Dr. Wes Habley’s keynote address at NACADA’s Region 9 Conference offered engaging insights into both the history of NACADA and the practice of academic advising. I’m new to both advising and to NACADA, so attending the Region 9 Conference was a real learning experience for me. “Attrition” and “relationship” were two key terms from Dr. Habley’s presentation that caught my attention. I believe that an awareness of these concepts will help me be a more effective academic advisor.
Prior to attending the Region 9 Conference, my understanding of “attrition” had to do with math; it’s a numbers game, right? We keep track of students who stay, and we record the number that go. We try to grow the active student pool and reduce our levels of attrition. However, Dr. Habley’s definition of attrition was “the process or state of being gradually worn down.” Aha. This explains a lot, doesn’t it? Few students pack up and leave because of one event. More often, they are “gradually worn down” and exit higher education only after they feel that they have failed or have grown tired of the academic (or bureaucratic) struggle to succeed.
What will keep these students active? Positive relationships.
Since academic advisors are the primary point of contact with the student, it is essential for us to build a strong relationship with each student. From my own undergraduate experience at a large public institution of higher learning, I understand Dr. Habley’s points from the student’s perspective. An institution is a nameless, faceless entity until a connection is made between the student and a representative of the university or college. This is real challenge, but creatively meeting this need for relationships will make a real difference.
Helping academic advisors realize their key role in establishing these positive relationships is the key to success for both students and the colleges or universities they attend.
University of La Verne