Academic Advising Association 'a bridge' to student success

Academic Advising Association 'a bridge' to student success

Academic Advising
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Nathan Fickenscher talks with his academic adviser in the Explore Center.

The East Union will be a hub of activity Feb. 28, as nearly 250 student services professionals from Nebraska and Kansas gather for the fifth annual Academic Advising Association conference.

The conference is a culmination of a year’s work, but the Academic Advising Association, a self-governed grassroots organization at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is proactive throughout the year to best serve the university’s students.

“The organization was formed to start the conversation on campus about best practices for advising and to learn, in order to be the best resources for our students,” said Emira Ibrahimpasic, professor of practice in the global studies program.

Ibrahimpasic is also co-chair of this year’s conference, which is themed “All Are Welcome: Building Bridges in Unsettled Times" and features a keynote presentation and breakout sessions centering on how best to serve students who are marginalized or are uneasy in the current political and national climate.

The theme emerged through discussions advisers were having with their students over the last year, but recent events — the executive order to eliminate DACA and elevated racism on college campuses, among others — have solidified the need for far-reaching discussions about these issues.

Ibrahimpasic said that while the conference is important, the association addresses challenging issues all year to be powerful resources for students. The association is open to all student services professionals on campus and meets once a month to learn, share experiences and provide mentorship.

“It’s an opportunity to address student issues as they come up,” Ibrahimpasic said. “If we start noticing a trend across campus, then we can immediately respond to that with a session to figure it out.”

Ibrahimpasic invited advisers from across the state and Kansas to attend because she hopes the University of Nebraska-Lincoln model could be utilized in other institutions. She said the university is a state leader in academic advising and that the association plays a large role in that.

“In many ways, advisers are the bridge between leaving home and starting at the university,” Ibrahimpasic said. “I think the relationship with their academic adviser is the first important connection a student forms on campus.”

Marybeth Helmink, adviser in psychology and co-chair of the conference, said continuous learning provided by the association plays a vital role in student success, especially as the student body has grown and become more diversified.

“Our roles have become more fluid,” Helmink said. “We’re thinking through issues like student safety and mental health. I think there’s more pressure on them academically, and there’s a wider gap between the rigor of high school and the university. We want them to be successful academically and have a great experience, but how do we best do that? We're always trying to answer that question."