Understanding Academic Advising at Institutions with a First-Year Engineering Program

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Virginia Tech


Academic advising has been a part of United States (U.S.) colleges and universities since their inception, yet academic advising as we know it today is a relatively new profession. Over the last several decades, many colleges and universities have employed professional advisors, rather than teaching and learning faculty, to carry out the academic advising functions however little is known about the structures of these advising programs. Academic advisors often serve on the front lines (i.e., high student contact hours) and advocate for student success by supporting students in learning about their institutions, uncovering their personal and professional goals, and encouraging them to pursue life goals. However, the responsibility of academic advising and advisors varies at institutions of higher education across the country and this variation is not well understood.

The purpose of this research was to better understand the structures of engineering academic advising at large four-year, primarily residential institutions with a first-year engineering program. To accomplish this purpose, the following overarching research question guided my study: How do first-year engineering programs structure academic advising, and what services, programs, and support are in place for academic advisors and students? To answer this question, I used a qualitative multi-case study design to understand the landscape of advising in first-year engineering programs and the organizational structures of their advising programs. I used Habley's Organizational Models for Academic Advising (1983) as a way to categorize the structures of academic advising and Frank's (1993) Integrated Model of Academic Advising Program Development as a conceptual framework for understanding how academic advising programs develop, the services provided, programming available, and how to enable the advisors to better support the student population. My findings include identifying: 1) several similarities between case sites' organizational structures of advising, 2) new student orientation and major exploration as main services offered at all sites, 3) a lack of formalized planning across all case sites, and 4) the prominence of advisor training with a desire to have more formal advisor recognition programs. Recommendations for future research, practice, and policy are provided along with a proposal for a new model for First-Year Engineering Advising Programs.



academic advising, organizational structures of academic advising, advising program development, models of advising, orientation, major exploration, advisor recognition, first-year engineering