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Innovation Funds at Work
November 27, 2011
ITF funding has enabled Columbian College to double the number of its undergraduate advisers.
By Jamie L. Freedman
Students in GW’s largest school, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, experience innovation in action every time they walk into the bustling advising office on the first floor of Phillips Hall.
Columbian College’s undergraduate advising enterprise, serving more than half of GW’s approximately 9,800 undergraduates, was one of the first recipients of Innovation Task Force (ITF) funds—doubling its number of professional academic advisers to 18 last year and adding two pre-professional advisers to the mix.
The Innovation Task Force, created by President Steven Knapp in 2009, was established to propel GW to the next level of excellence by generating savings and new revenue through improved business operations and reinvesting the funds in the university’s top academic priorities.
At a mid-November briefing, ITF steering committee chairs Dave Lawlor, senior associate vice president for finance, and Craig Linebaugh, senior associate provost for academic operations, announced that the committee has now identified $43.4 million in recurring annual savings and revenue enhancements toward the initiative’s $60 million goal, and $11.2 million of ITF funds has been budgeted for investment in the university’s top academic priorities for fiscal year 2012.
“We are very appreciative of the ITF’s investment in Columbian College, which has enabled us to implement a state-of-the-art approach to undergraduate advising,” said Peg Barratt, dean of Columbian College.
With the revamped advising system, all Columbian College students are now assigned a professional adviser at the beginning of their GW journey who follows them through their entire undergraduate experience—helping them navigate GW and prepare for life after graduation.
“We are each assigned a caseload of roughly 350 students, who we meet with for the first time at Colonial Inauguration and see all the way through to graduation,” said Sarah Krauss, a former adviser at Lasell College in Newton, Mass., and alumna of Harvard Graduate School of Education, who joined GW last year as a Columbian College adviser.
“From the feedback we’ve received, our students appreciate having a dedicated adviser to provide them with individualized attention and support them academically from matriculation to graduation,” she said. “They can come see us anytime to ensure that they are on the right track. We walk them through all their academic requirements, review their progress toward their degree, help them with course registration and paperwork, and make sure that they don’t miss anything along the way.”
According to Ms. Krauss, more and more students are visiting the advising center regularly and building strong relationships with their advisers.
“In many cases, our students feel so comfortable that they start coming in for help with things beyond course selection and graduation requirements,” she said. “The word is out that we are here for them, and our traffic is definitely growing each month.”
Senior Melissa Lenner, a criminal justice major and Judaic studies minor, raves about Ms. Krauss—who recently helped her review her progress toward graduation. “Not only did Sarah help me choose classes and sort my schedule, but she appears to have a master’s in calming frantic seniors, nervous about graduating,” she says. “She is relatable and very understanding and has given me tremendous advice for the present and for my future.”
Cameron Klementik, M.A. ’10, also joined the Columbian College advising staff last year, after graduating from GW with a master’s degree in higher education administration.
“With more than 50 majors, 30 minors and around 5,700 students, Columbian College has benefitted in many ways from growing its advising office,” said Ms. Klementik, who previously served as assistant student activities coordinator on the Mount Vernon Campus.
“By doubling the number of advisers and moving to a professional advising model, Columbian College has allowed us to reach more students and to be as proactive and preemptive with them as possible,” she said. “We have one-on-one, ongoing relationships with our students from the time they arrive at GW until they leave, allowing us to connect with them and really get to know them and make sure they have the best experience possible. We know all the processes and policies and can figure out the best form of action for them, which means there are less bumps along the way.”
Sophomore Andrew Johnson, an art history major and Spanish minor, has taken full advantage of the new advising system. “I feel that implementing this change in the advising system was great for Columbian College as a whole—creating an environment where the advisers invest more time in their students and are able to watch their progression from incoming freshmen to graduates of GW,” he said.
“Whenever I come into Cameron’s office with questions about my major and/or minor, requirements, course selections, etc., she always gives me helpful advice and is there to facilitate my success in all aspects of my experience here at GW,” he added. “Cameron is a great resource who always has my best interests in mind and supports me 100 percent with any decision I make. I can’t imagine switching to a different adviser.”