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Inaugural statewide academic advising conference fosters collaboration, inspiration

Academic Advising Council

West Virginia recently held the inaugural statewide academic advising conference to build community, share ideas, elevate the advising profession and help participants find inspiration in their own advising practice to best support their students.

Hosted by the WVU Academic Advising Council, in partnership with WVU Tech, Potomac State College, Fairmont State University and Marshall University, advisers from among the largest and smallest higher education institutions across the state attended a half-day of professional development on Thursday (Sept. 14).

The virtual event, “Thriving in Academic Advising: Connect, Strategize and Mobilize in West Virginia and Beyond,” offered a space, free of charge, for those in the advising community to engage professionally and learn from one another without the budgetary and time barriers of travel. 

“The unprecedented representation of attendees among West Virginia schools speaks volumes to the desire for continued professional development and greater collaboration across the state,” said Joy Carr, director of advising through the WVU Provost’s Office.

“Now more than ever, we advisers are expected to be on the frontlines of student outreach about all kinds of things,” Carr added. “Not just concerning grade alerts, scheduling and enrollment queries, but also mental health challenges, family issues, combating loneliness and isolation or not being as prepared for college as we would anticipate. That’s really hard to do when most advisers have hundreds of students to talk to within a tight registration window, yet we want to make sure every student receives the time and attention they need.”

New and veteran advisers and advising faculty, who serve anywhere from 50 to 350 students, along with administrators and others in advising adjacent positions, took the time to participate in an array of discussion topics.

Panelists from two- and four-year institutions covered the state of advising in West Virginia and how to move the needle to pursue personal and professional growth on campus. 

Others focused on the importance of developing a mission and vision, ideas for building community to troubleshoot common challenges, and even how creating an intentional, inviting space for students helps garner positive relationships.

Data-driven approaches that help improve retention and graduation rates, as well as unique programs that support West Virginia’s large number of underrepresented, first generation and historically marginalized students were also highlighted.

Rhonda Black, director of First-Year Experience at the Center for Learning, Advising and Student Success, noted during a question-and-answer period that many people tend to overlook the complexities of advising.

She also applauded the conference’s opportunities for collaboration and growth. 

“I rely on advisers every day. I want to let you all know that I see you. You’re doing fabulous work,” Black said.

Learn more about the conference and discussion topics.