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The Daily Vanguard: PSU to double advising staff
Author: By Corie Charnley
Posted: August 11, 2010

As part of an institution-wide advising initiative, Portland State will invest $1 million to hire 14 new advisers this fall with the intention of enhancing student success and retention through academic support and advising.

According to Dan Fortmiller, associate vice provost for academic and career services, the Student Advising Action Council has been looking into how to improve advising services at PSU for several years. Currently, PSU's faculty advises students, forcing professors and instructors to perform dual roles on campus.

However, research conducted by Cathleen Smith, professor emeritus of developmental psychology and co-chair of the advising council, and Janine Allen, a professor of educational research and policy, spurred the university to take action.

In order to improve academic advising at PSU, Smith and Allen conducted research to examine how satisfied students are with their advising experience, and to examine the effectiveness of various models of academic advising, including its impact on retention.

According to Smith, three groups of students were surveyed: students within academic departments or programs that used professional advisers, students within departments or programs where only a few faculty members do the advising and students in programs in which nearly all faculty members do the advising.

The first survey was sent out to PSU students in 2003, which was followed by additional advising surveys in 2005 and 2006. The latest student survey was completed in May of 2010.

These studies revealed that students were more satisfied when they had access to professional advisers, whose only responsibility on campus is to provide professional advising. In addition, students who had access to professional advisers felt more confident in their decision to attend PSU.

"If you're a professional adviser, your job is to advise," Smith said. "If you're a faculty member, ‘adviser' is only one of the several hats you wear, even if you are the designated adviser in that unit."

Because professional advisers do not have multiple roles on campus, students feel that they are more accessible, are better equipped for their advising role and are more helpful when it comes to campus policies and resources.

"We have the good fortune to have administrators at this institution who pay attention to data, and Janine and I are humbled and gratified if our research had any part to play in the decision to put more resources into academic advising," Smith said. "It is a decision that we believe has the best interests of students at heart."

According to Fortmiller, the university has already received several applications. Potential applicants must have a master's degree and one to three years of work experience in higher education. Additional criteria are specific to each position and department.

All of the new advisers will be trained to work with PSU's faculty to advise students on many academic and student affairs issues, including registering for classes and applying for financial aid, according to a press release.

A search committee will be reviewing job candidates from now until early October, Fortmiller said. However, each academic department will do the actual hiring.

The university's decision to hire more advisers is part of a series of steps to increase student success at PSU, including making orientation mandatory for incoming students, requiring first-year students to meet with an academic adviser and requiring all students to declare a major by the end of their second year.

How will the advisers be distributed?  

According to Portland State's Human Resources website, each department is looking for:

■ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences: six positions    
■ Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science: one position
■ School of Business Administration: one position
■ School of Fine & Performing Arts: two positions
■ School of Social Work: one half-time position
■ School of Government, College of Urban & Public Affairs: one position
■ Undergraduate Advising & Support Center, Student Affairs: two positions