Neeley Navigators

Neeley Navigators: Students Helping Students Navigate the B-School

When your school is so popular that advisors are swamped, you swoop in to help.

September 10,  2018

By Elaine Cole

When Nick Guarino Lindsey Thompson and Paul Freeman brainstormed ideas for their junior-year impact project in the BNSF Neeley Leadership program, they saw a challenge right in their own back yard.

“We had a lot of ideas and traced it down to what we were most passionate about, and that is TCU and Neeley and wanting to make a lasting impact here while helping others,” Guarino said. 

There are more than 2,300 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the Neeley School of Business, and Neeley Academic Advising is dedicated to meeting one-on-one with each of them. The 700-plus TCU freshmen interested in business each year are advised in groups of 20. 

Guarino, Thompson and Freeman saw an opportunity to make freshmen advising a better experience. Meanwhile, TCU Neeley advisors were asking themselves how they could better serve freshmen. 

It wasn’t long before they all met and compared notes. The result: peer-to-peer advising. 

Guarino, Thompson and Freeman held dozens of interviews and put together a select team of 16 student advisor/helpers called Neeley Navigators, “all rock stars,” according to Guarino, all representing different majors, all committed to helping. 

Neeley Academic Advising trained them on admissions, academics, and how to refer students if they had other concerns. 

Last spring, Neeley Navigators opened a desk in front of the Neeley Academic Advising offices, Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The desk was an easy-access, high-visibility opportunity for any student to walk up and ask questions.

And they did. 

Students asked about interview dates and times. They asked about summer school, student organizations, study abroad, tutoring, and balancing class schedules with obligations outside of school. They asked about scholarships and transferring credits. They talked about dropping or changing classes.

“We prepared a handbook that answered a lot of questions, but there are always a few that don’t fit, so it was an opportunity for us and the advisors to hear about problems we might not have thought of,” Thompson said. 

Neeley Navigators has not only responded to demands in an inventive and impactful way, it has changed the narrative about student advising. 

“The impact is the success of the program,” Freeman said. “The number of students we’ve been able to talk to is beyond our wildest dreams.”

Their worse-case scenario was that they would talk to 10 students. If it went well they might talk to 50 students over course of a semester. By the end of the spring semester, Neeley Navigators had seen and helped 100 students. 

Now, as the fall semester begins, the original 16 are fielding dozens of requests from fellow students to join Neeley Navigators. 

Jon Adams, Michael Bowen, Erin Heffernan and Sarah Callan are now guiding the current team and new recruits. Guarino, Thompson and Freeman passed along everything they did and all the resources they created so they could take a step back and see the program expand and flourish. 

“The Navigators are dedicated and driven to continue to make this difference on campus,” Thompson said.