Alison Grewe, University of Miami
Recent statistical trends have led experts to project that ethnic minorities will become the numerical majority in the United States by the year 2010 (Cornett-Devito & Reeves, 1999). The impact of this growth is pervasive and, according to Howe & Strauss (2000), is evident in the current generation of students who are the most racially and ethnically diverse in this nation’s history. Those involved with collegiate student development must adapt current policies and practices to better meet the unique needs of our students. As academic advisors charged with facilitating the development of student potential, we must acquire new skills and strategies in order to provide more effective advising services.
At the forefront of the debate surrounding the administration of academic advising services has been the paradigm shift from a prescriptive to a developmental methodology. Proponents of the latter have contended that developmental advising supersedes the scope of prescriptive advising in that it promotes a rational process that embraces the holistic development of the student toward the achievement of a self-fulfilling life (Frost, 2000, p. 12-13). To presume however, that one mode of practice can serve the needs of all students despite social, cultural, and historical differences, is misleading. Brown and Rivas (1994) note that the perception rather should be one in which “…prescriptive advising, rather than being incompatible with a developmental approach to advising, is in fact a significant and necessary part of a thorough developmental advising methodology, one which gives due consideration to individual and group differences and needs” (p. 108). Viewing advising practices through a lens in which developmental advising falls along a continuum, therefore, may be more appropriate when engaging the current generation of students.
In fact, recent trends in the field indicate that some students prefer the directive approach of prescriptive advising. For instance, Brown & Rivas (1995) note that “many people of color have a need for concrete, tangible, structured approaches to addressing and resolving issues and problems” (p. 128). Here, the perception is that the non-directive approach seen in developmental advising techniques may be counter to cultural experiences and therefore be seen as untrustworthy and withholding of information, and thus ultimately confusing and disorienting (Cornett-DeVito & Reeves, 1999, p. 37). Therefore, in the interest of rapport building and the development of trust with a student from a minority cultural background, a “…perceived expertness [may be] crucial to developing a productive ongoing advisor-advisee interaction” (Cornett-DeVito & Reeves, 1999, p. 37). Counter to standard developmental advising practices, to reduce advisee hesitancy, the advisor may be required to take the primary responsibility for the establishment of the advising relationship and provide as much information as possible.
Advisors must be cognizant of the students’ individual and cultural characteristics and adjust their advising methodology to address students’ specific needs. To effectively meet developmental advising goals, advisors must recognize the need to change their approach with the changing environment (Priest & McPhee, 2000, p. 110). To this extent, advisors are charged with “…examining their knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and feelings” relative to a culturally diversified student body (Priest & McPhee, 2000, p. 110). Advisors who reflect upon their own beliefs, attitudes and biases are afforded an opportunity to develop an awareness of their relational style and the level to which services are provided in a competent, sensitive, and appropriate way. However, the development of advisors’ competencies should not be limited solely to an understanding of their own views but should incorporate an “understanding of the students’ life experiences and the resultant philosophical assumptions that they carry with them” (Brown & Rivas, 1995, p. 124) if the process is to be meaningful and effective.
The culmination of this perceptual awareness and the subsequent development of a competent skill set can only ensure the implementation of strategies that serve the best interest of students while ensuring a positive experience. The guidance and support provided to students during the first year is often the essential component to their integration, persistence and achievement; thus, for advisors the “challenge is to identify and implement interventions that will support increased levels of achievement and success” (Brown & Rivas, 1995, p. 126). Such interventions should include the implementation of effective referral systems, facilitating relationships with faculty mentors and professionals, and encouraging students to utilize the dynamics of a group setting to promote peer interaction and academic success. To successfully implement these strategies advisors must “acquire verbal and nonverbal communication skills necessary to be appropriately and effectively adaptable to students” (Cornett-DeVito & Reeves, 1999, p. 39).
Recent “retention studies have shown that effective academic advising is positively correlated to students’ satisfaction with their college experience” (Priest & McPhee, 2000, p. 106). Advisors who understand that minority students often underutilize advising services realize that they must continually develop their skills and strategies if they are to meet students’ diversified needs (Gordon et al., 2000; Brown & Rivas, 1995). Advisors must use varied interventions if they are to demonstrate flexibility and empathy that takes into account the world views and cultural trends presented by this new generation of students. Advisors who interact with a diversified student body must possess a skill set that incorporates knowledge about cultural groups and norms, appropriate and effective verbal and nonverbal aptitudes, and an awareness of the factors that support social and academic integration. Ultimately, as the campus student population becomes increasingly diverse, advisors must adapt their skills and strategies if they are to effectively support students in the development of their total potential.
Academic & Career Advisor in Residence
University of Miami
Brown, T. & Rivas, M. (1994). The prescriptive relationship in academic advising as an appropriate developmental intervention with multicultural populations. NACADA Journal, 14 (2), 108-111.
Brown, T. & Rivas, M. (1995). Pluralistic advising: Facilitating the development and achievement of first-year students of color. In M.L. Upcraft & G.L. Kramer (ed.), First-year academic advising: Patterns in the present, pathways to the future. (pp. 121-133). Columbia: University of South Carolina.
Cornett-Devito, M., & Reeves, K. (1999). Preparing students for success in a multicultural world: Faculty advisement and intercultural communication. NACADA Journal, 19 (1), 35-44.
Frost, S.H. (2000) Historical and Philosophical Foundations for Academic Advising. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley & Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook(pp. 3-17). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R. & Associates. (2000). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2000) Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York: Vintage Books.
Priest, R. and McPhee, S.A. (2000). Advising Multicultural Students: The reality of diversity. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley & Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 105-115). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Cite this article using APA style as: Grewe, A. (2007, June). Adapting academic advising strategies to meet the needs of a diversified student body. Academic Advising Today, 30(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]