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SSC-Campus Profile: Marie Champagne, CEHD Academic Advisor 

How Do You Catch Your Student’s Attention?

By Janet Ha Poirot

Marie Champagne
Marie Champagne

As an Academic Advisor for graduate students in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), Marie Champagne noticed it can be a challenge to capture a graduate student’s attention because many are juggling school, work and family.  These students often find themselves inundated with impersonal emails from many different sources and might miss important emails from their department.  However, after a training session for SSC-Campus, Marie learned that she can run an outreach campaign using SSC-Campus to identify specific students and send them personalized emails from her email address with information that is relevant to their specific situation.  So back at her desk, she tried it and ran a campaign with her own population of 600 students.  It was quick and easy to do.  She first identified those students who have not yet completed the necessary forms required to complete their certificate program.  Concerned about these students, Marie sent eligible students personalized emails through the campaign feature of SSC-Campus, with a link to the form along with a gentle reminder.  She found that students responded to these emails and filled out the necessary paperwork in a much more-timely manner compared to a mass email from the list-serv.  Since it was specifically addressed to students with relevant information in the subject line, they were more likely to read it.

Marie has also noted that because advisors are often very involved in a student’s academic life, harnessing the power of data tools such as SSC-Campus can greatly improve the student experience with each meeting.  Not only is there an easy to read dashboard where she can quickly see a student’s status and situation while she is meeting with him or her, SSC-Campus also helps with maintenance and management of her work flow.  It helps her with many of the tasks an advisor needs to complete behind the scenes.  The software allows her to tailor her work so that it is individualized for each student with an approach that keeps his or her specific needs in mind.

Overwhelmingly, the ability to run lists is a favorite feature for many advisors.  Marie’s advice for an advisor new to SSC-Campus is to “Run lists and that will give you an idea of your student population.  You can run a list of your inactive students and contact them to see when they are planning to enroll or if they plan on coming back.  This can help you with course planning as well as showing support for the student.”  Marie once had a situation where many inactive students suddenly enrolled for a course all at once prompting the need to add a second course at the last minute.  To prevent this situation from reoccurring, she now contacts inactive students using an SSC-Campus outreach campaign and it has greatly helped her with more accurate enrollment projections each semester.

Overall, Marie has noticed how SSC-Campus empowers advisors because “we have a say in how the system works for us.  EAB as well as the SSC leadership team have been very responsive to our critiques and requests for fixes and improvements and has continued to tweak the system to better meet our needs.”  SSC-Campus has created a community of supportive users and in her meetings with the SSC Campaign Working Group, she came away with even helpful advising tips on how to better serve her students.  “Everyone there is very dedicated and we all support each other.  The amount of care, concern and enthusiasm each advisor has towards their students has been very impressive and inspiring and a defining feature of Mason.”  Not only has SSC-Campus helped her build better relationships with her students, her meetings with other advisors concerning this tool has revitalized her as they’ve exchanged new ideas that helped direct their students towards academic success.

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SSC-Campus Profile: Lori Yi, FAVS Academic Advisor

The Critical Role of Academic Advising in Student Success

By Janet Ha Poirot

 

Technology platforms are not only changing students’ lives but it is altering how college advisors interact with their students and how they perform their jobs.  The importance of college academic advisors has often been stressed in retention literature which means an improvement in their job performance is an overall improvement for the institution.  As Noel (1985) stated, “The caring attitude of college personnel is viewed as the most potent retention force on a campus (p. 17).”  According to Habley, “Academic Advising is the only structured activity on the campus in which all students have the opportunity for one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution” 1994, p. 10).  But when a college advisor has a long line of students to advise, there isn’t enough time for the advisor to develop deeper relationships with students.  This is where software tools such as SSC-Campus, an online advising tool which uses predictive analytics, have helped strengthen the ties between students and advisors.

Lori Yi, Academic AdvisorLori Yi, academic advisor in Film and Video Studies and an early adopter of SSC-Campus, has long known the importance of building relationships with students.  Named a top ten academic advisor of George Mason University in 2016, one student stated, “She has helped me better understand my options and evaluate my schedule and my future.”  Another student said, “She has gone above and beyond as an advisor and has made me feel infinitely more comfortable, not only in my major, but also with my academic life choices.”  Lori is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and this shines through in conversations with her.  When I interviewed her, Lori cited a Tinto (1987) study and said “Tinto found students drop out when they encounter academic difficulty, adjustment problems, don’t have clear academic goals, don’t feel integrated into the college community and suffer from isolation.  They are more likely to persist and graduate when they are integrated into the community and feel included on campus.”  She believes that an integral part of her job is guiding them to opportunities and pathways they weren’t aware of, helping them define their academic and career goals as well as helping them find their niche on campus while they become members of the vibrant Mason community.  Without the help of software such as SSC-Campus, it would be difficult to find the time to have these important conversations with so many students.

“Before I started using SSC-Campus, there were reports I needed that would take hours to generate sometimes even weeks when I had to wait for data from other departments.  Now, the data are at my fingertips and a report takes me minutes.  I can even quickly see which students came in for advising and which haven’t.”  She then sends an email to all of her students who hadn’t come in for advising.  She also sends out campaigns where she selects all students who have not made an appointment to send them reminders.  On July 10, George Mason transitioned from a patchwork of scheduling systems to SSC Scheduler, an enterprise wide system which is streamlined and linked to the SSC-Campus platform.  Prior to the transition, Lori was using Acuity, an online appointment scheduling software and seeing about 75% of her students.  Now with the SSC platform, she sees 90% of her students.

As a member of the pilot group of the SSC online scheduler, students were able to access Lori’s calendar and make their own appointments without needing to call the office.  She and her students found the software seamless, straightforward and easy to use.  The time she saved from doing manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks is now used to stay on top of the individual degree plans, needs and interests of her students.  “What I enjoy most is watching the lightbulbs go on during an advising session.  You can see a student’s enthusiasm grow as they connect the dots from their passion to their academic and career goals and realize they have the skills to achieve their goals.  Many students are proactive but they still need reassurance and are not always confident of their capabilities.  Sometimes they think they don’t have the skills needed to finish a class or project.  When we discuss their achievements and projects they’ve finished, they begin to see their competencies more clearly.”  Another student stated that he never would have graduated if it wasn’t for Lori.  He only saw a mountain but Lori showed him a path through it that wasn’t as immense as he thought.

Lori understands that good academic advising is not some rote task, it is complex and nuanced.  With her M.Ed. in Higher Education & Student Affairs, she saw how students are not all at the same emotional and psychological place and learned to assess and locate resources to help enhance their development.  When she was a first-generation college student, she had difficulty understanding all the rules, policies and resources available on campus.  She found mentors to help her and is now able to be that person guiding students through the maze, helping them find academic and internship opportunities so they can take full advantage of their educational experience.  “Because Mason is more flexible than other universities and allows for more choices, more guidance is needed,” says Lori.  Many students can attest to how academic advisors like Lori Yi help strengthen a students’ commitments both to their goals, George Mason and ultimately to academic success.

References

Habley, W.R. (1994). Key Concepts in Academic Advising. In Summer Institute on Academic Advising Session Guide (p.10).  Manhattan, KS: NACADA The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Noel. L, Levitz, R., & Saluri, D. (Eds) (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tinto, V (1987). Increasing student retention. San Francisco:Jossey Bass.