Student advisors from Tennessee's public colleges and universities gather for first Advising Academy

Spring Advising Academy

About 120 college advisors from across Tennessee gathered last week to review and explore strategies for keeping students moving toward completing their degrees.

The 2017 Spring Advising Academy is the first in what is hoped will be a series of conferences to boost the key role that advising plays in student success. The academy is conducted by a partnership of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Business Roundtable. Student advisors from all 19 TBR universities and community colleges, and from UT Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin participated.

“In the last few years we have worked with campus leaders at a series of Completion Academies to craft plans to implement large-scale initiatives to help more of our students succeed in college,” said Dr. Tristan Denley, the TBR vice chancellor for academic affairs who delivered opening remarks on both days of the conference. “This work, at each campus, has already resulted in significant increases in graduation rates, and has distinguished TBR as a model that other states are seeking to emulate.

“The Advising Academy is the first of a series of events involving the faculty and staff who work every day with our students, and marrying their work to these large-scale initiatives at a system scale.  I am excited to see how these events will further our quest to enable Tennesseans to achieve their college dreams,” Denley said.

The inaugural Advising Academy was held March 2-3 in Nashville.  The conference’s theme was “Momentum Year!” – an effort to bring several academic initiatives pioneered in Tennessee together in a student’s freshman year to help them stay in school and proceed toward graduation.

The “Momentum Year” initiative pulls several student success “ingredients” into a coherent whole, Denley has said. They include: students making a “purposeful choice” in their programs of study and understanding what their plans are and what they can do with their degree; creating a productive “academic mindset” in which students understand themselves as learners and realizing that they can be successful; attempting nine credit hours in their academic program area, which ensures that they get an immediate immersion in their degree program and are studying what they intended to study from the start; and completing their freshman English and math requirements.

“The intention is to create a first-year experience in which every student is exposed to every ingredient,” Denley said, and then to continue the momentum experience through their college careers.

The Advising Academy builds on a series of student success academies that began in 2011, all undergirding the state’s commitment to improving college completion rates as articulated by the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 and Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to equip at least 55 percent of working age Tennesseans with a post-high-school degree or credential by 2025.

At the Advising Academy, participants learned in more detail about the various academic initiatives underway and broke into concentrated work sessions to explore new ideas. Panel discussions were also held on best practices and approaches. 

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.