Sachiko Komagata, Georgian Court University
Academic advising has historically been viewed as counseling, teaching (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005; Lowenstein, 2009), and learning (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005). These perspectives provide academic advisors useful frameworks to enhance outcomes in academic success as well as career identification and preparation. However, academic advising is still one of the most unappreciated college experiences. It is not uncommon to hear advisors and students who do not value advising as a meaningful and fulfilling experience. It is time to add another perspective that supports advising as being more meaningful to both students and their advisors.
Typically, undergraduate students meet their advisors 1–2 times per semester for 30–60 minutes. In most cases, there is an age gap between the advisee and advisor. The advisors may be a part of the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, or Millennials, while most undergraduate students belong to Gen Z as of today in 2021. In general, undergraduate students are younger, while their advisors are older in their chronological age, except for untraditional, returning students, and in professional or graduate programs where advisors may be younger than the students. Thus, academic advising sessions inherently provide intergenerational dialogue opportunity.
Lack of Intergenerational Dialogue Among College Students
According to a United States Census Bureau (2016) report, most children under age 18 (69%) live with two parents. The second most common family structure is children living with a single mother (23%). Today, extended family that promotes intergenerational dialogues within the household is uncommon in the US. Furthermore, college students living in a residence hall would spend the majority of their time with their peers in the same generation.
Based on the family structure statistics, undergraduate students often lack regular encounters and communication with middle-aged and older adults. This lack of intergenerational interaction can contribute further to developing awkwardness, discomfort, or even misunderstanding between different generations through prejudice and unfamiliarity. Similarly, middle-aged and older advisors may choose a 55 plus community to further isolate and reduce interactions among diverse generations.
Benefits of Intergenerational Activities
Intergenerational activities and programs have been researched in different parts of the world. One in Japan (Murayama et al., 2019) determined that intergenerational programs demonstrate positive spill-over effect in the community beyond the direct positive impacts on study participants. Interactions between advisors and advisees during advising sessions can have spill-over effects in the college and university community and beyond.
Another benefit that has been documented repeatedly about intergenerational activities and programs is positive attitude change (Dellmann-Jenkins et al., 1994; O’Connor et al., 2019). Young participants who never smile at middle-aged and older adults on the street began noticing their attitude change in their own behaviors, such as smiling to them on street. Advisors and advisees may realize such positive attitude change in themselves over time on campus and in the community.
How then can academic advisors and advisees take advantage of such benefits from advising sessions? It can start with awareness. Once advisors pay attention to the potential positive benefits of intergenerational interactions between academic advisors and advisees, it is time to look at some of the potential challenges in advising as intergenerational dialogue.
Challenges of Intergenerational Dialogue in Advising Context
Some advisors may attempt to understand their advisees by comparing them with their own past experiences. They may easily fail to keep the student’s unique context in their encounter. For instance, some advisors may unconsciously state “I worked hard to get where I am.” The unspoken implication is that the student is not working hard enough. These advisors may lack empathy when their students are not performing well or approaching academic probation status.
In addition to generational prejudice, misunderstanding can emerge from a simple communication thread. Many of our undergraduate students (Generation Z) grew up with their cell phones and other electronic personal devices. Their texting practices typically use abbreviated messages multiple times a day rather than a well-constructed email. For some advisors who rarely text, it can be perceived as “These students do not know how to write” or “Read more carefully and ask the most necessary questions.” To overcome such challenges, the following simple yet powerful mindful steps can be implemented to take full advantage of advising as an intergenerational dialogue and learning opportunity for all of us.
Breathe. Immediately before each advising session, budget one minute just to pay attention to breathing. One may prefer to notice the air coming in and out from the nostrils or put one’s hand on the abdomen and prefer to notice the rise and fall of the hand as one breathes.
Be Curious and Be Interested. As the advisor reviews the advisee’s record, notice oneself being curious and genuinely interested in who they are and how they arrived at this point academically and personally. Race, ethnicity, age, GPA, etc. are read without forming prejudice or assumptions, but are the sources to elevate one’s genuine curiosity and interest in the advisee.
View a Photo of Oneself at the Age of the Advisee. Before meeting Generation Z, view a photo of oneself at that age category. This certainly helps the advisor shift their perspective as an expert, teacher, or professional advisor to one of the advisee. This photo gazing may support the formation of self-compassion that then can be expressed as compassion for the advisee.
Smile. Share an internal smile to oneself then share a genuine smile with the advisee. Facial muscles that are used to smile encourage the brain and the entire body to feel better as the brain perceives the smile as one of the signals to feel better. An advisor’s warm smile in person or virtually also supports the advisee and helps them feel at home and relax. Smiling at each other is one of the common human expressions regardless of the generation.
Academic advising has been viewed from multiple perspectives. While each view supports advising outcomes, there are still some advisees and advisors who underappreciate advising. To promote both advisors and advisees finding meaningfulness in advising, advising can be viewed as an intergenerational dialogue opportunity. Advising dialogues between younger and older generations bring benefits, such as positive attitude changes as well as a ripple effect in the college campus and beyond. Although challenges exist in intergenerational dialogues during advising, there are simple mindful steps one can take to not only overcome such challenges, but also to fully engage in advising as an intergenerational dialogue opportunity.
Sachiko Komagata, PT, PhD
Director of Advising
Chair/Associate Professor in Integrative Health
Department of Integrative Health & Exercise Science
School of Arts and Sciences
Georgian Court University
Dellmann-Jenkins, M., Fowler, L., Lambert, D., Fruit, D., Richardson, R. (1994). Intergenerational sharing seminars: Their impact on young adult college students and senior guest students. Educational Gerontology, 20(6), 579–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/0360127940200604
Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 74–83. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-25.2.74
Lowenstein, M. (2009). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 29(1), 123–131. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.123
Murayama, Y., Murayama, H., Hasebe, M., Yamaguchi, J., & Fujiyama, Y. (2019). The impact of intergenerational programs on social capital in Japan: Randomized population-based cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1–9.
O’Connor, J. P., Alfrey, L., Hall, C., & Hall, G. (2019, May). Intergenerational understandings of personal, social and community assets for health. Health and Place, 57, 218–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.05.004
United States Census Bureau. (2016, November 17). The majority of children live with two parents, Census Bureau reports (Release No. CB16-192). https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-192.html
Cite this article using APA style as: Komagata, S. (2021, September). Academic advising as meaningful intergenerational dialogue opportunity. Academic Advising Today, 44(3). [insert url here]