Academic Advising: Responding from an Administrative Perspective
Kathryn Martin, 2003 NACADA Pacesetter Award Recipient
Advising is one of the most crucial functions on any college or university campus. The purpose of these comments is to share with you one campus’s perception of progress to date and how we intend to look into the future, as we strengthen and continue to improve the nature and definition of advising at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD).
Critical to a defined and successful university advising program is keen administrative support that is manifest in the articulated expectation of quality advising. Certainly a reward system which includes advising as a priority is appropriate within a university culture which values and supports advising. Further, as administrators, we frequently have deep concerns about retention, when our primary focus should be the quality of advising.
The crux of the issue in strengthening advising relates directly to the effectiveness of the transition from “prescriptive” advising to a diverse and integrated advising process that is clearly and distinctly dedicated to both academic achievement and the successful development of the person. Thus advising must become central to collegiate success and must be prioritized as such.
At the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), the definition of advising that underscores those elements valued by our university and that has provided a framework for our refocusing of the advising process, is the definition of David Crockett: (Crockett, p.3)
“Academic advising is a developmental process which assists students in the clarification of their life/career goals and in the development of educational plans for the realization of these goals. It is a decision-making process by which students realize their maximum educational potential through communication and information exchanges with an advisor; it is ongoing, multifaceted, and the responsibility of both student and advisor. The advisor serves as a facilitator of communication, a coordinator of learning experiences through course and career planning and academic progress review, and an agent of referral to other campus agencies as necessary.”
At UMD advising is within the purview of Deans and Associate Deans. The associate deans generally coordinate student affairs within collegiate units. We also have an Advisement Coordination Center that serves a three fold mission: provides a safety net for students who perceive that they have had a distressing advising experience; arranges training for faculty and staff; and coordinates collegiate advisement exchanges with Student Affairs personnel.
We believe that answering the “who should be advising” question is less important than the interrelationship and quality of communication among the various individuals involved in advising. Coordinating the communication must be a function of one person involved in the advising process and must have a regular structure.
Strong advising programs have a combination of faculty who are interested and committed to advising as well as professional advisors. Faculty from within a student’s major can provide keen insights into skills development and the status of skills development within the major and can participate in the recording of assessment data relative to the student’s future progress within the major.
Administrative support of advising and to the establishment of a culture that values advising is the cornerstone of a successful collaborative and interactive advising process. Without the collaborative and interactive process both among the advisors and with the advisees, advising will seldom achieve the level of success that students deserve.
The role of the advisor at UMD is to: help students clarify their educational values and goals; guide students toward an academic program in which they can be successful, and acquaint students with campus resources to support academic and personal development and success.
Students are responsible to schedule, prepare for and keep advising appointments. However on occasion, advisors may need to assist the students in the scheduling of appointments. Obviously, any campus must have a respectful and supportive relationship between housing staff and faculty and professional advising personnel.
From our perspective at UMD, critical to a future of successful faculty advising is our commitment to provide electronic support to eliminate or nearly eliminate the function of faculty “bookkeeping” for each advisee. Faculty must be provided electronic support in an effort to reduce the amount of time spent on viewing transcripts, assessing progress toward meeting general education requirement, progress toward the major and subsequent progress toward the degree.
The UMD electronic support system is the ePortfolio, which is an electronic data collection system, which will interface with a graduation planner, specific to the major, all of which is secured. Think of the graduation planner as a departmental “check list.” Each semester the updated student data, courses taken and grades will be automatically downloaded from PeopleSoft student records to the student’s ePortfolio. Students will be initially introduced to the ePortfolio at Orientation. At the time of pre-registration and the selection of a major, students will have the specific department graduation planner integrated with the ePortfolio. Each student will then have a graduation planner aimed at four year graduation which will include a semester by semester format of all required general education courses, required courses in the major and recommended electives. Each semester the record will be updated and will have the capacity to chronologically include assessment materials. The latter is particularly critical in the major where specific skill sets are required to advance to the next level of course work.
Currently, we have selected one department from each collegiate unit to design the department specific templates for their graduation plan. We are also beginning the development of training materials, for both student training and advisor training, and this training will be coordinated by our Academic Coordination Center working with faculty, students and student affairs officers in the collegiate units.
There is no better indicator of the quality of undergraduate education than reflected in the quality of the institution’s advising process. Publicly articulated administrative support and appropriate reward structures set the tone for a collegiate culture that values and sustains quality advising. The focus of advising should be far more than “prescriptive” recording keeping. Instead it should include the technological support needed to provide advisors with the opportunity for both mentoring academically and monitoring the successful development of the person. As administrators it is our obligation to consistently self examine our actions and our programs in hopes of maximizing educational potential. Without exception, successful advising reflects a successful educational experience!
Chancellor, University of Minnesota Duluth
Crockett, David S., (ed.), Advising Skills, Techniques and Resources: A Compilation of Materials Related to the Organization and Delivery of Advising Services. ACT Corporation, Iowa City, Iowa, 1987.
Gordon, Virginia N., Wesley R. Habley and Associate. Academic Advising a Comprehensive Handbook. Jossey-Bass, Inc., San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Gordon, Virginia, N., Handbook of Academic Advising, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1992
Kramer, Gary L. (ed.). Faculty Advising Examined – Enhancing the Potential of College Faculty as Advisors, Anker Publishing Company, Inc. Bolton, MA, 2003.
From the President
Eric White, NACADA President
This is my first newsletter column as your president for this next year. First, I would to like to let you know how much of an honor it is to serve you in this capacity. I have been actively involved in NACADA since l983 and have witnessed its tremendous growth, but perhaps more important, watched as NACADA, as a professional association, has taken on a vital role in higher education. Quality academic advising is as important as ever for the success of our students. NACADA, as the premiere association devoted exclusively to encouraging the very best of academic advising practices, has a most important part to play in this success. I believe that as a professional association we have risen to the challenge, but there is still much that needs to be done.
Membership: While we have seen what, even modestly, can be called phenomenal growth, we probably have not reached out to all of the individuals who are providing academic advising. It is important that academic advisors identify with a professional organization that supports their work; the more members NACADA has, the more NACADA can do. This year our Membership Committee will develop a new membership initiative to seek out more academic advisors in our institutions. Specifically we need to know who we have missed…advisors at community colleges? at traditional liberal arts colleges? at major research institutions?-- and reach out to them. I know NACADA has something of benefit to offer and frankly, from my perspective, it’s the “best deal in town.”
Professional Development: In many ways the heart and soul of NACADA are its professional development activities ranging from regional conferences each spring to our multi-day institutes to our national conference each fall (don’t forget next year it’s in Las Vegas.) In addition to these activities, NACADA produces a series of monographs, a journal and has sponsored a teleconference. Our plans for the near future include – “at-a-distance” programming (web casts, on-line courses, or videoconferences), programs for faculty advisors, and additional publications. These professional development opportunities revitalize us, connect us with colleagues from across the nation and indeed the world, and allow us the chance to develop new skills and reexamine our practice. I urge all members to take advantage of these offerings. A wide range of opportunities are purposely offered so that those with limited funds still can have the chance to participate. Bring along colleagues, perhaps someone new to advising, and introduce them to others engaged in this endeavor we call academic advising.
Volunteering: Although NACADA has an Executive Office of which we are extremely proud, the foundational work of the association is done by the many volunteers who find it both personally and professionally rewarding to be a part of NACADA. There are many opportunities for involvement and I encourage everyone to become an active participant in NACADA. This can be done at virtually all levels of the organization. Volunteers bring NACADA its spirit of innovation and energy. You can become involved by simply asking someone: “What can I do to help?” This question will give you more responses than you can imagine. You can also go to our Website (http://www.nacada.ksu.edu) to volunteer.
NACADA has always prized our “grassroots” philosophy: the fact that the organization is open to anyone (one of our strengths is the organization’s diversity of volunteers) and that ideas for improvement and innovation often come from the “bottom up.” This is how it should be; nobody knows better than our membership the issues in academic advising and how to enhance quality advising at our institutions.
This is an organization where all voices need to be heard, and indeed, our organization is structured in such a way that your ideas are heard. We have a devoted Board of Directors, Council, and several Divisions where members are actively involved in addressing the needs of our constituencies. Our leadership is available to listen to you; and actively seek your thoughts, on a variety of topics such as credentialing and professional development.
As your president, I am only an email away. I invite your comments, concerns, and questions. Like a good advisor, if I am not able to give you a correct answer, I’ll be the first to refer you to someone who can.
Eric R. White
From the Executive Director: You Can Contribute to the Field!
Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, NACADA Executive Director
Barbara Walters conducts great interviews. Shaquille O’Neal is a great basketball player. Emeril is a great chef. Everyone wants to be recognized for his/her expertise and it is easy to recognize the talents of these examples. But, how do great advisors and administrators get noticed?
Some are “discovered” through chance observations at conferences, through discussions with others, or reading of their work. Members have expressed interest in being involved more with the association and in contributing to the field, and NACADA is interested in identifying, nurturing, and developing experts within the field. Therefore, NACADA is establishing an Expertise Database (more information below).
We encourage members to self-identify their areas of expertise for inclusion in a database that will facilitate searches for specific expertise as the need arises. It is also our hope that many members will register so that we can draw expertise from our diverse membership (institutional type or size, gender, ethnicity, advising role, etc.).
The Expertise Database will be utilized in the selection of faculty/presenters for NACADA events, for identification of potential authors or editors for NACADA publications, for consultation referrals, and for media referrals on specific areas of expertise. Additional information may be needed, such as writing samples, etc., but one’s basic areas of expertise will be the basis of the list. So, this is YOUR OPPORTUNITY to highlight your established expertise!
How does one establish an area of expertise? Through experience, reading, studying, research, and thinking! Then write and present on that topic. Each successful professional contribution builds recognition of your area of expertise and will assist those who seek and select members to serve in various “expert” activities.
Want to start on the path to becoming a recognized expert? Presenting at a Regional Conference is a good place to start and most regions are currently seeking presentation proposals for their Spring conferences
Articles for the NACADA Clearinghouse and the Academic Advising News (the NACADA newsletter) provide good places to begin writing and publishing as are book reviews for the NACADA Journal. By pursuing these avenues, you can build a valuable area of expertise and a reputation that will benefit both you and the profession.
Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, Executive Director
National Academic Advising Association
NACADA Member Expertise Database
NACADA is establishing a Member Expertise Database to assist in the identification of members willing to present, write, and consult in the field of advising Members are asked to self-identify and submit information about themselves and their areas of advising expertise to facilitate the construction of this database.
The database will be utilized to identify members willing and able to address specific content areas for the NACADA Institutes, Conferences, Seminars, Newsletter, Journal, Consultations, Clearinghouse, and Media requests.
We are seeking a large pool to adequately represent the diversity within the association – institutional type and size, advising role, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc..
Members can access the submission forms and information at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/expertise.htm and must complete and submit the form plus provide a detailed vita electronically.
Advising Transfer Students: Issues and Strategies New NACADA Monograph:
Thomas J. Grites,Thomas J. Kerr, and Margaret C. King, Editors
Twenty-seven authors contribute unique perspectives regarding the heterogeneous transfer-student population. In addition to characteristics and experiences of students transferring from community colleges to 4-year institutions, authors discuss issues facing students who matriculate from high school to college, from 4- to 4-year schools, and from 4- to 2-year institutions.
Experts on transfer advising describe model programs as well as advisor and administrative strategies for enhancing transfer student success. Readers will glean an overall view of issues surrounding students in transition and find specific recommendations that will relate to their own transfer student populations.
This monograph is currently at press and should be available by the end of the year. Watch the monthly NACADA member Highlights for details.
Now Is the Time to Begin Planning an Advising Research Project
The NACADA Research Committee announces a Request For Proposals (RFP) for NACADA grants that support advising research. Stipends up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) are available to support a single-year proposal. Practicing professionals (administrators and faculty), as well as graduate students seeking support for dissertation research, are eligible.
Preliminary proposal drafts are be due February 1, 2005 for committee feedback. Full proposals will be due May 16, 2005. Find information and applications at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/Research_Related/Grant-Guidelines.htm
Need research ideas? The Committee has delineated a research agenda listing ten advising topics deemed to be critical within advising research. Find these topics at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/Research_Related/researchagenda.htm.
Have a research topic? Want to discuss your topic with other members researching similar topic? Join the Research Registry at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/Research_Related/index.htm#reg.
National Conference a Huge Success!
The 2004 National Conference held in Cincinnati this October was a smashing success! Over 2100 people joined Barbara Bucey and her National Conference Committee for this great event. With over 300 presentations to choose from, the participants had the opportunity to share and gain experiences that will ultimately promote student success.
NACADA's 25th Anniversary was celebrated with the theme of 'Lighting Student Pathways for 25 Years'. A display of memorabilia led long time members down memory lane and helped other see the progress made in our field over the last quarter of a century. NACADA has grown from a fledgling organization with approximately 500 members to our present 7600+ membership with the help of hard work and dedication of many volunteer leaders. The 2004 NACADA award recipients were honored at a special Awards Ceremony and Reception on Wednesday afternoon prior to the opening session of the conference.
The Real Meat and Potatoes: Why I Go to the Assessment and Administrators' Institutes
William Fleming, Sam Houston University
One of the most innovative and beneficial programs NACADA sponsors is the Assessment and Administrators’ Institutes, held mid-winter for the purpose of congregating administrators to share ideas and programs for the enhancement of our profession. Working in small groups, administrators from all types of educational institutions discuss the nitty-gritty of advising in order to establish positive programs that will be of use in their own unique environments.
I attended the first Institute in San Antonio in 2002 because I had recently been put in charge of a new and innovative advising center at my university. Our advising center is, in reality, a combination of two separate but complementary facets—academic advising and mentoring—and the administrative aspect has become somewhat complex as both sectors continue to grow and impact our student body. While attending NACADA conferences I have found that although the structure of our advising center may be unique, we ultimately have much in common when we are dealing with our students and their needs. This aspect of both the national conference and the administrators’ institutes is the real meat and potatoes of our profession and the crucial importance of attending these functions. Along with the lasting friendships, the unforgettable war stories, and the small-group discussions, the administrators’ institute offers us a pleasant atmosphere and the expertise of those who have already gotten their battle scars through the years.
One of the requirements for our new advising enterprise was to develop a mission statement; this is required by our accrediting agency. During one of the small discussion meetings at the Administrator’s Institute, we discussed the development of an appropriate mission statement for our advising entities. Several colleagues talked about relating the mission statement to their university’s statement and then we discussed reflecting NACADA’s core-values paradigm as a guide to developing our own. After working with many ideas and utilizing concepts I got from the Administrators’ Institute, I was able to formulate a mission statement for our advising center that reflects our existence: “The mission of the Student Advising and Mentoring Center (SAM Center) at Sam Houston State University is to provide intrusive academic advising and mentoring to all students assisting them in discovering methods to set personal goals, establishing strategies to achieve their objectives, enhancing skills to sharpen academic accomplishments, and providing incentives for realizing educational success.”
Sam Houston University
Assessing Student Learning in Academic Advising
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Associate Director
Many institutions struggle to integrate accreditation criteria for assessment with their efforts to improve and enhance programs for their students. In this climate, the interest in and need for assessment of our students’ academic advising experiences has become a major issue on our campuses.
The first and often overlooked step in assessing academic advising is the development of an institutional mission for academic advising. White (2000) states, “Without such a statement (advising mission), assessment, if it can be conducted at all, would be an empty exercise” (p. 181). In other words, what is the institution assessing if it has not first determined the mission, purpose, or value of academic advising within the educational experiences of its students? Therefore, it is imperative that an institution-wide mission for academic advising exist regardless of whether a variety of delivery systems exist on a complex multi-campus institution or only one advising model is used on a small college campus.
Any institution-wide mission for academic advising must answer two simple questions: “What does our institution value about academic advising?” and “What is the purpose of academic advising at our institution?” An advising mission crafted from answering these questions must clearly reflect the overall mission and purpose of the institution. Only when these conditions have been met can we begin to develop expected outcomes or goals for the advising experience on our campuses.
Just as is the case for teaching, we must recognize the need to assess not only the manner and process used to deliver advising, but the expected student learning achieved through advising experiences. Maki (2004) defines learning as “a process of constructing meaning, framing issues, drawing on strategies and abilities honed over time, reconceptualizing, understanding, repositioning oneself in relation to a problem or issue, and connecting thinking and knowing to action” (p.2). This powerful definition of learning makes it clear that academic advising is an integral piece of an institution’s educational program since through the advising experience students learn the specific skills, abilities, and strategies necessary to navigate their educational experiences, take control of their experiences, and make effective decisions concerning their educational goals, choices, and needs.
Therefore, institutions seeking to assess the advising experience must focus both on delivery and learning outcomes. Many campuses assess delivery outcomes through the use of institutional or nationally normed surveys and inventories. This assessment of delivery outcomes is based primarily on student perception and satisfaction of the delivery processes and methods. This assessment can be extremely valuable to an institution seeking to determine the effectiveness of its delivery model(s), the effectiveness of advisor skills or knowledge base, or to gather information from students concerning advising deficiencies or strengths. However, it is important to understand that assessment of delivery outcomes and utilization of student satisfaction data is only one piece of the assessment of the advising experience. An institution must go beyond this level of assessment to assess student learning in the advising experience.
The development and assessment of learning outcomes for the advising experience is a new arena for most campuses. Developing learning outcomes, and a subsequent assessment plan, will result in a renewed focus on the advising experience and lay the foundation for content of advisor development programs. Learning outcomes assessment provides a clear demonstration that academic advising is a longitudinal process that reaches across the institution. Maki (2004) maintains that a commitment to assessment of learning can determine the effectiveness of instruction, both curricular and co-curricular, and the level of integration of learning and instruction across the educational experiences.
Institutions must begin by asking “What do we want students to learn from the advising experience?” Other questions to ask include: “What do we want students to know? What do we want to students to do? What do we want to students to understand and demonstrate?”
Answers to these questions will guide us as we formulate learning outcomes for the advising experience that could include:
- Students will be able to read and utilize a degree audit in their educational planning.
- Students will develop an educational plan for successfully completing their degree goal.
- Students will demonstrate an understanding of the value of the general education requirements.
- Students will demonstrate the ability to make effective decisions concerning their degree and career goals.
As with the advising mission, learning outcomes for advising must reflect clearly the mission and purpose of the institution. So, learning outcomes for a technical college might, and possibly should, differ greatly from those for a liberal arts university.
Once desired outcomes are determined, an institution moves to the “meat” of the learning outcomes assessment process – mapping the advising experiences necessary for achievement of outcomes across a student’s institutional career and the development of multiple measures to assess this achievement. Mapping of these outcomes clearly demonstrates that advising learning experiences are not simply focused in one or two advising sessions during a students’ first year of college but instead are gained across the entirety of students’ educational careers. Through outcomes mapping an institution is able to communicate to all constituencies, i.e., students, advisors, faculty, staff, parents, and administrators, that learning is clearly strengthened from a long-term advising relationship in which an advisor teaches the student how to access needed campus resources, how to make connections across all campus areas, and how to gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully meet his or her goals and aspirations.
It is essential that institutions develop and utilize multiple measures for the achievement of the learning outcomes. While these measures may include student surveys, an institution cannot rely solely on survey data. Instead, institutions must look beyond surveys toward the utilization of advisee portfolios, freshman and senior seminars courses, required advisee assignments in advising sessions, and careful tracking of student utilization of campus services. While more difficult to utilize than traditional surveys, the development and utilization of these multiple measures are necessary in order to carefully assess learning and to clearly demonstrate that academic advising is more than student satisfaction.
Assessment of academic advising can, and will, bring a new and exciting focus to advising on our campuses. NACADA encourages and supports our members in their assessment efforts through the work of the Assessment of Advising Commission and the annual Assessment of Academic Advising Institute. For more information on these and other assessment opportunities, see “Resources and Challenges in the Assessment of Advising” in this issue or go to http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/.
NACADA Associate Director
White, E.R. (2000). Developing Mission, Goals, and Objectives for the Advising Program. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley, & Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Maki, P. L. (2004) Maps and Inventories: Anchoring Efforts to Track Student Learning. About Campus, Volume 9, number 4. pp. 2 – 9.
Resources and Challenges in the Assessment of Advising
Victor Macaruso, Assessment of Advising Commission Chair
The Assessment of Advising Interest Group became a commission in part as a consequence of the growing interest in, and awareness of, the importance in assessment of advising. This change coincided with the Commission’s national survey on the status of the assessment of advising. Although the results of this survey are currently being prepared for submission to the NACADA Journal, it might be useful to look at some of the responses to the survey question, “What could the Assessment of Advising Commission/NACADA sponsor to assist your assessment efforts?”
The assessment of advising is much indebted to the assessment culture that has developed on campuses as a result of the work of regional accreditation associations. One of these associations’ recurrent themes has been the necessity of developing multiple measures and multiple modes of evaluation. Too often, institutions depend on satisfaction surveys and contact volume to measure the success of the enterprise. While satisfaction surveys used by many institutions assess the delivery of advising services, they do not address the outcome of advising, namely, student learning. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in its 2003, “Commission Statement on the Assessment of Student Learning,” wrote “an organization committed to understanding and improving learning opportunities and environments it provides students will be able to document the relationship between assessment of and improvement in student learning.” As have the regional accrediting agencies, NACADA encourages the profession to develop student learning outcomes. Yet survey results show that approximately 25% of responding institutions have developed student learning outcomes for their advising units.
Many survey respondents were interested in discovering instruments to use in assessing advising. The NACADA web page “Assessment of Academic Advising: Instruments and Resources” lists many resources for assessment of advising services. One instrument, the Academic Advising Inventory (AAI), is a nationally normed instrument available to NACADA members without cost. Two other nationally normed instruments are the ACT and Noel Levitz. The web page lists the CAS Standards for Advising, a definitive program assessment document. The web page also provides links to individual advisor evaluations and other advising resources.
It is good to note that while particular instruments may find a place in a comprehensive assessment program, they are not a substitute for such a program. Any assessment program must follow from the values, vision, and mission statement of the institution. Because each institution is unique, each assessment program must of necessity be unique so that it will be consistent with the values of the institution. Once developed, the assessment program must be ongoing and not episodic. It should not be mustered up only when there is a need to produce data for some internal or external constituency, but it must become an integral part of what we do.
Another concern of survey respondents was to be able to find consultants with assessment expertise at reasonable cost. The NACADA Consultants’ Bureau has been a resource for members for more than twenty years. For a very reasonable fee the Consultants Bureau matches institutions with experts in the advising fields most applicable to the institution's needs.
For the past several years there have been pre- and post-conference workshops on the assessment of advising. In response to the growing interest in the topic of advising, NACADA offers a national institute solely devoted the assessment of advising. If you would like to gain hands-on experience in assessment, consider attending the Assessment of Academic Advising Institute, 2-4 February at St Pete Beach, Florida. This institute will focus on the components of a successful assessment program and participants will learn specific strategies for developing such a program on their home campuses.
As a result of the success of the previous Assessment Institute and in response to an expressed need of the members (validated by 61% of the respondents to the status of the assessment of advising survey), the Guide to Assessment in Academic Advising will be published in spring 2005. In the text, Susan Campbell, Charlie Nutt, and Richard Robbins outline a framework for the assessment of academic advising. They characterize their framework as a model that draws from elements common to the many assessment models found in the literature. They carefully stress, “This model is NOT to be a pre-packaged, all-inclusive document on what assessment in academic advising should include.” The book provides a five part framework that can be used to direct assessment on campus.
Survey results lead us to believe that advisors have a responsibility to make assessment an integral part of our practice; a practice that makes up but one dimension of the complex paradigm of students’ academic experience. Only through assessment can we truly know how successful we are in discharging our responsibilities to our students and to our institutions. With that knowledge we will be able to discover ways to do better what we do well.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Commission Statement on Assessment of Student Learning. (February 21, 2003). The Higher Learning Commission. A Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Retrieved November 5, 2004 from http://www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org/resources/positionstatements/assessment/
Campbell, S., Nutt, C., & Robbins, R. (2005) Guide to Assessment in Academic Advising. Manhattan, KS: NACADA. Note: Projected publication date is Spring 2005.
Reflections from the Field: Advice for New Advisors
Misty Altiparmak, 2004 NACADA Outstanding New Advisory Award Recipient
As I reflect upon my three years as an academic advisor, I realize that I have learned a lot that may help new advisors quickly transition into their advising roles. I hope that new advisors will read carefully and learn from my experiences. I also hope that senior advisors will review this and take a minute to share your wisdom and encourage new advisors.
As a new advisor, I struggled with several things including developing confidence in my work, thinking that I should know all the right answers, and understanding how I could become involved in advising activities. Later I had to learn how to balance my new family with work. Based upon these experiences I provide the following advice to new advisors:
- Have confidence in your work. Admit when you don’t have the answers, but let the student know that you will provide an answer in a timely manner. When you must make a judgment call on you own don’t question yourself - be the authority. Know that you based your judgment on facts and information you hold to be true. Since I have learned to be confident in my decision making, I enjoy taking a leadership role within the office.
- Give yourself permission to prepare answers for the “quick questions” that come from telephone calls and walk-in students. When I first began advising, I felt obligated to accept and immediately answer every quick question that came my way. I found I was often “put on the spot” and unprepared to help the student.
Each student is unique and each will pose a different question or concern that needs to be addressed with individual attention. If the question is truly not a quick question, let the student know that his/her question is important and you would like to make an appointment to sit down and address the situation one-on-one. Then research the answer.
- Have a plan in place to balance work and family obligations. Personal emergencies happen. If you have family or other obligations, know that issues and illnesses will arise that need to be addressed during work hours. This does not mean that your students’ needs have to go unaddressed. Have a flexible plan in place that will allow you to assess the importance of the items on your schedule for the next day and week.
For example, if a situation arises when I can’t be in the office the next day, I prefer to call my students individually. Even in unexpected situations I know what is on my schedule and can make informed decisions on how the students should be rescheduled or if they can be seen by another advisor. Just remember that no matter how prepared, balancing work and family is not always easy. Don’t give up.
- Get involved in advising activities at your institution and through NACADA. On your campus connect with a senior advisor or mentor who can help guide you through your first years of advising. If you don’t have centralized advising make sure to meet regularly with other campus advisors and departmental faculty to stay abreast of changes in curriculum and policies, and to share your advising concerns. Next, get involved with NACADA at all levels. I started out by attending the various conferences and workshops in the state and at the regional level. Put in a proposal to present. I had the opportunity to present a workshop at the state level that led to various opportunities for presenting and coordinating advising activities on campus. Attend the national conferences to keep up with the latest student trends and to network with other advisors.
I look forward to upcoming NACADA conferences to refresh my motivation and to seek out new opportunities in leadership and service. It is wonderful to have such a strong network of advisors and resources to call upon at UAB and nationwide when I need them.
Over time, I have come to realize that my advising style has evolved and I have quickly transitioned into my role as an advisor. The advice and suggestions I receive from my colleagues is instrumental to my professional growth and development. I encourage new advisors to remain open and accepting of assistance from senior advisors. I also encourage senior advisors to readily relate their experience and wisdom to newcomers in the field. Remember, advising does not occur in isolation.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Trying to Be Prepared
Dear Career Corner: I just started a new position six months ago, but am already starting to think about what I should be doing now in order to be a competitive candidate for my next position in two to three years. Do you have any suggestions? – Signed, Trying to Be Prepared
Dear Trying: Excellent question – it is always a smart idea to be thinking ahead and to proactively shape your career. The first thing I would encourage you to do is to keep an active eye on the job market even though you are not planning to enter it until later. There are a number of on-line tools that can assist you, including the NACADA position announcements, the Chronicle of Higher Education website (http://www.chronicle.com), and Academic360.com (http://www.academic360.com). If you are thinking about pursuing a position at a specific institution, you would also want to carefully monitor that institution’s on-line job listings. Pay careful attention to the jobs that seem intriguing to you, the minimum qualifications required for those intriguing positions, and the minimum level of education that is required. Also be on the lookout for trends – for example, does the same job seem to be coming open every six months? This could be an indicator that something may be amiss and worthy of further investigation if and when you decide to apply for a position in that department.
It is also important to assess and then build your personal and professional skills portfolio. Are the positions that you are seeing on-line asking for skills that you have not yet had the opportunity to develop? Examples of professional skills that are important in higher education today are: strategic planning skills, budgeting expertise, leadership experience, and relationships with alumni and donors. Personal skills such as a commitment to continuous learning, networking, and updating/refining your communication skills are also important. Note that you do not need to gain all of these experiences through your current workplace. For example, if your son is active in a hockey club, you can volunteer to be the treasurer and/or chief fundraiser. The experience is what matters most, not necessarily where you gained that experience.
The last suggestion is to keep your resume current. You should update your resume/CV at least once a quarter. Your resume is your professional diary and it is vitally important to keep it as accurate and current as possible. Plus, if you do not have anything new to add to your resume every three months, that should be a clear signal that you need to be more proactive about building your skill set.
Do you have a career related question? If so, submit your questions on-line at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/AdministrativeDivision/career.htm. Questions will be answered anonymously.
Jennifer L. Bloom, NACADA Member Career Services Committee Chair
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign