First Year Advising Center at Oakland University Honored by NACADA

Oakland University (OU) Receives ‘Outstanding’ Services for their First Year Advising Center

Oakland University’s First Year Advising Center has been selected as the winner of the 2019 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award from NACADA, the global community for academic advising.

The award recognizes programs that document innovative and/or exemplary practices resulting in improvement of academic advising service.

The 19 person team poses for a photo inside OU

The First Year Advisory Center team (courtesy of Oakland University)

“Winning this award provides an opportunity to celebrate how far we’ve come since our inception in 2012,” said Sara Webb, senior director of the First Year Advising Center (FYAC) at Oakland University. “It also showcases one of the many outstanding student services that OU provides for new students.”

OU students first experience the First Year Advising Center during New Student Orientation, the summer before the start of the fall semester. They are assigned an academic adviser who serves as a consistent resource throughout their first year. In addition to offering expertise across all majors offered on campus, academic advisers also connect students to campus resources, help navigate university policies and procedures, and help students find a major that fits with their goals.

Over the last seven years the FYAC has welcomed more than 18,000 students through their doors.

“The First Year Advising Center encourages and supports new students as they transition to life at Oakland University,” said Cory Glover, communications coordinator for the FYAC. “From the very first steps they take on campus we’re here to support their academic and personal growth. Our innovative advising model offers a unique, guided experience for first-year students and is not found at many other universities.”

Relationships are central to the success of the FYAC. Students are regularly contacted by their academic adviser to offer personalized support specific to their individual needs. FYAC staff engages with students through mandatory advising appointments, weekly “drop-in hours” and via online platforms like Google Meet and Google Chat.

In addition, trained student leaders staff the FYAC Lab 35 hours per week to assist students with change of major forms, navigating university technology platforms and learning how to utilize campus resources.

“Students are at the heart of the FYAC,” Webb said. “It’s more than just academic advising. It’s about providing opportunities for students to get better connected to our department, to the institution, and to other students so they can build a successful foundation in the first year.”

Recently, the FYAC launched an adviser-focused dashboard, called the Academic Advising Toolkit, which centralizes information from multiple sources into one location. The toolkit provides academic advisers a holistic picture of a student by incorporating information about curricula, academic history, financial indicators, advising interactions, and much more into an easy-to-navigate platform.

“As a department, we’re constantly improving, trying new things, and sharing what we learn with our campus partners in academic advising,” Webb said. “Through strong collaborations, we have been able to solve pressing problems and create meaningful campus-wide change.

“The FYAC’s comprehensive, student-centered approach has allowed us to achieve significant gains in retention and graduation rates we never imagined back in 2012,” Webb added. “I firmly believe all members of our team help fulfill our mission every day. From student employees to orientation staff to academic advisers, each plays an integral role in helping students feel welcomed, valued and supported at OU. I think this award validates that the track we’ve been on for the past seven years is the right one and that all of the individual moments we spend genuinely connecting with students tell a rich story of a department focused on success for every student.”

The First Year Advising Center will be presented with their award in Louisville, KY. during the NACADA Annual Conference this fall. For more information about the First Year Advising Center visit

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