Individualized Developmental Student Advising (Ability Advising)
The Ability Advisor is an essential component of the OSAA Scholars program. The Ability Advisor role was developed by Wright State educators to provide a form of comprehensive, intrusive advising to SwD in STEM majors that is roughly analogous to the advising provided to student athletes in Division I. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) programs. We drew this analogy between SwD in STEM and student athletes because of similarities in the challenges to college success that both tend to face. Among the characteristics often shared by these groups are a visible profile within the university community, a level of academic risk associated with less than ideal academic and psychosocial preparation for college during high school, and unusual demands on their available time that act as handicaps which can easily interfere with class attendance, studying and participation in activities that provide academic enrichment, or preparation for transition to work following graduation.
The responsibilities of the Ability Advisor at WSU have evolved with experience and evaluative feedback received since the position was first introduced in Fall 2009. In its most mature form (see Figure 1), the Ability Advisor’s primary functions are to monitor student progress, to help solve any problems that arise with regard to academic success, to provide access to the full range of activities, services and supports made available to OSAA Scholars, and to help prepare students for competitive transition to the STEM workforce. One unique aspect of this type of intrusive advising model relative to some other college advising approaches is the emphasis on a comprehensive (academic and personal) and proactive approach designed to prevent catastrophic failures and to allow early intervention before small problems cascade to become more difficult problems.
All students participating in the OSAA Scholar’s program are required to meet individually with the Ability Advisor on a monthly basis to review their academic progress, extracurricular activities, and other aspects of their personal experience that may be affecting their level of success at college. These issues can include interactions with faculty, staff and other students, accommodations for their disability, assistive technology, financial problems, and other personal difficulties. This broad problem-focused support facet of the Ability Advisor relationship is designed to promote retention in college and persistence in the STEM major). The aim is to assist students with problem solving and provide access to on and off-campus resources including tutoring, disability services, upper-class OSAA mentors, legal aid, financial aid, and counseling and wellness services.
Once students successfully survive the initial transition to college and are showing success in their academic programs, the focus of the Ability Advisor shifts to academic and professional enrichment support that is designed to increase student competitiveness for high quality STEM jobs or graduate school programs. As a part of this effort, the Ability Advisor assists OSAA Scholars in the development of individualized plans specific to a Scholar’s personal and professional goals and aspirations. These plans are known as 4-Year Transition Plans and are designed to ensure students are progressing adequately through their program and toward their personal and professional goals. In order to ensure that students are progressing at an adequate pace in growth, they are expected to follow through on specific guidelines each year of their college experience in addition to their general participation in OSAA activities. These guidelines are illustrated in Figure 2.
- 1st Year: OSAA, UVC or Peer Mentoring Program
- 2nd Year: Updated, Job Ready Resume
- 3rd Year: Resume, E-Portfolio/Professional Avatar
- 4th Year: "Taking the Next Step" - Senoir Year Transition Plan
- All Years: Active OSAA Participation (monthly advisor meetings, Scholar Meetings, Surveys, etc)
Through iterative discussion and revisiting of these concepts, the OSAA Scholars develop their senses of purpose, accomplishment, and establish a long-term outlook while ensuring they are on a path that gives them the best opportunity of employment or professional education upon graduation.