For Advisors

An invitation for Academic Advisors


Thank you for making the Symposium a success!
Advising matters to student success and retention! This year the theme of the Symposium is Canada@150: Celebrating Advising. Our goal with choosing this theme is to provide an opportunity to highlight the breadth of achievement in this milestone year, and as such, we are encouraging you to share your expertise with your colleagues. What you've told us from previous symposiums is that you appreciate the opportunity to network and learn from each other. This is your opportunity to become actively engaged.

The Alberta Academic Advising Symposium is a one-day professional development day for faculty advisors, professional (staff) advisors and for advisors with split or dual roles.

Handouts and session slides for many of the presentations are now linked in the concurrent sessions below.

I am a counselling psychologist with expertise in post-secondary student mental health and personal development. In addition to my 19+ years at Mount Royal University (as a Counsellor, past Chair of the Student Counselling and Full Professor), I am an Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary, a certified trainer with the Centre for Suicide Prevention (ASIST workshop), and I have a small private practice in the heart of Calgary. Career highlights include founding a student leadership conference at MRU, welcoming 2200+ new students to campus each year as the MC of our New Student Orientation ceremony, and being invited to ASSC 2017 as a keynote speaker for student service She professionals from across our province.

I am passionate about quality student services and student development. I am currently leading two research projects funded by the Canadian Association of University and College Student Services (CAUCSS), and another funded by the CERIC (the Counselling Education Research Institute of Canada). It would be a pleasure to share findings from these projects at your upcoming conference.

JanetMiller_headshot My Philosophy: I believe that people are inherently good, are motivated to make the best choices possible and are driven towards lives that hold meaning and purpose. I believe in the value of struggle, the importance of challenge, the positive nature of stress and our intrinsic drive to seek meaning and make significant contributions to the greater good. I believe that we have personal agency, self-determination, and the power to heal and thrive, although I also recognize that success and wellness are impacted by determinants outside of our control including systemic barriers, trauma, privilege, access to resources and connection to supports. As a psychologist, I embrace the scientist-practitioner model of therapy and thus my work is informed by evidence and oriented towards client-centered outcomes. My therapeutic approach is based on existential psychotherapy practices and client-centered approaches to therapy. My research is informed by literature in the areas of career development and life-design, positive psychology, student retention and theories of resilience.

Difficult Conversations for New Advisors

Kelly Kay Spurlock

Arts Students' Centre, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary


Intended for those new to advising (1-2 years) or a refresher for seasoned advisors, this presentation will work to improve your confidence in conversations with students that may be more difficult: academic standing, unable to graduate, failed courses, etc. Guiding students to view setbacks as an opportunity for growth is essential to their future success. How can we better prepare students from Day 1 to avoid these missteps? What are some ways advisors can also practice self-care when the conversation with a student becomes challenging? This session is intended to be collaborative, so come ready to share your best practices as well!

Navigating the Possibilities of the Learner Pathways System

Ann Marie Lyseng, Clare Ard and Carolyn Guinchard

Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer, Alberta Advanced Education

ACAT has been redeveloping the systems tools it uses to record and share learner pathway information. This new system allows for greater ease of creating agreements, has enhanced reporting capabilities, and allows institutions to directly manage their own high school transition information, such as upgrading courses. It even identifies potential transfer opportunities (reciprocity and triangulation). There is a new Search Tool (online and mobile) and also a new Transfer Alberta website for learners. For the first time, advisors will be able to access the system directly, including the ability to run reports.

Wellness & Collaboration: Advising & Networking Between Institutions

Laura Cochrane, Office of the Registrar

Ambrose University

Brianna Harvie, Academic Advising Services and Faculty Health, Community & Education

Mount Royal University

As Universities become more globalized institutions of learning, the importance of collaboration is increasing rapidly. Working with exchanges and transfers, as well as learning from colleagues across institutions is incredibly important in building relationships across borders whether they be municipal or international. Understanding the importance and limitations of collaboration is key in developing best practices in advising while giving advisors the opportunity to connect with similar professionals in the field. This presentation will be facilitated by professionals from two different institutions and discuss the importance of collaboration in advisor health & wellness, best practices in collaboration, as well as provide the opportunity to discuss the challenges of collaborating across institutions.

"Farm to Table": A decentralized hybrid advising model for short-term programs

Megan Kinal and Tammy Landry

Chiu School of Business, Bow Valley College


Advising in Certificate and Diploma programs poses unique challenges due to the diverse student population attracted to these programs (International, mature, working adults), expectation of work-ready graduates, and short amount of time in which to do it all. To meet these challenges, a Student Engagement Team was created within an academic department to provide academic and career support to students from start to finish of their program. This interactive session aims to share how our team addresses these challenges and to create a discussion about shared and unique advising across varied post-secondary institutions.

Orientation for the Parents of International Students to Canada

Xiaobing Lin, International Student Services

Andrei Tabirca, Faculty of Arts

University of Alberta

It is common practice for most, if not all, Canadian universities and colleges to organize orientation events at the beginning of each academic year to help transition new international students smoothly into the Canadian context of higher education. However, it may not be common practice to provide orientation sessions to the parents of international students who accompanied their children to Canada. As an international student specialist and a senior officer with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta, we will share our explorative practices employed in the past couple of years in providing an orientation session to Chinese and English-speaking parents; we will also include the information covered in our presentation and the feedback from the audience.

P2P in the SSC: Leveraging Peer Advisors to Expand and Enhance Advising Service

Steve Mason

Student Success Centre, University of Calgary

For the past two years, the Student Success Centre has recruited peer advisors to provide additional support for exploratory students. In this session, I will review the benefits of peer advising to both advisors and advisees, as well as how our peer advisors support out students.
I will also outline the genesis of this peer advisor role, from the initial challenges that this role was created to address, through to the ongoing development of the role. This may provide a framework for you to consider recruiting peer advisors to support your advising units.

Advising Student-Athletes: an MRU case study

Sarah Hamilton and Ciara Lane

Academic Advising Services, Mount Royal University

MRU Cougar Athletics has spent the last two years attempting to build stronger relationships across campus in an effort to enhance the academic supports for our student-athletes. Academic Advising Services has been closely involved in this process, which has resulted in the implementation of a number of support initiatives since Fall 2016. During this process Academic Advising Services has faced a number of challenges working with this special population. This presentation will offer a case study of how MRU's Academic Advising and Athletics departments continue to work together to enhance the academic success of our student-athletes.

You're the Peanut Butter to My Jelly: Integrating Career and Academic Advising

Amanda Guccione and Deanna Gonnelly

Academic Advising, Lethbridge College

Lethbridge College recently made changes to our academic and career advising centers, which amalgamated the two departments in to one. Academic Advisors were cross trained as Academic and Career Advisors and our advising model changed drastically, for the better. Our office became a one stop shop, for all aspects of advising. We are now able to offer a seamless services where conversations naturally ebb and flow between career and academic topics. In a time of economic constraint, this model has allowed us to increase our capacity to serve students, without increasing the size of our team. We would love to share the challenges that we have faced in moving to this new model, as well as the great benefits that we have experienced since introducing it.

Applying Design Thinking to Career Advising Sessions

Justin Pritchard

Career Centre, University of Alberta

Presentation link

This presentation highlights concepts and strategies for applying design thinking to career advising sessions. Design thinking can be exercised by practitioners to enhance processes of co-creation, discovery and ideation for their clients. What makes design thinking unique is its use of creative methods-including needs finding, visualizing, iterative prototyping, mapping, synectics, and/or storytelling, as well as the use of various mindfulness practices.

Send Me a Postcard! Advising for International Experiences and Study Abroad

Heather Clitheroe, Faculty of Science

Colleen Packer, UCalgary Study Abroad

University of Calgary


Advisors play a critical role in promoting study abroad programs. Colleen Packer (Manager, UCalgary Study Abroad) and Heather Clitheroe (International Coordinator, UCalgary Faculty of Science) will discuss current Canadian trends in international education. We will talk about the role of advising staff in helping to create opportunities for students, and the developmental growth that occurs when students engage in study abroad. We'll show you the work being done at the University of Calgary to enhance international exchanges, internships, research placements, and short-course models. And we'll provide you with the tools support and encourage your students to consider study abroad as a way to have meaningful academic experiences in international settings… and how to build your own postcard collection!

A Collaborative Approach to Advising - It does take a team!

Tim Buttler and Julie Grovet

School of Education, Burman University

Every advisor has moments of sheer panic - fearing they have made a mistake that will result in a delay in graduation. A collaborative approach takes away some of this pressure and provides an environment of support that shows students we care about their progress, while at the same time giving them freedom to be in charge of their own programs. Our team approach includes the student, faculty advisor, certification auditor, and registrar, using a shared document.

For a smaller university, the challenge centers around the reality that student programs are constantly changing. In addition, limited course options can cause difficulty for the students in planning their degree path. This seminar will explore a collaborative approach in resolving these challenges, to ensure students can achieve timely degree completion.

Barriers to Academic Advising: A Shameful Perception

Alix Westgard

Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary


Within academic advising research, few studies examine why undergraduate students choose not to access academic advising, focusing instead on service to current client populations. This session will provide a summary of relevant literature in academic advising, career advising, and academic help-seeking demonstrating the factors limiting students' access to advising. Five key barriers will be discussed and a primary barrier, stigma and shame, will be identified. Through reflection, discussion, and breakout groups advisors will gain an understanding of the barriers students face, identifying possible interventions and leaving with actionable approaches to implement in their own practices.

Welcome to Mount Royal: Using a Collaborative Approach to get New Students Connected Early

Shea Ellingham, Academic Advising Services

Sarah Rude, Office of Student Success

Mount Royal University


With an understanding of the importance of a successful transition to post-secondary, Mount Royal University assembled a team of student affairs professionals to launch a one-day registration event for new students. With a focus on academic advising and peer registration help, students and their parents were welcomed to campus to learn about their programs, their university and the services that are available to help them be successful. After a brief discussion of relevant theoretical perspectives influencing the creation of Mount Royal University's New Student Registration Day, this presentation will provide insight into the institutional challenges leading to the event, the history of its development, a review of the details of the event, the results (both positive and negative), and plans moving forward.

Crafting an Inspiring Advising Philosophy Statement

Lee-Ann Bainbridge, Office of the Registrar

Shelley Daku, Financial Aid & Student Awards

Laurel Smith, Student Academic Advising

Paul Szymanowski, Learning Assistance Resources

ACAD (Alberta College of Art + Design)


Advisors are skilled at helping students articulate their passion for learning, but how well do we acknowledge our passion for advising? This workshop will equip participants with research and concepts to develop a meaningful professional statement that recognizes that we advise because of our commitment to student success. Like a teaching philosophy statement, advisors will be challenged to clarify the values for which we are passionate. Advisors will leave the workshop with a personalized one-line statement that can be used as a tag-line to be integrated into promotional materials, biographical information, job description, performance assessments, and the start of a robust advising philosophy statement.

It's Starting in a Month!: Developing the Community-Based Bachelor of Education

Kirsten Varsek-Ison, Antoaneta Nimoh and Katelyn Oszust

Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary

Now heading into its fourth intake, the University of Calgary's Werklund School of Education's Community-Based Bachelor of Education is an innovative approach to teacher education, allowing students in rural and remote Alberta to obtain their certifying degree, while remaining in their home communities. When initially introduced in 2015, the degree was rapidly approved without many of the structural regulations, processes, and procedures necessary to its operation yet developed. This session will explore the implementation of pragmatic and structural measures that address the complications arising from a program that asks its students to take coursework at other institutions, is offering online learning for the first time, and whose students' demographics are majorly Mature, parents, and with transfer credit from myriad types of post-secondaries. By the conclusion of the presentation, participants should walk away with practical ideas of how Advisors can shape and develop newly-created programs, and how such structures can aid students in navigating uncertain and hitherto uncharted territory.

Âsokan - Building the Bridge to Reconciliation in Post-Secondary Education

Charlene Bonnar

University Transfer, Lakeland College


In June 2015, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada was released. Outlining the history of residential schools in Canada and the on-going impact felt by survivors and subsequent generations of Aboriginal peoples, the report made recommendations to facilitate the reconciliation process. Within academic institutions across Canada, there is much discussion about "indigenizing the academy." As a member of the public post-secondary system, I question my role and the role of the institution in helping Aboriginal students succeed in their educational pursuits. My personal and professional goal is to build bridges and make positive and meaningful cultural connections on the road to reconciliation.

Community of Practice: Integrated Advising

Bree Huene, International Student Services

Kaliopi Gorgichuk, Student Success Centre

University of Calgary

Students seek counsel from advisors with a variety of questions/concerns that can potentially impact more than one area of their academic career. How can we better integrate our services within our own institutions and aid one-another to ensure we are asking the right questions and providing the best advice for our students? The Communities of Practice (COP): Integrated Advising provides advisors at the UofC campus an opportunity to share ideas and expertise across contexts, in addition to collaborative thinking and problem solving. This session will explain the logistics and successes of this COP and will offer an opportunity for participants to reflect on their current practices and opportunities to increase collaboration across departments in their own institutions.

The Role of Advisors in Internationalization

Virginia Rayner, University of Calgary International

Liliana Gonzalez, Career Services

University of Calgary

This session will address how emerging trends in Internationalization, both globally and at an institutional level, are relevant to student success. It will also highlight the importance of developing cross-cultural competencies, which are linked to positive career development - both for domestic and international students, and advisors. This session offers an overview of best practices and focuses on the role of advisors as advocates for international experience. Furthermore, advisors will utilize goal-setting exercises to explore opportunities for fostering their professional and personal development through international experiences.

At-Risk Students: Improving our Retention Initiatives to Enhance their Success

Sarah Rude

Office of Student Success, Mount Royal University


Retention initiatives are not a new undertaking for higher education institutions. A multitude of initiatives exist, resulting in a variety of approaches to identifying students as "at-risk", supporting these students, and assessing success. This presentation will provide an overview of student retention literature, and present the findings of secondary research undertaken to answer the research question "how are Canadian higher education institutions utilizing retention initiatives to address at-risk students?" Gaps found between the literature and research findings will be discussed as opportunities to improve retention initiatives, and time for reflection will allow attendees to consider how these opportunities can be acted upon in their academic advising roles.

Grades or Gold Medals? A Panel on Advising the Student-Athlete

Jasmine Mian and Dina Taher

Student Success Centre, University of Calgary

Cara Button

Canadian Sport Institute, Calgary


As advisors, our goal is to facilitate the success of our students, but what does 'success' mean for the student-athlete? In this interactive panel, we will discuss the different types of student-athletes (varsity vs. national team), the unique challenges they face and how to best support them. You will learn about the Dinos 'Grade Point Success' program, which supports varsity athletes at the University of Calgary and Game Plan (powered by Deloitte); a total athlete-wellness program for National Team Athletes.
Panel members include: Dina Taher: Academic Coach for the Dinos GPS program, Cara Button: Director of Athlete Services at the Calgary Sport Institute & Gameplan Advisor, and a student athlete. Facilitated by: Jasmine Mian: 2016 Olympian & Academic Coach with Dinos GPS