Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




First-year student retention, academic advising, resistance to change, student success, student attrition, proactive advising


Student retention is an issue that impacts most post-secondary institutions in Canada. For the majority of these institutions, the student retention issue is most acute in first-year students. This Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP) seeks to address the Problem of Practice (PoP) of poor first-year student retention outcomes within a mid-sized post-secondary institution in Ontario (University X). Specifically, it explores the vital role that academic advisors play in retaining post-secondary students. With flat domestic enrollment numbers and challenges facing the international student market coupled with a restructured provincial government funding model, retaining students has become more important than ever before. Failure to adequately pivot to address the institution's challenges may result in significant, undesirable financial consequences for the institution. Unfortunately, in its current formation, the academic advisors are not well-positioned to optimally impact student retention outcomes. Central to this OIP are the recommended leadership approaches and the adequate framing of the Problem of Practice. Transactional and transformational leadership approaches will be implemented, and the problem is framed using Bolman & Deal’s four frames along with a PEST analysis. Resistance plays a central role within this OIP and establishing ways to address it are explored through utilizing Kotter’s Eight-Stage Change Process and Duck’s Five-Stage Change Curve as a roadmap for the change. In addition, using a PDSA cycle to monitor and evaluate the success of the desired changes coupled with the implementation of a strong communication plan of the changes is central to the success of the OIP.