Five UT staff members speak at national conference on advising

December 9, 2015 | Features, UToday, — Adult and Lifelong Learning, Business and Innovation, Engineering
By Josephine Schreiber

Five University of Toledo staff members were chosen from more than 1,000 proposals to speak at the 39th annual National Academic Advising Association conference held in October in Las Vegas.

The association is the leading organization for academic advising. More than 4,000 attended the conference, where session topics ranged from retention issues and strategies to programming and other aspects of academic advising.

“To have several proposals accepted from The University of Toledo speaks volumes to the high level of knowledge, expertise and commitment we have on campus through academic advising and success coaching,” said Beth Gerasimiak, senior director in the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning. “The University’s student-centered, holistic approach to helping students serves as a model program and reaches across a diverse population of students at UT.”

Fourteen University administrators attended the conference; these included success coaches, academic advisers, assistant directors and assistant provosts.

“I believe that because UT had 14 attendees that we believe in our advisers and the work that they do,” said Emily Creamer, assistant director of engineering transfer programs in the College of Engineering. “The attendance speaks volumes of high-quality services that we as the academic advisers and academic administrators want to provide to our campus.”

Gerasimiak said strong academic advising programs play a key role in student success, retention and graduation.

UT members who gave presentations were Gerasimiak; Creamer; Melissa Gleckler, senior specialist for prior learning and credit assessment in the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning; Jennifer McDowell Tharpe, academic adviser in the College of Business and Innovation; and Dr. Julie Fischer-Kinney, assistant provost for student success and retention.

Gleckler and Gerasimiak gave a presentation titled “A Model Prior Learning Assessment Program at a State Institution: A Case Study.” They discussed how UT’s Prior Learning Assessment Program is structured and how they integrate best practices established under the Higher Learning Commission and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, as well as the University’s collaboration with the state 
of Ohio.

Gleckler said the dean of the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning as well as the senior director for the college both sit on a panel with the Ohio Department of Higher Education that is formulating directives for the Prior Learning Assessment Program statewide.

“A document I provided to our dean to take to one of those meetings ended up serving as the framework that the state developed for the Prior Learning Assessment Program,” Gleckler said. “So the state model is even going off the UT model.”

McDowell Tharpe delivered a talk titled “From Graduation to Orientation: Helping Upper-Division Students Navigate Their Last Two Years.” Her presentation was an overview of the advising model that is used in the college; she spoke specifically about the services for upper-division students.

“There’s not a lot of research done in this area, so I was looking forward to connecting to peers who are also interested in this topic,” McDowell Tharpe said

Fischer-Kinney teamed up with a peer from the University of Nebraska for a presentation titled “Leveraging Retention Software to Improve the Odds for Student Success.” The presentation focused on both universities positive institutional outcomes for improved student success and retention through the use of Starfish Early Alert and Connect. Both UT and the University of Nebraska were recipients of the 2015 Starfish Shining Star Awards, and both schools were selected to serve as panelists at the 2016 National Academic Advising Association Analytics in Academic Advising Seminar in Arizona next year.

Creamer’s presentation on “Fear and Loathing: Math Requirements and the Adult Student” focused on the research surrounding math anxiety, math placement testing and math courses, and the challenge that adult students face with math requirements. She also presented strategies for faculty, staff and adult students on how to reduce math anxiety and increase student success.

“When I received notification that I was not only chosen to present at the conference but also was receiving recognition from the National Academic Advising Association on my research on adult students and math anxiety, I was humbled that I was able to share my research and my advising and counseling experience with others who are interested in helping students succeed,” Creamer said.

She said there is limited research on adult and nontraditional students’ needs, and she believes the information from her presentation will help others.

Creamer’s presentation was one of three sponsored by the Advising Adult Learners Commission.

McDowell Tharpe said that having a strong presence at the National Academic Advising Association annual conference shows that the professional academic advisers and staff at UT are passionate about what they do in terms of helping students succeed.

“The fact that we had advisers who not only attended but also presented at the conference shows that academic advisers at UT are always trying to evolve to meet students’ needs,” she said.

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