Cleveland State University has developed an innovative and nationally recognized model of “intrusive” academic advising that is designed to assist students, from day one, in creating a direct and clear path to graduation. Each student is paired with an academic advisor who assists them with goal setting and career assessment, development of an individualized graduation plan and connecting them to the additional resources they may need to enhance success.
Advisors also conduct statistical and data analysis of test scores and GPAs to better predict when students in different majors regularly encounter problems and monitor professional and graduate school trends to best advise students on meeting their career goals.
“Advisors need a combination of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills to be able to provide the guidance and support students need,” says Casey Mawson, an academic advisor for the College of Sciences and Health Professions at CSU. “Thanks to enhancements in technology we can now generate a significant amount of data to better understand trends in retention, graduation and graduate school acceptance, but advisors also need to have the mentoring and counseling skills needed to help students make the best decisions.”
Mawson is one of five academic advisors for the College and works with speech and hearing, pre-physician assistant, health promotions and general health sciences students. This includes helping pre-professional students map out the courses and internships they need to both complete their degree and properly stand-out to potential graduate schools. She works closely with the Office of Pre-Professional Health Programs to ensure that students are taking the necessary steps to prepare to apply to their desired graduate program.
When working with general health sciences students, Mawson focuses more strongly on skills and aptitude assessment, helping students target what career they may be interested in and then developing the graduation plan to help them achieve it. For both groups, she also creates a personal needs assessment to analyze the particular assistance an individual student may need and then works with various other offices on campus to ensure the resources are provided.
“All of the students I work with are interested in succeeding and getting the most out of the opportunity college provides,” adds Mawson. “Some have a specific career in mind from day-one and are driven to get there, others need more help to find the right path. I try to help all meet the goals they set for themselves.”
Mawson received the opportunity to discuss CSU’s advising system, and learn from others in the field, when she was selected to present at the 2019 Northeast Ohio Academic Advising Conference in May. Her talk focused on the importance of strategic planning, assessment and goal setting in enhancing retention and graduation rates and the growth of data analysis as a tool in student advising. She also attended presentations on how academic advisors across campus can better coordinate and share best practices and on hidden biases and their impact on effective advising.
“The conference gave me an opportunity to highlight the progress we have made at CSU in creating a true intrusive advising model,” Mawson says. “It also gave me the opportunity to discuss challenges and potential solutions with other practitioners and experts in the field.”
Moving forward, Mawson is working to better weave feedback she is getting from students into general advising practices and the introductory courses all health sciences students are required to take as part of their program. She recently worked to create new marketing brochures, which highlight the programs within the college. Additionally, she regularly creates and updates advising materials regarding graduate program requirements and various career options.
“My job is to help students succeed. This is the reason I love what I do.”