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Source: Melinda Sinn, 785-532-5888,
News release prepared by: Jared Betts, 785-532-2529,

Friday, Sept. 18, 2009


MANHATTAN -- For college students, a trusting relationship with an academic adviser can be crucial in helping them succeed academically.

That's why Kansas State University has been developing new degree programs that deal strictly with academic advising.

K-State, in collaboration with the National Academic Advising Association, has created an online graduate certificate and a master's degree in academic advising. The programs and the field of academic advising are attracting students of varying educational backgrounds.

Michael Ray, Lansing, completed the academic advising graduate certificate in May 2009, and has already applied for admission into K-State's master's degree program in the field.

Ray is a retired military officer and works for Northrop Grumman, a company that uses simulations to train commanding officers based at Fort Leavenworth. Since Ray's job takes him all over the world, including Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq, he said the distance element of K-State's academic advising program is important and the courses are helpful in his work.

"The courses help you learn to put yourself in other people's shoes and you end up being able to work better with all kinds of people," he said. Ray previously earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Houston and a master's degree in security studies from California State University at San Bernardino.

Jayna Elsasser, Manhattan, realized how important the relationship between adviser and student was while working on campus. When she finished her undergraduate degree in family studies and human services, she enrolled in a few courses from the academic advising graduate certificate program. She said it wasn't long until she was hooked.

"I thought the certificate would help me decide if advising was something I was truly interested in doing as a career, and soon after I began that program, I enrolled in the master's program," she said.

After completing her master's degree in academic advising, Elsasser was able to get a job as an academic adviser in K-State's department of landscape architecture and regional and community planning in October 2008.

She said the courses she took definitely related to what she is doing now.

The graduate certificate and master's degree programs are also can be helpful to individuals who already work as academic advisers but wish to provide better service to their students by learning more about their needs.

Rebecca Bilderback, Iola, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and began working as an academic adviser at Allen Community College in Iola.

"My supervisor at the time had earned his master's degree and doctorate at K-State and was very confident about the university's programs and online education," Bilderback said. "I'd also heard about K-State's program at NACADA conferences, and I started to think it might be a really good opportunity."

Bilderback also took interest in the program because K-State is one of only two online academic advising programs in the nation, and she liked K-State's distance-accessible format.

Now the director of admissions at Allen Community College, Bilderback is in charge of training the college's advisers and is passing on the information she learned while in the master's program at K-State. She said being able to interact with peers from other universities -- and sometimes even other countries -- has helped her find ways to solve administrative issues in her position.

"I've been able to change some of the things we do, and I've integrated some of my peers' ideas about training and getting information to advisers," Bilderback said.

Bilderback completed her master's degree in academic advising in May 2009. She recommends the program to present and future advisers, as well as administrators and other professionals.

"I think people in the counseling field or department chairs would definitely benefit from the program," Bilderback said. "It doesn't just focus on academic advising; it also focuses on the academic life, how to treat students, and how to handle different situations."

More information about the K-State academic advising programs is available at

A listing of all available distance education programs is available by contacting the K-State Division of Continuing Education at 1-800-622-2578, or on the Web at