Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy with a Concentration in Education Leadership and Policy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Catherine Fallona, PhD

Second Advisor

Jean Whitney, PhD

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Higgins, PhD


Community college graduation rates have grown increasingly concerning because the changing economy demands post-secondary credentials for up to two-thirds of all jobs (Lumina Foundation, 2019). Numerous studies have indicated that advising is a critical tool that can effectively support students' academic persistence (Grites & Gordon, 2000; Heisserer & Parette, 2002; Light,2001; Pascarella & Terenzini,2005). Building upon this research, the present study explored student perceptions of an advising model offered in the context of the student-success course. The study was designed to show the range of impact of the advising model, based on students' levels of incoming barriers and their varied degrees of participation in the advising program. Secondly, the study explored how the advising experience influenced participants' overall transition-to-college experiences, if at all.

The qualitative study's findings indicate that even participants with the highest levels of incoming barriers experienced meaningful support through the advising model. Most of the six participants viewed the advising experience as beneficial since it contributed toward a welcoming atmosphere, provided academic-planning guidance, connected students to a network of support, and enhanced students' self-confidence. Participants viewed the advisor as a member of a wider network of faculty, staff, and peers who influenced their transition-to-college experiences. Participants also described a sense of personal transformation that colored their first-year experience. While some described it as an expansion of their academic interests, others pointed to a growing sense of identity as a student, personal sense of agency, or expanded social connection.

The study's findings suggest a range of adaptations to existing advising models. Most models, including prescriptive, developmental, proactive, advising-as-teaching, sense-of belonging, and validation, focus primarily on the one-to-one relationship between advisee and advisor. Key findings of the study suggest that a wider lens should be used to interpret the relationship: A primary feature of the advising role is to help the student connect with a wider network of faculty, staff and peers. Advisors also should be counseled to watch for signs of personal transformation among college students. Noticing and supporting this nascent sense of personal change could provide the vital support needed to help students to persevere toward academic achievement.



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