Kiana Shiroma, Michael Kirk-Kuwaye, and Jennifer Brown, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Why should all advisors engage in scholarly activities? Because the stakes have been raised. With the increasing focus on data-driven decision making, advisors must strengthen their scholarly backgrounds to effectively engage in the administrative landscape and ensure advising efficacy and support. For decades, advisors have been stating how important advising is to higher education, and now we are seeing that others think so too. The many studies attesting to positive advisor impact, as well as advisor contributions to college campuses, are regularly being cited by college administrators. Advisors are serving on more campus committees, being asked to provide feedback on academic policies and procedures, and taking leadership roles as individuals or through their units. Advising has become integral to institutional goals that pertain to student success. However, when our departments and campuses, and higher education in general, rely on our judgment, we need to ensure that we are not just citing anecdotal evidence but forwarding recommendations that are supported with sound research and data. And one of the best ways to make sure our research is valid is to share it.
As advisors, when we share our scholarship, we network. We consult with, present to, and publish for our local and national colleagues, and in the process, get valuable feedback. Our ideas are discussed, tested, and honed. When we share our scholarship, we bring vetted best practice back to our unit and campus for the benefit of our students. The shared experience improves our work both in scholarship and in practice while also strengthening the advising community.
David Spight (2016), a past president of NACADA, states that advisors should be scholar-practitioners so they can then become more effective advocates for students and bring about institutional change. The opening of the NACADA Center for Research at Kansas State University not only highlights the importance of advisors engaging in scholarship and research, but is also a call to action.
However, as advisors, we know how difficult it can be to conduct research. We suffer at times from the “tyranny of the urgent” (Sriram, 2011), especially when students are outside our door, colleagues need to be consulted, and the dean wants an answer. Here are some best practices for advisors who want to engage in scholarship or conduct research, as well as what has worked for us as advisors at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa:
Find your question. Because the academic advising field is dynamic and interdisciplinary (Robbins, 2010), advisors can readily find pertinent research topics. White and Leonard (2010) even suggest that the questions advisors raise every day are all potential research topics. If you feel you lack a certain research skill set to explore your question, take a course, consult with others, or co-investigate with someone who would balance your research approach. Champlin-Scharff (2010) outlines the range of research methods that advisors may use.
Block off time. Find the time to read, reflect, and research. Regularly blocking off time in your calendar to research is one way to ensure that your research agenda stays on track. Even spending 15 minutes reading before the day starts, especially before opening your email, can be productive. Take advantage of lulls in the semester to do in-house projects and studies. Let your director or chair and colleagues know what you are doing—how this will help your unit/campus—and propose your research agenda and schedule. Also, be efficient. Narrowing your reading to a specific area will provide you with in-depth knowledge and be the start of your literature review for future research.
Log out of or pause your email account during your scheduled research time. Email is a common distraction and the increasing inbox number can add to the sense of urgency that modern communication constructs. Pausing your email for a set amount of time can allow you space to focus on the task at hand.
Find a study spot. We often advise students to create good study habits that include finding a place with minimal distractions, yet most of us do not use this strategy. If blocking the time off on your calendar and remaining in your office is not productive, try finding a room on campus you can use or a spot in the library or at a coffee shop where you do not appear available for interruptions.
Create a culture of research. Sometimes this is difficult to do when there is a limited number of advisors in a unit. At the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, we have several campus-wide writing groups consisting of academic advisors. In these groups, we float ideas, share resources, and even provide feedback on each other’s drafts of proposals and articles. If you form a writing group, schedule meetings around regional and national conferences or publication deadlines. Group proposals and co-authored publications can come out of a writing group.
Try a variety of publication formats and media. You do not have to churn out an article a year. If your time is tight for a given semester, write a book review for the NACADA Journal. Hatfield and Wise (2015) recommend publishing in a wide range of formats, such as blog posts, practitioner articles, and book chapters. They also provide strategies on how to be successful in writing for diverse formats. The Journal of Academic Advising, recently established at Indiana University, is another journal devoted to academic advising and is completely online.
Volunteer to be a proposal reader for NACADA and other conferences. This can be a great way to learn more about the process for submitting to present and can also give you an idea of the types of research and assessment activities happening in the advising community.
Take advantage of NACADA resources. One of NACADA’s strategic goals is to have advisors conduct more research, and its board and staff are walking the talk. NACADA offers a broad range of resources that can help advisors at any stage of their research: e-tutorials, an online Clearinghouse of articles and papers, pre-conference workshops, research symposia, grant opportunities, multiple formats for presenting and publishing, committees to join, and the Center for Research (see web links below).
Like many of our colleagues, we, the authors, have been on both ends of the review process: we submitted proposals, essays, and manuscripts for review and/or have served on editorial boards and conference review committees. We know firsthand that feedback provided by reviewers on submissions is positive and constructive. Given this supportive advising community and a broad definition of scholarly activities, we hope that all advisors will see themselves as scholar-practitioners and contribute to the groundswell of changes in higher education that benefit students.
Kiana Shiroma, PhD
Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Michael Kirk-Kuwaye, PhD
Faculty Specialist Emeritus
Colleges of Arts and Sciences Student Academic Services
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Jennifer Brown, EdD
Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
NACADA Research Weblinks
Web Events and Digital Recordings
Center for Research
Research Grant and Writing Resources
Academic Advising Today
Champlin-Scharff, S. (2010). A field guide to epistemology in academic advising research. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 29–35). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
Hatfield, L. J., & Wise, V. L. (2015). A guide to becoming a scholarly practitioner in student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Robbins, R. (2010). Generating scholarship from theory and previous research. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 37–41). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
Spight, D. (2016, June). From the president: Change perspective. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-the-President-Change-Perspective.aspx
Sriram, R. (2011). Engaging research as a student affairs professional. NASPA NetResults. Retrieved from https://works.bepress.com/rishi_sriram/10/
White, E. R., & Leonard, M. J. (2010). The practitioner-researcher: Generating scholarship from practice. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 43–52). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
Cite this article using APA style as: Shiroma, K., Kirk-Kuwaye, M., & Brown, J. (2019, September). Being a scholar-practitioner: Why all advisors need to engage in scholarly activities. Academic Advising Today, 42(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]