Notes from the ARC: Stephen Colbert vs. Bill Gates

“If I keep no record of what I do, I can always assume I’ve succeeded.”

-- Stephen Colbert to Bill Gates on The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert’s response to Bill Gates’ discussion of how data helps us see our strengths and weaknesses may have generated uproarious laughter from his audience, but he also struck a nerve with those of us who engage with data and review for a living.  Many programs resist institution-wide data or program review because they see it as punitive— a mechanism for saying they have NOT succeeded. But in our experience, data can be meaningful for improving student success, especially when we have the freedom to be self-reflective and strive for improvement from the core. 

At our institution, California State University Long Beach, we conduct program reviews of two advising centers: The University Center for Undergraduate Advising (UCUA) and the Bickerstaff Academic Center (BAC) for Student Athletes. In addition, each college has its own central advising office; once students choose majors, they are generally routed from UCUA to those offices. We want to ensure all of these academic advising centers receive appropriate feedback that highlights their work to improve graduation rates and presents opportunities to better serve their local populations.Research shows that intervention, advising, and access facilitates student success and improves graduation rates. But how do we measure success in those areas? 

The program review process allows advising units to identify, and reflect on processes, policies, and procedures that either hinder or support student success.  To that end, on Friday, April 12 at the #2019ARC, we will engage in a meaningful discussion using best practices recommended in the Journal of NACADA and other peer-reviewed research. We will also discuss the possibility of moving beyond using satisfaction surveys or focus groups to measure the worth of advising units, and discuss program review as means to engage in a meaningful process that will help guide practice or help advising units make considerable improvements.

As Bill Gates stated in his interview with Colbert, if we track and see the results, “we get a lot smarter as we go along.” 

Duan Jackson is Executive Director of University Academic Advisement at California State University, Long Beach. Sharlene Sayegh is Director of Program Review and Assessment and Accreditation Liaison Officer at California State University, Long Beach. They will present at the #2019ARC during a session on Friday, April 12 entitled, “Academic Advising: Are Institutions Accurately Utilizing Data to Determine Efficacy?”

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