University of Mary Washington Introduces Electronic Advising Program with Starfish

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Institution Enhances the Ability for Students and Advisors to Connect

Everyone who comes to the University of Mary Washington is qualified for academic life. When students come to college, however, they have choices on how to spend their time. Sometimes students need direction

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of student success systems, announced today that the University of Mary Washington has adopted Starfish® to power the institution's move toward electronic advising records and foster greater communication between students and advisors.

Located in historic Fredericksburg, Va., the liberal arts university was founded in 1908 and enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students. The institution has long prided itself on offering students a comprehensive advising program facilitated by faculty advisors. In particular, the first-year advising program helps ease students into the college experience.

"Everyone who comes to the University of Mary Washington is qualified for academic life. When students come to college, however, they have choices on how to spend their time. Sometimes students need direction," said JoAnn M. Schrass, Ph.D., associate dean, academic services for the University of Mary Washington. "We offer our students extensive access to faculty members who are trained as first-year advisors to help students make a successful transition to life as a college student."

With the emergence of social media and mobile communications, the institution has sought to make itself available in the online and offline settings in which students live, learn and connect. Similarly, the academic services organization wanted to take advantage of new technology solutions that could make their interaction with students more efficient and valuable.

In the spring of 2009, the institution conducted a pilot program with 40 first-year faculty advisors using Starfish for their first-year students. Following a one-week implementation period, Starfish enabled more than 400 first-year students to schedule appointments through the Internet with their faculty advisors. For the fall term, the institution has made Starfish available to all students. Advisors also will maintain and share their records of student interactions through Starfish.

"We had such a positive experience in the pilot program that we decided to introduce the system to all students," said Schrass. "In our post-pilot survey, we found that students loved the system and commented on how easy it was to use. Similarly, our faculty advisors liked how the system reduced the number of email and voicemail messages typically sent simply in their attempts to schedule time with students. Because they are also faculty members teaching courses, the faculty advisors indicated that they wanted to use Starfish for all their students, not just their advisees."

Students and advisors access Starfish through a link in Blackboard, the institution's course management system. From there, students can schedule time to meet with their advisors. Advisors can review a student's academic performance, such as grades, and can record notes from an advising session. These notes can be shared with other advisors and remain with the electronic folder as the students progress from their first-year advisors to their major advisors.

"We have wanted to go electronic for a long time," said Schrass. "Now an advisor is able to meet with a student literally anywhere with Internet access. Advisors log in to the system, pull up a student's folder, add notes from the meeting and share them with other advisors, instructors or even the student. The electronic files also provide a greater level of security because you don't have to worry about files getting misplaced or accidentally left out where they can be viewed by others."

Accessible with a single log-in to an institution's course management system (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT or Angel), Starfish CONNECTâ„¢, an education networking support system, helps students access a personal contact list of instructors and advisors who are dedicated to helping them succeed. The system generates valuable performance data for the institution, including resource utilization that helps optimize future service offerings.

"Starfish Retention Solutions is excited to be working with the University of Mary Washington as it introduces a completely new approach to offering services to its students," said David Yaskin, CEO and founder of Starfish Retention Solutions. "The university has been a terrific partner for Starfish, providing us valuable feedback that has already helped improve our solutions. Together we are empowering students and advisors with easy-to-use online tools that help them stay connected to each other."

About Starfish Retention Solutions
Starfish Retention Solutions is a leading provider of student success systems. The company offers a collection of software solutions that harness the power of the campus community in order to engage, motivate and graduate more students - securing valuable tuition revenue through student retention. Specifically, the solutions help institutions identify at-risk students in real time, based on their daily coursework performance, and then connect them to the resources designed to help (e.g., advising or tutoring) - all while assessing which services and interventions are working. For more information, please call 703.260.1186 or visit


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