Sacramento State looks to improve academic advising for all students

State Hornet Staff

Sacramento State is piloting two new advising programs for transfer and resident students in an effort to increase the effective reach of academic advising.

According to the Division of Planning Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, the Transfer Student Advising Program is intended to reach undeclared transfers in their first academic years at Sac State.

The program is designed to help students with general education, major requirements and the transition from community college to campus life.

“It’s modeled a bit after the first year academic advising program,” said Dave Evans, interim assistant vice president for Student Engagement and Success. “We work with undeclared transfers on finding and declaring majors. Transfers are a big group of students, and we’ve never had a program like this before.”

The program serves 100 undeclared transfer students and is designed to help them take advantage of campus life and about student responsibilities.

“We teach them how to navigate My Sac State and the student center, as well as Sac CT,” Evans said. “We also get them in touch with their major advisers.”

Transfer students make up 60 percent of all Sac State students, according to Heidi Van Beek, interim associate director of Academic Advising.

“Nationwide, all higher education institutions are seeing an increase in the number of transfer students they’re getting,” Van Beek said. “Having a program specifically for them is very important.”

Van Beek said the most common struggles new transfer students face is the insecurity about their transcript applications, and a feeling of being lost on a new campus.

“The most important thing is that we as advisers get them on the right path quicker,” Van Beek said.

Alexandria Byrd, a dietetics major who transferred to Sac State this spring said her biggest struggles have been getting credits to transfer and a feeling of confusion because of an inadequate orientation process.

“The acclimation process was strange,” Byrd said. “I knew two people coming in, but I think of people who transfer in and don’t have anyone to help them figure things out, so a program specifically for transfers would be great.”

Residential Student Advising, an expansion of the current second-year advising program, is the second new program being pilot tested this spring, and is meant for students on academic probation who live in the residence halls. It is currently serving 189 resident students and has trained seven residence life coordinators.

“Residence life coordinators reach out to students who are often in their second semester, in an effort to get them back on track and offer regular support from people in their current living environment,” Evans said.

The results of the residential student advising study will not be known until the end of the semester, but since the start of the transfer advising study last fall, a handful of the 100 students have successfully declared a major, Evans said.

If the programs are successful at the end of the pilot studies, steps will be taken to get them on track for being permanent subprograms of Academic Advising.

“This is a proactive approach,” Van Beek said. “We, as advisers, and even as the campus, would like to see funding for this.”

The launching of the pilot studies reflects CSU’s renewed priority of academic advising.

Director of CSU Public Relations Mike Uhlenkamp said advising will be a critical topic of discussion in 2014 and the near future. Because of the financial crisis caused by the economic downturn five years ago, the CSU has had to make budget cuts that reduced the availability of advising hours and staff across the system.

“Now that we’re coming out of the recession, campuses are tackling the task of bringing advising back to where it was by utilizing new technology.” Uhlenkamp said.