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Advisors Who Inspire: Tulane University

By June 18, 2017

AWI Tulane

Great advisors are copilots on the student journey. They guide, support, direct, and most importantly, inspire their students.

As our team works with dozens of colleges and universities to develop Salesforce Advisor Link, we’ve been inspired by the stories of advisors doing things a little differently, and making a big impact.

In this “Advisors Who Inspire” series, you’ll meet trailblazing advisors who combine the art and science of advising, using technology and data to drive student success in a whole new way.

Myron Shaffer

Myron Shaffer is a Senior Academic and Career Advisor at Tulane University, where he’s worked for over four years. He’s described by his colleagues as a “data rockstar” because of the way he leverages student data stored in Salesforce to more effectively manage his caseload of over 200 students each semester.

He’s constantly running reports like “students with low GPA and no advising in the last 30 days,” so he can stay laser-focused on the students that need his help the most. A couple years ago, Myron was part of a team that developed a data-driven early alert system that is now used by over 30 undergraduate advisors at Tulane.

Clare Daniel, Assistant Director of Exploratory Advising, says: “Myron’s students benefit greatly from his ever-present positivity and compassion, while his colleagues benefit from his ingenuity in developing new tools to help us understand our student population.

Here’s what Myron had to say:

Describe a typical “day in the life” of an advisor at Tulane.

Myron: One thing that draws many of us to the profession of academic advising is the variety in our role each day. We typically meet with 6-12 students individually each day, communicate via phone and email, and improve our abilities through shared best practices among our staff. Salesforce helps us manage the high volume of information we have on our students. We save notes and emails on each student’s profile. We also review dashboards and run reports to track our at-risk students, then we use the mass email function to reach out to targeted students quickly.

What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?

Myron: The challenge of time management comes up frequently, as there are many unexpected actions that require immediate attention. Students may disclose struggles with mental health where we might walk a student to counseling, for example. Other challenges include ensuring no students fall between the cracks. But with Salesforce, we’re able to easily see which students we haven’t seen in an appointment in the last 60 days, for example, to help keep this group of students on our radar.

How do you think advising has changed since you’ve been an advisor. Why is it so critical for student success and retention today?

Myron: Fortunately at Tulane University, academic advising evolves and improves regularly under the leadership of Amjad Ayoubi. He promotes piloting new programs such as our recent integration of career advising and academic advising. With my background in career advising, we started with other advisors referring students to me. Then, with ongoing training, our entire staff of academic advisors began to incorporate career guidance into our academic advising appointments. Now, we regularly have fluid conversations between class selection and internships and post-graduation plans.

What do you think are the most important traits of a great advisor?

Myron: Listening and being organized. By listening to our students, we can better refer and direct them to the right action for them. Being organized means checking in regularly with our advisees and building strong advising relationships.

How does technology play a role in advising? How are Salesforce and other tools enabling your work?

Myron: We rely on technology throughout our workday. Salesforce houses a plethora of information to improve our relationships with students. It allows us to see the big picture of an individual student, a cohort of majors, and even the entire undergraduate population. It enables us to spend less time searching for information and more time connecting with our students.

    “We rely on technology throughout our workday…it enables us to spend less time searching for information and more time connecting with our students.”

As an advisor, how do you use data to do your job?

Myron: We capture data on students in many ways. We use it to identify which students have not declared a major and which students have a decreasing GPA from the previous term. With detailed targets such as these, we can then reach out to the students to speak with them in an appointment or encourage them to take action on their own.

Can you share a success story of a student you’ve worked with who has had an impact on you?

Myron: One of the greatest aspects of our jobs is to assist students with their goals and help them navigate services and tools on and off campus. I helped guide a student toward success as she learned to improve her independence and strengthen her confidence. From her first year, when she didn’t perform as expected in a course, we conversed regularly about her situation and about her options. Her mother also called in this case and explained the situation. From then on, the student has matured and taken on her matters more independently. She remains connected to campus offices and has been open to tackling career items before senior year. Last spring, she took a career development course per my advice, and I was honored when she requested that I write a letter of recommendation for her.

Thanks to Myron for taking the time to share his best practices and insights on advising. Want to learn more about Salesforce Advisor Link? Download the report on Advisor Link from Ovum.

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