Realizing the Potential of College Advising Systems

Story by Jessica Youssefi, Reporter

To better address the issues, successes and future progress of community college education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a panel discussion during the 2015 SXSW conference.

The “Unravelling the Advising Maze” panel on March 11 focused on how to better counsel and advise students during their time at community colleges.

Students and educators attended the panel which offered information on ways to fix glitches in the advising system during tense times for students, particularly during registration and finals when the need for advising is high.

The panel began with attendees participating and sharing their input in hypothetical situations. They were asked to fill out student forms about credit hours, transferable credits and how to find that information using only the tools provided. This activity showed the frustrations of students on a daily basis.

In order to address some of the key issues, the degree map was introduced. This tool has been implemented at Austin Community College and serves as a visual tracker allowing students to monitor their progress and see which courses are left until their degree is completed.

ACC student and panelist, Lisa Pham said the degree map is an essential tool of the advising department.

“ It’s a great way for students to see how far along they are and have a visual to see what they are accomplishing,” Pham said. “Having the advisor refer to the degree plan and checking up on you to see how you’re doing in your classes, shows that they care and they want to motivate you toward completing your education.”

The importance of the student/advisor relationship was further addressed by the panel. It described the advisor as often being a student’s best reference point when dealing with frustrations on a personal rather than academic level.

Lluvia Hernandez, a panelist and ACC student, credited a good relationship with her advisor as one of the reasons for her success.

“Once I found counselor Tim Self, who really cared about my success, I felt a lot better about school and taking certain classes,” Hernandez said. “On my end I was struggling a lot through personal and health issues and my advisor gave me the encouragement and guidance I needed — that extra push that was needed.”

STUDENT OUTREACH — Dr. Jill Biden spends time at the 2015 South by Southwest Education summit with college-student reporters (left to right) Lauren Booker, Noor Alahmadi and Jessica Youssefi. Booker attends Georgia State University and both Alahmadi and Youssefi attend Austin Community College.