Perceptions of Academic Advising at Birmingham-Southern College
Grinage, Leslie N.
Purcell, Christopher J.
Birmingham-Southern College, a small, private, liberal arts institution in Birmingham, Alabama, asked for an evaluation of their academic advising program. Anecdotal evidence, as well as the findings from a Vanderbilt Capstone Project from 2015-16, suggests that the academic advising services at the college may not be evenly delivered and are sometimes ineffective in targeting and supporting students. Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) believes that academic advising not only plays a central role in retaining students, but also assisting them in identifying and pursuing their passions. BSC views a successful academic advising program as central to student success and has sought in recent years to improve its advising services. Using a mixed methods approach, a team of doctoral students from Vanderbilt University created a study to answer the following three questions: 1) To what extent does the current advising program meet the personal and academic needs of BSC students? 2) Are there any identifiable groups of students whose needs are not being met from the current academic advising program? 3) To what extent do faculty and administration perceive resources are being effectively utilized to deliver academic advising services to students? Guided by standards and concepts set forth by the Council for Academic Standards in Higher Education (CAS) and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), both quantitative and qualitative data analyses are used to explore the study questions. The quantitative analysis was used exclusively to answer the first and second study questions. The entire enrolled student population for the fall 2016 semester received an invitation to complete a survey following the completion of the fall 2016 registration period. This sampling method reflected a purposive nonprobability convenience sample with volunteer subjects. More than 10% of the population completed the survey. In addition to the responses provided, the survey was supplemented by additional information provided in the population file for demographic analysis. Overall, the respondents indicated agreement/satisfaction with the academic advising program. Additional analysis was done to identify the perceptions or satisfaction of different subsets of students, including athletes, minorities, low socioeconomic status students, as well as those of particular majors. Not surprisingly, athletes and the hard science majors reported higher satisfaction with the different components of the academic advising as compared to their comparison groups (nonathletes and all other majors respectively). Lastly, low socioeconomic students reported lower satisfaction scores in most of the academic advising components. There was only one statistically significant finding and more detailed information is found under the respective study questions section. The qualitative analysis was used to exclusively answer the third study question and supplemented the quantitative analysis for the first and second study questions. Using different sampling techniques depending on the group, interviews were conducted with current students, faculty advisors, and key administrators. The qualitative analysis also included a review of materials related to the BSC curriculum and advising program. The third research question found that inequalities and deficiencies in resources have adverse effects on faculty advisors that might impact the outcome of advising for students.