Photo page header


Advising Matters

Students find success with academic advising

Kaydee Emperley advising Yler Clark-Chiapparelli

Kaydee Emperley (right), an academic advisor in the Center for Student Success and Retention, meets with advisee and senior student, Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli. Photo by Doug Stremel

From The Ichabod - Spring 2022
By Annie Flachsbarth

When Washburn University senior Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli started college, he thought he could figure everything out on his own and didn’t need to ask for help. Turns out, he needed all the help he could get.

Clark-Chiapparelli came to Washburn as a transfer student to play baseball. But with a low grade-point average from his freshman and sophomore years, Washburn’s Center for Student Success and Retention has been critical to helping Clark-Chiapparelli hit required academic benchmarks as well as achieve overall college success.

“I don’t want to say I was stubborn, but I have grown up and learned a lot,” Clark-Chiapparelli said. “They helped me with time management, making sure my credits transferred and figuring out how to graduate.”

Finding a Connection

The CSSR provides academic advising to keep students on path to on-time graduation – particularly first-generation, underprepared and exploratory students. Director Jeannie Cornelius said although they most likely work with first- and second-year students who have not yet declared their major, she wishes all students would meet with an advisor.

“It’s more than having an academic plan. It’s about having a connection with someone. We’ve seen that those who have a connection are more likely to persist,” Cornelius said. “Many students come back after they’ve declared a major just to check in on a personal level. It’s less about, ‘How are your classes going?’ and more about, ‘How are you doing?’”

When Holly Bergeman, ba ’17, first met with Cornelius, she felt the student-advisor connection right away.

“I was really nervous about starting college, and Jeannie seemed nice and helpful,” Bergeman said. “If I ever had any issues or was struggling, she would always hear me out and offer suggestions. It was good to have the support.”

CSSR advisor Kaydee Emperley agrees that her job is often more like being an academic cheerleader.

“Students can’t always see around the corner. There could be something really menacing coming up,” Emperley said. “I’m their mama bear when they’re here; I’m their biggest advocate. I help push students along and keep them on the right track. It’s what I feel like I’ve been called to do here.”

Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention, believes CSSR advisors drive enrollment and retention.

“Academic advising is the one consistent interaction, happening at a minimum twice per year, that every student has with the University,” Bearman said. “Great advising focused upon student success is, therefore, pivotal in helping students graduate on-time.”

Plan for Success

Fall is the busiest time for the CSSR team every year. In addition to meeting with any undeclared student who needs academic advising, the small but mighty team of four CSSR advisors meet with every student in the Washburn Experience classes to create an academic plan.

“Fall is a trying time,” Emperley said. “We’re empowering students to make their plans and make sure they have what they need to get on course to graduate. But at the same time, we’re trying to make sure they have the skills they need for success – training the student to be responsible and figure it out.”

Even with the help, some students – like Bergeman – have a hard time deciding their path.

“When I still hadn’t decided what to do as a junior, I took Washburn’s Career Exploration course. Jeanine came in as a presenter, and that’s when I realized advising might be a fun career path,” Bergeman said.

After graduating from Washburn, Bergman earned a master's degree in college student counseling and development from Kansas State University – proving just how big of an impact the CSSR advising team has on students.

All told, CSSR’s advisors saw 939 unique students in fall 2021 with 1,742 appointments. In addition, students who attended an advising appointment in fall 2021 returned for spring 2022 at a rate of 86.6%, compared to a 75.1% return rate among those who did not seek advising.

Making the Grade

With hard work, Clark-Chiapparelli realized it takes him 10-15 hours of homework each week to get straight As. In fact, he’s improved his grades and even made the Dean’s List four times since being at Washburn. He was also recently inducted into Lamdba Pi Eta, the National Communication Association honor society.

“I’m not the most scholarly person, but I’ve recognized if you put in the effort, teachers recognize that and good things can happen,” he said.

And good things are happening for Clark-Chiapparelli. He is graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in mass media. After graduation, he will go overseas to continue his baseball career.

“It’s been a crazy journey from where everything started to where I’m at now. I’m grateful for Washburn and all the services they offer to students,” Clark-Chiapparelli said. “They definitely set us up for greatness.”

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


Please enter your username and password below. If you do not have a username and password, click "New user registration" to register.

New user registration
Forgotten password

1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483