By: 
Thomas W. Durso
Honoree: 
State Fair Community College

Advising at State Fair Community College in Missouri begins not just when students enroll, but before they even apply.

State Fair sends staffers from its Navigation Advising program to high schools to discuss how to be a college student. These visits aren’t about recruitment, but a chance to explain the college application process, financial aid and advising, among other topics.

If the high schoolers happen to become interested in State Fair, so much the better. “We’re helping students become college students, and then if they want to talk about State Fair Community College, we’ll help them do that,” says Joe Gilgour, dean of students and academic support services.

Students who apply are automatically assigned an adviser known as a navigator. This is an administrator—not a faculty member—who provides students with academic support throughout their time at the college.

Navigators are segmented by academic area, both programmatically and physically. They are located not in a centralized advising department, but throughout campus to be near the academic offices of their students’ majors. The idea is to embed academic advisors with faculty so students have a seamless advising experience.

Into the Future

  • State Fair leaders would like to expand the number of navigators as enrollment grows.
  • The college is investigating customer relationship management software to provide more analytics related to the program.

“Students walk into an office suite and they don’t know who’s faculty and who’s [an advisor],” Gilgour says. “We like that. We want them to feel like whoever they talk to in that room, they’re in good hands.”

Navigation Advising is in only its second year, so retention and graduation data are inconclusive. But the navigators’ comprehensive outlook can only benefit in the long run, Gilgour says.

“It’s from A to Z,” he says. “They’re helping students from the moment they get through admissions all the way to career placement or transfer to another university.”