The data is clear: If you want to keep first-year students coming back, make sure they have hands-on access to academic advisors.
“Two years ago, we launched a first-year advising program, adding an advisor to each college to focus on students who are just beginning their college journey,” said Tricia McCrory, executive director of undergraduate advising practice. “Every first-year student has a point of contact within their college for the whole first year.”
Among first-year students in fall 2019, nearly 85 percent who consulted an academic advisor two or more times re-enrolled for their sophomore year. For those with just one visit, 70 percent went on to a second year. Only 56 percent of students who did not consult an academic advisor came back for a second year.
UNLV’s Top Tier goal for retention is 85 percent by 2025. As of 2019, it now stands at 79.8 percent.
McCrory’s efforts to increase access to advising and improve retention rates have earned her the 2021 Top Tier Award, which recognizes employees who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of UNLV through their commitment to institutional values and the Top Tier plan.
“One of the most challenging parts of managing this type of student success initiative is understanding that academic advisors need to reside within individual colleges, but must have central coordination,” said Laurel Pritchard, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Tricia has been very good at that, cultivating strong relationships with advisors and advising directors so she can advocate for what the advising community needs while making sure they understand the university’s goals for student achievement.”
McCrory also designed an orientation program for new advisors that reinforces the university’s Top Tier plan and encourages advisors to connect their own advising philosophies to the Top Tier mission.
Carlee Todd, who oversees new student orientation within the office of undergraduate admissions, credits McCrory’s innovation for the successful switch from in-person to virtual orientation programs when the pandemic forced university operations to go almost entirely online.
“When it all happened, there was no model, no game plan for how to do an online orientation and make sure incoming students have everything for their transition to college,” Todd said. “Thank God for Tricia. She partnered with us, and after many late nights, we had a really great program with 11 WebCampus courses – one for each of the colleges – so students would have all the information they needed. We did it quickly and we did together, and now, it’s something we’ll probably continue to enhance even as we go back to in-person orientation.”
McCrory, for her part, won't take all the credit.
“This recognition is for the advising community as a whole,” she said. “I will continue to do my best to encourage and support academic advising professionals so that they have what it takes to guide and assist our students.”