Each post-secondary institution that is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC; see Sec. 2.5.) is required to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) every ten years. Each institution is asked to examine key issues that are emerging on campus and have to do with student learning in the context of the institution’s mission. The institution then develops goals to address one or more such issues as a way of improving the academic life of the college or university. Institutions must also show that they have the means to implement and assess the effectiveness of the components of their plan, making use of broad-based campus resources and constituencies.
Oglethorpe was approved by its SACSCOC (see Sec. 2.5.) on-site accreditation team to proceed with its 2017 plan focused on holistic advising. This program, called Compass, is designed to give entering TU students a comprehensive advising process. The purpose of Compass is to improve the quality of advising for incoming students. This enhancement is accomplished in a number of ways, including that Oglethorpe students will engage earlier and in greater numbers with high-impact practices.
Compass revolutionizes traditional advising for new students at Oglethorpe. Instead of following a process that confines advising largely to selecting proper courses in order to complete the intended major, students now have a mentor who will guide them through their first year. Students are encouraged through this more intrusive advising model to intentionally consider how what they do in and out of the classroom affects their lives after college. Oglethorpe admits a wide variety of students; some of them are more college-ready than others. We believe that all students, regardless of preparation, benefit from holistic advising that pays attention to multiple variables that influence how our students discover success.
Oglethorpe expects its advisors to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of their students and work with them throughout the first year to augment what they do well and improve on areas of concern. We know that students make decisions and develop habits in their first six weeks that often lead them either to success or failure at Oglethorpe. We also know that Oglethorpe students do not always ask for help until it is too late; Compass is designed to actively work with students to assist them in developing good habits. Some of our students will adapt just fine—even without intrusive advising—but even for them we believe that we can help excellent students make more out of their college education by encouraging them to make plans early to study abroad, set up internships, consider an area of concentration, or strive for a leadership role on campus. By delaying having students assigned to an advisor in their intended field of study, we also imagine that students will have more freedom to explore other academic areas and find the right place for them in the curriculum.
Research shows us that in today’s world more contact with students earlier in their academic career helps students succeed. This is even more evident for first-generation students and others who often face obstacles to success. We anticipate that this program will bring students closer together with their assigned faculty and staff member and – even after students have chosen a major and been assigned an advisor in their area — that their original Compass advisor will continue to serve as a mentor.