Cindy Justice, assistant dean for academic advising and student success, aims to help students find the right majors and stay in school until graduation
Students should have access to better academic advice and more of it, the new head of academic advising for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder says, and she is putting those goals front-and-center to create a well-rounded advising experience for undergraduate students.
This summer, Cindy Justice was appointed assistant dean for academic advising and student success for students. With more than 20 years’ experience in academic affairs, student affairs, program management and organization leadership, Justice says she is able to recognize systematic flaws and create substantial and sustainable solutions—which she hopes to use to improve the advising experience.
“I don’t want students to feel like they have to navigate through [their degree requirements] with a flat piece of paper,” Justice says. Choosing courses often gives undergraduates a feeling of “analysis paralysis,” and developing a four-year plan can be overwhelming.
Justice believes requiring advisors to meet with their students at least once per academic year will foster greater confidence among students in making sound decisions.
A major obstacle standing in the way of bi-annual meetings—and one Justice intends to alleviate—is the sheer number of students assigned to each advisor.
“Currently, there are between 400-700 students per advisor. The standard regulated by the National Academic Advising Association is 250-350,” Justice says.
Many freshmen enter college as “undecided” and might have trouble choosing a major. Justice sympathizes with the anxiety, but urges students to pick a path.
The “safety helmet generation,” as Justice describes millennials, “do not have any encouragement to take risks.” Justice hopes to introduce students to courses outside of their comfort zones, allowing them to explore the different fields that CU Boulder has to offer and ultimately settle on a degree path.
“Your first year of college is calculated risk, and advisors can help you maneuver through it,” Justice says. Making informed decisions is a key aspect of academic success, and utilizing general-education requirements to experience various fields of study is a good way to nail down an interest.
“Many students are not comfortable with uncertainty, but college is about exploration,” Justice says. Experimenting with a wide array of courses allows students to home in on their interests and determine which subjects they no longer wish to pursue.
Student retention is a top priority at CU Boulder, and Justice believes building a sense of community between the students and university—either through faculty or advisors—can help make students feel at home.
“Research shows that when a student is able to make a connection with a faculty member or staff advisor, they are more likely to persist,” says Justice.
Justice also hopes to forge a better connection between faculty members and the staff advisors. Faculty have a deeper understanding of their respective subjects, which supports the work of academic advisors. Professors will work alongside advisors to promote courses that they believe students should be taking. Enhancing the degree requirements with guidance from professors allows students to receive an education tailored to their best interests.