The University of Illinois Springfield Enhances Campuswide Academic Advising Program with the Starfish System

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Institution Leverages Retention CRM Technology to Support Investments in Advising Center, Improve Cross-Campus Communication

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From the advising perspective, we had lots of data in different places, and we wanted something that was user-friendly. Starfish provided the most comprehensive system for us.

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of enterprise student success systems, announced that the University of Illinois Springfield has successfully started its second academic year using the Starfish® system. The software was chosen to foster a comprehensive academic advising model for all students and to coordinate student services across campus.

The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is a public university serving more than 5,000 students in 23 undergraduate programs. Formerly an upper-division campus, the institution made the transformative decision in 2001 to open its doors to freshmen and sophomores.

Making the shift from a largely commuter population of adult learners to a more traditional four-year institution was a major undertaking. In 2006, with a full freshman class on campus, the institution created an Advising Center, with professional staff who complemented the work of faculty advisors. Advisors were tasked with developing a method for identifying and offering support to at-risk students as soon as possible. A small team of advisors managed student cases first with paper files, then with spreadsheets, then using a homegrown database, and ultimately, licensed the MAP-Works system to survey incoming students and gauge risk profiles. The program’s growth, however, quickly outpaced each available system. In February 2011, after a two-year review process, UIS implemented the Starfish system.

“We were very concerned about supporting a whole new population of students. We had been an upper-division campus focused on public affairs, but now we were admitting students from city schools and rural schools — a broad spectrum in terms of academic preparation,” said Karen Moranski, Ph.D., associate vice-chancellor for undergraduate education at UIS. “We wanted faculty to be supported in identifying any students who were not performing well so we could intervene by offering tutoring services to assist those students.”

UIS integrated the Starfish system with its Blackboard learning management system and its Banner by Ellucian student information system. Through the Starfish system, faculty are asked at specific times in the academic term to provide structured yet simple feedback on students. Faculty feedback is automatically routed to the Advising Center so advisors can assess what is happening and intervene as appropriate. The student folder collects this historical information from term to term, maintaining continuity from the Advising Center to the student’s faculty advisor once the student has successfully completed 30 credit hours.

“From the advising perspective, we had lots of data in different places, and we wanted something that was user-friendly. Starfish provided the most comprehensive system for us,” said Carmalita Kemayo, an undergraduate academic advisor at UIS.

“Faculty advisors were still using paper files, stored in offices,” added Moranski. “We were concerned that there wasn’t sufficient coordination or protection of those files. The Starfish system allows advisors to put notes into a central system and create a student record that is secure and that persists from year to year.”

The system has been well-received by the campus community. Prior to implementing the Starfish system, fewer than 30 percent of faculty teaching in lower-division coursework areas participated in requests for information about students with academic- or behavior-based risk factors. Today, almost 75 percent of that same group of faculty are engaged in the survey process, and faculty participation is even higher in the most challenging courses in English, math, and science.

“I am also seeing more student engagement,” said Kemayo. “Students who felt like school wasn’t important, or felt that they could succeed without any help — they are responding to the Starfish system and coming in for support, and we are making a difference for them. I personally see it happen in my office.”

Starfish provides highly integrated software solutions that work across academic and student affairs departments to holistically support the success and retention of students. Specifically, the company offers two software systems that work together to reinforce the efforts of academic advisors as they help students overcome challenges. Starfish EARLY ALERT is an early-warning and student-tracking system that makes it possible for instructors, advisors, and academic staff to identify at-risk students in real time. Starfish CONNECT, an education networking and case management system, helps students access a personalized contact list of instructors, advisors, and counselors who are dedicated to helping them succeed. Together, the systems generate valuable performance and resource utilization data for the institution, which helps optimize future service offerings.

“We are excited to see the ways that the Starfish system makes connecting students and advisors easier at the University of Illinois Springfield,” said David Yaskin, CEO of Starfish Retention Solutions. “By harnessing the data that UIS already has in Blackboard and Banner — and by making it easy for faculty to contribute to that data — we are facilitating even more effective student success outcomes.”

Webinar Invitation: Karen Moranski, associate vice-chancellor for undergraduate education, and Carmalita Kemayo, undergraduate academic advisor, will be co-presenting a complimentary Webinar on Thursday, Oct. 31, at 2 p.m. ET. Register at

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 faculty concerns, 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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John Plunkett
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