College System of Tennessee's 2nd Advising Academy focuses on adult learners

Dr.  Wendy Troxler addresses Tennessee community college advisors at Advising Academy

About 90 advisors from Tennessee’s community and technical colleges convened in Nashville to improve their skills in advising adult learners, thousands of whom are expected on campuses when the expanded Tennessee Reconnect program goes into effect with this year’s fall semester.

The College System of Tennessee conducted its second annual Advising Academy Thursday and Friday, March 15-16, this year with a focus on adult learners. Seventeen experts in the field presented attendees with the latest research and information to help them advise newly enrolling adults, many of whom have either never attended college or have not attended in years. And many of them will be juggling work, family and classes.

Tennessee Reconnect will provide up to two years of attendance, free of tuition, for Tennessee adults without a postsecondary credential or degree to earn an associate degree or technical certificate. Applications opened Feb. 15 and are continuing. Through last week, more 5,400 prospective students filed applications to enroll. More information about the program and getting started with an application are available online at

Tennessee Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for Student Success Heidi Leming and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Randy Schulte led the Advising Academy. Soon after the state legislature approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal for Reconnect expansion last year, TBR established Reconnect teams at all of its community colleges and regional teams for its colleges of applied technology, all coordinated by Dr. Leming.

“The TBR academy was a great follow-up to last year's first advising academy,” Dr. Leming said. “As we prepare for the launch of TN Reconnect, our system's attention is squarely focused on adult learners and career advising. Our institutional teams actively engaged in best practice sharing and professional development that will help us meet the demands of the influx of adult learners in Tennessee.”

Last year’s first Advising Academy focused on strategies for helping to keep students moving toward completing their degrees, including an effort to emphasize all of the College System’s
“High Impact Practices” for student success and completion into a single “Momentum Year” for college freshmen.

Dr. Wendy Troxler, director of the Center for Excellence and Research in Academic Advising and Student Success at Kansas State University, addressed adult advising strategies as the opening keynote speaker at the second Advising Academy on Thursday. Jessica Gibson, assistant executive director of adult learner initiatives at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, updated attendees on the Reconnect program and best practices for advising adult learners. Amy Moreland, a policy and data analyst in the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Office of Policy and Strategy, presented profile data on adult learners enrolling in the College System’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.

Other presenters included experts from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, a national nonprofit working to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need; the Community College Resource Center at Columbia University, which works toward practice and policy to expand access to higher education and promote success for all students; Chattanooga State, Dyersburg State, Nashville State and Pellissippi State community colleges and Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, and Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania.

The College System of Tennessee is the state’s largest public higher education system, with 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology and the online TN eCampus serving approximately 140,000 students. The system is governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents.