Academic Advising Task Force of Y2K
The period between 1997-2000 was demanding time for improvements in the academic services available to undergraduates at the University of Arizona. In reaffirming its commitment to undergraduate education, the University initiated a curricular evaluation that led to a number of programmatic changes, including the creation of a new General Education curriculum and a renewed look at the development and assessment of undergraduate writing skills.
Through all of this, it became increasingly apparent that one aspect of undergraduate education was not receiving sufficient attention -- undergraduate academic advising. The critical point came with the distribution by Mike Gottfredson, then Vice President for Undergraduate Education, of his white paper, "Student Retention: A Culture of Responsibility1."
While only a small portion of this document is related to academic advising, it nonetheless initiated a chain of discussions in a variety of sectors of the campus community. Formal reports highlighting the problems with advising and proposing potential solutions to those problems were prepared by ASUA, the University Professional Advising Council (UPAC) and an ad hoc group of Academic Deans.
Toward the end of the spring 2000 semester, the Undergraduate Council (UGC) recommended that a task force be convened with the charge of improving academic advising. At the request of the Provost, Interim Vice President for Undergraduate Education Randall Richardson worked with a planning group to assemble the task force and to determine its charge. The Academic Advising Task Force (AATF) was convened late in the fall 2000 semester, with co-chairs Roxie Catts (advisor), George Gehrels (faculty), and Ben Graff (ASUA President).
Task Force Activities: December 2000 to May 2001
The initial meeting of the AATF was held December 11, 2000, including multiple representatives from the student body, faculty, professional advisors, academic and student support units, and university administration (see List of Task Force Members2). Vice President Richardson addressed the group at this first meeting to personally communicate the AATF Charge3 and to emphasize that the task force should examine how improvements in academic advising can influence student success, including but not restricted to student retention and persistence.
In order to deal with the rather extensive nature of the AATF charge, the task force made several critical decisions. First, it formed a number of subcommittees. Each subcommittee focused on one or more of the specific charge items as follows (note that numbers are keyed to the Charge Statement):
- Advising Definitions and Current Delivery Models (charges #1, 6, and 7)
- Retention and Undecided Students (charges #2 and 3)
- Transfer Students (charge #4)
- Specialized Advising (e.g., pre-health, pre-law) (charge #5)
- Inter-relationship of Academic Advising & Counseling (charge #8)
- Technology and Academic Advising (charge #9)
Individual task force members chose to participate in one or more of these subcommittees, and selected campus experts were invited to participate as ex officio members. The full AATF met once every three weeks, with the subcommittees meeting during the intermediate weeks. The subcommittee chairs also met on a regular basis to coordinate their parallel efforts and avoid duplication of effort.
A second critical decision made by the task force was to separate its work into two broad phases:
- Phase One, covering the spring and summer of 2001, would be devoted to determining the current state of academic advising on campus--what advising structures and practices are in place in the various colleges and units across campus, and how well they seem to function to support student success. A preliminary report4, summarizing progress of the task force during the spring semester, was submitted to Randall Richardson on May 10, 2001.
- Phase Two, commencing at the start of the fall 2001 semester, would focus on defining a vision for academic advising at the University of Arizona and a list of actionable items designed to bring this vision into reality. The final report5 of the task force is scheduled to be submitted to the Vice President for Undergraduate Education during December, 2001.