Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Fall 2023 Conference

Our Path Forward

September 6, 2023

Thank you for joining us for an engaging and thoughtful conference experience that advanced the field of academic advising and student success. The conference also provided an opportunity to draw from our collective knowledge and reconnect with our community.

The theme of the conference was “Our Path Forward,” with concurrent sessions centered around:

  • Collaboration – Strategies that create cross-functional collaboration to enhance student support
  • Innovation – Highlighting new student success strategies and solutions to support our scholars
  • Inclusion ­– Efforts contributing to a university culture where everyone matters and belongs

Jennifer Doyle Vancil is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and ICF Trained Professional Coach. She spent 25 years working in college student services in roles including financial aid advisor, admissions counselor, enrollment advisor, academic success coach, career coach, advising coordinator, adjunct faculty, and academic advisor to both undergraduate and graduate students. She has worked with students at the University of Colorado, University of Alaska, Colorado State University, and the University of Tennessee Chattanooga and integrates strengths into everything she touches, including freshman seminars and career courses for MBA’s. Jennifer was the Expert Contributor for the 2021 book Practical Strengths: Career Success and currently coaches professionals in career transition, leaders in higher education and business, and workplace teams who want to work from their strengths. 

September 6 | UT Conference Center

8:15 – 9:00 | Check-In & Morning Refreshments

Location: Room 413ABC

Demystifying CliftonStrengths Discourse: Reinforcing a strengths-based campus

Academic advisors and student success professionals continue to play key roles supporting a strengths-based campus vision. In the keynote address with Jennifer Doyle Vancil, learn why and how strengths matter in student interactions. Understand what the new CliftonStrengths for Students Report tells us and how to help students take action and address challenges based on their strengths. Reflect on how your own strengths play into your work with students and consider the stories of real students and how meeting their unique needs is the foundation to their success. Come away with a deeper understanding of the value added in folding the language of CliftonStrengths into the work of student success.

Fostering Success: How to Support Students with Foster Care Histories in Higher Education

Presenters: Amanda Gandy, Margaret Huffstetler, Emily Rodriguez 

Location: 400A 

Description: 70% of youth in foster care self-report wanting to attend college. However, only 6% will attend an institution of higher education, and only 50% of those will graduate with their degree (Gaille, 2017). Due to the invisible nature of involvement in care, many students are not given tailored resources for success. This interactive presentation will increase understanding of the foster care system, explore barriers that exist for youth, and provide resources for advisors to better address the needs of students. Using current research, participants will explore the importance of understanding and supporting this population. Presented by current academic advisors with experience working with youth in the child welfare system, this presentation aims to increase awareness of an unseen group of students. 

Making the Case: How you Can Support your Pre-Law Students 

Presenters: Dr. Alexandra Brewer, Emilie Wise, Dr. Gina Ondercin, and Kirsten Pitcock   

Location: 403 

Description: As pre-law students can select any major, we want to help advisors and coaches across campus know how they can support their pre-law students. About 1 in 3 students attending law school come from majors outside of Arts and Sciences. In this session, we will discuss how students can prepare for the rigor of law school as well as components of the law school application and timeline. We will also talk about how to refer students to pre-law advising and highlight resources and programming for pre-law students. 

Fostering a Sense of Belonging: Empowering Student Scholars Through Inclusive Academic Advising 

Presenters: Malachi Frederick, Courtney Pelzer 

Location: 406 

Description: This presentation will explore the intersection of inclusion, community, and academic advising, providing participants with practical strategies for creating more inclusive and welcoming environments for their students. The presentation will begin with an overview of the concepts of inclusion and community related to academic advising. Participants will learn about the benefits of building inclusive communities in academic settings, including increased student engagement and retention. The session will also explore strategies for incorporating inclusive language. This presentation will explore the intersection of inclusion, community, and academic advising, providing participants with practical strategies for creating more inclusive and welcoming environments for their students. 

Supporting Student Success from a Neurodivergent Lens 

Presenters: Mia Pearson-Loomis, Eliza Foster 

Location: 413ABC 

Description: This workshop will provide participants with strategies to support students who identify under the neurodivergent umbrella. Participants will learn what types of disabilities are encompassed by the term neurodivergent, the common challenges these students face, and recommendations for supporting them. Challenges will be framed and informed using Brown’s Model of Executive Functions and Schlossberg’s Transition Theory. 

Do You Work with a Student whose Interests Span beyond a Major? Discover The College Scholars Honors Program! 

Presenters: Todd Freeberg, Alexandra Brewer, and students in the program 

Location: 400A 

Description: The College Scholars Program just celebrated its 50th anniversary. This program supports academically talented students who have goals that are difficult to achieve through the traditional major structure at UTK. In consultation with faculty mentors, each student in this program develops a unique interdisciplinary major and course curriculum that is in alignment with their academic interests. It is common for these students to take coursework across multiple colleges. The College Scholars Program has incredibly generous alumni donors and so students in the program are able to obtain scholarships to support travel and research. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this program, cross-campus collaboration is vital. 

Retroactive Withdrawal Appeals: Demystifying the Process 

Presenters: Jenny Boucher, Jana Spitzer 

Location: 403 

Description: The university provides students with ample withdrawal opportunities throughout the semester, especially with the recent change of the withdrawal deadline to the last day of classes. However, there are occasionally situations where students face unforeseen extenuating circumstances that make them unable to meet that deadline. When such significant situations occur, students may reach out to understand their available options, and it can be challenging to determine if a retroactive individual or total term appeal may be appropriate. What circumstances might warrant such an exception to policy, and how does the retroactive withdrawal process work? In this session, we will answer questions such as these and attendees will learn how to guide students through the process. The session will begin with information on the Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawal and Retroactive Individual Total Term Withdrawal Appeals provided by staff from the Academic Success Center and members of the Appeals Committee. They will give details on the differences between the two appeals, the criteria required for a student to be eligible to appeal, and the steps that go into the review process. They will then lead a large group discussion on how to talk to students about their options and how to determine if an appeal is an appropriate avenue to pursue. The session will end with attendees engaging with one another in small groups as they work through case studies. By the end of the session attendees will leave with a better understanding of the appeal criteria and timeline.  

Meeting Them Where They Are: Supporting students through more than just one-on-one advising 

Presenters: Jackie Behrens, Victoria Leidy, and Caroline Layton 

Location: 406 

Description: Academic Advising is more than just a transactional meeting between two people. Advising helps to bring students closer to their academic goal. Research has shown student engagement is consistently attributed to student success, and having opportunities for students to engage in more academic programs is key. This interactive session will give participants the opportunities to learn from the College of Nursing Initiatives. We want participants to dive into the needs of their college by working in small brainstorming groups and share with the group at large for feedback. This collaborative effort is to support students where they are. 

Virtual Orientation Advising: Is It Working? 

Presenter: Jake Working 

Location: 413ABC 

Description: Academic Advisor Jake Working partnered with Engineering Advising Director Margie Russell and Associate Director Lisa Byrd to conduct an evaluation of the New Student Orientation Academic Advising appointments for Summer 2023. A mixed methods approach of data collection utilizing a survey instrument occurred after the summer NSO Academic Advising appointments to help answer the following questions:   

  • Are students exposed to the components of the Academic Advising: The Volunteer Experience model from their NSO Academic Advising appointment and what are their perceptions of these components? 
  • Are students aware of the role of academic advising, course planning, and campus resources from their NSO Academic Advising appointment? 
  • What are the students’ perception of their NSO Academic Advising experience? 

Statistical analysis and subsequent results from the evaluation with relation to these evaluation questions will be presented at this program. Suggestions with respect to innovative and collaborative advising strategies will be incorporated into the program. 

12:00 – 1:00 | Lunch

Facilitators: Shanna Pendergrast, Margie Russell, Jenny Ward

Location: 413ABC

Description: Over the last year, stakeholders across UT’s campus have been crafting the next iteration of the university’s advising strategic plan. Informed by an internal and external review process that identified our strengths and areas of growth, developed by a campus-wide and staff inclusive steering committee, and refined by the academic advising leadership group (AALG), this session will provide an opportunity for the advising and student success community to reflect on and provide feedback on the goals, objectives, and metrics that have been outlined thus far. Through guided and small-group discussions with participants, advising leadership will begin to set community-driven priorities as we continue towards implementation of the strategic plan in the coming months.

Academic Coaching at UT and Next Steps Toward Collaboration 

Presenters: Stephanie Weathers, Jenny Boucher, and Jana Spitzer 

Location: 400A 

Description: As a part of the Vol Success Teams, academic coaching aims to help students maximize their strengths and understand how those strengths contribute to their academic path and personal well-being. But what does that actually mean and how/when does one refer a student to their academic coach? In this session, we will discuss the history and mission of academic coaching at UT and develop ideas on facilitating collaboration between academic coaching, academic advising, and other offices on campus. 

Inclusive Undergraduate Research 

Presenter: Janna Caspersen 

Location: 403 

Description: A culture of inclusion in undergraduate research is at the center of the URF mission. The benefits of undergraduate research for student scholars include increased retention, skill building, self-confidence, and strengthened relationships with faculty. This session will highlight the diversity of undergraduate research opportunities available to UT students, how URF helps facilitate these high-impact practices through a partnership with students, faculty, and staff across UT, and new URF programs designed to improve access to undergraduate research for low-income and first-generation students. 

Synergy for Student Success: Exploring Partnerships between Student Services and Academic Departments 

Presenters: Alexis Andershock, Megan Butler 

Location: 406 

Description: Oftentimes student services and academic departments work independently, but we know that collaboration between the two creates the best outcomes and learning experiences for students. This session will discuss active and passive examples of partnerships between the Center for Career Development and Academic Exploration (CCDAE) and academic departments, their challenges, successes, and how you can leverage connections in the future. 

Vision in Action: Cultivating the Volunteer Experience 

Presenters: Krystyne Savarese, Sally Hunter, Doug Porter 

Location: 413ABC 

Description: In the 2 years since the Board of Trustees approved the new University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Strategic Vision, the Office of the Provost has been collaborating with the Division of Student Success, Teaching and Learning Innovation (TLI), and key academic and student life partners to lift critical initiatives relevant to Goal One: Cultivating the Volunteer Experience. We have engaged faculty to consider the academic integration of our well-being efforts (i.e., Student Success Grants; VE Faculty Fellows), and we are developing a distinct co-curricular experience designed to aid students in fostering life-career readiness (i.e., Vol Edge). In this session, participants will learn about the vision behind and status of each of these projects and will be invited to share their thoughts regarding our students’ needs and future points of collaboration. 

Refilling Your Cup with Strengths: Addressing Burnout in Students and Staff   

Presenters: Kelli Frawley, E. Jayne Jones, LaDawna Williams 

Location: 400A 

Description: Have you ever made it to the middle of the semester and found yourself and your students lacking the energy to finish out strong? This program shares an innovative approach to burnout in higher education using Clifton Strengths. It is recommended that participants know their top 5 Clifton Strengths before the session, but all levels of Clifton-Strengths knowledge are welcome!   

Tips and Tricks for Managing your Outlook Inbox 

Presenters: Sarah Taylor and Bobby Bennett 

Location: 403 

Description: Overloaded email inboxes are a stressful yet inevitable part of our roles as advisors and coaches. This session will review tools and tricks we have picked up from other colleagues throughout our experiences in higher education to help manage seasons with high volumes of incoming emails. Intentionally tailoring your Outlook settings at the beginning of the semester can help increase efficiency and shorten response times during busier seasons. Emails can be overwhelming but managing the Outlook software system does not have to be! Come prepared to view live demonstrations on how to customize your Outlook desktop app or web app in this session.   

Supporting Academic Advisors and Coaches in Supporting Pre-Health Students at UTK 

Presenters: Kristin Tocci, Associate Director in Arts and Sciences Advising and Amanda Yother, Career Coach in Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration 

Location: 406 

Description: Do you encounter students who are interested in pursuing a career in the health professions, but feel unsure what you should know that can be helpful in co-creating a student’s schedule and understanding what other activities they should consider doing? Do you feel unsure what you should know/share versus what students should seek from pre-health advising? If so, then please come join us for a high level overview (with some nitty gritty details mixed in) of what Arts and Sciences Pre-Health advising offers to pre-health students, what we expect students to know versus what we in pre-health advising will share with them, what info would be helpful for you to know as one of their supporters and campus resources, and how to navigate challenging conversations while supporting and encouraging students. 

4 x 4: Going Off-Road to Connect Across Campus 

Presenter: Rachel Duncan 

Location: 413ABC 

Description: PERMA isn’t just a strategy to promote student well‐being. It can be a great framework for strengthening employee well‐being, too! We want to take the PER in PERMA off‐road this semester and help student success professionals connect. At this session, you can learn more about joining a 4 x 4 – a short‐term, small group of four unrelated staff members who will meet four times in the fall semester to share in casual conversation and informal networking. This low‐commitment, high‐return endeavor allows you to break out of your own office space to build relationships with new folks across campus. During this hour, the program concept will be presented, questions will be answered, and if you are interested, you can sign up to participate.