E. Gorham

Quest University Canada (CANADA)
Quest University Canada, the country’s first non-profit, independent liberal arts and sciences university, opened its doors to students in September 2007. Among its goals have been to engage undergraduate students across the curriculum and to help change the way Canadians think about university education. In five short years it has achieved the first of these goals and the university has been ranked number one in North America in five important categories in the 2010 and 2011 National Surveys of Student Engagement (NSSE). Two reasons for its success lie in integrating academic advising into the curriculum of the university and in helping students assume control of their own education in the advising process. A third is its focus on developmental mentoring—each student is advised relevant to his or her stage in an academic career and this assistance continues throughout the four years at Quest. After an intensive two-year program of required courses in the liberal arts, students create their own interdisciplinary majors. Consequently a central part of the educational process at Quest is helping students choose a “major” and craft an individual educational plan that meets their needs as active learners.

In this paper and presentation I would like to explain Quest’s overall program, but specifically the role of academic advising in fostering undergraduate student engagement in their own learning. Academic advising succeeds at Quest because students benefit from both in and out of class mentoring and the comprehensive advising program encourages students to think about their own studies in a systematic and critical way. It goes beyond “advising-as-teaching”, as Quest faculty members advise students as co-learners. The “advising-as-co-learning” model encourages faculty to prioritize academic advising in their pedagogical strategies, aids both parties in understanding the strengths and limitations of the advising process, and helps students develop a mature relationship with the faculty member. This, in turn, energizes students in their studies and eases their transition into a career and young adulthood.