History of the Master Advisor Training Program

Institution Description
Program Development
Goals and Objectives
Program Description
Procedures Used in Program Evaluation
Results/Outcome
How You Can Become a Master Advisor At Missouri State University
Potential for Adaptation at Other Institutions

Missouri State University is a moderately selective public university offering programs through 40 academic departments organized in six colleges. Over 140 academic programs are offered to undergraduates and 28 programs are offered for graduate students. Located in Springfield, the third largest city in Missouri, Missouri State University has a total student population of approximately 19,000.

Seventy-six percent of the full-time faculty members hold terminal degrees. The university is distinguished by its statewide mission in public affairs, a campus-wide commitment to develop competence and responsibility in citizenship.

Academic Advising at Missouri State University is delivered through a split advising model, where The Academic Advisement Center advises pre-major (undeclared) students and departmental advisors advise students who have declared majors.

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In the spring of 1994, the university was re-organized and a University College, with responsibility for academic advising, was created. Dr. Curtis Lawrence, the Dean of University College, decided that training and rewards for advising would be a high priority. A "Roles and Rewards" document from a select faculty committee reinforced the importance of academic advising and student mentoring in the roles of all faculty members at Missouri State University.

The Faculty Senate developed a new general education program, so a need existed to educate all advisors about the new program. In fall 1995, the Academic Advisement Center was awarded a "Funding for Results" (a campus-based development incentive program) grant for advisor development. All of these developments indicated that the time was right for a major initiative to improve advising at Missouri State University.

The Master Advisor Program was created to increase the quality of academic advising for Missouri State University students by systematically providing faculty and professional staff advisors with appropriate training, evaluation, and recognition. After receiving the grant that paid for the first semester of the Master Advisor Program, the Director of the Academic Advisement Center and the Dean of University College set out to develop support for the program on campus, by meeting with all deans and department heads to explain the purpose of the program, ask for suggestions, and request support. The Dean also presented the idea for the program to the Administrative Council, made up of the President and Vice-presidents of the University.

After gaining strong administrative support and gathering helpful guidance, the Academic Advisement Center staff designed an appropriate program. The staff agreed to focus on developing three main competencies in advisors: an ability to relate with students, an understanding of basic concepts of advising, and a strong working knowledge of academic information and campus resources. Both the Master Advisor Handbook and the Master Advisor Workshop were organized around these three competencies.

In late January 1996, a brochure announcing the first Master Advisor Workshop was mailed to all academic advisors on campus. The first workshop closed at capacity in three days. In the following year, 112 advisors from across campus voluntarily participated in one of six intensive sixteen-hour advising workshops. Currently, 800 individuals have participated in one of 47 Master Advisor Workshops. Every professional staff advisor on campus has participated, along with faculty from every college and department. Numerous administrators and student service professionals have also attended.

Participants earn the designation "Master Advisor," receive a framed certificate and are commended to their deans and department heads, and become eligible for "Excellence in Advising" awards. To keep current, Master Advisors attend at least three hours of advisor development activities each year and receive annual updates to the Master Advisor Handbook. Those updates are now available on the Missouri State University web page.

Demand for the workshop remains strong, and three workshops are scheduled each year, during University break periods in May, August, and January. Evaluations from workshop participants are used to improve the program. Evaluations from the first year of the workshop indicated that the sixteen-hour workshop was too long; each portion of the program was assessed and the workshop was cut to twelve hours. In response to feedback that the Master Advisor Workshop was too advanced for beginning advisors, four-hour Advising Basics workshops were first offered in 2001. These workshops serve as a suggested prerequisite for the Master Advisor Workshop. Departmental secretaries began asking to participate in the Advising Basics or Master Advisor Workshops. Because they have unique needs that are not met through those workshops, the Advising Support Workshops were created and offered for the first time in 2003. They focus on advising philosophy, advisor assignment, procedures, referrals for students, and finish with a panel of academic departmental support staff discussing how advising is organized and supported in academic departments.

The advisors from the Academic Advisement Center developed the program, wrote the manual, and facilitated the first workshop. Participants from that first workshop, including both staff and faculty advisors, were recruited to serve on the committee that decides the future of the program and facilitates workshops. The Master Advisor Committee has been an excellent feature of the program, as faculty members educated about advising became involved in educating their colleagues. The Master Advisor Committee was active from 1997 - 2005.

Although the first semester of the Master Advisor Program was funded through a grant, subsequent workshops have been covered from the budget of the Academic Advisement Center. Cost averages $28.25 per participant with the major expenses being printing and refreshments. The Academic Advisement Center also funds the two annual "Excellence in Advising" cash awards.

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The mission of academic advising at Missouri State University is to assist students as they develop meaningful educational plans to help them achieve their life goals.

The Academic Advisement Center is directly responsible for advising Missouri State University undergraduates who are in the process of selecting majors. Advisors support students as they control their own educational choices and make well-informed decisions. To contribute to the overall success of academic advising on campus, the Academic Advisement Center provides services, programs and publications to assist academic departments in providing quality advising to all Missouri State University students.

The Academic Advisement Center strives to be a full participant in accomplishing Missouri State University's single purpose of developing educated persons. Excellent academic advising develops educated persons by challenging students to choose academically rigorous courses and programs of study as they pursue their intellectual curiosities. Advising also develops educated persons by providing students with the individual attention needed to nurture personal growth and by encouraging students to take full advantage of the university experience by participating in co-curricular activities. Advising has a strong impact on student learning and retention by providing each student with a caring role model.

The advising relationship provides a unique forum for discussions about the benefits of higher education, the purpose of general education, the responsibilities of citizenship, and individual student goals. Effective advising relationships significantly contribute to a learning environment that fosters each student's opportunity to become an educated person.

Goals of the Academic Advisement Center include:

  1. Providing  students with excellent academic advising.
  2. Assisting students in making an educated choice of major.
  3. Providing all advisors with helpful advising resources and information.
  4. Providing advisors with appropriate initial training.
  5. Providing advisors with on-going advisor development activities.

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Faculty and professional staff advisors who choose to participate in the Master Advisor Program attend an intensive workshop on academic advising issues. The Master Advisor Handbook is a textbook for the workshop as well as an advising resource.

Topics of the workshop include:

  • developmental and prescriptive advising
  • advising as teaching
  • ethics in advising
  • using the web-based Faculty Advisor Resource Center and degree audit system to advise effectively
  • making effective referrals to campus resources
  • general education and graduation requirements
  • academic rules, regulations and policies
  • practicing and improving advising skills through discussions of case studies and the NACADA faculty advisor training video.

The first "Excellence in Advising" award winners were selected in 1998. Two awards are given each year: one to honor a faculty advisor and one to honor a professional staff advisor. Each award recipient receives campus recognition, a plaque, and a $1000 cash award. The awards are presented at a reception in honor of all Master Advisors.

Although the Master Advisor Program has been a focus of efforts to improve advising at Missouri State University, the Academic Advisement Center staff has also worked on other advising initiatives, such as:

  • Coordinating an annual Majors Fair to allow students to "shop" for various majors and minors at department and college booths, amid a festive atmosphere. The fair has grown into a very successful event, with about 1,500 student participants.
  • Speaking to every section of a required new student orientation class, introducing students to the importance of advising, giving instructions for registration, explaining general education requirements, and discussing academic rules and regulations.
  • Making early advisor assignments, to facilitate student/advisor contact early in the semester.
  • Within two weeks of attending a summer Student Orientation Advisement and Registration (SOAR) session, each new student receives a letter assigning an advisor and giving instructions for reaching that advisor.
  • This system is based on the knowledge that the first six weeks in college is a critical time for student success and retention and advising interventions cannot wait until registration for the following semester.
  • Offering Pre-Health Professions advising for students who wish to research academic and career requirements of various health careers.
  • Participating in student evaluations of services. Each student who declares a major is asked to complete an evaluation which can either be done on-site or returned through campus mail. Developing and distributing an Advisor Referral Guide, which refers undecided students to faculty members with expertise in various programs of study.
  • A designated Transfer Advisor makes regular advising visits to area community colleges.
  • Making use of technology through our web pages, advisor e-mail lists, and e-mail communications with advisees.
  • Calling or e-mailing all advisees with D and F mid-term grades.
  • Calling or e-mailing all advisees who fail to register for the next semester.
  • Sponsoring luncheon meetings of the Missouri State University Academic Advisor Forum. Topics have included:
    • Advising Pre-Professional Students
    • A Review of What's New for in the current academic year
    • Legal Issues in Academic Advising
    • Teacher Certification Updates
    • Ethical Academic Advising--a faculty panel
    • What Advisors Need to Know about FERPA and Privacy of Academic Records
    • Tools for Career Decision Making
    • Advising Issues with Financial Aid
    • Resources for Students who Struggle in Math
    • Providing Career and Professional Mentoring to Advisees--a faculty panel

    Attendance at the Forum meetings averages 40 members.  At the end of each semester, to advance the goals of teamwork and collegial spirit, the Advisor Forum has a social at a member's home.

Serving student advisees through individual student appointments:

The Academic Advisement Center documents approximately 30,000 individual student contacts per year, including advising appointments, phone consultations, and requests for general information. This is accomplished with a staff of one director, six full-time advisors, and one secretary. One of the full-time advisors is designated to serve undecided major transfer students.

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All indicators point to the success of the Master Advisor Program. During the first two years of the program, pre- and post-tests of advising information were administered to all participants. Although many of the most experienced advisors on campus attended the workshops during that time period, participants still showed an average gain in advising knowledge of 17% from pre- to post-test. The test was challenging, with a 62% average score on the pre-test and a 79% average score on the post-test. Because the pre- and post-tests took a significant amount of time, and because results remained consistent, use of the pre- and post-test was discontinued after two years.

Evaluations completed by program participants evidence the strength of the program. The Master Advisor Handbook is rated "excellent" by 90% of participants, with the other 10% rating it as "good." The overall helpfulness of the workshop is rated as "excellent" by 78% of participants, "good" by 20% of participants, and "fair" by 2% of participants. Over 90% of participants respond that they would recommend this workshop to experienced advisors and 99% agree that they would recommend this workshop for new advisors. Many participants comment that this workshop should be required for beginning advisors.

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Results/Outcome

A campus-wide benefit of the Master Advisor Program has been the opportunity for advisors from all colleges across the University to interact, come to appreciate each other, and develop contacts. These advisors have worked together and developed common purpose, which makes for better advisors and improves the community spirit of Missouri State University. Advisors have demonstrated their commitment to students, to advising, and to their own development in the way they have embraced this program. Those of us who have planned the program have been overwhelmed by the interest and support given to our efforts.

In 1996, the Master Advisor Program was designated by the Funding for Results Committee as one of five outstanding teaching/learning initiatives at Missouri State University. In 1997, the National Academic Advising Association recognized the Master Advisor Program as an Outstanding Institutional Advising Program.

The Master Advisor program was included as an "Exemplary Program" in the 2003 NACADA monograph "Advising Training: Exemplary Practices in the Development of Advisor Skills." The Advising Basics Workshop and the Master Advisor Workshop were included as exemplary practices in the 2007 NACADA monograph "The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond."

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How You Can Become a Master Advisor at Missouri State University

Register for the next Master Advisor Workshop. Call Kathy Davis at 836-5258 or send her e-mail at KathyDavis@MissouriState.edu  for complete information. Three workshops are offered each year in May, August and January.

Individuals may sign up for a workshop through the Academic Advisement Center web page

Read the Master Advisor Training Program Description

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Potential for Adaptation at Other Institutions

Prior to the implementation of the Master Advisor Program, Missouri State University suffered from a lack of appropriate training, evaluation, and recognition for academic advisors. Many institutions face this same problem. Although a handbook and workshop would need to be designed for an individual campus, the process and ideas are applicable at any institution of higher education. The first step in developing any such program is to develop widespread support by consulting with a variety of people, especially the deans and department heads who will be in a position to encourage participation. Next, the academic advising staff can begin designing a workshop and handbook. To continue developing a wide base of support, use early participants to guide the future of the program. Any institutions interested in developing a similar program are encouraged to contact:

Kathy J. Davis, Director
Academic Advisement Center
417-836-5258
KathyDavis@MissouriState.edu

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