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The History of Intrusive Advising in the General College

Anthony Albecker
Principal Student Personnel Worker

The coming transition of General College (GC) from a college to an academic department simultaneously requires vision towards the future and deep reflection on its rich heritage and tradition. By doing so, the essence of GC can (and will) continue to influence positively the lives of many more University of Minnesota students and contribute to the discipline of postsecondary developmental education.

In this spirit, the following article provides a snapshot of GC’s use of the intrusive advising model and exploration of a 1990 GC report that may have contributed to its implementation. Ultimately, the purpose of this article is to promote dialogue on what makes the GC advising model successful and how it can be transferred to colleges and departments throughout the University of Minnesota.

The intrusive advising model is based on the premise that some students will not take the initiative in resolving their academic concerns, thereby needing the intrusive assistance of assigned advisors. The use of the word “intrusive,” as coined in Walter Earl’s 1987 article, “Intrusive Advising for Freshmen,” is used to describe this model of advising as “action oriented by involving and motivating students to seek help when needed” (p. 24). The intrusive model incorporates the components of prescriptive and developmental advising models, creating a holistic approach that meets a student’s total needs (Earl).

The intrusive model is proactive and seeks to address problems as they emerge, rather than being reactive. Essentially, advisors reach out to help students instead of waiting for students to seek help. GC Student Services currently implements multiple strategies that follow the intrusive model, including the use of mid-semester academic progress reports sent out twice per semester and academic alerts sent out to students and advisors at any time.

Proactive strategies, such as academic alerts, enable advisors to help students while they still have time and options to improve grades. An example would be a student who is failing multiple courses and seeks help at the end of a semester when it is too late to recover academically. Intrusive modeling theory is based on three premises:

  1. Academic professionals can be trained to identify freshmen students who need assistance.
  2. Students do respond to direct contact regarding academic problems when guided help is offered.
  3. Students can become successful if provided the information about academic and college resources available to them.

Advisors and students benefit from this model in terms of advising effectiveness. For instance, the student-advisor relationship becomes more than just a “registration process” by engaging students in the whole academic process (e.g., career exploration, personal development, study strategies, etc.), thus building connectedness to the institution, and ultimately increasing retention rates.

As addressed earlier, the GC report indicates that the intrusive advising model presently applied in GC began to evolve in 1988. During this same period, General College’s Office of Research and Evaluation commissioned a comprehensive technical report on the first-year experience of GC students. The resulting report, The First Year at General College, conducted and written by Constance C. Schmitz and John Andreozzi (1990), examined findings from a year-long interview study of 34 GC freshmen during the 1989-90 academic year. This study was part program evaluation and part exploratory research on the socialization and integration of GC freshmen.

The 34 GC participants in this study represented a proportional profile of 1989 entering students. The summaries of findings were compiled into three reports: (a) Why Students Left, (b) Four Freshman Year Experiences, and,(c) Changes and Differences. In line with my academic interests, I focused on the academic advising components of the research.

The advising results of this year-long study were segmented into five categories: knowledge of advising, reported use of advisors, satisfaction with information gained during advising, satisfaction with advisors, and skills and characteristics of a “good” advisor. During this period, the summary of data found that students were pleased overall with their advising experience and that most identified the characteristics of “good advisor” as being knowledgeable about transfer, majors, and careers (Schmitz & Andreozzi, 1990, p. 34).

The primary issues of discontent that students identified included: lack of advisor availability, lack of immediate advisor knowledge on some policies, and some reported disappointment “that they didn’t receive more attention, follow-up, and monitoring as had been promised” (p. 34). Though the study is not entirely conclusive, it does indicate that GC was able to benefit from the implementation of more intrusive advising procedures.


Earl, W. R. (1998). Intrusive advising of freshmen in academic difficulty [Electronic version]. NACADA Journal, 8(2). 

Schmitz, C. S., & Andreozzi, J. (1990). The first year at General College: Report on year-long interview study of 34 General College freshman (Tech. Rep. No. 3). Minneapolis, MN: Office of Research and Evaluation, General College, University of Minnesota.

About the Author:

Anthony Albecker started out in GC as a volunteer for the past two summers with the McNair Scholars program, hoping to eventually finding a job in GC. His efforts were fruitful. He began this fall as a new academic advisor in General College student services. Anthony recently completed his M.A. in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. His academic interests are varied, encompassing a love for the field of communications, student development, and higher education.

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