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UT System virtual workshop helps academic advisors use “design thinking” to support student success

Academic advising is critical to helping students succeed in college – and especially challenging now that a pandemic has dramatically impacted teaching and learning and limited in-person meetings. To help overcome these barriers, The University of Texas System’s Office of Academic Affairs hosted a two-day virtual workshop called “Reimagining Advising in the Digital Age” that was delivered through UT Austin’s School of Design and Creative Technologies Extension.

This week, 90 advisors and student success leaders from the eight UT academic universities attended the workshop, which was led by Julie Schell, Ed.D., assistant dean for instructional continuity and innovation in UT Austin’s College of Fine Arts, and Cassandre Alvarado, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate education in UT Austin’s Moody College of Communication. These two national leaders in the fields of design thinking and student success engaged participants in creative problem-solving exercises to help them develop effective academic advising strategies for the digital age.

The workshop provided academic advising teams with a renewed sense of purpose and creative problem-solving through design thinking, fostered a powerful sense of community, and recognized the value and dedication of UT institutions as they serve the needs of students. Participants were able to share best practices, encouragement and inspiration to help students achieve their academic goals.

“In the span of two 90-minute sessions, participants across eight institutions generated more than 300 ideas for reimagining advising in the digital age,” Schell said. “The sheer magnitude of creativity demonstrates the power of design thinking for education as an opportunity for advancing student success outcomes.”

“These ideas, and their implementation on each campus, will further UT institutions as national leaders in advising innovation,” Alvarado added. 

Academic advising is a critical part of UT’s student success initiatives, which are centered on three principles: make sure no student drops out due to financial hardship; offer advising that provides students with a clear path to completion; and offer support and opportunities for engagement that give students a sense of belonging.

“Academic advisors at UT institutions are doing meaningful, heroic work during this rapid transition to delivering student services remotely,” said Rebecca Karoff, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “By offering this year’s institute virtually, we are not only addressing the immediate needs of academic advisors and students, but also expanding the boundaries and reach of high-quality professional development in this new era. Thanks to Drs. Schell and Alvarado and the participating advisors, this year’s virtual institute has given us a powerful model for future student success summits.”

About The University of Texas System

For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research and health care. With 14 institutions, an enrollment of nearly 240,000 students and an operating budget of $21.1 billion (FY 2020), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions produce more than 60,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of its health professional degrees. Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 9.2 million outpatient visits and 1.8 million hospital days last year. Across UT institutions, research and development expenditures total $3.1 billion – the highest in Texas and second highest in the nation among public higher education systems – and the UT System is regularly ranked among the top 10 most innovative universities in the world. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 85,000 health care professionals, researchers and support staff.

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