Best Practices for Advising in Departments and Advisement Centers

Consistent with the mission of Missouri State University and the goals of maximizing student recruitment, learning, and retention, academic advisement is an important aspect of student success. The following “best practices” are recommendations for successful advisement at the level of department or college advisement centers. Excellent advisement programs help provide a positive student educational experience.

1. Structure academic advising processes to meet student needs and best utilize faculty/staff talents.

Several models have proven to be successful at Missouri State:

  • Some Colleges within the University may be best served by a Centralized Advisement Center staffed by qualified full-time professional advisors.
  • Other Colleges with greater diversity among available majors may be best served by decentralized advisement at the departmental level where faculty members serve as advisors.
  • In some cases, a hybrid structure may work best, where a Departmental Advisement Coordinator works with a small support team (i.e., full- or part-time staff members, and/or graduate assistants) to manage Advisement Center services.
  • A similar model would involve a Departmental Advisement Coordinator who works with departmental faculty to facilitate training updates, to match advisees with advisors based on interests, and to maintain equitable advising loads.
  • In a few departments, one designated professional academic advisor serves as the advisor for all departmental majors.

2. Where a significant amount of the advising is provided by faculty, divide faculty advising loads equitably so appropriate time can be spent with each advisee.

  • Some faculty members excel as advisors. Students should have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge, experience, and accessibility of faculty who are invested in promoting student success through advising. These talents should be recognized in performance evaluations, and where possible, lighter expectations in other areas (i.e., teaching, research, service) may be appropriate.
  • Some faculty members excel in academic areas outside of advising (i.e., teaching, research, committee work) and may not be well-suited to advising students. In these situations, departments should determine equitable workloads that account for the number and type of advisees assigned to each faculty member.

3. Designate individual(s) in each department/advisement center to receive specialized training and coordinate advisement of special populations of students.

  • Because of the growing number of transfer students, an adequate number of transfer advisors should be specifically trained and kept current (i.e., internet native Banner training; regular contact with Admissions Transfer Coordinator; consistent communication with Transfer Advisor in Academic Advising and Transfer Center). Because of this extra training, departments/centers may choose to limit the number of individuals who advise transfer students.
  • The specialized needs of online, evening, and international students should be considered when structuring advising duties. Individuals who are advising special populations should be prepared to meet the needs of those students.
  • Academic advising for graduate students will vary among programs, particularly dependent on the manner in which the research component is satisfied. While research advisors must have Graduate Faculty status, academic advising could be performed by any qualified advisor familiar with program requirements and the profession.

4. Promote, encourage, and track the ongoing training and professional development of faculty/staff advisors in the department/advisement center.

Examples of training and development activities include:

  • Encourage or require all advising faculty/staff providing advising services to obtain and maintain Master Advisor certification.
  • Maintain and disseminate current information to advising staff/faculty related to general advisement, careers, graduate study, internships, and other opportunities for students to engage more fully in the process of achieving academic and professional goals. This information could be communicated, for example, through a departmental bulletin board or time devoted to advisement in department/staff meetings.
  • Train all faculty/staff providing advising services on the specific requirements for the majors and minors served by the department/advisement center.
  • Maintain contact with the Academic Advising and Transfer Center. Assist the Academic Advising and Transfer Center in developing workshops on relevant advisement topics.
  • Participate in student surveys and evaluations of advising.

5. Develop effective methods within each department/advisement center to communicate with advisees, traditional and special populations.

Examples of effective communication methods include:

  • Develop and regularly update an email distribution list(s) for rapid dissemination of pertinent information.
  • Develop and regularly update an advising webpage with information (e.g., forms, documents, and links) of interest to advisees in the department or unit.
  • Consider adopting more student-friendly and high-tech methods to communicate with advisees (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs, a Blackboard “class” for advisees, and/or regular newsletters).
  • Develop a procedure to communicate with students who will not regularly be on campus (e.g., campus email after an initial phone conversation).

6. Promote within each department/advisement center the best practices of individual and departmental advising as established by Best Practices documents.

Possible ways to promote these documents might include:

  • Distribute and discuss the “Best Practices for Academic Advisors at Missouri State University” at department and college meetings.
  • Distribute and discuss how to accomplish the “Best Practices for Advising in Departments and Centers” document at department and college meetings.

7. Designate one person (i.e., Advisement Coordinator, Department Head, or Center Director) to manage provision of advisement services within the department/advisement center, with charges based on the advising model adopted by that unit.

Responsibilities of this individual might include:

  • Carry a significant advising load.
  • Assign students to faculty advisors as equitably as possible, ideally matching student and faculty/advisor areas of academic and/or professional interest.
  • Maintain consistent communication with faculty and/or professional advisors (e.g., provide information regarding policy changes, helpful hints, and reminders of important dates).
  • Be involved with recruitment at the departmental level (e.g., through Campus Visits and departmental tours).
  • Provide advising assistance when faculty advisors are not available to students.
  • Teach departmental or University courses when appropriate.

8. Ensure that quality advising is appropriately available through the department/advisement center to all students, traditional and special populations.

Examples of ways to ensure appropriate accessibility of advising services:

  • Make advising services available to students during evenings, summers, and academic intersessions, as well as during the traditional academic year.
  • Ensure that another qualified advisor (e.g. Department Head, staff advisor, or graduate assistant) is available for student appointments when an academic advisor is away from the office.
  • Encourage students to schedule advising appointments in advance so a department can schedule an advisor to be available.

9. Implement a consistent plan to assess advisement within the department/advisement center, and use results to facilitate process improvement.

10. Devise a method to follow up with graduates. Potential students may be interested, so availability of this information could boost departmental/college recruitment and retention efforts.

Examples of ways to follow up with graduates:

  • Learn graduate and professional school plans.
  • Survey employers who are hiring recent graduates.
  • Maintain current contact information for University advancement purposes.

11. Develop a concrete system to recognize and reward faculty/staff who are dedicated to providing quality academic advising through the department/advisement center.

Examples of ways to recognize and reward advising:

  • Consider weight given to advising as teaching in promotion and tenure planning.
  • Nominate outstanding advisors for Missouri State’s “Excellence in Advising” awards.