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Advisors Who Inspire: A Discussion with Cornell

By Lee Perlis April 5, 2018

Cornell University uses Salesforce for Higher Ed.Great advisors are copilots on the student journey. They guide, support, direct, and most importantly, inspire their students.

As our team works with colleges and universities across the country on Salesforce Advisor Link, we’ve been inspired by the stories of advisors doing things a little differently, and making a big impact.

In this “Advisors Who Inspire” series, you’ll meet trailblazing advisors who combine the art and science of advising, using technology to drive student success in a whole new way.

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Cornell University uses Salesforce for Higher Ed.Torrey Kinsley Jacobs has worked at Cornell University for 12 years, and she’s been in an advising role for two-and-a-half years. Torrey took over a central advising team that was operating on a more traditional counseling model. Since then, she’s helped reinvent their model of support to create a more proactive and personalized experience for students.

One of Torrey’s innovations was the “students-in-trouble” process, which creates automated alerts identifying who are struggling mid-semester. It’s one of the many ways Torrey and her team are working toward anticipating student needs and engaging earlier.

“At one orientation event, Torrey received a standing ovation from new students for her amazing work,” says Rebecca Joffrey, IT Innovation Officer at Cornell.

Here’s what Torrey had to say:

What made you decide to go into student advising?

Torrey: I am constantly listening, observing, and looking for ways to enhance the student experience as the world of higher education evolves. In my previous position as Registrar, I wanted to be able to do more to help the students who felt disconnected. I kept thinking – there has to be a way to get in front of some of these issues earlier, instead of waiting until the end of the semester when the grades come in. So in 2015, I took a leadership position on the college’s central advising team.

Describe a typical “day in the life” of an advisor at Cornell.

Torrey: Every day is an adventure. There are some really fast days where you speak with many different students, faculty, staff, and parents, and then there are the other days that you spend analyzing and planning. I enjoy the fast, putting-out-fires days, but on my off days, I enjoy spending time with the students who like to just stop in and say “hi,” and tell me the good news in their lives.

There is usually a lot of laughter from my office – even on a bad day, because we can always find something to learn from and laugh about.

On a day-to-day basis, I work with 4 different systems: Salesforce, PeopleSoft, our degree audit system, and email. I use Salesforce Pardot for most of my communication. In the morning, I get into work and check out the lay of the land (my email, my calendar, my new cases). Throughout the day, I have appointments and frequent drop-ins from students. If it’s a busy time of year, like during add/drop, then by noon I’m ready for a run – ready to recharge and refocus. Then I come back to power through meetings, or get through my tasks for the day.

What do you think are the most important traits of a great advisor?

Torrey: A great advisor understands that what really matters most in life is human connection. It’s an advisor’s job to listen and help the student see their situation through a different lens. We not only need to be good listeners, but also good storytellers, providing information and perspective that helps the student make the best decision. A great advisor is humble, informative, motivational, and not afraid to share their experiences – good or bad.

    We not only need to be good listeners, but also good storytellers, providing information and perspective that helps the student make the best decision.

What are the biggest challenges you face on a day-to-day basis?

Torrey: Connecting the dots between different sources of information and data can be difficult. But as we are bringing different departments onto our Salesforce instance, it allows us to break down these boundaries and understand better where we, as advisors and administrators, can be more impactful.

As an advisor, how do you use data to do your job?

Torrey: First and foremost, we use it to personalize our outreach, which is something Salesforce has helped us do more effectively. We have also been using data to help us understand the right recommendations to make for students. If a student is struggling halfway through the course, should we encourage them to continue in the course or to drop it? The more historical data we have, the better we can do at informing students of various options and helping them make the best choice.

Can you share a success story?

Torrey: All my students are exceptional and successful in one way or another! And I’m their biggest fan. Not all of them realize it at first, but by creating an environment of openness and respect, students see that we share the same goal: helping them have a great college experience, graduate, and pursue their dreams after Cornell.

Thanks to Torrey for taking the time to share her story with us!

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