University First Year Advisors: A network approach for first year student transition and retention. A Practice Report.
Focussing expressly on student support and retention, improving the first year experience has been addressed by Murdoch University through the implementation of a School discipline-specific network of professional First Year Advisors (FYAs). FYA initiatives, both broad-based and varied, have been developed in alignment with the changing needs of students as identified throughout the semesters. A combination of outreach telephone campaigns and face-to-face student support enables FYAs to conduct a "just in time" approach to positively increase student engagement, and ultimately, retention. With a bespoke database, FYAs and academic staff have been able to streamline the process of reporting students in need of support, and gather data relating to student retention. The FYA program is yet to be formally evaluated although initial feedback and student consultation is promising. This paper outlines the program's development, current initiatives and expected outcomes.