Alamo Advise helps students find path

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 The new initiative will have a 350-1 student/adviser ratio.

 By Pam Paz

Alamo Advise is a new academic and career-advising model the Alamo Colleges will transition to this fall.

The vision is to “provide every student with an exemplary, effective and personalized pathway to success through academic and career advising.”

Dr. Adelina Silva, vice chancellor for student success, said in an interview this program has been in the works for two years. She said this is what the district is doing to ensure students succeed and progress.

“It’s academic and career advising and it builds momentum to completion,” Silva said. “Nothing’s taken by chance and nothing’s optional, everybody’s going through this so that students have the fine opportunity to succeed,” Silva said.

Silva, along with Dr. Mike Flores, Palo Alto College president, and Dr. Federico Zaragoza, vice chancellor of economic and workforce development, are leading Alamo Advise, a model within MyMAP.

MyMAP’s purpose is to ‘monitor academic progress’ as a roadmap guiding students beginning with connection to the Alamo Colleges and ending with completion of an associate degree or a terminal certificate. Alamo Advise shares the same concepts as MyMAP: connection, entry, progress and completion.

“Through collaborative teaching and learning, the advising process empowers our diverse student populations to explore and navigate their academic and career pathways,” states the Alamo Advise model drafted by the Alamo Community College District.

Alamo Advise began as a result of conversations with faculty from this college. More than 350 people across the district were involved in its development, Silva said.

Dr. Charlie Nutt, executive director of the National Academic Advising Association and assistant professor in the college of education at Kansas State University, also assisted in developing this model.

According to the KSU website, Nutt consults higher education institutions in the areas of academic advising, adviser development and student retention.

“He helped us formulate the idea that advising is teaching and advising has learning outcomes and advising, in fact, has a syllabus, because it’s a teaching tool,” Silva said. “It teaches you how to choose and plan your career.”

Silva said this is a districtwide effort, though the work is done at the colleges.

With the new model, 45 new advisers will be hired to accommodate a 350-1 adviser/student ratio. Currently, the ratio is more than 700-1, Silva said. She said the hiring process has already started but didn’t indicate what stage it was in.

The 45 new hires include advisers in the advising center, not faculty advisers. Silva said faculty will serve as mentors to students, can assist with the students’ academic program and offer advice for possible employment.

All new and existing advisers will undergo training to become “certified advisers.” The advisers will need to complete three levels of certification.

The three levels include one day of introductory training with information on special populations and diversity, two and a half days of information and competency training and the actual certification involves 40 hours of online training and a demonstration, Silva said.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning will provide the training.

Silva said they didn’t have it all lined out yet, but each student will be assigned to an adviser and the adviser will track the progress of the student throughout their Alamo College career. Each adviser will do this for 350 students, she said.

“It’s individualized, but it’s very deliberate. It should be understood that there’s a shared responsibility between students and advisers,” Silva said.

In addition, each of the five Alamo Colleges will hire a student data analyst whose job will be to monitor student progress. Silva said they had advertised the position and are still looking to fill the position.

The student data analyst will also keep track of the information needed to measure the success of the new initiative.

“We’re not leaving anything to chance,” Silva said. “This is going to put so much full, intentional attention to the students’ success that it can’t do anything but be helpful and move the needle on student completion and graduation.”


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