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Voices of the Global Community


Preparing for Multicultural Advising Relationships

Aaron H. Carlstrom, Kansas State University

Entering into any helping relationship, including academic advising, can create a degree of uncertainty. People use a variety of strategies to cope with uncertainty in relationships, some more helpful than others. When advisor and advisee are culturally different, advisors may find they engage in two strategies to reduce their own uncertainty: (1) approaching students as “just individuals” (i.e. ignoring their cultural identities), or (2) approaching students as though their cultural identities were necessarily the most salient aspect of their current challenge (i.e. ignoring their individual identities). Both approaches are “either/or” in nature, and thus miss the complexity of the whole student. Advising done from an “either/or” approach is based upon the advisor’s cultural assumptions, whether the advisor is aware of those assumptions or not. “Either/or” approaches contribute to work that runs the risk of being distorted and unhelpful.

Here we will begin to explore how best to approach advising relationships in a multiculturally competent way, mindful of both the individual and cultural similarities and differences between advisor and advisee, and how those factors may influence the advising process. Suggestions are based on the author’s personal experience in helping relationships (i.e. mental health and career counseling), as well as the counseling psychology and intercultural communication literatures. The intention is to provide a description of a “both/and” approach to preparing for multicultural helping relationships. This approach can be useful with all students, regardless of how culturally similar or dissimilar advisor and advisee are, because all people are cultural beings. The objective of this article is to provide advisors with questions and principles to consider in interactions with students.

Multicultural Competence and the Helping Relationship

A multiculturally competent approach to any helping relationship is about taking steps to foster cultural awareness and mindfulness at both cognitive and emotional levels; it is about preparing ourselves to be in the room with another person, with the purpose of being helpful in a meaningful way. This approach involves a willingness to consider and respect both the intellectual complexity and the emotional uncertainty connected with navigating the influence that both the advisor’s and student’s individual and cultural identities have on the helping relationship. There are three areas that the author has found helpful to consider in fostering cultural awareness and mindfulness: listening empathically, focusing on meaning, and ongoing exploration of personal competence.

Listening Empathically.The starting point of listening empathically is to assume difference between oneself and the other. This allows us to hear from the other’s viewpoint, instead of assuming from our own viewpoint. Milton Bennett (1998; pp. 209-213) outlines a useful model for developing empathy in situations of cultural difference. He emphasizes the usefulness of remembering the “Platinum Rule” (i.e. “Do unto others as they themselves would have done unto them”), as opposed to the Golden Rule (i.e. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”). His model involves 6 steps: (1) assuming difference, (2) knowing self, (3) suspending self, (4) allowing guided imagination, (5) allowing empathic experience, and (6) reestablishing self. While the scope of this piece does not allow for a detailed discussion here, further review of this model is encouraged.

Focusing on Meaning. Focusing on meaning involves questioning (1) if we understood what the student meant to communicate, and (2) if we communicated what we meant for the student to understand. Difficulty arises because meaning is based on an interpretation of the other’s behavior (both verbal and non-verbal), but this interpretation is often culturally bound. Craig Storti (1994, pp. 129-131) outlines 7 principles for approaching intercultural communication to guard against misinterpretations:

  1. Do not assume sameness.
  2. What we think of as normal or human behavior may only be cultural.
  3. Familiar behaviors may have different meanings.
  4. Do not assume that what we meant is what was understood.
  5. Do not assume that what we understood is what was meant.
  6. We do not have to like or accept “different” behavior, but we may find it helpful to understand where it comes from.
  7. Most people do behave rationally; we just have to discover the rationale. (Although it is important to keep in mind that a preference for rationality can be a culturally bound preference).

Exploring Competence. Exploring one’s competence in helping relationships is an ongoing process. Plummer (1995) provides 10 questions for mental health counselors to consider as a means of exploring their level of multicultural counseling competence. Consideration of these questions fosters the awareness and respect of cultural differences and similarities necessary for meaningful helping relationships. Plummer’s (1995) questions may be modified for the academic advising relationship:

  1. What cultural ground do I share with this student?
  2. What cultural differences do I acknowledge, respect, and welcome?
  3. What cultural differences do I fear, resist, dismiss, or minimize? How do I manage these differences during the advising session?
  4. Do I behave or think differently with this student than I do with other students?
  5. How comfortable am I, as a person of culture, with this student?
  6. Do I view the student as expert of his/her own cultural experiences?
  7. Do I attend to the use of language in the advising meeting to make sure terms have a shared understanding?
  8. Do I inquire, in a culturally appropriate way, if what I am saying is useful to the student?
  9. Do I check to see if I am reading nonverbal cues correctly?
  10. Do I check to see if my cultural perceptions are accurate?

The questions and principles presented in this article are not meant to be exhaustive. They are, however, intended to provide a framework that advisors can use to prepare themselves for their work with all students, and especially for their work with students culturally different from themselves.

The Tilford Group at Kansas State University provides a more detailed definition and model of multicultural competency development for racial/ethnic diversity. The Tilford Group model (http://www.tilford.ksu.edu/) outlines competencies in three broad areas: Knowledge, Personal Attributes, and Skills. This model can be a helpful guide for exploration of multicultural competence areas.

Aaron H. Carlstrom
Kansas State University


Bennett, M. J. (1998). Overcoming the golden rule: sympathy and empathy. In M. J. Bennett (ed.) Basic Concepts of Intercultural Communication. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, Inc.

Plummer, Deborah, L. (1995). The therapist as gatekeeper in multicultural counseling: Understanding ourselves as persons of culture. Journal of Psychological Practice, 1, 30-35.

Storti, Craig (1994). Cross-Cultural dialogues: 74 brief encounters with cultural difference.Intercultural Press.

Building the Next Generation of Academic Advisors

Jo Anne Huber, NACADA President 

It is such an honor to follow Eric White in assuming the presidency of NACADA.

I am so proud to be the first president of NACADA from Texas! Without family support and the support of my colleagues as well as the backing of the Academic Counselor’s Association at The University of Texas at Austin, a NACADA allied member, none of this would be possible, so I am very grateful to all. Years ago, when I was coerced into running for Regional Representative from Region VII, I never dreamed it would lead to this day. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and look forward to working and learning from my distinguished predecessors.

I would like to recognize Jane Jacobson as incoming VP who will lead the Council this next year. I appreciate her insights and direction as we proceed and plan for the coming year. Both of us will rely greatly on Bobbie Flaherty, Charlie Nutt and the Executive Office for guidance and support as we tread these new waters. Our focus for 2006 will be to continue NACADA’s quest for diversity at all levels of membership and participation. Specifically, our theme will be Building the Next Generation of Academic Advisors. Clearly, the future of NACADA lies with the new professionals in higher education who are charged with the advising experiences for our students. New professionals might be professional advisors, faculty advisors, peer advisors and/or administrators. Those of us who have been in this profession and active members of NACADA for a long time know well how important networking can be, not to mention the friendships and support we have received from each other and the Association. Not only does this aid us in our growth as professionals, but it is essential to our work with students. Opportunities that were available to me and many of my colleagues need to be made readily available to our new professionals, but on a grander, more deliberate and organized scale than ever before. We strongly believe it is the responsibility of the Association to work diligently to provide these opportunities.

Additionally, our hope is that our graduate students will increase in membership and add valuable research for publications, vital to any professional organization. The NACADA Journal is our lifeline, as these tend to be for associations like NACADA. Pertinent data and research compiled and disseminated aids in our second focus, which deals with visibility. This visibility spans from our advising communities to our top administrators, i.e., provosts, presidents or chancellors. I have appointed a work group, chaired by the Vice President, to continue the sound work begun by a Task Force this past year. Hopefully, we will continue to explore ways and means to maintain and “kick up a notch” the visibility of our profession. Certainly, one way to accomplish this is by organizing campus-wide academic associations when appropriate to showcase advising leadership at our institutions. Over the years, this has been instrumental in providing opportunities for academic advisors on my campus, The University of Texas at Austin. I encourage those of you who might be interested in forming such a group to read the article by Debbie Barber from KASADA in the September edition of Academic Advising Today.

On Friday morning at our National Conference in Las Vegas, a breakfast was held for New Advisors who were identified by their registrations via email. The goal of this breakfast was to provide a mechanism for these new professionals to meet not only each other, but also leaders in NACADA to build networks and “cement” their bond to the Association. The First-Time Attendance Orientations were tailored to address this population. This restructure will be adapted at the Regional Conferences in the spring as well. Jane and I will be present at as many spring Regional Conferences as possible to promote our initiative. I am also pleased to announce a newly formed Interest Group for New Advisors, chaired by Ben Chamberlain from Iowa State University and Nathan Vickers from The University of Texas at Austin. Jane and I, as well as the Executive Office, appreciate their initiative to springboard this growing population and challenge all new advisors to “make them work!”

In addition, with the strong support of the Executive Office, Jane and I contacted the leadership of the three divisions (administrative, regional and commissions) prior to their fall meetings to encourage their units to explore strategies specifically focusing on these new members in our Association. Not only do we want to recruit their active participation, but we also want to retain them by offering the types of professional opportunities we all have come to expect from NACADA. It is vital to encourage this group as well as other members to become involved and volunteer for leadership opportunities in our units, such as committees or commissions. We all should enthusiastically support presenting at state, regional or national conferences as well as campus activities. Consider writing for Academic Advising Today, the NACADA Journal (our most prestigious professional publication), as well as submitting to the Clearinghouse. There are also financial means to help members move up the ladder by applying for scholarships and research grants.

And always, recognize exemplary work by nominating deserving employees for awards at your campuses, state, region or national levels. This is not only good for the person, but raises the level of expectation for all advisors and promotes academic advising on all of our campuses. Imagine what a positive effect on the profession of advising and NACADA we will make if we all pull together and spend the next year truly “building the next generation of academic advisors!”

Again, it is my honor to work with all of you to promote academic advising and promise to continue to raise the bar as all of my distinguished predecessors have done for all of us. I hope to meet as many of you as possible in the year ahead!

Jo Anne Huber, President
National Academic Advising Association

Planning for Our Future

Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, NACADA Executive Director 

WOW! What a Conference! We had a 61% increase in attendance over 2004, which set a record for the Association at 3381! And, what an exciting event! Over 300 presentations with opportunities to learn, network, and renew were available to attendees. A special Thank You to the presenters and the Conference Committee, and Congratulations to the Award winners. The 2006 Conference Program Committee is already hard at work to ensure that next year is just as great in Indianapolis.

The NACADA Board of Directors’ meetings in Las Vegas focused on the future of the organization – the strategic plan and finances. Let me assure you that they are watching things closely – trends in higher education, in academic advising, and in associations – to ensure that NACADA remains a strong, member-centered, financially sound organization.

With enhanced student development as the end goal, the Board focused on how the Association could support its members to ensure that students receive effective academic advising. Among their priorities are:

  • increasing the visibility of academic advising within higher education
  • increasing the visibility of NACADA within the higher education community,
  • providing increased distance learning opportunities related to academic advising (CDs, teleconference, etc.),
  • developing an “emerging leader” program to ensure continued strong and diverse leadership of the Association, and
  • continuing to identify and deliver events for the variety of advisors that make this Association so dynamic.

Some specific projects that are already in the pipeline for 2006 include: a book to be published in cooperation with Wiley/Jossey-Bass, Career Advising: An Academic Advisor’s Guide, by Virginia Gordon; a revised monograph on Advising the First Year Student in cooperation with FYE at the University of South Carolina; a summer offering of the Seminar on Faculty Advising; continuation of the new CD Series for advisor training; and thoughts of an event for advisors in Puerto Rico.

In addition, you will be hearing more about the NACADA Foundation - to solicit and accept gifts to support the work of the association. Voluntary donations, bequests, and other methods of donation will be encouraged.

Many members expressed a need for assistance with advisor training on their campuses. I believe NACADA can assist in a number of ways. Please check out the following resources on our web site to select the methods most valuable for you to meet your training needs:

  • NACADA Consultants Bureau to bring experts to your campus to deliver or assist with training;
  • the new “Foundations of Advising” CD to provide individual or group training;
  • the Advising Training Video/DVD and accompanying handbook to help you customize the training to your institution;
  • the many NACADA publications addressing specific issues and populations – including the newest monograph (on CD) on the Assessment of Advising;
  • the myriad writings and model programs available on a wide variety of topics in the NACADA Clearinghouse on Academic Advising; and
  • the many opportunities through Institutes, Seminars, and Conferences to learn and take information back to your campuses (Administrator’s Institute, Assessment Institute, Ethical/Legal Seminar, Faculty Advising Seminar, 2 Summer Institutes, 10 regional Conferences, and next year’s National Conference in Indianapolis).

Individuals should also explore the Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising as an option for professional development and career enhancement.

We are quite aware that our 8900+ members are seeking more educational opportunities to ensure that they are providing the best academic advising to their students, and we are continually working to ensure that those educational opportunities exist! Please let us know if you perceive a need that we are not addressing.

Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, Executive Director
National Academic Advising Association

Millennial Students: Rethinking Time Management

Jermaine Williams, Temple University 

Effective time management is a skill many professionals struggle to implement and utilize within their daily lives. Why then are we, as academic advisors, surprised when our students experience great difficulty building this skill? To advise collegians on effective time management skills, we must first understand the characteristics of our student population. And while we caution against the danger of creating stereotypes that could prove detrimental to our interactions with our students, we acknowledge that prevailing social conditions do have an effect on each generation’s development.

The generation entering our colleges today has acquired multiple names (i.e. Generation Y, Echo-Boomers, Generation Tech, etc.), but they are most often referred to as Millennials. Researchers most commonly suggest that this generation begins with individuals born in 1980, who do not have the same traits as Generation X’ers (the prior generation). Therefore, they must be advised differently.

Individuals within each generation lack effective time management skills; likewise each generation has specific characteristics affecting this skill. To begin to understand how past generations differ from the Millennial Generation, advisors will find Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Howe & Strauss, 2000), Boomers, Gen Xers, & Millennials: Understanding the New Students (Oblinger, 2003) and Managing Millennials (Raines, 2002) helpful. These authors agree that Millennials share several unique qualities. Howe & Strauss (2000) describe Millennials as “special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving.” Raines (2002) states that Millennials are confident, hopeful, goal- and achievement-oriented, civic minded, and inclusive. Oblinger (2003) adds that Millennials “gravitate toward group activity, identify with parents’ values and feel close to their parents, and spend more time doing homework and housework and less time watching TV” (p. 1). Howe & Strauss (2000 & 2003) indicate that Millennials are the busiest youths in several generations, an observation agreed upon by most in the field.

A typical millennial high school student is faced with what may seem to be a never ending day. Beginning with a before school activity (i.e. band practice, etc.) and culminating with numerous after school activities, today’s high school students are more involved than students from previous generations. From athletic practice to religious groups, school government to SAT tutoring sessions, most millennial high school students find themselves scheduled until they sleep, wake up, and repeat their routine.

Structure is a major component of time management. If these students lead structured high school lives, then why do they have difficulty with time management at the collegiate level? The answer may lie within the residual effects of their ultra structured – some might argue over scheduled – lives and how these schedules are maintained and commitments are met.

Researchers explain that adults make it possible for millennial students to be so active. As advisors, we know from our daily student interactions just how involved parents are in their children’s lives. The African proverb “it takes a whole village to raise a child” best depicts how today’s youth grew up. Parents take turns transporting their children to activities, thus providing their children with an optimal level of growth opportunities. During the school day, millennial students look to their teachers to keep them task driven.

When these students go to college, their world is flipped upside down; their scheduling support no longer resides in the same location. For previous generations this rite of passage (e.g. going to college) signified a sense of freedom and opportunity. For Millennials, the feeling quite possibly is fear and isolation. However, new student orientation – filled with its multiple activities – promises a smooth initial transition. Yet, Millennials shortly move from a life of complete structure to a life lacking structure. Realizing this crucial transition issue is the first step to assisting Millennials with overcoming time management issues.

Millennial students follow a path less traveled in the world of time management; they over schedule themselves, leaving little time to complete their academic work. The result is that many of these students are placed on academic sanction, which is not acceptable to a millennial student accustomed to receiving A’s in high school. Realistically, this is not a problem caused by a lack of scheduling; instead it is an inability to schedule activities appropriately. An example of this would be students who want the infamous Tuesday and Thursday schedule, a schedule they view as better because now they can work or participate in activities on their days “off.”

These students correlate the importance of a task to the amount of time it demands. For instance, students who miss class and thus do not progress academically commonly state the class is “only” twice a week. This statement illustrates the idea that millennial students feel an activity needs to meet a certain number of times each week in order to be important. Given their previous high school agendas, this makes sense.

How can we as advisors help students who come to us from a life of complete structure? We should study our students and the types of opportunities and experiences our institutions provide. In order to promote good time management skills, we must: 1) inform and educate students, 2) give students options 3), provide an adult sounding board as students make appropriate decisions regarding the importance of tasks, and 4) when applicable, use technology with students.

To inform and educate a student is perhaps the most important contribution we can make. Howe & Strauss (2000) point out that Millennials have high expectations; parents have repeatedly informed them of their special qualities and that anything is within their grasp. Therefore, many Millennials work toward lofty goals. Millennials must be taught to know the difference between quantity and quality. Extra-curricular activities are meaningful, but if they do not pertain to a student’s ultimate goal, then perhaps they should be advised to forgo that particular activity. This is not promoting zero involvement in activities, but rather assisting students to prioritize the activities that will be most beneficial.

Second, we can give students options. Today’s students, and their parents, expect substantial returns on their investments. Should students take an overload of credits and run the risk of being overwhelmed? Could another path make their lives less stressful and less scheduled? Inform students of their options; don’t dictate.

Third, we can help students make decisions while we provide a figure to respect. Millennial students have an extremely close bond with their parents; together they make many major decisions. This is why it should be no surprise that parents want to take part in advising sessions or that students phone their parents for advice in the middle of advising sessions. Millennials discuss their ideas and plans with an adult. We should embrace this as an opportunity to ensure that these students are not ineffectively scheduling themselves away from their goals. However, we must draw a distinct line between developmental support of student decisions and prescriptive dictation of conclusions.

Finally, studies show that millennial students utilize a number of technological devices to keep in contact with each other. Students should be encouraged to use their electronic devices, (i.e. PDA’s, Blackberrys, laptops, etc.) for scheduling purposes. The probability is high that students will stay on task and be aware of obligations if their agendas are stored in a device utilized frequently instead of a daily hand-written planner.

The unique qualities that shape the lives of Millennials must be considered when creating plans for their benefit. Solutions that worked for previous generations must be modified to be effective. Advisors and administrators must utilize millennial student research in order to help these students effectively manage their time. We must embrace this research to facilitate an environment that is most beneficial to our students.

Jermaine Williams
Temple University


Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York. Vintage Books.

Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to College. Strategies for a New Generation on Campus: Recruiting and Admissions, Campus Life, and the Classroom. United States: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and LifeCourse Associates.

Kissinger, M. (June 4, 2005). The Millennials: Focused on achievement and raised on technology, babies of boomers are ready to make their impact. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.lifecourse.com/media/clips/050604_mil.html

Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers, & Millennials: Understanding the New Students.Educause Review, July/August 2003. Retrieved 9 September 2005 fromhttp://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0342.pdf

Raines, C. (2002). Managing Millennials. In Generations at Work: The Online Home of Claire Raines Associates. Retrieved 9 September 2005 from http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm

Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

Sarah Ann Hones, Southern Oregon University
Karen Sullivan-Vance, Western Oregon University

“Liberal education strengthens the mind and furnishes it with perspective, judgment, independence, and a tolerance of other viewpoints” (Rothblatt 2003). Historically the liberal arts, or artes liberales, the arts of freedom, have been associated as the choice for educating the elite. Educators have responded to the dogma of liberal arts like Pavlov’s salivating dogs. Even our students automatically respond when asked what it means to attend a liberal arts institution: It means the education is well-rounded. Unfortunately, most students cannot define how that well-rounded education benefits them. A young woman came in to the advising office recently and asked, “What does it take to be an advisor?” She is a new graduate from our liberal arts and sciences college. Advising came to mind as something she could do with her two month old degree. When asked what avenues she had been pursuing towards her first post-baccalaureate job, she said she had gone to the hospital to apply for a job in Nursing. The hospital had turned her away, explaining she was not qualified to work in Nursing, or most of the specialized fields offered there. Asked why she chose an area that she was not educated for, she seemed bewildered. Imagine her frustration when we explained that our advisors also had professional training. This woman had graduated in a popular field without the slightest idea of how to find work with her particular education and skills. In fact, she said, “I’ve wasted my time on this degree.” She does not feel well-rounded or even basically qualified for the work she has ventured out to seek.

Several questions come to mind regarding the liberal arts education we tout as elite and yet practical. Employers tell us they are looking for graduates who are good in both writing and oral communication. They seek the critical thinking skills so many of our liberal arts institutions encourage, value and teach in our programs. Employers are looking for flexible individuals with basic skills such as team work, computer facility, honesty, integrity and organizational skills. Is that what we offer with a liberal arts degree? It certainly appears to cover many of the catch phrases that appear on every liberal arts brochure, the websites for your typical liberal arts colleges and universities, and in the rationale for liberal arts general education course work. Since these are the skills employers want to see in new graduates we can say, yes, the education we offer in a liberal arts institution is of value. Is the education students receive the same education we value as a liberal arts education? Our young graduate who is looking for a Nursing or advising job would argue that it is not. She is not able to see or make the link between the education she received and how to use it to her advantage in the world of work. Our young friend headed off eagerly with her liberal arts degree looking for the name of the job that would match the degree she received. That makes sense. We often explain to parents that students are looking for the linear connection between the degree they earn and the job they seek. If you study Nursing – you become a nurse. Imagine the surprise of students who study Psychology. The options are not as simple. The complexity of having to consider what skills will apply to a particular job can seem daunting. It is a crossroads with many paths. “…too many students–and indeed, much of our society–…assume that the liberal arts are ‘ornamental’ rather than essential to the lives we actually lead” (Schneider 2004). Students, their parents, and many educators, including advisors, do not make the link between the purported benefits of a liberal arts education and the practical application of that education in the world of work.

How do the stakeholders in the liberal arts education process build the educational opportunities that will allow students to see how their degrees apply to the aspirations these students have for their futures? How do faculty, advisors and administrators guide students in building the practical liberal arts degree?

First, we need to recognize that there are specific ways in which students build their education. Students and parents often ask for the checklist of courses they must complete for a degree. They are looking for a linear path to that degree. We see many students choose degrees based on their direct career path. Given the cost of a college education, it is understandable. If the outcome students and their parents want is the career at the end of the educational process is the liberal arts education viable? Is a liberal arts degree viable in an education system that demands assessment and observable outcomes? If we link viability to the outcomes students and their parents are able to see at the end of an education process, then liberal arts institutions need to show that the education they present as valuable can be demonstrably valuable in terms of applying the skills learned to the outside world. A checklist is not an educationAdvisors can guide students in recognizing that every student completes a similar checklist of course work. How they approach the courses, how they choose options, how they apply what they learn to what they hope to achieve in an education are several marks of a good education. Every student has the opportunity to build an education that represents the individual approach they hope to take in their growth and development toward one of the many careers they may have in their lives. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the building’s the thing. Rather than have students who can speak about their well-rounded educations, advisors can assist students in developing plans of action that make those liberal arts degrees valuable and viable.

How? Treat every advising session as an opportunity to guide students on a continuum towards an education. Assume that students can participate fully in their educational planning and demand that participation. Advisors can and should use every advising session to review where the student is in his/her educational process. Explain to new students how they will build their education. In a first visit, an advisor demonstrates how the liberal arts are designed to offer options. Often new students do not want options—they want answers. The advisor can dialogue with students about how the advising process gives the student a working relationship to aid in building an education. Together advisors assist students in progressively accepting more responsibility for decision-making in their education. Our job is to guide decision makers. Use each advising session to create a plan of action to be completed before the next advising appointment.

In our quarter system, students are told that their first advising assignments are due at Halloween. This gives students a clear and easy reminder about the deadline – which arrives just before the pre-registration period for the next term. New student assignments consist of activities such as joining a club of their choice, meeting with an academic advisor within their chosen major, finding a job that builds on their interests, or taking interest inventories to consider major choices. Typically, assignments include both curricular and co-curricular activities.

Each advising interaction builds on the relationship of creating a direction. Students change their minds. As they hone their plans, advisors provide a sounding board for planning and considering choices and consequences. Recently, a student asked for assistance in the reinstatement process to return to school after a suspension. This advising session became an opportunity to discuss a course of action and how each decision helped, or hindered, that plan of action.

Certainly many students graduate from liberal arts colleges and universities and find career opportunities, but these same liberal arts institutions can assist in making the commencement process to the work world more attainable.

Is there life after liberal arts? Yes! Several years ago a student completed an internship in publishing after her sophomore year. She was involved in copy-editing and through the process gained some valuable skills, but the most important discovery was the revelation that she did not want to pursue publishing as a career. She returned to campus to continue her double major in English and Political Science. The next summer she continued to build her degree by heading off for another internship in Washington D.C. with a non-profit, multi-national organization. She happened to come across her boss one day, who was struggling to translate a document from Spanish to English for a report. The student, who had a minor in Spanish, offered to translate the document. In doing so, she noticed that the boss had some creative copy-editing skills. He sometimes just “felt” that a comma should be insinuated where he wanted it to go rather than where the rules of grammar would dictate. She suggested there were actually rules and offered to copy edit the reports. After returning to campus in the fall the student relayed this story, with a dawning appreciation for the skills she earned in the publishing internship. While acknowledging that publishing was not the career path for her, she recognized that the skills acquired there can relate and translate to other positions. Our job as advisors is to guide students to develop skills and see the applicability and links between the skills they are developing and how they apply to what employers want. To take this in another light, colleges design a set of general education courses for students to take. Many students view these courses as a barrier to what they really want, which is the major classes. Institutions frequently do a dismal job of explaining the rationale and criteria behind these courses. Yes, you do need to take college level writing. Why? You need to be able to write clearly, concisely and develop your prose and grammar. Secondly, employers do not have the time to train students in writing. They assume that they have learned the skills that will allow them to write reports, letters and documents. No employer will give you a memo back with a grade on it and have you resubmit it.

How do students, faculty, advisors and administrators determine the value of the education students are receiving in the liberal arts? Do we count the number of students that graduate, the number of happy alums that contribute to the institution, or do we assess the outcomes? Can our students graduate from our institutions with an understanding and appreciation for the liberal arts? Can they synthesize information and make informed choices? Do they realize that their degrees have prepared them to live a life rich in choices?

Success is having students who see all the possible links for their degrees rather than seeing limitations. A liberal arts degree is more than a checklist. It is a blueprint for building the foundations for lifelong education. Advisors are the linchpins that articulate options, challenge decisions and illuminate the links from the curricular and co-curricular educational processes to the world of choices.

Sarah Ann Hones
Southern Oregon University

Karen Sullivan-Vance
Western Oregon University


Rothblatt, Sheldon. 2003. The Living Arts: Comparative and Historical Reflections on Liberal Education. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Page 30

Schneider, Carol Geary. 2004. Liberal education and the professions. Washington D.C.: Liberal Education 90:2, 3

Outstanding Advising Awards: Tips on Putting Together a Successful Nomination Packet

John Mortensen, Utah State University

Each year, many individuals are nominated to receive a NACADA Outstanding Advising Award. Some find compiling an advising portfolio daunting without the assistance of someone familiar with the process. Regardless of your comfort level, here are a few tips that may be beneficial in navigating the NACADA award nomination process.

Each institution may only nominate one individual per category for a national award. Some colleges and universities have established a systematic approach to nominating advising professionals, faculty advisors and/or advising administrators; this includes the establishment of an advising portfolio that highlights the attributes of those nominated. Although not mandatory, one similarity often noted in national award winners is that of institutional recognition for outstanding advising or advising administration. The selection process used for an institutional award can be used as the filtering process to determine who will be nominated for a national award. At Utah State University (USU), we use the same criteria for our institutional advising awards that NACADA uses for its national awards. As a result, the portfolio of an institutional advising award winner already addresses the same criteria used by NACADA in determining its award recipients. It can be helpful if there are several months between the time institutional awards are presented and the NACADA nomination due date. This will give nominees plenty of time to make modifications and improvements to their portfolios. 

Along with the portfolio, the person nominating the individual must provide two additional items for submission to NACADA. The first is a completed nomination form; the second is a summary of the nominee’s qualifications. In this document, the nominator (often a campus advising administrator) should summarize the extent to which the nominee meets the award criteria, citing letters of support, data, or other materials illustrative of exemplary performance as an advisor. The creation of this document requires an investment of time by the nominator. At USU, this responsibility is shared. As staff members assist the administrator in reviewing the portfolio, they identify key pieces of information and quotes that the nominator may use in the summary.

I would recommend that institutions without institutional advising awards consider creating them. This should be initiated through the chief administrator responsible for academic advising. Although Utah State University allows only one winner per category per year, there are many advisors who are recognized through the process. Just being nominated is an honor for many individuals; I have never met anyone who was upset by being nominated. Most nominees feel a level of gratitude that someone noticed and expressed appreciation. Even to those who may not win, the process provides a learning experience and prepares them for the next time an opportunity comes their way.

Many individuals nominated for a national award are intimidated and uncertain about the process. A nominee has a huge advantage when he or she is assisted by someone familiar with the process; when possible, ask a previous award winner to serve as a mentor to assist the nominee. The opportunity to actually study a winning portfolio goes a long way in relieving the anxiety that comes from working in unfamiliar territory.

In recent years, advisors at Missouri State University (MSU) have been frequent recipients of national advising awards. MSU has developed an award-winning Master Advisor Program in which participants are required to complete a rigorous training program. Advisors who complete this program receive a certificate signed by the president of the university. Through this program, MSU advisors receive excellent professional development and are well-qualified to receive national awards.

There are many other ways in which one advisor might have an advantage over another in being considered for an advising award. One example might be the knowledge and skills obtained through the completion of the Kansas State University Graduate Certificate Program offered in conjunction with NACADA. The program is designed to benefit advisors at any level.

Advisor recognition should be the direct responsibility of the advising administrator. At USU, we have a system in place that makes it easy for me to nominate the recipients of our institutional awards for NACADA awards; not following through would be unfair to those who are eligible. However, the advisor can’t be considered for a national award unless I, as the advising administrator, fulfill my part of the nomination process. It’s not a question of “if” I will nominate someone, or “when” will I find time to nominate someone, but rather “who” am I going to nominate. Fortunately, the university has a process in place that determines that for me.

In summary, to improve your institution’s chances of being successful in obtaining outstanding advising awards at the national level, I would encourage advising administrators to:

  1. realize that advisor recognition is the advising administrator’s responsibility,
  2. encourage and support advisors in professional development opportunities,
  3. recognize outstanding advising professionals, faculty advisors, and/or advising administrators through institutional advising awards,
  4. assist nominees in putting together advising portfolios,
  5. where possible, ask a previous award winner to mentor the nominee throughout the process, and
  6. allocate sufficient time to put together a well-written summary of the nominees qualifications and how he or she fits the criteria for the award.

Advisor recognition should not be just an afterthought or one of those things we will do if we get around to it. A very well-planned, systematic approach is crucial to success in the award nomination process on a regular basis.


John Mortensen
Utah State University

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Utah State University, whose advisors are among the most decorated in the nation. Here, Student Support Services Program Director Nazih Al-Rashid receives the 2005 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award from NACADA President Eric White.

What is Your Career Advising I.Q.?

Virginia N. Gordon, The Ohio State University

Academic advisors have long recognized that many college students consciously or unconsciously equate their academic major decisions with future career possibilities. Although academic advisors are not expected to be career counselors, they frequently find themselves in the role of assisting students in gathering and processing academic information that is directly or indirectly related to career exploration or planning. The need to integrate academic and career information is more vital today than ever before. Our students are entering a technological workplace that is complex and ever-changing. They need to take advantage of the opportunities in college to develop the knowledge and skills that are essential to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Advisors can play a key role in helping students understand how their educational decisions will affect their future careers and life-styles.

A Definition of Career Advising. Career advising may be viewed as helping students understand how their academic and personal interests, abilities and values might relate to the career fields they are considering and how to form their academic and career goals accordingly. Although the title of “academic counselor” is used by some institutions, a clear distinction must be made between career counseling and career advising. Career counselors provide more traditional counseling functions such as helping students with career self-assessment, job search and job placement activities, or counseling students who are experiencing more stressful personal situations relating to career decision making and maintenance.

Academic advisors need to be:

  • knowledgeable about how students develop vocationally;
  • able to recognize career-related problems;
  • career information experts relative to the academic area they are advising;
  • able to help students gather and process relevant information; and
  • proficient in referring students to career-related resources.

To assess some of your career advising knowledge and skills, consider how effectively you can perform the tasks listed below.

What Is Your Career Advising I.Q.? 

Check the items below for which you are knowledgeable and/or competent:

____ Name the work of a career theorist whose person-environment system is often used to help students connect their interests, aptitudes and values to specific academic majors and occupations
____ Name a student development theorist who provides insights into how and when students develop a “career purpose.”
____ Describe the characteristics of a good student career decision maker with whom you have had contact; a poor one. What is the difference?
____ Give one example of a student career-related concern that you as an advisor would refer to the campus counseling center.
____ Describe under what circumstances, if any, you would assume the role of career mentor.
____ Describe a career-related assessment tool (for example, a value checklist, computer-assisted career information system, interest inventory) with which you are familiar, and under what circumstances you would refer a student.
____ Name a career-related Internet Web site you use with students on a regular basis.
____ Name 3 sources of career information related to the academic discipline you are advising.
____ Name 2 topics you would suggest for advisor development workshops for your colleagues.
____ Describe how you use O*Net (web-based career advising tool) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) in your advising.
____ Describe the resources to which you refer students in your campus career center.
____ Describe the specific places of employment the graduates of the area(s) you advise are finding jobs.
____ Frame one career-advising related question that would make a good research project.


  # Items Checked Score
  0-4 need work
  5-8 you're a fair career advisor
  9-12 you lucky students
  13 you should be teaching graduate school!

Advisor’s Career Advising Role.

Some advisors do not engage in career advising because they feel they lack the background and training or because they don’t view it as their responsibility. This may put students at a disadvantage, however, if they don’t receive the academically related occupational information that is critical for informed, timely decisions. If advisors don’t help their advisees with this task students will tap other sources that may not be as accurate, timely, or reliable. Career advising does not require advisor competencies that are not already known and practiced by academic advisors. Basic advising skills such as communication, teaching, and referral are no different from those used in regular advising contacts. Some areas of career-related knowledge and skills are emphasized, however. Expanded areas of career knowledge, for example, might be required to effectively offer students specific types of academically-related career information and advice. Theoretical frameworks provide insights into how students make career decisions and how their perceptions of the meaning of career change over time. Advisors’ technological and assessment competencies may need to be adapted to more specialized uses.

Academic advisors must be in tune with the remarkable changes unfolding in today’s workplace. By expanding or refining their career advising competencies they can play a vital role in helping students understand the importance of educational and career goal setting and how the decisions they make in college might influence satisfaction and success in their future personal and work lives.

Assistance is available in a forthcoming NACADA/Jossey-Bass publication, Career Advising: A Guide for Academic Advisors. The focus of this book is to help academic advisors who come from many academic disciplines and backgrounds to learn, expand, or refine their knowledge of career development theory, career information, and career advising practices. It can serve as a guide through the maze of career information sources that are available in many forms as well as an introduction to other important career-related resources and methods.

Virginia N. Gordon
The Ohio State University

Why Do Assessment of Academic Advising?

Susan Campbell, NACADA Assessment Institute Advisory Board Chair

[Editor's Note: This article is a follow-up to Why Do Assessment of Academic Advising? (Part 1)  featured in the September issue of Academic Advising Today.]

This fall the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) adopted updated academic advising standards that require the assessment of academic advising on our campuses and specifically the development of student learning outcomes. As discussed previously, assessment is a systematic, systemic, relational process. It that begins with the identification of reasons for doing assessment and ends with reporting and acting upon the assessment results. ‘Ending’ is really a misnomer since the ‘end’ of the assessment process really represents the beginning of the next cycle of assessment! Maki (2004) provides steps in the assessment process:

  • Determine your reasons for assessment.  What do is it you want to know and why? Be clear, be concise, and be honest. Maki suggests that assessment should be guided by questions of institutional curiosity and framed around what and how well and what students are learning.
  • Identify key stakeholders. Assessment is a collective, not solo, exercise. To be meaningful, you must engage individuals in the process who have ( or should have) a stake in your academic advising program. The collective nature of assessment adds value to its meaning.
  • Address the big four: values, vision, mission and goals. What values are important to your academic advising program? Values reflect beliefs that get translated into behavior. If you value the advisor/advisee partnership, this should be reflected in your mission, goals, and outcomes. What is your vision? A vision is a long-term view - where should your advising program be in the future? Where should you set your sights? The roadmap to your vision is your mission statement. The mission statement clearly articulates who you are, whom you serve, and how you serve them. Are your goals associated with your mission and intended to guide programmatic activities and initiatives? An advising center, for example, might have the goal to 'serve as a campus-wide resource for academic advising information.'
  • Develop outcomes: Programmatic, Student Learning Outcomes and Advisor Learning Outcomes (Process/Delivery). This step answers the question: what should students demonstrate they know, are able to do, and value/appreciate as a result of participating in academic advising? For the advisor, this step addresses the question: what should advisors know, be able to do, value/appreciate in order to be effective in the academic advising process. [The difference between these types of outcomes is addressed in the previous article.]
  • Map opportunities to learn. Mapping provides a way to identify learning opportunities and guides when we should offer them. Mapping also provides the opportunity to identify levels of learning for particular concepts as well as identifies campus experiences where the same (or similar) information is introduced or reinforced. The mapping process, therefore, helps us to think about the academic advising experience in relationship to other learning experiences (both curricular and co-curricular) that may share similar student learning outcomes. Looking holistically at the student experience is actually another key reason to engage in assessment.
  • Identify multiple measures and set benchmarks for performanceA survey that measures student satisfaction is but one way to gather evidence; indeed, in order to triangulate the evidence, we must gather evidence from multiple sources. Evidence must reflect both direct and indirect measures, and be both quantitative and qualitative. More importantly, the method selected must be appropriate to the outcome addressed. 'What evidence do we need to understand student learning and how best is this evidence gathered?' is an important collective conversation with regard to any student learning outcomes. Finally, performance benchmarks must be set for each outcome for these benchmarks guide our understanding of the impact of program improvements.
  • Design a report structure and a dissemination plan for assessment evidence. Simply put, information gathered through assessment should be formatted for the audience. Consequently, it is important that we design a report structure that is easily understood and highlights the important aspects of the gathered evidence. In addition, the report must reflect how the evidence should be used to improve the academic advising process and program.


Is it worth it? I know that engaging in assessment is worth it. Feedback from those engaged in assessment of academic advising points to its importance in changing how academic advising is perceived within a department and on a campus. This feedback makes it clear that the assessment process is not easy and that it requires an ongoing commitment to difficult conversations with key stakeholders regarding what is or is not important. This ongoing commitment to assessment means carving out time for collective conversations about what and how students learn things we deem important in the academic advising process. It means that we must pull ourselves away from the ever-compelling day-to-day issues that, quite honestly, will still be there the next day. We must use this time to converse about what academic advising really is and how we can improve the process in order to enhance and support student learning. How could that NOT be worth it?

Susan Campbell
University of Southern Maine


Maki, Peggy L. (2004). Assessing for Learning: Building a Sustainable Commitment Across the Institution. Sterling VA: Stylus Publishing.

Attendance at the NACADA Academic Advising Administrators' Institute (AI) and Assessment of Academic Advising Institute (AS) Produced Results

Suzanne M. Trump (Assistant Dean of Retention and Academic Advising, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia) and Janet Spence (Director, University-Wide Advising Practice, Office of the Provost/Undergraduate Affairs, University of Louisville) share what they gained from the NACADA Administrators’ and Assessment Institutes.

Two years ago, I was debating whether to attend the relatively new Administrators’ Institute or attend the tried and true Advising Summer Institute. I spoke with some of my colleagues and they encouraged me to try the Administrators’ Institute, rationalizing that since I was an administrator it would target my needs more than the general institute. But the two things that clinched it for me were to hear from the participants who attended the first Administrators’ Institute in San Antonio and to realize that the second Institute would be held in St. Pete Beach in February. I live outside of Philadelphia, and I am not a fan of winter, so any chance to escape for a few days to a much warmer climate seems like a great idea. I had no idea how much I would gain from the Institute.

At the NACADA National Conference in Dallas, I attended a Pre-Conference Workshop given by advising staff from Southwest Missouri State on their Master Advisor Program. I wanted to develop a similar type of program on my campus. We have a combined faculty and professional advisor system, and I wanted to create a development program that would meet the needs of both groups. I also wanted to build a program that would recognize advising as a form of teaching and learning. Finally, I wanted the program to provide a formal way to reward participants for the significant time and effort they devote to advising students on a daily basis.

I arrived in St. Pete Beach with the goal of creating a program for advisor development and recognition. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we would also have several plenary sessions where experienced administrators would share their expertise with common administrative issues. We had lectures on the development of learning outcomes for advising, understanding campus cultures, technology and assessment, among other topics. I was also assigned to a small group with an excellent facilitator, Rich Robbins. The combination of plenary and small group sessions made for a full day, and we even had homework to complete on our own. Most of us joked that we were working harder at the Institute than we normally work at our institutions. A few of us even whined about the homework, but our facilitator gave us permission not to do it; it was our project, not his, so we would lose out if we didn’t do the work. Sound like the same thing we say to our students?

The small groups are designed so that each individual has time to share his/her project each step of the way and get feedback from people who are in similar situations. My small group was great and gave me ideas that I hadn’t considered and their ideas worked very well. Rich Robbins, our facilitator, did an outstanding job. It was hard work, but I accomplished a lot.

By the time I was ready to leave for Philadelphia, I had the outline of an advisor development and recognition plan that I could implement the moment I returned to campus. I had a time line with specific projects to accomplish, and I had rough drafts of several of the components. Because of the time and energy I put into the group work, and with the input of my small group and facilitator, I was able to offer the first session of Master Advisor Training at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia in May of the same year. I hoped to have 20 advisors volunteer to be in the first Master Advisor cohort, and within 24 hours of sending an email invitation, I had 25 people signed up and a waiting list with a couple additional names. The demand was so great that I decided to offer another session in August. The development plan calls for advisors to spend 1.5 days for the initial development and commit to three hours of continuing education per year, so this is a significant time commitment for both faculty and professional advisors.

Given the success I experienced at the Administrators' Institute, I decided to send one of the professional advisors who works in my office to the Advising Summer Institute. His charge was to develop the continuing education piece of the program. He returned with a plan and outline to implement a brown bag series. This past academic year, we hosted monthly brown bag sessions with good attendance and positive feedback from participants. We opened the sessions up to anyone on campus, and while we had many advisors, we also had people in other areas who were interested in the topic. In the end, we served not just the targeted group but provided opportunities for the entire campus. This academic year, we will expand the brown bag sessions to twice a month.

At times I feel that I am a shameless commercial for NACADA Conferences and Institutes, but they allowed me to develop a program which ultimately serves students better. From the initial pre-conference session at the National Conference in Dallas to the two Institutes, we relied heavily on our colleagues and took successful programs and adapted them to fit our needs. I encourage you to do the same.

Suzanne M. Trump
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

AI2005.jpgIn February 2005, the University of Louisville (U of L) sent nineteen academic advisors and advising center directors to the NACADA Advising Administratorsand Assessment Institute at St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. We were charged to develop a university-wide academic advising plan that included a vision, mission, goals and objectives with student learning outcomes for academic advising. We were also to learn best practices in developing an assessment plan for academic advising.

The Institutes’ faculty did an exemplary job of facilitating our group’s work and went out of their way to accommodate our needs. Susan Campbell served as our facilitator, Ruth Darling offered advice and direction, and Charlie Nutt was our key cheerleader and motivator. Of course, Charlie Nutt and Bobbie Flaherty managed to keep us on task by tracking us down with the infamous bells. (One may be interested to know that Charlie brings the bells to the beach and sends participants back to work!)

The University of Louisville group accomplished a great deal at the Institutes, and we utilized every opportunity to learn and work. The groundwork for the development of our advising vision and mission, goals and objectives stemmed from the U of L Challenge for Excellence goals. Our group also reviewed the CAS Standards for Academic Advising, NACADA’s Core Values, the Education Trust website, and the Academic Advising Handbook.

We created an advising vision, mission, and goals and objectives. We also began the process of creating student learning outcomes.Nora Allen, academic advisor and Ph.D. student at the University of Louisville, developed a model of four phases of student development as students move through the advising process.

  • In the Acculturation phase (typically the first year), students become aware of resources, the advisor/advisee relationship and responsibilities, diversity, how to resolve conflict, and how to build new relationships. In this phase they learn how to communicate and navigate within the university structure.
  • In the Crystallization phase (usually the sophomore year), students become ingrained to the institution. Major and career exploration takes place, self assessment occurs, and the students begin to create an academic plan leading to the completion of a degree.
  • Immersion is the third phase (typically, the junior year), in which students identify with their career choice by declaring a major. They finalize their academic plan, begin networking, and develop a closer mentoring relationship with the faculty. Students in this phase start building a resume and become connected to the Career Center.
  • The last phase, Mastery and Completion (senior year) includes finishing the degree requirements, networking, resume completion, participation in an internship, preparing for admission to graduate school or job search, and refining research skills.

Within each phase, four categories of learning were created: technology, academic development, personal development, and social development. Our group planned to identify the student learning that needs to occur within each category of learning.

The NACADA Institutes gave the University of Louisville the opportunity for this group of advising leaders to bond and to develop respect and collegiality for each other. At the University of Louisville, it is rare for the academic advisors and advising center directors (which are spread out among seven units) to get together to work on university-wide projects. The academic advisors sometimes have opportunities to talk to their colleagues over the telephone or via email, but not usually in person. At the institutes, we spent some time getting to know each other, shared what we are doing in our respective units, and discussed what is important for our students to learn and receive from the advising process. This was an invaluable experience for U of L academic advisors.

Where Are We Now?  Upon returning to campus in mid-February, the group pledged to meet biweekly until it developed all student learning outcomes for the four categories of learning in the four phases. Four small groups were formed to develop student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each of the four phases. When the small groups reported back to the entire group, we discovered there were overlapping and duplicate SLOs. At that time, we decided to change our strategy and have small groups assigned to each category of learning. This resulted in a congruent and sequential set of 98 SLOs.

A group prepared a report to the Undergraduate Council in early June 2005. The report included a recommendation for an advising vision, mission, goals and objectives and student learning outcomes from the freshman to senior years. The Undergraduate Council and the University Provost appreciated the group’s diligent work on the project and has decided to start implementation of the SLOs outlined in the Acculturation phase. Currently, a group is working with the University’s Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning in the development of 14 on-line modules that will include the SLOs recommended by the advisors’ group.

Thanks to the faculty of the NACADA institutes, the support of the U of L administration, and the dedication and work ethic of our 19-member advisors’ group, we are well on our way in implementing a university-wide academic advising program at the University of Louisville.

Janet Spence
University of Louisville

NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient Reflects on her Experience

Bonnie Alberts, Black Hills State University 

After advising for several years, in 2000 I had the opportunity to attend the NACADA Summer Institute in Lexington, Kentucky as an SI Scholarship recipient. I am not sure that in the telling, I can do justice to the experience and the difference it made in my professional life.

I learned to advise with the help of an outstanding mentor in the early ‘90s. Listening to this colleague and reading what I had time for, I developed a sense of the foundations and guiding principles, heavily influenced by my own experiences as a student and by my own values. Attending meetings and conferences gave me opportunities to hear from others and to share conversations about our advising perspectives.

I knew that NACADA provided a very clear and legitimate foundation for advising practices that was rooted in theory and research, but I had been picking it up bit-by-bit, in a way that left me feeling fragmented and uncertain about what I thought I knew, and knew I believed!

My mentor had always encouraged me to attend the Summer Institute, but my supervisors at that time were not able to fund it, and I could not afford to cover the expenses myself. The scholarship to attend made a statement of NACADA’s faith in me, which influenced my institution to follow with the remaining expenses.

Attending the NACADA Summer Institute was just what I needed on several levels. The presentations laid out the foundations of advising with exceptional clarity—both in theory and in practice. As the institute faculty made their presentations, I came to the realization that I had known much more than I realized. The fragments of understanding I had collected were quite comprehensive, and what I needed was to get them organized and to recognize some correlations I had overlooked. The presentations helped me complete the picture and adjust my perspective.

Formalizing my grasp on the theory, I came away from those presentations with much more confidence in my skills and the legitimacy of my own practices. I had an unexplained history of success with my students, and after the Institute, I understood why.

The work sessions with my group were more difficult for me. The year I attended the Institute, I had been in a work environment that was fraught with scrutiny and criticism that drove away two good co-workers. I was hanging on, but I felt quite powerless to initiate any action. Although I was no powerhouse for my own causes, in those sessions I found that I was still creative and insightful and was able to help my group members develop their plans. It was another boost to my confidence.

Out of those associations, I connected with two colleagues with whom I spent the evenings walking all over Lexington. Great exercise—great conversations—great pleasure in those connections. For some time after, we consulted with one another and provided valuable access to resources.

Essentially, I came away from the NACADA Summer Institute with increased knowledge and understanding of my field and with more confidence in my intellect, my insights, my judgment, and my professional abilities. I made friends; I expanded my network of professional colleagues; I found time to go into myself and come out stronger. The experience has served me well in my practice with students, in the leadership and creativity I have provided on my campuses, and in the advancement of my professional placement.

For these gifts, I have been eternally grateful to NACADA for sponsoring my tuition to attend the NACADA Summer Institute.

Last summer I encouraged my current director to attend the Institute. In addition to the gains of his own experiences, he returned with a better understanding of my motives and actions, and with an apparent appreciation for how I work with students and my vision for this campus.

Bonnie Alberts
Black Hills State University

National Conference a Huge Success!

A record number (3,380) of advising colleagues came to Las Vegas October 5-8 to share information on current advising topics. To quote one participant: "In all of the sessions I attended, I heard the buzz of collegial networks being established and reinforced.”

Keynote speakers Joe Martin (founder and president of RealWorld University) and Robert Sherfield (professor at The Community College of Southern Nevada) were a tremendous hit in the General Sessions. 

Incoming NACADA President Jo Anne Huber shared her vision for the coming year on Friday morning, and readers can find a slightly modified text of her speech in this publication’s President’s column.

The 2005 NACADA Award recipients were honored at a special Awards Ceremony and Reception on Wednesday afternoon prior to the opening session of the Conference. Photos of all award recipients, as well as complete lists by category of award recipients and their institutions, can be viewed in the Awards section of the NACADA website.

, Dean of the Kansas State University College of Education, was given special recognition for the past sixteen years of support provided to the Association and to academic advising. Dean Holen and the KSU College of Education provide administrative support and operating space to the NACADA Executive Office, which has greatly contributed to the growth and vitality of the Association.

A Reception honoring recipients of the NACADA-Kansas State University Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising gave participants of this Distance Learning program the opportunity to meet face-to-face.

After Conference hours, attendees enjoyed the numerous nearby dining and entertainment opportunities. Congratulations to co-chairs Rimi Marwah and Heather Howard and their entire Conference Committee, the many volunteers, and Conference Director Nancy Barnes for a job well done!




Mentor Connection: Building Success for Students on Academic Probation


Clark Johnson, Minnesota State University-Mankato 
Dana Deming-Hodapp, Chisago County Human Services, Minnesota
Lynae Johnsen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mentor Connection is a program in which students on academic probation work closely with a graduate assistant mentor who helps the students strategize for class success and monitors their progress throughout the semester. The program is housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ undergraduate advising center at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Each graduate assistant has a caseload of approximately twenty students on academic probation. While students are expected to participate in the program, they are not required to participate. About 40% of students on probation choose to participate.

Weekly staff meetings address the challenges of working with the probationary students. Mentors learn about probation rules, program expectations, record keeping, and effective techniques for working with students on probation. Program leadership is provided by a graduate student who serves as the “mentor connection coordinator” and maintains records, assigns the caseloads, and provides peer leadership among the mentors.

Each semester begins with probation students completing self-assessments that provide an introspective look into their situations. Topics discussed include studying without distractions, developing interest in subjects, gaining confidence in academic ability, desiring a degree, motivation to attend class, how to approach professors, balancing outside interests, and garnering support from friends and family. Students describe the events or actions that most negatively affected last semester’s academic performance and identify potential actions that can improve the current semester. Students with outside employment indicate how many hours are worked each week, and if work interferes with their studies.

Self-assessments become the vehicle mentors and students use to come to a mutual understanding of the students’ situations. Students often are in denial about their academic situation, and many attribute their lack of success to factors which they can not control. Mentors help students identify internal, controllable factors and help them make changes to remove obstacles to success.

Though the process varies for each mentor and student, the program is built around students’ need to understand class expectations, along with development and implementation of effective strategies. Students and mentors review the course syllabi and students document each course’s expectations for projects, papers, tests, etc. All assignments are placed on a semester calendar. When students are not clear about the assignment expectations, mentors encourage students to speak with professors and report back at the next meeting.

Mentors follow up with students regarding their class progress and pursue a wide range of topics. Mentors and students discuss the “big picture” and students are asked to express their college and life goals. Students present remarkably diverse needs. Mentors do not shy away from helping students address non-academic needs that affect academic performance and make appropriate referrals as needed. Mentors offer an open ear and another set of eyes on many subjects important to students.

Students experience many situations and conditions in common. They frequently cite one or more of the following factors as contributing to their placement on academic probation: making school a low priority, poor time management, working too much, difficulty adjusting to the college environment and study expectations, procrastination, test anxiety, poor test-taking and study skills, failing to attend class, financial stress, scheduling classes too early in the day, taking on an unrealistic workload, poor attitude, lack of motivation, and living/studying in distracting environments.

At the end of the semester students complete a second self-assessment. Mentors and students compare the initial and the second self-assessments and review student progress. Students also complete an anonymous evaluation of the program.

Program Assessment

Mentor Connection effectively tracks students on academic probation and maintains files on each participant. Participants are retained, improve their grade point average, and are removed from academic probation at a much higher rate that would be expected.

  • 82.7% of program participants returned to MSU the following semester, as compared to only 50.6% of those who did not participate and 55.9% for those referred to another campus office.
  • 74.7% of participants increased their gpa, compared to 46.6% of non-participants and 52.9% of students referred elsewhere.
  • 39.3% of participants moved off probation, compared to 27.2% of non-participants and 29.4% of students in other MSU probation programs.

Participants report an increase in their motivation and an improved academic support system; they express satisfaction with their experience. Of 136 participants who evaluated the program over seven semesters, 134 thought that their mentor was helpful. Participants indicate that their mentor experiences helped them: feel like they belonged at the University, recognize that people care, build the confidence needed to achieve, and better understand how to be successful.


Mentor Connection works. Its focus on helping students identify internal controllable factors is key to creating student change. The ongoing support and open sharing of progress and challenges serve to buttress students in a self-supporting way. The key to success is working one-on-one in a professional yet caring manner with students as they begin to accept responsibility for their academic performance. Nonetheless, we would like more students to participate and complete the program and continue studying student needs so that we may better understand and attract students to the program and to keep them involved in it.

Graduate students indicate that the most satisfying part of their jobs is working with the students. Most graduate assistants were recently undergraduates; thus the connections they make with students may be a result of their proximity to the students’ personal and collegiate experience and their genuine interest in the work.

Mentor Connection is time and labor-intensive, thus appropriate resources are needed. To be successful, a program must have access to graduate assistants or sufficient advising staff. A campus must commit to interventionist assistance for probationary students. Assuming that resources and commitment are present, caring, student-centered professionals should be able to adapt the Mentor Connection Program model to their situations and can expect that students will respond with improved academic performance.

Clark Johnson
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Dana Deming-Hodapp
Chisago County Human Services, Minnesota

Lynae Johnsen
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Bartlett, T. (2004) Back from the Brink. Retrieved May 29, 2004 from http://chronicle.com, Section: Students, Vol. 50, Issue 36, Page A39.

DesJardins, S. L. & Jie, W. (2002). An Analytic Model to Assist Academic Advisors. NACADA Journal, 22(1), 32-44.

Higgins, E. (2003). Advising Students on Probation. Retrieved January 6, 2004 fromNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/probation.htm

Kelley, K. N. (1996). Causes, Reactions, and Consequences of Academic Probation: A Theoretical Model. NACADA Journal, 16(1), 28-34.


It takes but one SPARK to ignite the flame for an idea. Does your campus have an unusual or exceptional process or program that could spark an idea on another campus? If so, tell us about it in 350 words or less.  Send your 'Sparkler' to the NACADA Executive Office. 

This edition’s SPARKLER comes from Douglas Busman (Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI).

During my second year as an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, I was asked by the Dean to serve as Director of the newly established Student Information and Services Advising Center. As I arrived for work those first few months, it wasn’t a question of just hoping that my Advising Center colleagues would help me learn the job; it was more a question of needing their help to just survive. One of the first places I looked was to the student workers, since they certainly understood the “ins and outs” of the university bureaucracy from the student perspective. As my expectations for student workers increased, they, in turn, did not let me down. Student workers attend monthly staff meetings and are involved in the Advising Center decision-making. When the staff participates in off site team building and strategic thinking workshops, the student workers are invited and play a pivotal role.

As I begin my second year at the Advising Center, I continue to marvel at the ability of these student workers as they answer phone inquiries and work face-to-face with other students to help them resolve problems. While care is taken not to place students in awkward positions or to abdicate the supervisory process, there appears to be no limit to what student workers can learn and do to improve advising at the Center.

Find out more regarding students as peer advisors in new NACADA monograph, Peer Advising: Connections to Support Student Learning, which includes Exemplary Practices in the use of peer advisors. 



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