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March 23, 2015

As this week’s post falls during early registration for students, it seems fitting to focus on one of Cedarville’s newest initiatives that touches almost all of our lives and is required for Accreditation as well. The following comes from Mandy Nolt, Accreditation and Assessment Specialist, and member of both the Academic Advising Task Force and the HLC Steering Committee:

A large part of accreditation focuses on continuous quality improvement.  Fortunately, this lines up well with our Christian values here at Cedarville.  We strive to provide quality programs for all of our students, and realize that we never “arrive” at perfection.  We continually examine our programs, both academic and non-academic, to make sure they are always improving.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

That’s why, when the Higher Learning Commission added a piece of the accreditation puzzle called the “Quality Initiative,” it seemed like a good fit.  Here was our chance to take a good look at one area of the University that hasn’t been looked at for a long time: Academic Advising.

Enter the Academic Advising Task Force (AATF).  Under the direction of Dr. Pam Johnson, the AATF was charged with getting a read on the climate of academic advising from the perspective of the Advisees (Students) as well as the Advisors (Faculty and Staff), and then working to find ways to improve the process.  After attending a National Academic Advising Association Summer Institute to help formulate some of the goals and objectives of such an endeavor, Dr. Johnson prepared a proposal to explain our goals to the Higher Learning Commission, and we were given the green light.

Already, great strides have been made.  Surveys were sent to all current sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students, and recent graduates to get a feel for how they view their advising experiences.  Faculty and staff who advise students were also polled to determine the frustrations that might be present in the current system, and how they would like to see things changed.

The general consensus was three-fold:

  1. Academic advising is time-consuming
  2. More resources need to be available
  3. Detailed expectations need to be outlined for both the advisor and the advisee

Since we can’t add more hours to the day (sigh…oh that we could), the Task Force decided to tackle the time issue with the idea that having the resources in one centralized location would help the advisors find answers to common questions quickly instead of having to thumb through the catalog, call the registrar’s office, or search our entire CU website.  Thus, the Academic Advising Handbook was born.

Led by Curtis Cline, a Google site was created gathering all the foreseeable resources an advisor might possibly need when advising.

Then, to address the need for clear expectations of both the advisor and the advisee, a subset of the Task Force was formed.  Using a new mission statement created by the Task Force, this group developed goals and objectives including the responsibilities of Advisors and Advisees.  Soon these goals and objectives will be presented to the faculty as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Registrar and the Information Technology Department have been hard at work to set up, train, and implement the new Student Planning software to help address the “time” issue and to contribute to the paradigm shift that needs to occur…from “advising is registering” to “advising as teaching and mentoring.”  The Student Planning program will relieve faculty of the pressure and worry caused by the current registration process and degree audit system. It will also provide students with a powerful, accurate tool to create, implement, and monitor their educational plan within an information-rich program.

All in the name of continuous quality improvement.

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