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June 2016


A Message from Vice Provost Robert McMaster

Robert McMaster

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the first edition of The Advising Newsletter! This newsletter will serve as the Office of Undergraduate Education's (OUE) method of communicating timely information to professional undergraduate academic advisors. We in OUE are excited to use this platform each month to share updates and promote awareness of initiatives that inform advising practice.

OUE initiatives focus on developing excellence and distinctiveness in arenas that will help us retain students while creating a distinctive educational program that will graduate students who can solve problems, communicate effectively, think critically, and have the knowledge and skills to be productive life-long learners, leaders, and global citizens. We know academic advisors play a critical role in achieving this mission. We envision The Advising Newsletter as just one of the ways OUE will support the vital work of academic advisors.

Topics you can expect to read about in future editions of The Advising Newsletter include, but are not limited to:

  • graduation and retention rates,
  • student survey data results,
  • transfer student initiatives,
  • tuition and financial aid,
  • educational policy,
  • and updates from OUE coordinated committees.

As opportunities arise, The Advising Newsletter will also serve as a means to request input and feedback from the advising community. Of course, feedback is always welcome at

I hope you find The Advising Newsletter an informative resource, and I expect that you will refer back to it as a definitive source of information. Back editions will be available online in the Advising Toolkit. If you have questions or Newsletter topic suggestions, please email Thank you for helping to welcome the Class of 2020 during orientation. Have a great summer!


Robert McMaster
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education

Financial Support Available!

Tracy Fischer, Academic Support Resources

The Regents Progress Card established graduation rate goals for the year 2021 of 65% for our four-year cohort (i.e., the fall 2017 entering freshman class) and 82% for the six-year cohort (i.e., the fall 2015 entering freshman class). Currently, our four-, five- and six-year cohorts are on the right track trending slightly higher than last year's rates that locked at 63.3%, 75.7% and 77.69% respectively. Graduation rate projections are based on the number of students with awarded degrees plus the number of students who have applied for degree. In order to reach projected rates, every student who applied to graduate through summer 2016 must complete their degree.

If finances stand in the way of a student's degree progress, the University has funds available to assist students financially. Academic Support Resources (ASR) currently has money available in the form of "Completion Funds". While an ASR committee reviews each request on a case-by-case basis, priority is given to students who could get back on track for four-year degree completion by registering for summer or who are ready to graduate this summer. Preference is also given to students who are struggling to pay off their spring 2016 balance and need to register for summer or fall.

If there are students you would like to nominate for completion funds, or if you have any questions about who would be a good candidate, contact ASR Student Degree Progress (


Welcome Class of 2020!

Lisa Gruszka and Chelsea Garcia, Orientation and First Year Programs

Let the countdown to summer begin!

And when we say summer, we are obviously talking about the start to our summer Orientation programs to welcome the Class of 2020 and our new transfer students. Orientation & First-Year Programs is kicking into high gear in anticipation of serving these new students and their families. The same can be said for many of you who work tirelessly to help make these programs come to life by helping these students have a successful transition.

This summer we will be hosting 23 freshmen orientation programs and 13 transfer orientation programs. We anticipate serving 8100 students and over 6000 family members.

Though our program has a strong foundation and structure, each year we intentionally infuse new ideas and new programming to keep our programs relevant and innovative. This year, we are celebrating the 22nd summer of Pieces of the Puzzle (POP) performance and are featuring a new scene to help students understand the needs and concerns of the transgender community on campus and a new song/dance to relate to the presence of social media in our students' lives.

Another exciting change we will be implementing this summer will be an enhanced "Transitioning to College" session that is facilitated by the Orientation Leader with their small group of students. This extended session will address time management, study habits, how to build community and, most importantly, how to navigate the plethora of resources on campus by using the (award winning) Gold Book.

Thank you for all your good work you do to contribute to the success of our programs. We hope you will take some time to say hello to the parents and guests on-campus for our Parent Orientation Program and give a warm, friendly smile to our new students as they navigate our programs.

Happy Summer and Happy Orientation Season!

Transfer Credit Evaluations

Emilee Hemme, Office of Admissions

With orientation just around the corner, the Office of Admissions has been processing transfer credit evaluations. Read on to learn more about this process, an important component of the transfer student experience.

All transfer credit evaluations will be complete before a student attends orientation. However, timing may look different for each student depending on the institution from which they transfer. A student's transfer credit evaluation begins when a student submits an official transcript to the Office of Admissions. Every time we see a transcript from a domestic institution, we add courses from the transcript to the transfer table for that institution. The initial entry of courses onto a student's record typically occurs within 1-2 weeks, articulating any courses that have been previously reviewed.

If a student is coming from a school that we see quite often, such as a local community college, it is likely that the majority of the coursework will have been previously evaluated. This means that the student will receive their transfer record of articulated credit fairly quickly, typically within a few weeks of admission. If the student is from an international institution or a domestic institution that we do not typically see transcripts from, the evaluation may take longer. To ensure a student's report is complete before orientation, an audit of is done each Monday in the Admissions Office to identify either students who are signed up for orientation with no coursework posted or students with coursework that require further review.

Please note that if an updated transcript with Spring grades and courses arrives only a few days before a student attends orientation, his/her APAS may not be fully updated in time. In these instances, we thank you for helping the student understand why their courses are not yet articulated. Students are welcome to contact the Office of Admissions when questions arise.

Financial Aid Information

Tina Falkner, Office of Student Finance

From late-June to early-July, the Office of Student Finance (OSF) cancels estimated financial aid awards in order to create the actual financial aid award packages for incoming New High School (NHS) students. Sometimes, when students can no longer see their estimated financial aid award, they panic and think that we have taken away their financial aid. That is not the case. Students can access their actual financial aid package in mid-July, once tuition and fees have been finalized. If your students have questions, please have them contact One Stop Student Services.

New Advanced Standing (NAS) students are packaged with our returning students, so they will not be able to view their financial aid awards until mid-July.

For continuing students, financial aid satisfactory academic progress (SAP) evaluation began on May 31. Some students will be suspended from further financial aid eligibility because they have not met these standards. Students who have documented mitigating circumstances that interfered with their ability to meet SAP standards may submit a Satisfactory Academic Progress Appeal. The SAP appeal is available on the One Stop website. You will be seeing some students in this situation, as we require that they work with their advisers to develop an academic plan that is realistic and leads to meeting SAP standards and obtaining their degree. We appreciate working with you on our shared goal of successful degree completion.

Another important item to know about financial aid is that students must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to be considered for financial aid, and the FAFSA needs to be completed each year. Please encourage your students to complete the FAFSA at, and respond to any requests for additional information from our office.

What's Being Discussed on Campus?

Launch of the Undergraduate Advising Steering Committee

Based on the Academic Advising Task Force recommendations, the Undergraduate Advising Steering Committee (U-ASC) has officially been charged and convened! U-ASC will serve as the campus-wide advisory and consultative body for functions related to undergraduate academic advising on the UMTC campus. The committee will identify and recommend advising priorities to improve academic advising as well as policies and practices affecting students' success and progress toward graduation. The steering committee informs the Provost, the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education and collegiate-level offices around advising practices and priorities. In addition, U-ASC will continue to forward progress on the Advising Task Force recommendations.

The Steering Committee is made up of representatives from each of the undergraduate colleges, University Honors Program, McNamara Advising Center, Academic Advising Network and Office of Undergraduate Education. Watch the Advising Update for U-ASC agenda topics and updates.

We look forward to working together to enhance the advising experience for the UMTC community. If you have any questions, please contact LeeAnn Melin ( in the Office of Undergraduate Education.

APLUS Updates

In January, the APLUS Advisory Committee was re-aligned and re-charged with examining, proposing, and setting high-level priorities, policy, and adoption issues for the implementation and support of APLUS. This is directed by the Executive Oversight Committee, and supported by the Functionality Working Group, which provides front-line feedback and perspectives on all aspects of APLUS. An overview of the governance structure can be found here. Some of the recent topics and decisions made in this committee include:

Strategic work:

  • Currently working to expand the Moodle/APLUS Integration Project. CLA and CBS piloted 34 courses in fall 2015, resulting in 1,264 advisor alerts and warnings. Of those students who met with an advisor after an "Unsatisfactory grade in Moodle course" warning was triggered had a significantly higher percentage of W's (instead of failing grades).
  • A working group was charged with determining an effective and inclusive approach for potentially leveraging demographics data in APLUS to enhance advising and support for students. In the meantime, the "Contact Info" section was deployed in the "Overview" tab.
  • Duluth is planning for a limited rollout of APLUS on their campus for fall 2016.

Functionality work:

  • The Help section in APLUS continues to have valuable resources. A new training video is now live!
  • Did you know that you can dismiss an alert or warning without having to log a new contact with a student? In cases where a new contact with the student is unnecessary, you have a couple options:
    • Correct a past contact and associate with an alert/warning retroactively (useful when you've discussed the situation in a recent appointment)
    • Create a note in the Log Contact panel and associate it with the alert/warning
  • APLUS users with Coordinator roles will soon be able to create new tags and contact purposes for their unit(s), which is slated for deployment late May or early June.
  • Mass email is also coming to APLUS late May when the updated Gmail integration module is deployed, which also features many other usability, speed, and functionality improvements. It's important to note that the mass email feature is in addition to, and not a replacement for, the functionality for reaching out to individual students.

Training Curriculum

Following the recommendations of the campus Academic Advising Task Force in the Fall 2015, the Advisor Training workgroup, in cooperation with the Advising Coordinators Group (ACG) and the Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE) is ramping up plans to enhance advisor training. Part of that plan will include training curriculum that will guide the work of our advising community as we bring new staff on board and/or work with continuing advisors.

The undergraduate colleges have significant training material already in place. There is also a lot of commonality in the topics that are covered. As the current lists are reviewed and adjusted, all of the ACG units will have an opportunity to review the training topics and make suggestions for additions. The review of the overall curriculum will help sort out questions about:

  • who is responsible for the development of content materials,
  • who should be responsible for the delivery,
  • the method for delivery (i.e. in-person workshops, on-line modules, APLUS Help, etc.),
  • the target audience for the training (i.e. all advisors, new advisors, department advisors, faculty advisors),
  • and the frequency of delivery.

The training work group expects to have an initial plan in place by the start of fall semester 2016.

Resources For Training

To support the recommendations of the Advising Task Force, the Office of Undergraduate Education has committed new resources to support the enhancement of training for campus academic advisors.

Mark Bultmann's appointment has been adjusted to allow him to devote additional time to the development of campus training resources. Amy Hackett, Manager/Coordinator Major Advising, Student Services in the College of Education and Human Development, has agreed to take on the role of Advising Training Specialist, assisting Mark with the advisor training initiative with a commitment of 30% of her appointment for the next year.

Welcome New Advisers!

Help us welcome new advisers across campus by submitting their information here. New advisers will be mentioned in a future newsletter and invited to join the new advisors group.

Fill out the New Advisor form >>

Join the Discussion

Do you have questions about anything related to undergraduate education? Are there topics about which you would like more information? If so, please email them to to see them addressed in a future advising newsletter.