Does Your School Really Care About You? | Confessions of a Student Advisor
Shawn Mangerino served students as an advisor for more than eight years at Ashford University. During that time, he helped students from all walks of life pursue their educational goals by providing them with the right tools and support. In his first blog series installment, he addresses the question: Does your school really care about you?
Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.
Let me get this truth out of the way first. A school’s success is tied to the success of its students. An organization cannot succeed if it doesn’t, at its core, focus on the success of those it seeks to serve.
And the deep support offered by schools like Ashford University might be best demonstrated by its academic advisors. Consider this: teachers change with each course, but your academic advisor is always there and ready to support you.
So let’s take a moment to talk about these advisors—the people who call you all the time, and leave you voicemails, and ask you for your Student ID every time you call even though you know they know that it’s you.
How do advisors really feel about their students?
Hiring student-facing advisors is a tricky process. You need advisors who are passionate about education, and they also need to be detail-oriented and create a smooth ride for each student. You also need advisors who are good with people and can motivate them. Finally, they need to be highly intelligent and able to convey all relevant university policies that may impact any student’s particular situation. Oh, and they also need to care…a lot. And by care, I mean that advisors need to feel for their student so deeply that when the student cries, the advisor cries too.
Advisors are a rare breed, and incredibly valuable to a student pursuing a degree.
For advisors, getting you through school is the easy part
It may be an exaggeration to say every advisor has cried with students, but you’d be surprised by how common it is. Advisors stand by students not just in the space of education, but in the face of non-education life events. School is the easy part. It’s all the life happening around school that makes it so tough.
Think about it. For advisors, adjusting schedules is relatively easy. Helping a student out with a form is a piece of cake. But what about when students call because their child is sick, and everyone is exhausted, and their work schedule is unforgiving, and they just don’t know how they’ll manage? An advisor can only help students through their life situations with a genuine interest in those students. This relationship is one of the focal points in online education. An advisor at a traditional school helps you out with scheduling courses. An advisor at Ashford helps you out with life, too. And, in the interest of maintaining that relationship with students, advisors readily adjust their check-ins to meet students’ needs. The goal is to reach students at their level of readiness for online education.
The Readiness Advising Model
Speaking of, several years ago, Ashford University introduced the Readiness Advising Model. Newer students face the steepest learning curve in transitioning into higher education. To best support them, an advising team was created to specifically work with new students. This team was designed as a high support model, meaning we created the space for additional phone time with students.
The result of this advising model was student-to-advisor relationships that were the strongest I’d ever seen in my eight years working within student advising. Students would transition from their readiness advisor to a college advisor after four successful courses, and the transition call became affectionately known as the “break-up” call.
As new opportunities and challenges emerge, Ashford will continue to innovate new ways to holistically support students who are pursuing their degree.
Written by Shawn Mangerino, Lead Student Success Coordinator.