Our advising appointments are more than just a 30-minute conversation. I want to learn about my students. I want to know their personal, professional, and academic goals. I want to know about their families and how those relationships influence their success. I want to know about their living situation or if they have access to good, healthy food. Do they need help finding a job? Maybe they need help building a resume.
From the above description, it should come as no surprise that I practice intrusive advising. Intrusive advising allows the advisor and student to intentionally build a caring relationship that can lead to stronger academic performance and the capacity for students to better understand their own strengths and values.
Each semester, I strive to meet with 100 percent of my students at least once and I regularly hit 85 to 93 percent.
Never forgetting my own academic history as an undergraduate, I take special note of first-generation students or students from minority backgrounds. I make sure they have the information they need to have to succeed and that they feel comfortable coming to me with questions or concerns as they pop up. I ask about their families and support systems each time I see them, knowing that most of the time, I’ll get a simple response but that sometimes, that’s the opening for the student to tell me about home situations that are affecting their academic success.
While the conversations are organic, I do keep a checklist of topics to ensure each moment of the advising appointment is useful. Topics include minor program requirements, class schedule, family/support system, living situation, work, student organizations, education abroad/away, etc. I also inquire about what the student feels will be their biggest challenge for that semester and what they do to relieve stress.
During the spring 2020 semester, I created and executed a wellness survey for my students with the intention of using the information I gather to better inform how I advise in the future and what resources I have available for my students. Despite the early end of face-to-face advising, I managed to get 91 percent participation in the anonymous survey. The data I collected was immense and not something that emerges during a typical advising appointment: food insecurity, health insurance status, physical/mental/emotional health status, housing insecurity, access to safer sex resources, comfort with law enforcement, and sense of belonging. I’m still analyzing the data, but I’ve already discovered insights that will make me a more thoughtful, effective advisor. Moving forward, I want this to be an annual cornerstone of my advising experience and I’d like to eventually share my process with other advisors so they can adopt similar wellness surveys for their own students.