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University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

IU Bloomington task force to recommend improvements in academic advising

Jan. 19, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University Bloomington task force is taking a comprehensive look at academic advising, seeking ways to improve its effectiveness, better integrate advising into the academic mission of the campus, and create opportunities for professional advancement for advisors.

The effort follows from the April 2009 report Enhancing Undergraduate Education at IU Bloomington, which called for improved academic advising along with other changes to improve education for the campus' 32,490 undergraduate students.

"Advising is essential to the academic mission of Indiana University Bloomington," said Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "Our academic advisors help students make thoughtful decisions about their academic paths and help them to engage more fully in their studies and in the life of the campus. We must provide the structure and support that advisors need to do this vital work effectively."

Sonya Stephens, vice provost for undergraduate education, appointed the 25-member task force and charged it with addressing a range of issues, including the philosophy of advising and the identification and what students should be expected to learn from the advising experience.

Padraic Kenney, professor of history and chair of the Educational Policies Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council, chairs the task force. It includes faculty members, advisors from several academic schools and departments, and students.

In addition to the Enhancing Undergraduate Education report, two student reports -- one by the Board of Aeons and the other by the Vision of the Ideal College Environment (VOICE) committee appointed by IU President Michael A. McRobbie -- targeted advising as an area for improvement.

Key challenges include improved communication among advisors and between advisors, faculty and students and better use of technology. The bottom line, Kenney said, is that advisors are professionals whose work is important to students and faculty, and the campus can make better use of their expertise.

"This is a real opportunity for Indiana University Bloomington to get it right and to take advantage of this powerful resource that we have on our campus," he said. It is an opportunity for advisors, students and faculty members to work together to strengthen the academic enterprise, he said.

Depending on how they are counted, IU Bloomington employs between 175 and 200 staff who work primarily as academic advisors. Some work for large units, such as the University Division (for new undergraduate students), the Kelley School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. Others work for smaller academic units and departments. Their duties and the number of students that they serve vary widely.

Task force member Mark Hurley, assistant director of academic advising for the University Division and president of the Bloomington Advisors' Council, the campus organization of academic advisors, said the task force will raise awareness of the integral role of advising in enhancing undergraduate education.

"People often see advising as simply 'schedule building,' helping students plan their class schedules from semester to semester," Hurley said. "Advising also has broader goals. One is to encourage students to think about their own academic and career goals -- both short and long term -- and to help them develop academic plans that will move them toward realizing those goals as undergraduates at IU Bloomington. Another is to educate students about the academic mission of the university and the 'logic of the curriculum' in their chosen field and actively engage students with that mission."

One task for the group is to examine opportunities for rewards and recognition for advisors, including such options as an improved career ladder, support for campus advising awards and participation in regional and national award programs, and encouragement for advisors who participate in professional development activities through organizations such as the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

The task force began its work in the fall of 2009 and will submit recommendations on advising to Hanson and Stephens by the end of the current semester. The timetable is geared to making any changes in time for the summer 2011 implementation of a new General Education Curriculum developed by faculty to prepare all students to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of life in the 21st century.

Advising Task Force members

  • Padraic Kenney, chair, professor of history
  • Amy Bastin, director of undergraduate student services, School of Public and Environmental Affairs
  • David Compton, professor, School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation
  • Danielle DeSawal, clinical assistant professor, School of Education
  • Patrick Donahue, director, Career Development Center/Arts & Sciences Career Services
  • Gail Fairfield, assistant director, undergraduate programs, Kelley School of Business
  • Mark Goodner, academic advisor and director of OVPUE Undergraduate Programs, Initiatives, and Training
  • Mark Hurley, assistant director of academic advising, University Division
  • James Madison, professor of history and director, Liberal Arts and Management Program
  • Bruce McCallister, coordinator of student outreach, School of Social Work
  • Jim Murray, business systems director, academic advising, Student Enrollment Services
  • Cathrine Reck, director of undergraduate studies and clinical associate professor of chemistry
  • Jane Rogan, associate director, Liberal Arts and Management Program
  • Steven Rose, assistant director, Office of Overseas Study
  • Rendy Schrader, director, International Student and Scholar Advising
  • Elizabeth Smith, academic advisor for astronomy, mathematics, physics and statistics
  • Olaf Sporns, professor of psychological and brain sciences
  • Geoffrey Sprinkle, professor of accounting, Kelley School of Business
  • Abbey Stemler, student, Maurer School of Law, IU Student Trustee
  • Erin Woodley, academic advisor, Jacobs School of Music
  • Five undergraduate student representatives