UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Institute: Advisors help students identify their strengths

Faculty, staff and professional advisors from UNCG and NC A&T had an opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of advising theory, best practices in advising and the integral relationship between advising and career counseling – particularly in meeting the needs of freshmen and sophomore students, and other at-risk groups – at a two-day advising institute Sept. 7 and 8.

The kick off for the event started at UNCG’s Kaplan Wellness Center on Thursday and ended on NC A&T’s campus Friday. The institute was designed as a structured, intensive and collaborative program where participants learned from noted experts from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), colleagues at both universities and one another on both academic advising practices and their relationship to effective career counseling.

The Division of Enrollment Management’s Office of Retention Initiatives at UNCG, the Career Services Center at UNCG and the Center for Academic Excellence at NC A&T State University planned and implemented the institute with support of grant funding by the UNC General Administration. This joint venture was co-led by Dr. Jacquelyn R. Jones, Director of Retention Initiatives at UNCG and Dr. Regina Williams Davis, Assistant Provost for Student Success and Academic Support and the Director for the Center for Academic Excellence at NC A&T State University.

“The Advisor Institute was a wonderful learning experience for all who attended this first collaborative advising experience,” said Jo Ann Huber, a national consultant with NACADA and the keynote speaker. “The participants were fully engaged for two days in strengths-quest activities with relevant information to assist the advising process with students. Case studies rounded out the practical scenarios in dealing with academic as well as ethical situations.”

Huber has been actively involved in higher education administration for over 38 years. Her experience ranges from admissions/school relations to academic advising administration. She played a pivotal role in establishing the award-winning Undergraduate Advising Center at the University of Texas at Austin that dealt with undeclared students across the campus. She recently helped reorganize the advising structure in the College of Liberal Arts to form advising teams. Huber has held many offices in NACADA, including the presidency in 2005-06, Awards & Scholarship chair, Regional Representative and is the past chair of the Summer Institute Advisory Board. She is an active member of the NACADA Consultant & Speaker Service and was recognized in 2010 with the Service to NACADA Award.

Most notably, the institute allowed colleagues the opportunity to explore the connections between academic advising and strengths-based learning as avenues for supporting students’ development of non-cognitive skills. At its core, strengths-based learning aids students in identifying their greatest talents, and then applying those strengths to achieve academic, personal and career goals. Academic advising supports students in learning more about themselves, their interests and personal strengths as integrated components of their academic and career exploration.

During the institute, academic advisors:

  • Took the StrengthsFinder assessment to identify their own talents
  • Identified ways to apply their individual strengths in their academic advising work
  • Practiced utilizing Strengths Quest resources to guide students in academic/career planning
  • Learned how to identify and leverage students’ strengths through academic advising

“Academic advising provides an opportunity for all students to develop a personal and consistent relationship with someone at the institution who cares about them,” Jones said. “Advisors are in a unique position to enable students to see the connection between their present academic experience and their future life plans. Advisors are the direct link for assisting with retention and student success, since often they are the first interactions that students encounter.”

Jones added that George Kuh, founding director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, makes the point that just as important as the time and effort students put into their coursework is the way institutions support strategies that connect students to the campus environment and high-impact learning experiences. Both UNCG and NC A&T support academic advising as a profession.

“Student success must be at the core of all institutional work and decision-making,” Jones said. “Academic advising is critical to the success of higher education and so is providing professional development for our advisors.”

Advising Institute Planning Committee:

Dr. Jacquelyn R. Jones, Director of Retention Initiatives at UNCG, Co-Chair

Dr. Regina Williams Davis, Assistant Provost for Student Success and Academic Support and the Director for the Center for Academic Excellence at NC A&T State University, Co-Chair

Dana Saunders, Director of the Students First Office at UNCG

Dr. Kim Sousa-Peoples, Director of New Student Transitions and First Year Experience at UNCG

Nicole Hall, Director of the Career Services Center at UNCG

Megan Walters, Associate Director for Career Development at UNCG

Emily Wiersma, Assistant Director of New Student Transitions and First Year Experience at UNCG

Christa Cigna and Rachel Horton, Graduate Assistants in the Office of Retention Initiatives at UNCG

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jacquelyn R. Jones.