Melinda Roy

This is the final post in a five-part series on Cultivating Advising Success. Start at the first post, Should You Restructure Your Advising?

A friend of mine once had a pest outbreak in her sunroom where she had over fifty plants. She could’ve panicked and thrown out all the infested plants, nearly half of her collection, and buy new ones, but this quick fix would’ve been financial costly and result in her losing a number of mature and otherwise thriving plants. Instead, she assessed each plant for severity of the infestation, the difficulty level of getting between the leaves to remove the pests, and the time she had available to manage the pest outbreak. While she did end up throwing out a number of plants, she was able to save a tall, fifteen-year old corn plant, and a table-sized staghorn fern.

Similarly, deciding to revamp an advising structure can seem like the appropriate fix to a widespread dysfunction, but it may also cost losing existing effective practices, initiatives, or employees along with those that aren’t effective. In the long-term, this amount of disruption may require more sustained investment in re-establishing communication structures, training advisors to use new technologies, create, assign, and effectively use different advisor types—and in moving to a hybrid model from a standalone one, teaching advisees where to go, and distinguishing complimentary office roles and responsibilities, takes considerable communication efforts and resources.

Taking the time to do an advising review is key to both determining how much of a restructure is necessary, and to determine what kind of model to restructure to. The main considerations of an advising review should assess:

  1. The complexity, effectiveness, and engagement in the internal communication channels between the existing advisors or unit, and the faculty units, registration, recruitment, and financial aid offices (among others).
  2. The effectiveness and student engagement with advising outreach, marketing, and communication initiatives
  3. The effectiveness of and advisee engagement with orientation. It should also review the challenges the employees responsible for putting together these materials, and running the program, experience.
  4. Identify what students, advisors, and faculty like and don’t like about the current model. What is their ideal vision for their participation in advising?
  5. Identify current and potential delivery systems for advising, including whether eAdvising, using AI advisors, or group advising. Review each for level of interest, cost of implementation, human, financial, and technical resources require to maintain it.
  6. The physical location, online accessibility, and visibility of advising services at each campus, on academic unit and service offices websites.
  7. Current administrational oversight and reporting lines, and potential ways to reorganize roles along a RASCI matrix or with a strategic approach.
  8. Review proposed timelines for changes, review or assign responsibility for change management and coordination, and determining appropriate budget levels and authority.
  9. Review current data available to advisors, advising administration, and students about advising services, practices, delivery, and engagement. Identify current key performance indicators and service capacity metrics. Identify gaps in the reporting, and assign priority to developing new products, and review capacity of data and research offices to produce them.
  10. Review the institutional structure and community stakeholder map to identify who will be affected by a restructure, and the best ways to educate them about any upcoming changes.

An advising review should be framed within the greater context of an institutions mission and goals. Advising should uphold the philosophical values of an institution, support the enrolment and academic plans, while delivering services from a holistic student perspective. The complexity of the advising practice must reflect the complexity of an institutions student body. Just as a strategic enrolment plan requires collaborative visioning, cross-unit engagement, feedback and data collection, and transparent analysis and decision making, so too must an advising restructuring plan consider the impacts to and feedback from stakeholders beyond advisors and advisees.

Many gardeners take the winter to assess the success of the previous year’s planting strategy, and modify their plan for the following year. Some seeds they might start indoors sooner, or direct sow later. Institutions may similarly benefit from reviewing their approach during the off-season and adjusting practices over a number of years. Just as professional gardeners look at almanacs and climate science to determine a resilient long-term approach, institutions must consider work to establish an advising model that builds resilient students, collaborative and communicative cross-unit employees, and skilled advisors. With these structures in place, initiatives for enrolment management, retention, orientation, recruitment, and alumni engagement will reflect the same traits: resilient, adaptable, and collaborative. This is why I believe an academic advising office has a critical role in strategic enrolment management, and can act as a litmus test of an institution’s overall success with, or readiness to implement strategic enrolment management.

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Gordon, V., Habley, W., Grites, T., et al. (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. (2nd edition). Jossey-Bass.

NACADA. (2017). Conditions of excellence in academic advising. Retrieved from NACADA:

Sileika, P. (2017, October 26). CACUSS and NACADA Competency Frameworks Compared: Which works best for the Canadian Advising Professional? Retrieved from Academic Advising in Canada:

Wisniewski-Aiken, S. (2011). Implications for assessment. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: