Where Do We Want to Be? Excellent and Equitable Advising

Listening sessions with almost 200 faculty, staff, and students (see Appendix C) elicited their visions for advising by asking them to recollect exceptional advising experiences. In addition, participants offered their insights on what an excellent advising experience would look like – what are the key ingredients of an advising experience that would ensure students thrive academically, personally, and in terms of career development on Grounds and beyond. Each school with first year students also shared their vision for advising in a survey conducted in Spring 2021.

Based on these insights, and the work of the UVA advising team attending the Reinvention Collaborative meeting in June 2019, the Task Force developed a general definition of advising. This can be regarded as a starting point as the proposed Advising Council (see recommendation #3.2) engages in developing university-wide principles for advising.

Advising is a systematic process based upon meaningful relationships with caring and knowledgeable advisors who prioritize students’ well-being and respect students’ diverse identities and backgrounds. Advising guides students in identifying and pursuing academic, career, and personal goals through the use of a full range of institutional and community resources throughout their time at the University.

This definition of advising implies that:

  • Advising is holistic – it includes supporting students in their academic, career, and personal development
  • Advising is collaborative – advising requires a network of individuals who can support students’ needs across different domains
  • Advising is relational – it rests on a meaningful student-advisor relationship
  • Advising facilitates effective use of resources – advising assists students in navigating the complexity of the institution and finding resources to support their learning and growth
  • Advising is a systematic process – advising is an intentionally structured process and not something that occurs by chance

Furthermore, based on the listening sessions and what we have learned from other institutions, the Task Force identified four pillars of excellent and equitable advising:

  1. Foundation: Relationship with a Caring and Knowledgeable Advisor

    Building a relationship with an advisor who is knowledgeable and cares about students’ success and well-being is a crucial component of an effective advising experience. This necessitates an advisor who makes students feel like they matter, who listens and validates their experiences, and is attuned to the needs of underserved populations. It also necessitates an advisor who is well informed and can appropriately provide guidance and direct students to resources at their own school as well as across Grounds. This requires training, resourcing, and incentives, as well as accountability.

  2. It Takes a Village: Importance of a Network/Team Approach

    Advising is a complex process that necessitates many individuals working together in harmony. It is critical that there are effective avenues for collaboration, referral and sharing of information across individuals and units in the network, including within and across schools, as well as between schools and centralized units. This also necessitates a clear definition of advising and of different roles so it is readily apparent where students should go to obtain different types of guidance and resources within schools and across Grounds. To be effective, the network needs to be coordinated but flexible, reflecting common goals while respecting unique missions across schools.

  3. The First Year is Crucial, Although Advising Remains Important Throughout the College Journey

    The college journey is a developmental process that evolves over time. Students’ needs vary along this journey, and effective advising will involve a thoughtful integration of academic, personal, and career guidance. At the same time, students’ needs are particularly pronounced in the first year at the University (whether they enter as first years or transfer students). This is not only time for sharing information and resources but also time for learning how to navigate the university and building relationships and mindsets that will facilitate success for the years to come. In their first year at the University, all new students regardless of their backgrounds need to become meaningfully connected with the broad range of support services and personnel available at UVA so they are able to take full advantage of the University’s resources to advance their academic, career, and personal development.

  4. Effective and Efficient Communication with Students

    We are in an age of information overload and operate in a highly complex system at the University. Developing effective and efficient ways to communicate with students and share timely and accurate information is crucial. It is paramount that all students, regardless of their sociodemographic backgrounds (e.g., race/ethnicity, first-generation status, income status, gender, transfer status, international status) have equitable access to information and resources. This requires efficient and effective information sharing not only within schools but also across schools and other units.