Decisions to retain, promote and/ or grant tenure should take into account advising effectiveness. This should be made abundantly clear to all faculty members as well as newly recruited instructors." 3) "Salary adjustments based on merit should include advising effectiveness as a part of the merit factor." 4) "Each academic division should develop methods by which advising effectiveness can be assessed and evaluated."

8. Twenty-two students (13 freshmen and 9 upper class students) met with Jeremy Stimpson, Morris Academic Intern, and Karla Klinger on three evenings to discuss several questions: 1) What do you expect from your adviser? 2) What do you think your adviser expects from you? 3) How can we communicate with students to let you know your responsibilities for academic planning? 4) Who advises you in addition to your advisers? 5) Do you think its important to have a faculty adviser in your major in your first year? 6) How can we improve advising? Students in the focus groups were in agreement that advisers expected them to "show up when you say you are going to," to be "somewhat prepared," "to have a general fall back plan," and "to listen to what they say-not only about classes-about lots of things." They recommended that the best time to learn about their responsibilities would be to "hit freshmen at orientation, when they pay more attention. As the year goes on, they get more apathetic." Giving them "a binder or something so it looks expensive" in their orientation packets...will get them to "pay attention." Using email and "making a point of it with the OGL" might also work.

A related finding from the short advising questionnaire is that students ask for advice about serious academic questions from course faculty as well as from their academic advisers, peers, upper classmen and UMM staff. These responses will be shared with the advising sub-committee next year.

9. At SUNY, when a student of color declares a major, s/he is given an additional faculty adviser in the major. Of the two advisers, the minority program adviser remains the primary contact. At St. Olaf, advisers, who work with low-income first generation college students who have been identified as potentially benefiting from special support, are given training in developmental advising throughout their first year as advisers. One third of the students are students of color.

10. Advising and the Scholastic Committee were brought together in one space in 1994 to reduce overlap and to better relate the two programs. Combining the two programs provides Advising with 1.8 FTE staff. Staff have responsibilities in and are based fiscally in two or more programs. Staff include Karla Klinger, director of Academic Advising/ Scholastic Committee Coordinator (50%); Brenda Boever, new student adviser and transfer coordinator (with responsibilities to Advising, Admissions and the Registrar's Office); Dorothy DeJager, executive secretary and lead clerical for the combined offices; and Ginger Nohl, secretarial assistant (10 months, 75%). DeJager is frequently assigned to special projects for a portion of her time, such as the current NCA accreditation review (30%). Other hourly clerical support is provided by a work study assistant.


The student opinion studies by Steve Granger compare the satisfaction of UMM students with satisfaction of students in the public colleges. Current satisfaction with advising appears in Table 1, and Table 2 summarizes the mean satisfaction at intervals of a few years between 1981 and 1998.

Table 1

Results of the Student Opinion Survey Among 1998 UMM Students

Academic Item




Mean Public X

Academic Advising





Adviser Availability





Value of Info Provided





The Granger studies also provide the mean ratings for satisfaction, beginning in 1981. Unfortunately, we do not have similar comparative data from the private colleges. Ratings are based on a five point scale.

Table 2

Mean Satisfaction Ratings Compared

Academic Item







Pub College

Academic Advising








Adviser Availability








Value of Info Provided








Table 3

Rate the Quality of Advising You Received


Very Poor




Very Good


1989 Mean

1992 Mean

1996 Mean

Frosh-Sophomore Advisers

















UMM 1992







Junior-Senior Advisers

















UMM 1992







Special Programs such as MSP, MLC
















UMM 1992