The second-oldest institution in the U.S., William & Mary (W&M) serves 6,543 undergraduates and 2,974 graduate students at its campus in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Known as an academically rigorous institution, 82 percent of W&M’s student body comes from the top 10 percent of their high school class. With that degree of rigor, many students struggle with mental health and emotional wellbeing. In order to properly address these concerns and its student body, W&M utilizes Advocate to support students through data collection to determine past trends and future interventions from a recent system overhaul. Now, Advocate works more efficiently and is a powerful tool for W&M.
From Overhaul to Success
Two years ago, W&M hired Dennis Kerwin as the Assistant Director of Student Services to overhaul Advocate so W&M could use the system to its full potential. When Kerwin started, the initial process involved reems of paper and random notebooks filled with notes that W&M was using, alongside Advocate, to manage student notes, track student engagement, files, and more. The data wasn’t being effectively tracked or analyzed within Advocate. Kerwin’s goal was to organize what already existed in Advocate and organize the various paper notes so that it could be useful for the institution allow it to delivered more optimal services to students.
"We use Advocate really as a central hub to get an overall picture of what is happening with a student. By keeping track of everything through Advocate, we are able to easily look up a student profile and all their interactions within the university now."
Assistant Director of Student Services, William & Mary
As a first step, Kerwin sat down with Advocate’s client success managers for a discovery call to click through everything that existed in Advocate to see whether it was working for the institution and what information the office actually wanted to track. That discovery call led to a full report from Symplicity’s client managers with a six-phase plan on how to fix what existed in W&M’s Advocate system.
The goal was to make the system work smarter, not harder, for W&M. This initially began with creating a public CARE report form, known as the “Student Success Action Forms,” that ensured any CARE report entered gets appropriately directed to the right team through the Dean of Students office. “We use Advocate really as a central hub to get an overall picture of what is happening with a student,” said Kerwin. “By keeping track of everything through Advocate, we are able to easily look up a student profile and all their interactions within the university now.”
The initial overhaul of W&M’s Advocate system was focused on ensuring that the Dean of Students Office was gathering the right information to make data-informed decisions on campus. That meant looking carefully at the CARE intake form to ask the right questions to gather the right data that told the story of W&M’s student body by the end of the year. “It has really It has really allowed us to figure out what questions we want answered through our data, and then set the system up to support that idea,” said Kerwin.
Previously, without a robust, configurable form, W&M was able to say they received a certain number of CARE reports, but didn’t have a way of telling what their office did with those submitted forms, including who responded to them and what action was taken. “To actually finally say we're doing something with the data and putting it at the forefront has been huge,” said Kerwin. “Upon conversations with our client manager and asking ‘Here’s what we would love to capture,’ and being able to report that has been pivotal to writing my end of year report to show what our office has done to respond to CARE reports, especially at a time when mental health concerns are at the forefront of institutions.”
With that data, W&M’s CARE team meets every week with representatives across campus that include: campus police, counseling center, student health center, residence life, and multiple Dean of Students representatives. This has increased W&M’s strong cross-campus collaboration to address mental health concerns, sexual harassment concerns, academic integrity, and more to ensure that students can get wraparound support from their university that is looking out for their success.
Being able to get accurate data and create workflows to ensure students of concern are addressed, W&M now has a more streamlined process to not only provide robust support to students, but also to report the office’s number of incident responses. Plus, with better data, W&M can provide better year-end reporting to get a holistic picture of what their student body is facing. “I was able to talk about what our year has looked like,” said Kerwin. “I was able to say that 75 percent of our CARE reports from the institution fell around six areas of concern and able to identify what our top six priorities are to better understand and support our student body.”
“Working with our client managers has been critical to our success,” Kerwin said. “I know I'm not their only client, but I feel like I am, and I feel like I'm given that attention.” From the initial system overhaul to today, Advocate client managers sat with Kerwin to ensure that the system would work for him and his office. “It didn’t feel stressful at all, and I felt like they were by my side the entire time,” Kerwin said. Advocate’s client managers come from higher education with firsthand experience of Kerwin’s role, helping W&M answer any big and small questions to ensure Kerwin’s success.
Following the initial legwork from the client managers, Kerwin took their advice of learning the system to heart. “Advocate is so much more flexible than you think,” said Kerwin. “I really initially thought there was only so much I could do within Advocate, but once the client managers sat with me to discuss what I wanted to happen within the system and they mapped it out for me, I was able to make Advocate work for W&M instead of W&M work for Advocate. We made it work for us.”
"Working with our client managers has been critical to our success. I know I'm not their only client, but I feel like I am, and I feel like I'm given that attention... I was able to make Advocate work for W&M instead of W&M work for Advocate."
Assistant Director of Student Services, William & Mary
Using Advocate and Accommodate Together
William & Mary not only utilizes Advocate to support its students, but is also a Symplicity Accommodate and CSM campus. As a campus with all three Symplicity products, the institution can utilize the technology to create better campus collaboration to ensure it is properly supporting all students. These products can "speak" to one another to provide a 360 degree picture of what is happening with a student. "It doesn’t say what your disability is. It doesn’t say what the accommodation are, it simply yes or no, and just lets us know they have been working with accessibility services," said Kerwin. "That’s really helpful for me as somebody who triages CARE reports, knowing that your accessibly services team is responding to some care reports as well, as our entire office is, but it’s allowing me as somebody sitting back to look at that full picture and sometime be the person to bring those puzzle pieces together." This has ensured that William & Mary's campus isn't working in silos to provide holistic, wraparound student support.