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A SMART Approach
Karen Vignare
Executive Director,
Personalized Learning Consortium


A SMART Approach to Student Success

Program Overview

A broad consensus is growing among college and university leadership about the ability of campus-wide, proactive integrated advising and student support systems to drive student success in significant ways.  Implementing such systems frequently requires significant change to institutional structures, policies and practices and can be complicated, costly and time consuming.

To help college and university leaders implement new systems for redesigning advising and supporting students across their campuses, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) developed an online course entitled, A SMART Approach to Student Success: Strategic Management of Advising Reform and Technology, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The course features in-depth video interviews with presidents, provosts, vice provosts for student success, vice presidents of information technology, advising personnel, and faculty from five institutions that have pioneered the implementation of integrated advising and student support systems drawing on these experiences, the six lesson, self-paced course, provides critical guidance to leaders in academic and student affairs in transforming advising systems to better serve today’s students.


Lesson 1: Proactive Advising and Technology in Student Success


What Will You Learn? 

  • Lesson 1: The Role of Proactive Advising and Technology in Student Success
    • Understand the intersection of campus-wide advising reform, technology and student success initiatives. 
  • Lesson 2: Identifying Advising Gaps and Planning for Change
    • Identify the structural, process and attitudinal changes required to implement campus-wide advising systems and plan for change
  • Lesson 3: Defining Goals and Metrics for Measuring Success 
    • Define your institution's student and institution-level student success goals and identify metrics to measure progress and guide implementation. 
  • Lesson 4: Implementing a Proactive Advising System
    • Develop implementation strategies that engage internal and external stakeholders around a shared set of goals and path to success. 
  • Lesson 5: Communicating Strategically and Addressing Challenges
    • Build support for and understanding of your proactive advising initiative by communicating clearly and regularly about plans for change and progress toward goals and preparing for common challenges. 
  • Lesson 6: Calculating Returns and Investing for the Future 
    • Measure the returns on investments in proactive advising systems and student success driven initiatives and communicate with institutional stakeholders. 

Format and Content

  • Video content addresses the topic of each lesson by illustrating a diversity of approaches, challenges and successes through interviews with executive and project level leadership from multiple institutions.
  • Resources developed by experts in the field highlight the current landscape of research around implementation strategies and best practices
  • Practical activities guide planning, implementation, evaluation and communication
  • Self-paced, allowing participants to access the course content and activities at any time and in the order that best meets their needs



“If you’re in the top 25% of Americans right now, you have about an 80% chance of holding a college degree. If you’re in the lowest 25%, you have under a 10% chance. So you’re talking about a ratio of somewhere around 10 to 1 more likely based on what kind of family income youre born into. That’s not right. We all know that that’s not right. It’s also not healthy for the social life, the economic life of our country.”

Timothy Renick, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success, and University Vice Provost at Georgia State University

“It’s about a ‘one university’ focus. When you have everyone pulling together, it’s an amazing process to observe and be a part of. When you have Student Affairs, the Registrar’s Office, IT, Admissions, Athletics, the chairs for all the colleges, faculty governance…when everybody’s lined up, that’s where the difference occurs.”

Rick Sluder, Vice Provost for Student Success, Middle Tennessee State University

“Sometimes, our students don’t know what they don’t know, and they may be limited by the knowledge of the careers that may be available because of the limited exposure they have had to different careers. And so having an advising platform that really opens opportunities for students is crucial.”

Virginia Fraire, Vice President for Student Services, Austin Community College