Academic advising is frequently identified as a key component of student success. Because peak registration season overlaps with the height of the semester, it can be challenging for faculty to work advising appointments into schedules that are already packed with teaching, research and service activities.
Last fall, the music department found an innovative way to address this challenge. They organized an advising night, primarily targeted to freshmen.
Advising night structure
The music department scheduled advising night from 7-10 p.m. on a week-night. There were three phases to the experience.
- Students arrived (typically bringing their own laptops or devices). They checked in at a registration table.
- Students then moved to a table that was staffed with peer advisors — upper division music students. This allowed them to speak broadly about their plans for the semester and receive informed peer advice about general education courses, all of which provided valuable context for the upcoming semester.
- They then moved to private, individual appointments with faculty advisors. Once students completed this step, they were ready for registration.
Dr. Julie Combs, music department head, shared that the event was highly effective. She identified the peer advisor phase as adding value because it provided person-to-person insight about schedules, workload and course progression. “Then with the students I advised, I felt that I accomplished a lot more because they felt more prepared,” Combs said.
It also helped students who struggle with planning ahead learn from peers who may be more proactive, Comb said, and in doing so helped strengthen relationships among music students and further develop the department’s sense of community.
Resources and planning
In planning the event, Combs enlisted the following resources:
- Nathan Hartzler, distributed user support specialist, provided technical support to make sure all advisors had access to current student educational planner templates
- Between six and eight faculty members, who have each earned master advisor designations, agreed to serve during advising night
- A group of 15-20 students, who have been identified as leaders in the department, came to provide peer advisement
Combs incentivized participation by providing pizza for dinner. She also offered convocation credit, which all music students must earn, and held a raffle for registered advisees.
She was pleased with the results and plans to host the event again. “It helps make students really responsible for their own success,” Combs said. “I like to see their independence grow from it.”