Academic Navigators are a new, grant-funded team of 10 staff members dedicated to supporting undergraduate students' persistence and degree completion in collaboration with academic advisers and other student success professionals.
The centrally coordinated team is embedded within the academic colleges and the Explore Center alongside academic advisor and career coach teams. Working locally promotes partnerships with existing student success teams and enables the navigators to respond to students' unique needs in their specific disciplines and academic areas.
"These local partnerships serve as the cornerstone of the academic navigators’ work and support the N2025 vision that every person and every interaction matters," said Joey Lynch, the team's director. "It also ensures their work remains identity-conscious and self-reflective to best meet our students' diverse needs."
Academic Navigators complement the work of academic and career advisers in many ways, including:
- Collaborating with partners across campus to triage a wide variety of student concerns — personal, academic and financial — and make connections with the appropriate resources.
- Providing time-intensive support to assist our most vulnerable students as they navigate complex and sensitive situations.
- Proactively engaging one-to-one with students identified by faculty and staff as needing support through the most appropriate method of outreach for each individual.
- Responding to students' needs using inclusive advocacy strategies focused on how cultural contexts, differences and barriers influence students' experiences.
In addition, Academic Navigators are responsible for continually reviewing data on undergraduates’ performance and persistence and triaging caseloads for needed support, resources, and interventions. They also provide proactive and intervening outreach based on student behavioral data, like following up on a student who withdraws from a course to connect them with tutoring resources and make sure the withdrawal won't impact other courses they are taking.
“The Academic Navigator team further supports our efforts to improve undergraduate degree completion and equity outcomes through a sustained focus on building a campus culture that is validating and intentionally aligned in structures, staffing, and messaging to support students’ belonging and academic success,” said Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education.
The close collaboration between the team and academic and career advisers is designed around the Ecological Validation Model of Student Success, based on over a decade of research on learning communities across the University of Nebraska campuses by the Pullias Center for Higher Education. This research describes common elements of a validating campus culture and strategies that validating faculty and staff use to support undergraduates’ persistence, degree completion and career development for post-graduation lives. A key insight of the study focuses on how student support is delivered, rather than what support is delivered and that institutions that employ comprehensive validating ecological supports achieve the greatest gains for at-promise scholars.
"UNL has adopted many different approaches to increasing retention rates and closing equity gaps over the past several years, and this grant-funded team gives us the capacity to further enhance these approaches," said Bill Watts, associate dean for university advising and career development. "We are excited to move to more tailored outreach efforts that validate students’ abilities, pathways and personal goals."
Each college is taking a unique approach to how their academic navigators work within their student success areas. Faculty and staff should work directly with their college dean’s office for the best way to refer a student.