Skip to content Skip to navigation


Innovation and Incubator Grants from the University System of Georgia

Establishing the Professional Advising Mentoring Network

Fort Valley State University


Grant Type: 
Project Lead: 
Stevie L. Lawrence II, Ph.D.
Dean, University College
Other team members: 

Jesse F. Kane
Vice Provost, Student Success & Enrollment Management


Project Description: 

When academic advising is appropriately integrated into the educational process, it plays a critical role in positioning students for success in college and beyond. The academic advising process is an opportunity to foster and support student engagement, assist students with their development, and guide them toward achieve learning outcomes, while encouraging intentional and purposeful academic major selection that lead to rewarding professional opportunities (Campbell & Nutt, 2008).

In many instances, students select academic majors with limited understanding of whether that major truly align with their interests and abilities. This limited understanding can have an adverse effect on an institution’s retention and graduation rates, as well as increase a student’s time-to-degree due to loss of interest, dropped courses and changes in major. Given this reality, it is important that students spend more focused attention in learning what they need to know to be academically successful in their course of study, as well as how their learning will affect them personally, professionally and civically, beyond their college years. As a result, Fort Valley State University (FVSU) seeks to implement a Professional Advising Mentoring (PAM) Network to assists students with making purposeful major selections by helping to connect their academic majors with career exploration and mentoring.

In fall 2017, FVSU enrolled 517 first-time, full-time freshmen. As a part of their acclimation to the university, this subset of students was asked to complete the Noel-Levitz College Student Inventory (CSI). Approximately 60% of these students completed the assessment and based on their responses, we learned that as students enter the university, determining a major is critical. Additionally, student responses revealed the need for additional services related to academic assistance and career coaching. Of the respondents of the survey, 72% of students displayed receptivity to academic assistance, while 55% highlighted their need for career guidance.

Considering the results of the survey, it is critical that Fort Valley State provide additional opportunities to expose students to purposeful major selection that will help influence their success beyond their college experience. These opportunities can be used to compliment the academic advising structure provided as a part of the newly established University College. The PAM Network, developed through a partnership between the University College and the Division of Student Success and Enrollment Management, will serve as such an opportunity. The objectives of the PAM Network are: 1.) To encourage purposeful academic major selection among first-year students; 2.) To connect self-motivated students with experienced professional mentors through meaningful mentoring relationships that allow students to explore connections between their chosen academic majors and careers associated with those majors; and 3.) To assist with first-year student retention by getting students on an academic pathway that aligns with their professional interests, thus reducing the chances of changes in majors.

At FVSU, students choose majors upon admission and entry to the university. The development of the PAM Network will allow students to be immediately clustered with professional mentors who highlight their trajectory, challenges, and successes in their chosen professional fields. Developing this project will contribute greatly to purposeful major selection early on, and provide an opportunity for students to be involved in major and career exploration during their first-year of college, which coincides with the objectives of the University College. The project is collaborative in its approach as it creates strong partnerships between academic and student services, which include an array of campus stakeholders (e.g. University College, Career Services, Student Leadership and Professional Development).  Furthermore, it supports best practices in research literature related to student commitment in completing college, specifically those posited by Wyckoff (1999), who states that the commitment to educational and career goals is perhaps the strongest factor associated with student persistence to degree completion.

The implementation of the PAM Network allows students to develop an “academic mindset’ that promotes academic success. The project will be implemented by recruiting professional mentors that are involved in an array of on- and off-campus professional opportunities related to “major cluster areas” (e.g. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Education, and Social and Behavioral Sciences).

Project Budget



Living & Learning Professional Mentor Seminars


Professional Industry Explorations


Career Exploration Internships




Living & Learning Community Professional Mentoring Seminars: As this project calls for efforts for implementation, first-year students will be placed in learning communities based on academic majors as mentioned above. Therefore, select mentors will provide professional training and development for students over the course of the academic year. Funds allocated for this component of the project will be provided to professional mentors, training materials, and refreshments for seminars, which will likely be held during evening hours.

Professional Industry Explorations: When students select a major, they must visualize themselves working in the industry as a pathway to succeeding in that discipline. The funding provided for this component of the project will serve as a method to allow students to understand how what they have chosen to major in as an undergraduate student become real life in the professional world. This will be accomplished through field experiences, as well as helping students develop a “vision board” to help them determine things that must be done to achieve their professional goals.

Career Exploration Internships: As the PAM Network members will be chosen from major cluster areas, two students will be selected from each cluster area to serve as interns during a two-week period chosen by a PAM Network member. The funds allocated to this portion of the budget will provide a stipend for students selected through a campus-wide application process.

Project Evaluation

The success of the PAM Network project will be evaluated using assessment tools provided to first-year students through the University College. These assessments include both summative and formative methods of collecting student and mentor feedback. Summative Assessments include:  (1) The retention rate of first-year students; (2) Students’ responses on the final evaluation of the program; and (3) The number of express that their chosen major is a “good” academic fit.  Formative assessments include: (1) Weekly reflection papers that student mentees will be required to submit; (2) The number of students who participate in mentoring sessions.


Campbell, S., & Nutt, C. (2008). Academic advising in new global century: supporting student engagement and learning outcomes. Peer Review 10 (1) 4-7.

Wycoff, S. (1999). The academic advising process in higher education: History, research, and Improvement: Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education 13 (1) 1-3.