Where Do We Go From Here?

Realizing Our Vision for Excellent and Equitable Advising

The Task Force took under consideration the current status of undergraduate advising at UVA (where we are), our aspirations for advising (where we want to be), and what we have learned from other institutions. In light of those insights, we conclude by outlining six broad recommendations for realizing our vision for excellent and equitable advising.

Recommendation #1 - Ensure that all pre-major students (i.e., students who have not yet declared a major) have a primary advisor whose principal responsibility is advising

​​​​​ 1.1. Pre-major advisors:17 All schools should develop an advising model for pre-major students that relies on primary advisors whose principal responsibility is advising. This could take multiple forms, e.g., full-time staff, general faculty whose primary role is advising, or new models relying on individuals who may have split staff/faculty roles or practitioner/faculty/staff roles. However, it is imperative that personnel with split appointments spend the majority (i.e., at least 60% and ideally 75%) of their time on advising.

1.2. Expectations: Pre-major advisors will reside within schools and be students’ primary contact regarding any questions they have, academic or otherwise. This person’s role will include considerations related to course/major selection and degree progress, and, in a change, will also extend much beyond that to reflect a broader definition of advising, including co-curricular opportunities, career exploration, exposure to resources, and referral to services (see a discussion of learner-centered advising).18

The pre-major advisor should begin to formally engage with students starting in May (after students accept admission to the University). Pre-major advisors could remain with their advisees for four years or students could transition to another advisor after declaring a major. If there is a transition to a new advisor, after declaring the major, concerted effort should be made to facilitate a smooth transition, and the pre-major advisor should remain available to answer questions related to topics outside of the major even after students transition to their major advisors.

Moreover, when relevant, pre-major advisors will have specializations and be matched with students based on broad areas of interest (e.g., pre-health, pre-comm, natural sciences, arts/humanities, social sciences). Advisors should collaborate with other schools, career center, etc. to ensure effective advising of students who aim to transfer to other schools and/or are focused on specific areas such as pre-health.

1.3. Diversity: Concerted effort should be made to hire, retain and promote advisors who represent our student body along different sociodemographic characteristics (such as first-generation, gender, and under-represented racial/ethnic minority group members).

1.4. Training: Pre-major advisors should participate in extensive training that includes student development, cultural literacy, awareness of equity, access and achievement issues in higher education overall and at UVA specifically, knowledge specific to their school and disciplinary areas, knowledge of practices at other schools across the university, and knowledge of resources and services across the university (please see recommendation #3.5 as well as the assessment section).

1.5. Professional Development: Pre-major advisors should be offered professional development opportunities and have reasonable career progression options (e.g., in case of staff advising, career ladders including advisor, senior advisor, and supervisory advisor with an associated increase in pay and responsibility, such as conducting workshops, working with marginalized populations, etc.).

1.6. Evaluation: Pre-major advisors should be evaluated on an annual basis and their merit raises, bonuses, opportunities for promotion, etc. should reflect their performance as advisors.

Recommendation #2: Require all incoming students to participate in a first-year experience that connects them to resources and helps them to build relationships across Grounds.

2.1. Students should be required to participate in a 1-credit course or other structured experience (e.g., a semester-long sequence of workshops and activities, a well-designed series of independently completed assignments and small-group sessions) that connects them to resources and helps them to build relationships across Grounds.

2.2. Each school should develop a list of experiences that could meet these requirements. To qualify, these experiences should: a) be small (maximum 30 enrollment), b) be designed to ensure student participation and engagement, c) facilitate building relationships with peers and/or faculty/staff, and d) expose students to resources at their school of enrollment and across Grounds. 

2.3. Schools could develop new opportunities or restructure existing courses (such as Hoos Connected, COLA, Intro to Engineering, SARC seminar, etc.) to meet the expectation that all incoming students participate in a first-year experience.

2.4. For first-year experiences that are courses, the instructor should not serve as the students’ advisor unless they meet the criteria specified under recommendation #1.

Recommendation #3: Develop infrastructure in the Provost Office to provide centralized support for advising and to facilitate collaboration across schools and academic and student affairs units.

3.1. Dedicate personnel in the Provost Office to coordinate activities across schools and academic and student affairs units, including one person with primary responsibility for advising, along with support related to training and assessment.

3.2. Create a pan-university Advising Council consisting of representatives from each school and student affairs units. The Advising Council can serve as the main body coordinating advising activities across the University and provide guidance on matters from policy to training and assessment. This group can also review academic policies (e.g., suspension, probation, transfer), identify opportunities to streamline policies within and across schools and to automate routine processes (e.g., degree audit). Finally, the Advising Council can work on identifying gaps in student services and develop plans to address those. Wherever possible, the Advising Council should take advantage of the growing body of evidence-based approaches now available to enhance the student experience.

3.3. Develop Advising Communities of Practice with opportunities for first-year advisors across the University to learn from each other, problem-solve, and share information and resources.

3.4. Connect academic and residential components of students’ lives by developing opportunities for workshops and other information-sharing opportunities within first- and second-year residence halls.

3.5. Collaborate with schools and student affairs to develop advisor training and professional development opportunities. Collectively develop criteria and expectations for required expertise, and associated training, for both first-year advisors and major advisors. Dedicate personnel time in the Provost Office to conduct foundational training of first-year advisors and to support training of major advisors within schools. Develop a website (behind Netbadge) with information about resources, training videos for specific high-need areas, and other professional development opportunities.  

3.6. Collaborate with schools and student affairs to develop systematic and holistic assessment of advising that includes both school-specific and cross-university advising activities. Dedicate personnel time in the Provost Office to support assessment activities (see Appendix E for an overview). 

3.7. Establish a University Advisor Award, akin to the University Teaching Award.

Recommendation #4: Adopt an advising software platform for use across the University.

4.1. Establish a working group to develop key criteria for advising software – what do we need in advising software that spans the university to meet the needs of all schools and student affairs? The working group should engage with advisors, faculty/staff in undergraduate offices, and student affairs in developing software criteria. Ideally, the software will not only meet the needs of advisors but will also foster communication and engagement with students.

4.2. Develop an RFP for advising software, evaluate different vendors, and select an advising software package to be used across the University.

4.3. Develop a plan for step-wise implementation of the selected advising software across the University.

Recommendation #5: Ensure that all major advisors, whether staff or faculty, are appropriately trained and that advising loads are equitably distributed. Establish policies and practices that encourage and recognize excellent advising.


5.1. Regardless of whether relying on faculty or staff advising for their majors, each school should review policies and practices regarding major advising to ensure that a) time allocated to advising is included in advisors’ official allocation of duties; b) excellent advising is encouraged and recognized and subpar advising addressed; and c) all students, regardless of background or interests, receive excellent major advising.

5.2. Each school should review advising assignments to ensure that advising loads are equitably distributed. Heavier loads should be offset by reductions in other duties or additional support to help these advisors carry out their responsibilities.

5.3. Ensure that all major advisors have access to advising resources and receive appropriate training, which could be developed in collaboration with the Provost Office (see #3.5).

5.4. Each school should review policies and practices related to transfer students. While they are advised in the major, they are often similar to first-year students in that they need to learn to access information and resources, they need to build relationships with faculty and peers, etc. Thus, they warrant special consideration in a number of respects: a) specifically trained advisors, b) additional supports from the undergraduate offices, and c) specifically developed opportunities to connect with peers and faculty. They could be encouraged to participate in the first-year experience, or schools could offer a similar opportunity exclusively for transfer students (see recommendation #2).


Recommendation #6: Develop better ways of sharing information with students through both enhanced technology and engagement with peers.


6.1. Develop an advising website for each school that centralizes advising resources at the school and includes direct links to resources outside of the school. This website should provide clear and explicit information about a) the different roles that individuals in the advising network play, and b) how to reach those individuals. For schools with advising software/systems behind Netbadge, ensure this information is contained within those systems. Update the Total Advising website to describe the structure of advising at UVA and link to advising webpages for each school.

6.2. Develop capacity for students to easily ask questions through chat or email monitored by advising personnel. Consider the possibility of chatbot or other services to facilitate a semi-automated process to address simple questions so advisor time can be preserved for more complex matters.

6.3. Enhance the search capabilities of UVA websites, whether by improving current infrastructure or developing new infrastructure, to allow for efficient search and information retrieval.

6.4. Given how rapidly technology changes, adopt a regular review and enhancement protocol.   

6.5. Consider establishing a peer advisor program within each school, with a particular focus on exploring majors. Ensure that peer advisors are appropriately trained and supervised.


17 This recommendation is focused on advising for first- and/or second-year students who have not yet declared a major. Recommendation #5 speaks to major advisors and includes all students with a declared major, regardless of their year of enrollment.

18 While a common advising load for full-time advisors is 300:1, some of the institutions we engaged with have aimed for 250:1 or lower ratio for pre-major students. See NACADA Clearinghous: Academic Advising Resources.