Redesigning Academic Advising at an Urban Community College System: Implementing a SSIP Model to Support Student Success


Background: As community colleges across the nation engage in efforts to implement student success initiatives (e.g., pathways), these institutions are also engaging in academic advising redesign to support the success of said initiatives. Academic advising is a vital component to the success of community college students, and especially essential to the success of current success initiatives. Purpose: The purpose of this dissertation was to examine how college leaders at Urban Community College (UCC, a pseudonym) may redesign academic advising throughout the UCC system. Specifically, I examined how current organizational structures, processes, and attitudes align, and/or inhibit, efforts to redesign academic advising, and what changes are necessary to implement a sustained, strategic, intrusive and integrated, and personal (SSIP) model of academic advising. I answered the following research questions: 1) What are the challenges to a successful reform of academic advising across the UCC system? 2) What measures should UCC take to successfully reform academic advising across the institution? 3) How can leaders and other academic advising stakeholders at UCC overcome challenges to realize successful academic advising reform across the institution? Methods: This qualitative case study drew from extensive interview and focus group data collected from students, academic advisors, and administrators over a three-year period. Specifically, data were collected from 78 students, 33 academic advisors, and two administrators. All participants were purposefully selected to participate in the study. Data analysis involved the constant comparative method and utilized the qualitative analysis software NVivo to manage and organize the data analysis. From the low- and high-level inferences which emerged from the data analysis, I constructed key themes and subthemes which address this case study’s research questions. Findings: Overwhelming advisor workloads, an emphasis on top-down leadership, and inconsistent academic advising processes and attitudes are the three key challenges to successful academic advising reform which emerged from the data analysis. To overcome these challenges to reform, the data suggest UCC prioritizes reducing academic advisor workloads and moving beyond leaders and silos to promote cross-functional and cross-hierarchical involvement. Furthermore, the data show several areas where academic advising at UCC aligns with the SSIP model. It is, therefore, necessary for leaders and academic advising stakeholders to identify where the processes and attitudes do not align in order to bring them into alignment and ensure consistency across the system. Finally, although the support and involvement of system-level leadership is required for successful academic advising redesign, leaders and academic advising stakeholders should take a shared leadership approach to increase the chances for long-term, second-order changes to take hold. Conclusion: The data collected from academic advisors, administrators, and students suggests UCC possesses many of the integral structures (e.g., early alert system, online degree planning, and a required student success course) for implementation of the SSIP model of academic advising. The significant challenge to academic advising redesign lies in bringing together stakeholders from across the institution to engage in a prolonged, shared leadership effort to enact lasting, transformational change across the UCC system.



Community colleges, Academic advising, Texas, Organizational change, Leadership, Qualitative