How the Columbia School of Social Work leverages Stellic to empower students and enrich advising


The Columbia School of Social Work creates a hands-on learning environment that prepares students to tackle today’s social equity challenges. A hallmark of the Master’s in Social Work (MSW) program is Practicum Learning, where students directly apply their academic classroom training to real experience as a social worker. 

The advising model of Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) is designed to complement the practicum experience. Most advisors are full-time social work professionals who guide students as they work toward their future careers.

Advisors still guide students through key elements of their journey such as course planning, degree tracking, and registration. Historically, information and tools were siloed, making it typical for students and advisors to spend considerable time tracking progress and understanding the path ahead. Once the Student Services team caught wind of Stellic, they saw how it could give both students and advisors shared visibility into a student’s path at CSSW.

“We realized pretty quickly that Stellic could be very crucial for an institution like ours where our advising team is helping students navigate the practicum elements as well. It involves so much more for them.” - Cheiku Camara, Assistant Dean for Student Services, Columbia School of Social Work

Where Stellic fits in

Pathways in Stellic would let students visualize and personalize their Master’s degree journey while keeping advisors in the loop. Up to that point, program requirements and related information lived in administrators' heads and their homegrown systems. The CSSW team understood that Stellic would provide a way to disseminate that information into the hands of students and empower them to assume ownership over their academic experience.

The upshot was that Stellic would facilitate more meaningful conversations between students and their advisors. Instead of asking surface-level questions about their requirements, students could talk through topics from the classroom, or dive deep into experiences from their work in the field.

The impact

90% of students at Columbia School of Social Work engage with Stellic to understand and personalize their degree pathway. They enjoy a full, dynamic picture of their current progress alongside their courses, electives, and practicum. Previously, students would rely on advisors or administrators to be the source of truth for this information. 

“Stellic makes it so simple for students to track their progress and see their future plan. I’ve sat down with students and opened the tool, and they go ‘oh, that’s all I need to do?’” - Marlene Leo, Associate Director of Advising, Columbia School of Social Work

The transparency that Stellic provides has been just as valuable for advisors, almost all of whom are full-time social work professionals. In the past, they needed to effectively memorize the curriculum requirements just to advise students ahead of registration. Today, Stellic saves them time and effort as they can simply open a student’s pathway.

“We don't expect them [advisors] to know the ins and outs of student affairs and academic affairs. So the fact that this tool is able to do that for them saves a significant amount of time.” - Marlene Leo

The platform has helped to shift the nature of advising sessions. User-friendly pathways and information have meant that students and advisors are more often aligned from the onset. The CSSW team has noted that fewer sessions are centered around requirements and curriculum. That impact is substantial – the advisors provide valuable insights and guidance in their capacity as full-time social workers. Their time is much better spent imparting knowledge about the discipline and helping students hone the skills that social work requires.

“These things [degree requirements] don’t need advising time, whereas there are a lot of other important matters that our students are navigating that need devoted advising time. It’s more meaningful for our advisors as well.” - Marlene Leo

Furthermore, the platform’s reporting capability has allowed for proactive help from advisors at CSSW. Many advisors create reports that trigger notifications whenever students fall into criteria that may call for additional conversations.

Zooming out, the platform’s transparency and accessibility have ushered a greater emphasis on the student journey across CSSW. In the past, information about pathways and requirements was only held in a small corner of the school. Democratizing that information has caused the broader community at CSSW to support students from the degree progress perspective, including administrators, staff, and other student support services.

“It’s definitely just expanded the field of people who can help and support students, and it’s encouraged people to understand the different pieces along the student lifecycle.” - Cheiku Camara

What’s still to come

Energized by these impacts, the Columbia SSW team is currently exploring new ways to leverage Stellic to provide high-quality advising and student services  – all of which keep the student experience at the core. The team plans to integrate more advising operations and data into Stellic to render it a unified workspace for advisors. Specifically, integration with their LMS to bring data around grades and engagement into Stellic will give advisors another axis along which to help students proactively. And to reduce friction for students seeking out help, the team plans to explore appointment scheduling in Stellic, allowing students to schedule a session with their advisor directly from the tool.

“Both those pieces would be huge for our team because we want to try and support students as early as possible when there are issues and make sure advisors are there to help.” - Marlene Leo

The team both celebrates their wins and acknowledges that the journey is far from finished. As they imagine new ways for Stellic to enrich student services at CSSW, they continuously put the student’s journey at the forefront of everything they do.

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