Steps to Revitalize Advising at PSU

PSU_Studentservice_Roadmap-page-001Student advising is one of a number of factors that impact student success. PSU faculty and professional advisors use different advising models depending on the school/college/department. Several years ago, PSU added a number of professional advisors and saw an increase in the retention of full-time freshmen. Our retention rate, however, declined the past three years. It is time for us to reassess our advising model in response to the changing demands on students, and implement what we have learned from new, national, high-impact practices.

Over the next 18 months, PSU will be engaged in projects that increase advising capacity, revitalize advising systems and improve the visibility of student support services. I asked Sukhwant Jhaj, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Student Success, to describe some of the advising redesign work underway.

Working as a team
A team of academic advisors (Casey Campbell, Kate Constable, Martha Dyson, Lynell Spencer, and Melissa Yates) and Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) staff (Randi Harris, Kara Hayes, Sukhwant Jhaj) will be working with other professional advisors, faculty, staff, students and alumni to facilitate the redesign of professional academic and career advising at Portland State University. redesign-2

Cross-functional teams from OAA, Finance and Administration, and Enrollment Management and Student Affairs are working on creating: A Coordinated Service Network between advising, Financial Aid, Bursar’s Office and Registrar’s Office; personalized Degree Maps; and redesign of myPSU to offer online services to students.

The goals of the Academic and Career Advising Redesign as established by the
Academic Leadership Team are:  

  • Enhance the 1:1 relationship between advisors and students by creating Academic Advising Pathways or Clusters consistent with student flow. Integrate services for undeclared students with advising clusters and establish a major declaration policy.
  • Create a unified advising framework overseen centrally to create consistent advising practices and policies.
  • Organize work so it is a source of joy: career advancement opportunities, create community, promote equity, and consistent advising position description with clear expectations.
  • Increase student self-efficacy and sense of agency, such that the right context, supports, and tools exist for students to access services on their own.

Alignment with Strategic Planredesign-1
Academic and Career Advising Redesign directly aligns with PSU’s Strategic Plan:

  • Strategic Goal #1: Elevate Student Success
  • Initiative #3: Use Best Practices to Advance Student Retention
  • Sub-initiative #3.1: Increase advising capacity, revitalize advising systems and improve the visibility of student support services.

This work is supported by a $640,000 grant from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. PSU has also received a $105,000 grant to support creation of Degree Maps from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, and Lumina Foundation.

Making the work public
The Advising Redesign Workgroup held five public sessions in February and March to share information about the four projects and the road-mapping process. These interactive sessions offered the advising community an opportunity to ask questions and find ways in which one can engage with advising redesign work over the coming year. Through the month of March, the Advising Redesign Workgroup held 65, 1:1 interviews with professional advisors to learn about their current experience and their vision for advising redesign. The Advising Redesign Workgroup intends to meet with key faculty members regarding their experience and vision for the reinvigorated system.

See for yourself
You can see firsthand the work being done by the Academic and Career Advising Redesign Workgroup by attending an informal walk through what they have learned so far from their interviews with PSU’s professional advisors.

Please save one of the following dates to attend:
Monday, April 25 – 10:00-11:00am
Tuesday, April 26 – 10:00-11:00am

The walk through will be held in the Office of Academic Innovation, SMSU M211, South End Room. It is an open house-style event, so feel free to attend at any point during the scheduled hour. We expect that it will take about 20 minutes to experience.

Please direct questions to Sukhwant Jhaj at and post comments on this blog space.


5 thoughts on “Steps to Revitalize Advising at PSU

  1. Excited to see the advising program get attention! I would point out that higher education is highly cyclical and, as the economy improves, students are going to find tempting job offers that cause them to suspend their studies. Hopefully, they will be back to complete eventually.


  2. I think this is great and that we are doing great work at PSU in advising. I also think we need to start focusing on second year success using advising techniques that address the special needs of second year students. When we talk about retention, we tend to only focus on the retention to second year. But the process of adapting to college takes two years. Colleges that focus on helping their students make it to junior year create the conditions for higher graduation rates which ultimately is the goal. See also my dissertation on the topic:


  3. Pingback: Steps to Revitalize Advising at PSU | Academic Innovation and Student Success

  4. There is no doubt that advising is a critical part of student success. I think it is essential that we place advisors out in the departments and colleges (as applicable) and not have a centralized model. The landscape of higher education (and our course offerings) are changing rapidly these days, and in order for students to get the correct information and to avoid confusion – it is essential that these advisors are incorporated into departmental and college programs. When the advisors are part of programs, they can contribute in meaningful ways to department leadership on how to support student success and retention, and they can have more input into course offerings and scheduling that maximize student success and minimize time to degree. They know when faculty are going on sabbatical, or when course scheduling is going to change due to a variety of issues – this type of information is difficult to track with a centralized system. Departmental advisors are partners with the faculty and staff and they work with them on a daily basis – rather than a separate office with a different culture. Departmental advisors can also act as a voice for the students because they get to interact with such a broad cross-section of the students in their program. Having this level of understanding for the student population can only lead to departments making better decisions on how to best serve their students. I hope that our revitalization of advising takes these types of issues into account. We have the opportunity to create a very supportive and personalized advising system, but it is critical that advisors become woven into the fabric of the academic programs – rather than adding them as patches over perceived tears in the fabric.


  5. We could not agree more that advisors need to be in the schools and colleges and have direct interaction with faculty in the departments they serve. This new proposed model would do just that– add advisors in the schools and colleges, not centrally. What is different than what we have now is there will be more advisors in the colleges, consistency in advising tools and higher level advisor capabilities across schools and colleges. I encourage anyone with ideas or questions to attend the sessions on April 25th and 26th to learn more.


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