SDI Theme: Student Achievement and Attainment

Innovations in Academic Advising

A little over a year ago, the University of Alaska began looking closely at how to ramp up innovative approaches toward building student success. UAA, UAF and UAS all received funding from the Alaska State Legislature specifically dedicated to advising. All three institutions took different approaches, and all three came up with very positive results. SDI talked to leaders accountable for increasing academic advising at their institutions throughout the academic year to get a closer look at how those legislative dollars were put to work. The following is a chronological perspective of how each institution implemented strategies to achieve greater academic success.

An academic advisor helps a student at a desk.
Academic advising in action.

University of Alaska Southeast (UAS)

In October 2012, UAS Vice Chancellor of Student Services Joe Nelson talked about UAS’s comprehensive advising strategy. At the time, UAS was recruiting a general advisor who would be responsible for coordinating and tracking intervention efforts through their Early Alert System. The position would also be accountable for tracking UA Scholars, Alaska Performance Scholars and other cohorts that provide important data for academic advisors. MORE...

Next Steps For SDI

UA Meeting Focuses on Convergence, Collaboration and Action

UAA leadership discuss SDI themes and effect statements during a recent SDI work-session.

It took just a little over three weeks to conduct three Strategic Direction Initiative (SDI) work-sessions with the deans and directors from the university’s three major institutions. Now, one more meeting remains. On May 31, deans, institute directors, and a small group of other academic leaders will gather at UAA’s Gorsuch Commons to begin determining, strategizing, and implementing next steps.

The university’s SDI consultant, Terry MacTaggart, will facilitate the meeting, which will address three major elements:

Convergence – confirming the five fundamental themes of SDI as the “North Star" for the work of the University. �

The five Strategic Direction themes are:

  • Student Achievement and Attainment
  • Productive Partnerships with Alaska’s Schools
  • Productive Partnerships with Public Entities and Private Industries
  • Research and Development to Sustain Alaska’s Communities and Economic Growth
  • Accountability to the People of Alaska

Collaboration – identifying cross-institutional requirements to address critical issues

Action – what steps deans and directors plan to take to actually implement SDI, and what support they need from each other, from their Chancellors, and from the University of Alaska in order to make progress

“Clearing the Path”

An important part of the support required for chancellors, provosts, deans and directors to take action will be the role that the UA plays in supporting their efforts.

UA Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dana Thomas, referred to UA’s role as “clearing the path” for progress by simplifying processes, making them more transparent, and encouraging and supporting collaboration among the three institutions. �

According to Vice President Thomas, the deans and directors have already begun leading in this work.

“At our last three work-sessions, the deans and directors began honing in on desired effects, what effect statements should look like, which ones were critical, and what were the tactical and operational approaches in order to achieve success. We had substantial input from each of the three institutions. Our next step is to make sure they have a shared combined input document that will allow for them to have all the work they have completed collectively before the May 31 meeting. That shared document will be an important reference tool during the meeting,” added Thomas.

Note: On June 7, Chancellors Case, Pugh, and Rogers are scheduled to present to the Board of Regents what they have already accomplished with regard to the Strategic Direction Initiative themes, along with their plans for the next Academic Year.

Building Communities that Lift Students to Success

UA Perspective by Saichi Oba

In late April, Region 8 of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) held their annual conference in Anchorage. The title of this piece was this year’s conference theme: Building Communities that Lift Students to Success. In attendance were university advisors, administrators and faculty from throughout the region, which includes Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Yukon Territory. �

Early on NACADA was concerned that not enough participants would make the trek north to join colleagues at a conference in Anchorage. They should have listened to the Alaskans on the planning committee – many of them academic advisors at a UA campus – who knew that when it comes to helping students, succeed – Alaskans will come together. MORE...

National 529 Day Encourages Families to Reflect on Saving for College

UA Perspective Lael Oldmixon

Today is May 29,2013. But, to those of us in the college savings industry, it’s National 529 College Savings Day! The UA College Savings Plan celebrates alongside 529 college savings plans across the country and the College Savings Plans Network to encourage families to pause and reflect about the importance of saving for college and long term financial planning.

Student loan debt is a hot topic right now. With the cost of college rising and student loan interest rates increasing, families are, understandably, scared about how they’re going to afford college. As a college student I used loans to cover what I didn’t receive through grants and scholarships. While I believe some debt is good and that student loans fall into this category when taken in manageable amounts, it took me 12 years to pay back my student loans. I truly believe that my education was worth every penny; however, I calculated that the interest on my student loans cost me $10,000! That’s $10,000 that I would have rather had to use as startup money to help me get established as a young professional. MORE...

Making Distance Education Work at the University of Alaska

UA Perspective by Student Lisa Villano

It was during a seven-year-long “semester” hiatus from my undergraduate degree, while living in Tacoma, Wash. working with people with developmental disabilities, that I was inspired along a new educational path. In a moment of genius I realized I loved working with kids and with people with disabilities: why not combine them and become a special education teacher?

I returned to Fairbanks and finished my bachelor’s in psychology, but the ambition of becoming a special education teacher was now firmly in my mind. I worked with the UAF Career Services office to find a program that would be a good fit for me. I knew I would need to obtain a teaching certificate and I needed the program to be high quality and reputable. I needed it to have a predictable structure, but allow for some flexibility too, as I was going to have to earn an income while completing the program. MORE...

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