Advising in ever-changing times

Edye Cowan
Edye Cowan

“Budget cuts, administrative changes, new curriculum, new state licensure requirements, a changing student population — and the list goes on.” So wrote Edye Cowan in an abstract of a paper she co-presented in October at the National Academic Advising Association’s 2015 conference in Las Vegas.

Edye, The COE’s academic advisor for elementary education, was talking of course about the state of advising in the ever-changing environment of higher education.

“Teachers from all over are having to deal with changes to licensure and testing requirements, so advisors in education are also going through changes all across the country,” said Cowan.

Her presentation focused on how the advising environment across the nation has evolved during the past few years, particularly in Illinois and especially at NIU.

“We have gone through several department chairs, we have a new dean, new associate deans, and our elementary education coordinator left,” said Cowan. “There have also been changes in the state of Illinois licensure process and a new middle school program.”

Cowan currently oversees the academic advising of around 300 elementary education students, a sometimes challenging task, especially with the new licensure process.

“We did some research about change and how to manage change,” said Cowan. “We had Margee Myles, the director of Student Services, talk to our students that were in their last year about how they felt about the changes, how we communicated those changes, and what communication would really be helpful to them moving forward.”

Though there are numerous challenges, Cowan emphasized the numerous rewards she reaps from working as an advisor in the College of Education.

“Working with the students is fun. Through advising you really get that one-on-one [interaction] that you don’t get in the classroom,” said Cowan. “You really get to watch the students’ progress.”

Ultimately, Cowan has high hopes for the future of academic advising in higher education.

“I’m really hopeful about getting back to what would be the best thing for students and helping them become teachers,” said Cowan. “It’s more than helping them find classes. It’s about their goals as educators and helping them reach those goals.”

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