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Voices of the Global Community


Thought Leaders Wanted: What Each of Us Must Do to Advance the Field of Academic Advising

Jeffrey McClellan, Immediate Past Chair, Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission

Jeff McClellan.jpgThought leaders are those whose ideas are so influential as to alter the way people think and act in the world. Great thought leaders represent one of the major driving forces of history and an underlying power for constructing local and global culture patterns. Individuals like Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Jesus, Locke, Muhammad, Gandhi, and numerous similarly and less well known figures have come to, both directly and indirectly, guide our thinking and structure our values and actions.  While the question of who has been the greatest thought leader of all time could largely be debated, the importance of thought leaders in relation to the promotion of ideas and the onward march of history is indisputable. At critical times, they emerge to give shape to the values of their societies and impetus to people’s actions. Just such individuals are now needed within NACADA to catalyze its march into the future.

Within the field of academic advising there have been many great thought leaders. O’Banion (1972) and Crookston (1972) gave birth to the study of advising and the concept of developmental advising. Hemwell, Trachte, Hurt, Lowenstein, and Ryan (1999, 2007, 2005, 1992) challenged the developmental advising paradigm and birthed the mantra of advising as teaching. Hagen (Hagen, 1994, 2008; Hagen & Jordan, 2008) has been a force for expanding the theoretical foundation of advising to include humanities based concepts and approaches. Gordon has significantly driven the concept of career advising (Gordon, 2006). These and others, whose exclusion is not meant to diminish their efforts, have made the field of advising what it is today. It is through their work that advising has come to be an extremely diverse, respected and expanding professional field of inquiry and practice. Now a new generation of thought leaders is needed to stand beside these giants and continue to contribute to and expand the field. In order to be successful these new thought leaders need to make their stories resonate within the world of advising created by their predecessors and counterparts.

According to Gardner (1995), the major work of leaders is to construct and convey stories that resonate with those they lead. Stories of this nature must correspond with the experience of listeners in such a way that they resonate, while at the same time providing sufficient dissonance to inspire action and commitment. As a result, thought leaders must be adept at listening to those whom they would lead, integrating what they find across disparate groups, paying attention to the changing world around them, and then integrating all of these into coherent visions, plans, ideas, and practices that their diverse constituencies can draw upon to inform their work.

The thought leaders that NACADA needs now are individuals who are able to understand the divergent needs of the multiple constituencies that make up the advising community. These stakeholders include professional non-faculty and faculty advisors, administrators, advisor training personnel, researchers, philosophers, theorists, and students. To understand the distinct interests, needs, and desires of these diverse groups requires that thought leaders engage in some of these arenas directly and significantly, while experiencing and studying others indirectly through deep inquiry and listening. As a result, they can then take the work they conduct in one of these arenas and expand and enrich it so as to meet the needs of the others; thereby bridging the gaps that separate the interests and needs of these diverse advising groups. We need scholars who inform practice, practitioners who review and contribute to scholarship, theorists and philosophers who resonate with those who normally would not be interested in their work, and trainers who are grounded in theory and practice while conducting training in interesting and effective ways.

To this end, each of us who writes, presents, and leads at NACADA events and in the multiple venues through which advising scholarship is conveyed must facilitate more scholarly discussions of practice and more practical discussions of scholarship. We must tie our practice into the literature of advising and discuss the implication our practice has on that literature. We must examine how our philosophies can reach the hearts and hands of less philosophical practitioners to better meet their needs. We must explore how the research we conduct can impact the work of our counterparts. This is not to say that those of us who are focused on expanding just the practice or just the scholarship of advising are not needed; nonetheless, in the diverse field of advising our voices may become increasingly marginalized if we do not find ways to cross the divides as great thought leaders always have.

My purpose in writing this brief article is to issue a call, a call to all advising professionals, regardless of our niche, to raise the level of our work, especially as it relates to our contributions via the venue of NACADA conferences, publication, etc. We must make the stories we tell resonate across the field in such a way that advising continues to emerge and expand to new heights born upon the shoulders of new thought leaders who stand shoulder to shoulder with their predecessors. That call is a personal call to each and every one of us. I look forward to seeing our responses.

Jeffrey McClellan
Frostburg State University


Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12-17.

Gardner, H., & Laskin, E. (1995). Leading minds: An anatomy of leadership. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Gordon, V. N. (2006). Career advising: An academic advisor's guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hagen, P. L. (1994). Academic advising as dialectic. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 85-88.

Hagen, P. L. (2008). Imagination and interpretation: Academic advising and the humanities. NACADA Journal, 28(2), 14-20.

Hagen, P. L., & Jordan, P. (2008). Theoretical foundations of academic advising. In Gordon, V. N.,  Habley, W.R. & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 17-35.

Hemwell, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (1999). Learning at the core: Toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 5-11.

Hurt, R. L. (2007). Advising as teaching: Establishing outcomes, developing tools, and assessing student learning. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 36-40.

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73.

O'Banion, T. (1972). An academic advising model. Junior College Journal, 42(6), 62-69.

Ryan, C. C. (1992). Advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 12(1), 4-8.

From the President: Academic Advising 'For Good'

Jayne Drake, NACADA President
Kathy Stockwell, NACADA Vice President

Jayne Drake.jpgKathy Stockwell.jpgEvery year at the Annual Conference, Kathy Stockwell and I are reminded why NACADA is such a warm, giving, smart, caring, thoughtful, committed, collaborative, professional, responsive organization (have we layered on enough adjectives yet?). This year, our reminder came in a very poignant way at the Friday morning plenary session when the NACADA Choir sang “For Good” from the musical Wicked.

Because the lyrics of this song seem to speak to the important, transformative work advisors engage in every day in our colleges and universities around the world, we would like to share a part of these lyrics with you.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn,
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true,
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

This double . . . no . . . triple entendre is a clever one when filtered through the prism of advising:  students walk into our lives as they enter the academy in search of their academic goals and career aspirations.  With our help, they shape an academic plan that sets them on a course that changes them inevitably—once and for all—for good.  And with our help, they get connected with the academic, social, and cultural life of our institutions that then should inspire them to become life-long learners and bright, engaged members of society and thus changed for the better—for good.  Advising is also a reciprocal arrangement because we, as professional and faculty advisors and advising administrators are, in turn, changed for good (once and for all and for the better) through the gratification that comes from having positively influenced others.

And in a larger sense, isn’t this what drives us to do what we do every day in our advising offices?  Understanding that we change students’ lives for good—knowing that, while they may not always remember our names next week or many years hence, students have benefited from our time with them and that we have benefited from our contact with them.

The powerful and pivotal role that advisors assume on our campuses in helping students persist to graduation is also what leads us every year to NACADA’s many professional development opportunities, be they our Webcasts, Clearinghouse and other publications, or our hugely successful San Antonio Annual Conference, just passed, or our regional, state, and drive-in conferences, the Summer Institutes, the Assessment Institute, or the Administrators Institute.  These venues draw hundreds of people every year from the U.S., Canada, and around the world to engage in constructing action plans that focus on key issues or concerns on their campuses that they want to develop or improve.

The theme we have adopted for our year as President and Vice President of NACADA is “Reaching and Retaining Students.”  It is all about exploring the ways that professional advisors, faculty advisors, and advising administrators can proactively reach out to our students, to help them get connected and stay connected with our institutions, and to help ensure their persistence to graduation and even beyond.  This theme has taken life in a number of ways. NACADA has developed an entire Webcast series around strategies for working with students. NACADA’s new professional development DVD, Scenes for Learning and Reflection, offers ten “typical” advising scenes, each followed by a series of questions calculated to engage viewers in thinking critically about and enhancing our own advising skills. Then, attached to the Assessment and Administrators Institutes in Clearwater Beach this coming February, is a seminar entitled “Strategies for Increasing Student Persistence and Retention,” which will help create change—for good—as participants devise strategies to build or augment campus cultures dedicated to student engagement, persistence, and success.

Of course, retention more than ever is the word of the realm. Institutions around the world have long since left in the dust the notion that opening our doors to students is enough, that once here, they can negotiate their own way through our often byzantine, labyrinthine curriculum, processes, and hallowed halls. With budget belt tightening an immediate reality, and with central administrators scouring their cost centers to slash if not mortally wound any perceived “non-essential” academic and support service, the drumbeat has intensified and quickened to improve retention numbers. Consultants are brought in; taskforces are formed; retention coordinators are hired, and interventions are put in place.

For nearly three decades, research about student persistence has pointed to the value of connecting students early on to the institution through learning support systems such as tutoring and supplemental instruction programs, as well as first-year programming such as learning communities and freshman seminar, and also with solid academic advising. These are the three elements deemed largely responsible for student persistence. George Kuh makes the point that just as important as the time and effort students put into their coursework is the way institutions support strategies that connect students to the campus environment and high impact learning experiences. And the way to bring all of these elements together is by embedding them within solid academic advising programs. Richard Light underscores the value of academic advising and its positive influence on student persistence through his assertion that “good academic advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience.”

Pascarella and Terenzini tell us that regardless of institutional type or the composition of the student body, solid academic advising can influence student persistence.  Students who are the happiest and academically the most successful have developed a solid relationship with an academic advisor, a faculty member, or an administrator who can help them navigate the academic and social shoals of the academy.

Several thoughts about our recent 30th Annual Conference—“Deep in the Heart of Student Success”:  throughout the year, NACADA draws people together with the expressed purpose of “promoting and supporting quality academic advising in institutions of higher education” in order to “enhance the educational development of students.”   This message was nowhere more clearly articulated than in San Antonio, where thousands of people gathered to share a vast sweep of knowledge in scores of presentations, poster sessions, workshops, meetings, and lively dinner discussions.   A conference of this magnitude just does not spring full blown into existence. Many hats off to all the folks who every year culminate a year’s worth of exhaustive planning, with this year’s attendance reaching nearly 2,600: Rhonda Baker, Julia Wolf, Leigh Cunningham, Gary Cunningham, Marsha Miller, Maxine Coffey, Bobbie Flaherty, Judy Weyrauch, Bev Martin, Farrah Turner, Cara Wohler, Jenifer Scheibler, Diane Matteson, Michele Holaday, Jennifer Rush, and, of course, our redoubtable Executive Director, Charlie Nutt.  Our thanks also go to JoAnne Huber, NACADA Past President and head of this year’s Annual Conference Program Committee, from the University of Texas at Austin and her team for an outstanding job in helping to make sure bells and whistles, levers and pulleys all worked just right at the Convention Center and Conference Hotels. Of course, we are especially grateful to Casey Self, Arizona State University, for his leadership as President this year. His wisdom, sound judgment, and steady vision characterize the best that is NACADA, and we thank him for guiding the Association into our bright future.

By now, the lights in the Convention Center shine on another conference; the meeting rooms are filled with other presentations, and the barges on the River Walk float countless others inspired by the beauty and history of San Antonio. It is our hope that all of us have returned to our campuses with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm for what we hope gets us up every morning: student success in all its various iterations—changing students for good.

We encourage you to contact us at any time.  With your continued support, we anticipate a great year ahead.

Jayne Drake, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

Kathy Stockwell, Vice President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

From the Executive Director: NACADA, The Global Community for Academic Advising

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgWhat an exciting conference we had in San Antonio to celebrate NACADA’s 30th Anniversary! From our keynote speakers, preconference workshops, concurrent sessions, and poster sessions to the Common Reading discussion, Commission/Interest Group Fair, and silent auction, this year’s Conference, as always, provided the highest quality professional development and networking opportunities for our over 2500 participants!  I personally enjoyed at our opening session having the opportunity to recognize our Past Presidents and Executive Director Emeritus Bobbie Flaherty for their leadership in our first 30 years! Special thanks and kudos to Jo Ann Huber from the University of Texas and her awesome conference committee, as well as Rhonda Baker and the entire NACADA Staff at Kansas State University for their work and the long hours they put into making the Conference a major success!

NACADA and the role of academic advising in the lives of students have definitely grown together in the past 30 years in a very symbiotic manner.  NACADA has had a direct impact on higher education’s understanding of the value of academic advising in student persistence and success, and the recognition of academic advising as both a profession and an integral component of student success initiatives has had a direct impact on NACADA’s growth in membership and influence in higher education.

It is extremely exciting to see the progress that higher education and NACADA are making, while slowly at times, in recognizing and valuing diversity in our students on our campuses and our membership in NACADA. We are finally seeing a growth in the respect for women, people of color and multi-ethnic backgrounds, and people from all gender identities, institutional types, and roles in leadership in both our colleges and universities and in all areas of leadership in NACADA.  I want to acknowledge the work of Skip Crownhart, Jane Jacobson, Randy Jedele, Casey Self and the many other leaders and members who have actively assisted NACADA in our diversity efforts. Our relatively new Emerging Leader Program has already had success in increasing the involvement in leadership from our members of diverse backgrounds. But I continue to challenge myself, our Leaders, and our members to more openly and demonstratively acknowledge, respect, and value the involvement, views, and leadership of women, people from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, our GLBT colleagues, and our colleagues from institutional types and roles different from our own. I further challenge our Association to be a leader in our diversity efforts in the higher education community.

As we are very proud of our 30 year Anniversary and the strong foundation so many people established for NACADA, it is time to look toward the future for the next 30 years!  The NACADA Strategic Goals, as approved by the Board of Directors, provide us with a road map for looking toward the future. With the Strategic Goals as my foundation, let me take a view minutes to outline for us where we have been, where we are moving, and where we might want to be when the Next Generation of NACADA Leaders celebrates our 60 Year Anniversary!

  • We have taken a bold step as an Association in the Board of Directors’ vote to use as our tag line, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. Built upon our long history of work with our Canadian colleagues, as well as our recent opportunities to work with colleagues in countries like the  UK, Australia, the Netherlands, United Emirates, Japan, South Africa, and Korea, the focus on our international connections is key to the future of NACADA. The Board of Directors is continuing its work on how to more intentionally demonstrate our influence, commitment, and involvement with our international colleagues in student success and academic advising, personal tutoring, and career development. This includes how we might expand our professional development opportunities, both in person and via technology, to international sites; how we might expand international involvement in our publications, such as the NACADA Journal, Academic Advising Today, the NACADA Clearinghouse, etc.; and how we might intentionally develop a plan for involving our international colleagues in our leadership opportunities. Won’t it be exciting during the next 30 years for our NACADA Annual Conference to be held on site and via the Web in an international city and our President be an international member?
  • We have made great strides in our 30 years toward increasing the respect of academic advising as a field of study in higher education through the NACADA Journal as well as the work of the Research Committee, including the NACADA Research Grants, the Association statement on Scholarly Inquiry, the Common Reading program at Annual Conference, and Research Symposium held in conjunction with several Region Conferences. In addition, NACADA’s relationship with Kansas State University’s graduate programs in academic advising also has enhanced the focus on our field of study.  The Board of Directors has continued this focus by recommending that one of the keynote speakers at our Annual Conferences be research focused in the field of academic advising and student success.  We have also worked to connect more closely with our graduate students who are our future researchers through a new Interest Group established for Doctoral Students and through our annual Silent Auction, which works to fund graduate student scholarships to our Regional Conferences. Won’t it be exciting during the next 30 years for NACADA, our members, leaders  and publications to be recognized as the primary source for the major research in the field of academic advising and student success, for our research grant funding to be increased significantly due to an influx in research being conducted in the field of academic advising, and for our graduate student membership and involvement in research in the field to have greatly increased?
  • During the past 30 years, NACADA has greatly expanded our professional development opportunities, resources, and materials that we provide our members and the higher education profession as whole. Today we have a series of professional development events, including our Annual Conferences, Regional Conferences, specialized Seminars, Summer Institutes, Administrators’ Institutes, and Assessment Institutes. We have a full catalogue of print resources including a Monograph series, books done in collaboration with Jossey-Bass, the NACADA Journal, and Academic Advising Today. Additionally, we have expanded our resources via various technology, including the NACADA Clearinghouse, our Webcast series, CD and DVD series, and podcasts and blogs.  During our next 30 years, the Executive Office, in partnership with the Board of Directors and our various Advisory Boards and Committees, must work to not only expand our offerings to meet the changing needs of our members, institutions, students, and the field of study but to also focus on providing  connected cost effective resources. Won’t it be exciting  in the next 30 years for NACADA members to be able to connect attendance at a variety of events with specific publications, resources, and even speakers and consultants from the NACADA Academic Advising Consultants and Speakers Service for one low price and take advantage of these in person or via some form of technology?
  • Last, nothing has changed and grown more in the past 30 years than technology and its impact on higher education, students and their paths to success and persistence.  However, this is one area in which I know that NACADA has not been ahead or even kept up-to-date in our services to our members. While we will be making significant improvements in the next year with on-line membership, registration, and purchases as well as an array of members-only on-line resources, we have a long way to go. The Board of Directors and the Executive Office are working closely together this year to make NACADA’s utilization of technology a priority. Won’t it be exciting in the next 30 years when NACADA has a vision for technology utilization that encompasses not only services to members, but also new innovative delivery modes utilizing the latest technology for our events and resources, and strategies for NACADA being ahead of the ever changing technology curve, not constantly chasing it?

When I was a teenager, much more than 30 years ago, my father taught me that simply living for the present was not the path to success; he told me that it is important to study, honor, and value the past while at the same time dream, envision, and plan for the future. This is the only way I could be successful in the present. Teaching me this was one of the greatest legacies Daddy gave me. It is my goal as Executive Director to always work with each of you as members and leaders of NACADA: The Global Community of Academic Advising. Together we will build upon our rich past as we strategically plan for the future; in this way our association will be successful in the present.

Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
(785) 532-5717

Are There Disciplinary Voices in Academic Advising?

Victoria McGillin, NACADA Faculty Advising Commission Chair

Victoria McGillin.jpg The field of academic advising has focused much of its energy in the past 20 years debating the “right” way to advise. Should advisors be developmental or prescriptive? Should one focus on praxis or individual development? Is a combination of approaches most appropriate?  Which of an array of new advising models should a beginning (or experienced) advisor learn how to “do” in order to be effective?

The earliest descriptions of individuals whose role described that of an advisor come to us from the humanities, both classical and historical literature. Greek mythology offers us the character of Mentor, friend of Odysseus and guide to his son, Telemachus. Somewhat more recently, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his autobiography written at age 77 of his advisor at the College of William and Mary, describing him as probably “fixing the destinies of my life” (Jefferson, 1821).

In the latter part of the 20th century, the earliest formal models of advising borrowed extensively from the behavioral sciences, specifically the counseling and clinical psychology fields (specifically, clinical approaches developed to treat the emotionally troubled individual were adapted to help the “worried well.” These approaches formed the core of techniques recommended to advisors, such as the value of active listening and use of open ended questions to encourage students to reflect on their decisions). The early college counseling literature also borrowed extensively from developmental psychology research (what constitutes normal adolescent cognitive and emotional stages) and the research on personality and social psychology (the concept of “types” and the social context of a counseling relationship). The vast bulk of the advising literature in the latter 20th century was solidly rooted in this behavioral science tradition, shaped most aggressively by publications emerging from student personnel and counseling and guidance programs. The debates, such as they were, remained within that broad behavioral discourse.

What much of this literature failed to notice was that the academic disciplines possess language, processes, and world views that are shaped by disciplinary ways of knowing. The presence of disciplinary voices in faculty scholarship has long been recognized (scholars of literary criticism describe their analysis of text in very different terms than would scholars of marketing – yet both explore the meanings of words) as has the emerging understanding about disciplinary voices in the teaching and learning approaches found across vastly differing fields (Huber & Morreale,2002). Members of academic disciplines create their identity and a sense of cohesiveness through the sociocultural, intellectual, and institutional conversations in which they engage (Craig, 2008). What only emerged in the late 1990s through the work of scholars of disciplinary ways of knowing and cognitive researchers such as King and Kitchener, was an understanding of how academic disciplines gradually shaped the language and beliefs of their students (DeBord, 1993; King, Wood, & Mines, 1990).

First year students have relatively little exposure to these academic cultures and share a common understanding of knowledge and the world and how knowledge is formed. However, over time, the disciplines (the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and professional fields) begin to shape students both inside and outside class interactions. From the earliest papers in which students are expected to develop a “disciplinary voice” through graduate education as full-fledged members of the discipline, we shape our students daily. Students uncomfortable with ways of knowing and communicating (I just don’t get the way scientists look at the world) within one discipline leave the majors and seek disciplines that feel more in line with their own world views. Nowhere is the exchange of this cultural information more likely to happen than in mentoring or advising meetings. The nature of the conversations held, the questions asked, even the locations selected for mentoring meetings are all shaped by the disciplines and, in turn, shape our students. Is it surprising, then, to think that the disciplines may produce different advising perspectives and voices? Is it surprising that our faculty advisors across the disciplines might resist a single model for how they should engage their students in advising conversations?

I first pondered this question when talking with faculty advisors at a former institution about where and how they advised their students. What quickly became evident was that the science faculty and art faculty had far more in common with each other than with social science and humanities faculty.  Science faculty advised over the students’ shoulders when they worked at the lab bench in class; art faculty advised at the students’ elbows as they drew or sculpted. Advising conversations were integrated into the 1-1 classroom discourse. Social science, professional studies, and humanities faculty were much more likely to limit advising to face-to-face private meetings. The disciplines’ perspectives on what is knowledge also shape the structure of the majors (hierarchical, pre-requisite, and requirement-heavy versus open-ended course selection) and the kind of conversation that will happen around course selection. At one institution I visited, the Biology faculty were held up as the institution’s premier advisors – the major was so structured that the faculty had no need to talk about course selection and could instead use the time to engage students in mentoring conversations about the sciences.

When developing advisor training programs, I also discovered ways in which the arts and the sciences could not be more different. As I spoke with my science faculty about undecided students, I found it helpful to use the metaphor of Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of the Scientific Revolution” to engage them in a discussion of how students search for new “truths” in potential majors; when meeting with art faculty, I was much more likely to talk about how students “deconstruct the text” of the major in order to engage in self-authorship. While both describe a major search process, they depict very different approaches to such a search.

So, as we look at the current landscape of theories, philosophies, and approaches to advising, such as those listed in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources (Developmental Advising, Intrusive Advising, Appreciative Advising, Advising as Learning, Lifespan development and lifelong learning, Strengths Based Advising, Advising as Teaching, What Academic Advisers Can Learn from Sun Tzu) to which can be added many more, I urge advisors to consider the ways in which the disciplines shape the advising discourse and how that might shape the development or selection of an advising model consistent with that disciplinary discourse. Take a look at the disciplinary teaching and learning literature within the disciplines (a comprehensive list of disciplinary journals that publish scholarship of teaching and learning can be found at www.podnetwork.org/resources/periodicals.htm). Rather than seeking one model of advising across your institution, consider how the major disciplines can help promote a rich array of advising conversations. 

Victoria McGillin
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
Linfield College


Craig, Robert. (2008). Communication in the Conversation of Disciplines. Russian Journal of Communication, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Winter 2008) Retrieved August 25, 2009, from http://comm.colorado.edu/craigr/Craig-2008-DisciplinesRJC.pdf

DeBord, K. (1993). Promoting reflective judgment in graduate education. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Huber, M. T. & S. P. Morreale, (Eds.). (2002). Disciplinary styles in the scholarship of teaching and learning: Exploring common ground. Washington, DC: American Association of Higher Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Jefferson, T. (1821). Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson. Retrieved August 26, 2009, from http://libertyonline.hypermall.com/Jefferson/Autobiography.html

King, P.M., Wood, P.K., & Mines, R.A. (1990). Critical thinking among American college and graduate students. Review of Higher Education, 13(3), 167-186.


Dispositional Resilience

Robert Johnson, Cuyahoga Community College

Robert Johnson.jpgIn today’s society, we are faced with many challenges concerning life experiences, including natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, acts of terrorism such as the September 11th attacks, and life altering health issues such as HIV/AIDS.  As human beings, we all possess a variety of adaptive and recuperative abilities. It appears, however, that some people fare better than others when faced with life stressors, disasters and loss. Resilience has been identified as a fundamental explanation for this difference.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Help Center stated that “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors” (2004). The APA Help Center (2004) noted that some ways to build resilience include:

  • Make connections. Advisors can help students use support systems – including family, friends and social organizations – to talk about feelings and life’s situations; it can be constructive. 
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. Advisors should help students appreciate that bad things happen to everyone. It is how we respond to life’s downturns that can make all the difference. 
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Due to adversity, students may have to alter goals with the understanding that circumstances have changed. The ability to acknowledge that circumstances have changed allows an opportunity to choose new directions.
  • Move towards goals. Students should create goals that can be achieved, but with small incremental steps or stages. Advisors should recognize achievements even when they are not substantial.
  • Take decisive actions. Help students recognize that as difficulties occur it is best to deal with them instead of ignoring them or hoping the issues will go away.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Many find that adversity presents opportunity for introspection and personal growth. Help students embrace their opportunities.
  • Nurture a positive viewpoint. Help students work on believing that they have the ability to work out the issues life presents.
  • Keep things in perspective. When something negative happens, help students keep the particular problem within perspective.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook. Be optimistic; it helps encourage the belief that good things will happen.
  • Work on self-care. When we are in good health we are better prepared to address and cope with life changes. Advisors and students alike should work on self-care.  

Rossi, Bisconti and Bergeman (2007) cited the results of a study about dispositional resilience and described three qualities that a person may exhibit when demonstrating dispositional resilience:

  • Commitment– Involvement with people, rather than isolation or alienation.
  • Control– Influence over outcomes, rather than powerlessness.
  • Challenge– Learning from experience, rather than avoiding threat.

Moody and Arcangel (2001) point out that stress is a normal part of the human existence. Moody and Arcangel (2001) indicate that stress is innate and an involuntary response as the body reacts to change.  Stress in itself is not harmful as it functions as a mechanism to alert the body to prepare for action or adjustment; each individual’s biological and psychological responses to stress are unique (Moody & Arcangel, 2001).

Grief reactions

Worden (2002) indicated “normal grief” reactions are emotions experienced as a result of loss such as sadness, anger, guilt, and helplessness (p. 10).  Worden (2002) also described physical sensations experienced as a result of loss that include shortness of breath.

Cognitions may be affected such as disbelief and difficulty with concentration (Worden, 2002).  Behaviors may be affected after loss.  A person may have trouble sleeping or withdraw from family and friends.

A person who has an “abnormal grief reaction” may continue to experience feelings of extreme sadness around anniversaries of their loved one’s death or birthdays though many years have passed (Worden, 2002, p. 83).  Also, a person may report they are experiencing physical symptoms such as pain or report engaging in behaviors that are out of character and cannot provide a logical reason for it (Worden, 2002).  If an advisor has reason to believe a student is having difficulty due to loss or death, he or she should be referred for grief counseling services. 

Strategies and interventions

Rack, Burleson, Bodie, Holmstrom and Servaty-Seib (2008) suggested, “it is important to examine the communication strategies that ordinary people use in the effort to manage the grief experienced by others in their social networks”(p. 401).  Rack et al. (2007) pointed out that emotions influence how messages are received and interpreted and that grief emotions may impede effective communication regardless of the intent of the message or content.

Advisors may use knowledge of the role of resilience, stress and anxiety and communication processes [such as discussed by Kem in the article which follows] to help the student to gain a better understanding of his or her distinct circumstance in order to increase the likelihood of renewal and progress through the process of grief.

Robert Johnson
Counselor/Assistant Professor
Cuyahoga Community College, Western Campus


American Psychological Association.  (2004). The road to resilience. APA Help Center. Retrieved on August 8, 2008, from www.apahelpcenter.org

Moody, R. A. & Arcangel, D.  (2001). Life after loss: Conquering grief and finding hope.  New York:  Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

Rack, J. J., Burleson, B. R., Bodie, G. D., Holmstrom, A. J. & Servaty-Seib, H.  (2008). Bereaved adults’ evaluation of grief management messages:  Effects of message person centeredness, recipient individual differences, and contextual factors. Death Studies, 32, 399-427.  Retrieved on August 8, 2008 from Academic Search Premier.

Rossi, N. E., Bisconti, T. L. & Bergeman, C. S. (2007).  The role of dispositional resilience in regaining life satisfaction after the loss of a spouse. Death Studies, 31, 863–883.

Sanders, C. M. (1992). Surviving grief and learning to live again.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Worden, J. W. (2002). Grief counseling and therapy: A handbook for mental health practitioners (3rd ed.).  New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Disaster Recovery

Lee Kem, Murray State University

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a presentation that Lee gave at the 2009 Region 3 Conference in Charleston, West Virginia in May 2009.

Lee Kem.jpgEach day, the news includes reports of disasters. Encarta (2009) defines a disaster as a damaging or destructive event that causes serious loss, destruction, hardship, unhappiness, or death. Therefore, a “disaster” can be anything from an ice storm, wreck, or tornado, to a school shooting. As advisors, it is important that we know the phases of disaster recovery and recognize typical behaviors and emotional responses in our advisees, co-workers, and ourselves.

College students often have little experience coping with disasters. This limited experience coupled with limited coping strategies and resilience can result in increased stress leading to academic problems, lowered mental health, and retention issues. Survivors of a disaster also face the danger of withdrawal and isolation, which adds to the stress level. In addition, survivors may turn to substance abuse or addictions e.g., games, Internet, Tweeting, or food, resulting in increased inability to concentrate and focus. Procrastination can lead to an increased sense of failure, isolation and withdrawal, and academic and retention issues.

Some disasters involve a  threat or warning phase (Mental Health Center of North Iowa, n.d.) when we have days or hours of advance warning. This leads to stress centered on preparation and anticipation of an impending event. College students may not have experienced any type of disaster, feel invincible, have delusions of personal invulnerability, and be reluctant to abandon personal possessions. Denial is common and can lead to a “this can’t actually happen to me” mindset. It can be very difficult to adapt the new frame of reference needed to cope with unusual events and there may be little preparation or fear. In other situations, such as an earthquake or school shooting, there may be little or no warning prior to the disaster.

When the disaster actually occurs, there are high levels of stress related to the threat to life, possessions, and the familiar. Feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and uncertainty are common. Those experiencing being trapped or confined can experience inescapable terror. Most individuals respond appropriately, but some may seem apathetic or respond in a disorganized or stunned way, and be unable to protect self or others (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009).

Immediately following the disaster is a time of altruism and heroic actions called the heroic phase (California Department of Mental Health, 2009. “I will save you, rescue you, and make everything okay again!” Emotions are very strong and direct but not always at the appropriate level of response based on the situation. Adrenaline is high, everyone wants to help save himself and others’ lives and property and prevent further losses (Mental Health Center of North Iowa, n.d.). Activity levels are high but productivity is often low. Individuals may still be stunned by the event and experience anxiety, denial, and fear. The family group, neighbors, and emergency teams are important resources (Scurfield, 2007). This period occurs prior to the event and can last up to a week afterwards.

Tunnel vision (Scurfield, 2007) occurs when the individual is very focused on taking care of daily tasks and survival needs of self and loved ones. The survivor can exhibit high levels of emotion or may suppress, deny, or push emotions aside as a way of dealing with strong feelings or intrusive memories (Scurfield, 2007). This can result in detachment or emotional numbing. This phase overlaps with the previous heroic and subsequent honeymoon phases and can extend into the disillusionment phase.    

The honeymoon phase (Bowenkamp, 2000; California Department of Mental Health, 2009) can extend from one week to several months after the disaster. This is the time when lots of help and high emotional support are available. Hope and optimism prevail and there is a feeling that help will continue to be available, there will be a quick recovery, and everything will return to normal soon. There is a high sense of having shared a catastrophic experience and survived. Individuals may wear hats or T-shirts with “I survived ….  ”. When survivors meet, the conversation is about their shared experiences. The focus is on being alive, having survived, and still being functional. Denial is common about the reality of the extent, or the future impact, of the events. Toward the end of this phase, reality may be coupled with grief, disbelief, and anger; bargaining can begin.

During these phases, family, neighbors and friends draw together and help each other. Rescue personnel are welcome but other outsiders may be rejected. Sometimes in a school setting, counselors rush in to help – and can be resented for interfering. It can seem a violation of privacy when outsiders witness the grief and distress of those impacted by the disaster [Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS), 2008]. 

A transition phase occurs in the process of recovery. Although the disaster is in the past and conversation no longer focuses on the events, this transition period can be difficult. This phase can be accompanied by emotional reactions present as physical symptoms (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009). Individuals who complain of sleep disturbances, nightmares, continued indigestion, continuing fatigue or other physical issues may not realize that these concerns are related to the disaster (KCSS, 2008). In addition, there may be relationship difficulties or roommate problems resulting from underlying anger or resentment. Work difficulties and academic problems are common and may cause difficulty with concentration, focus, or loss of motivation.

Reality sets in during the disillusionment phase (California Department of Mental Health, 2009), which usually begins somewhere between three days and three weeks after the event and can last for several months or years. The length of time is closely associated with the extent of loss, perceived importance of the loss, and resources available. This phase begins when helping efforts end and support disappears. The sense of standing alone and being totally responsible can be overwhelming. The strong sense of community and support disappears and there is a realization that life will never be the same, leading to a strong sense of disappointment and disillusionment. Resentment and bitterness appear with delays and unfulfilled hopes or promises of help. There is unrelenting stress and fatigue, increased anger and depression, and isolation and loneliness. Individuals experience frustration, self-doubt, loss, grief, hostility, exhaustion from multiple demands, financial pressures, relationship issues, and stress from the resulting changes. Individuals may become “stuck” in the disillusionment phase and the associated physical and emotional symptoms can last for years. If recovery is delayed or doesn’t happen, emotional problems may appear and lead to psychological disorders. Anger can be turned outward in acts of violence or destruction or turned inward resulting in depression and suicide.

Most individuals successfully negotiate these phases and enter the recovery or reconstruction phase (California Department of Mental Health, 2009). Recovery involves recognizing self-responsibility for rebuilding life and solving problems. Individuals change their assumptions about life and this can create distress although the intensity of the distress will subside with time. Normal functioning is gradually reestablished and the focus moves to capabilities and the ability to recover. Individuals may question their own behaviors during the event as they try to make sense of what has happened. Satisfaction with personal progress and a return to appropriate emotional responses to current events occurs. The amount of time to recover and move on depends on what happened, the meaning and perceived importance of the event, the level of support, and the individual’s resilience or ability to snap back.

What can advisors do? Advisors should be familiar with the phases of disaster recovery. When working with an individual who has experienced a disaster, advisors should show by their words and actions that they care and are concerned. Friendly actions and a few words of support can help tremendously (Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 2006). Don’t be hesitant about doing the wrong thing; advisors should ask how they can help. Keep helping – even small deeds mean a lot. Be aware that issues extend over time after the event.

Advisors can help students understand the need for a support group where survivors have the opportunity to talk and share feelings about the event. We should encourage involvement with activities outside of self, and time to relax with friends. The University of Wisconsin Extension Service (n.d.) notes that it is important that we encourage survivors to recognize the necessity of letting other people help. We should recognize that disbelief, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, and a rollercoaster of emotions is normal after a disaster. Survivors must be patient with themselves and others. They must refocus on the big picture instead of obsessing about little details and problems; we can not expect things to be instantly restored. Stress can be relieved by working out, getting enough sleep, listening to upbeat music, eating correctly, and managing time and finances. Remember that a support network of family, friends, clergy, and advisors is essential, but advisors should know when and how to refer the survivor to professional help. Rather than suggesting that individuals need psychological help, use more palatable terms such as talking with someone about available resources or the stress of a disaster.

Recovering from disasters is a process that takes time – for us and for our advisees. We must recognize our own stages of recovery and realize that our stages impact how we respond to students. We must be patient with ourselves and with advisees if we are to help achieve recovery.

Lee Kem
Murray State University


Bowenkamp, C. (2000). Coordination of mental health and community agencies in disaster response. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health (pp. 159-165).

California Department of Mental Health. (2009). Crisis Counseling Program Toolkit – Phases of Disaster. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from www.dmh.ca.gov/Disaster/CCPToolkit/default.asp

Encarta Dictionary. (2009) Retrieved September 11, 2009, from http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861604992/disaster.html

Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS) (2008). Retrieved September 22, 2009, from www.kysafeschools.org 

Mental Health Center of North Iowa. (n.d.). Background Phases of Disaster. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from www.mhconi.org/Topic_DisasterBkgrd.htm

Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management (2006). Recovery from disaster handbook. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from www.hsem.state.mn.us/HSem_view_Article.asp?docid=313&catid=4

Scurfield, R. (April 2007). Six Stages of Disaster Recovery. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from hwww.usm.edu/gc/health/scurfield/files/Six-Common-Stages-Disaster-Recovery-rev-April-2007.pdf

University of Wisconsin Extension Service. (n.d.) Emotional recovery after a disaster: How families and neighbors can help one another cope. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from www.co.chippewa.wi.us/Emergency_Management/Flood/Emotional%20Recovery%20After%20A%20Disaster.htm

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2009). Phases of traumatic stress reactions in a disaster. Retrieved September 2, 2009, from www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/phases-trauma-reactions.asp 

Note: Another excellent resource is Tips for Survivors of a traumatic event: Managing your stress during a disaster, a one page handout from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This can be ordered from www.samhsa.gov

An Important Tool for Advising at Research Institutions

Britt Andreatta, University of California, Santa Barbara

Britt Andreatta.jpgFor advisors at research universities, one important framework for advising students and their parents often goes unused, and that is the research mission of the institution. Advisors spend countless hours helping students understand requirements and policies, course selection, standards for academic performance, and counseling students through choices they have when facing a personal crisis. But we may overlook the one thing that makes all those other issues make sense… the mission of the research university.

The research university is a unique and academically rigorous learning environment. Every single aspect of the student’s experience (as well as the staff’s and faculty’s) is dictated by the research mission.  It is so ever present that it is invisible and rarely discussed, as it is taken for granted as common knowledge. Yet, when students and parents understand, it creates “the AHA! moment” that helps them make better choices about all aspects of their education.

In reality, the research mission is related to, or explains: the competitive admissions process, the student cohort, the academic rigor of courses, the types of majors and degrees offered, the theoretical content of classes, the holdings of the library, who the faculty are and how they are promoted, the quality of teaching, requirements for graduation, campus policies and procedures, and of course, how money is allocated in tough financial times.

There are some challenges with attending a research university, and students and/or their parents often seek an advisor when they experience these challenges. Advisors can address the concern by explaining the research mission and appropriate suggestions. For example:

  • It is more difficult for students to achieve top grades. What was “excellent” for freshmen and transfer students at their previous schools is now recalibrated to be “average,” as the admissions process is competitive. Students must work harder to earn good grades.
  • The student experiences poor teaching. Faculty are brilliant researchers but some are not great teachers. And because they are hired and promoted based on their research talent, there is no consistent system for training faculty on classroom skills like creating exams or giving lectures. As a result, students may need to utilize office hours and campus services to ensure their own learning successes.
  • At times, students may find their coursework difficult or boring with little connection to current society. New knowledge is often theoretical and/or statistical and the academic language of scholarly journals is objective and analytical.
  • Students experience a wide range of faculty expectations. Research faculty are given academic freedom, via tenure, and there is no standardization of how many pages of reading or writing they can assign, or even what content to teach in their courses. As a result, students need to adjust their study skills to each individual instructor.
  • Academic integrity is a critical value and students will experience serious consequences if they cheat or plagiarize. The search for new knowledge rests on the value of doing accurate work as well as giving appropriate credit to the work of others. Intellectual theft is not tolerated on any level.
  • Students are not necessarily trained for certain careers. Majors will prepare them to be good researchers and future academicians in a certain discipline, so students need to pick majors based on both interest and aptitude. Students will need to build their vocational skills outside of class through internships and jobs.
  • Student services often take the brunt of budget cuts. Because research is the primary function, every budget and staffing decision prioritizes it. This is felt most keenly in times of financial crisis when funding for faculty and research is protected while student services and staff are cut.

However, there are many benefits to attending a research university, and advisors can help students and parents make the most of this educational opportunity.

  • Students receive a “cutting edge” education that puts them years ahead of their peers at other institutions. The research mission charges faculty with the important task of creating new knowledge. It takes about five years before a new discovery appears in a textbook, but faculty often share this new knowledge with their students immediately.
  • Students take classes from the world’s foremost minds in their respective disciplines, thus “learning at the feet of the masters.” This gives students an advantage when applying to graduate schools.
  • Students are trained to be critical thinkers. Faculty constantly evaluate problems and solutions, question what we think of as “the truth,” and explore new ideas through valid and reliable research. Students will be trained in these same skills, making them discerning adults and citizens.
  • Many employers seek graduates from research universities because they realize those graduates possess two key qualities – the most recent information about a field, and more importantly, the skills to stay current on research for a lifetime.
  • Students can network with other intelligent peers. Most research universities are considered prestigious, and as a result, the competitive admissions process ensures a vibrant community of scholars.

Since faculty and their research are given priority, students, especially today’s more fragile generation of Millennials, need more help than ever to be successful in this environment. The reality is that while students can thrive at a research university, they are not the first priority of the faculty. This makes advisors integral to student success.

Advisors play a vital role in helping students understand this new environment, as well as make good choices. Whether that is to change their major because they are not well suited to a discipline, or to withdraw for a term because their parent is dying of cancer, advisors provide the support students need to navigate and succeed. That’s a big job – one for which we are not fairly compensated financially, but for which we are more than compensated in the knowledge that we make a real difference in the lives of bright young adults who are the nation’s future leaders.

The next time you work with a student or parent, take a few moments to explain what the research mission is and how it shapes the student’s experience. You will find this to be an important tool in your advising toolbox.

Advisors and students may find the following resources helpful:

Britt Andreatta
Office of First-Year, Graduate and Instructional Programs
University of California, Santa Barbara

Advisors Can Steer Adult Learners Toward Peer Support

Lisa Peck, Advising Adult Learners Commission Past Chair

Lisa Peck.jpgAs advisors, we wear many hats when we work with adult learners. Not only do we act as human steering mechanisms, directing students to important offices and services on campus, but also advisors tend to serve as confidantes. Sometimes, advisors substitute for the shoulder, or the ear, that the adult learner cannot seem to find anywhere else on campus. Giczkowski and Allen (as quoted by Marques, 2005) noted that “academic advisors should be aware of the special desires and concerns that adult students have when they re-enter college” (p. 5). Marques (2005) further pointed out “adult learners seek a peer relationship of encouragement and care, good advice and – most of all – decent and devoted representation in handling their academic issues…” (p. 6). While academic advisors can, and do, provide guidance and the occasional shoulder, advisors cannot serve as a substitute for the camaraderie and support that comes from a fellow student, someone who is in the trenches. Often friends and family try to be supportive, but because they are not living the adult learner life, they have difficulty empathizing. So, what is the solution to providing the support that adult learners seek?

Peer mentoring and adult learner support groups are ideal solutions to the need for collegial relationships; however, getting adult learners together in one place to support and encourage each other can be a “Catch-22” situation. These students say they want peer support, but rarely do they have time to fit another regularly scheduled commitment into their busy lives. Occasionally, these students come together accidentally and discover the camaraderie that they have been looking for, but didn’t think they had time to create.

This past summer, I received an email from a recent graduate illustrating just how important peer support is for the adult student population – even if the support comes in the form of a silent presence. Jay, a music professional who began college at the traditional age (but who majored in “extracurricular activities” the first time around), was finishing his B.A. in Theater Arts - with a perfect 4.0!  In his early fifties, Jay was already a success in his field, so he didn’t need the degree, but he wanted the degree. During his final semester, he commandeered a spot in the university library as his “office,” five days a week, sitting in the same seat at the same work station. The following excerpt from his email illustrates the critical importance of peer support:

Directly in front of me (in the library) sat a woman, an adult learner. She too, was in the same seat, at the same times, every day. We shared very little conversation. We worked side by side, cranking out schoolwork, drinking coffee, eating breakfast or lunch, while working away furiously. Day after day, we sat together, barely communicating, but feeling each other's presence. It was comforting to know I was not alone. In almost every class I took, I was much older than my classmates, and while I was comfortable, there was a disconnect. Seeing that woman in the library every day and saying 'Good Morning,' or just glancing at each other and smiling with a knowing look, was enough to let us know that we had some spiritual support and understanding. On days when I arrived and she wasn't there, I survived, but I missed her. We never really shared any thoughts about our common experience, but we didn't have to. We both understood, and somehow I felt less alone. It helped (Jay Stollman, personal communication, June 4, 2009).

So, what can we do as “human steering mechanisms” to direct adult learners towards each other? How can we help them connect with one another more often, without overwhelming an already packed schedule?

One answer may be to orchestrate chance encounters. At our university, once each month the adult student organization called the Older Wiser Learners (O.W.L.s) holds a “Table Talk” session in the student cafeteria. Students in search of a cup of coffee or a quick bite to eat have an opportunity to stop by and casually chat with other adult learners on campus. Although the traffic is not heavy, these “Table Talk” sessions do attract attention and conversation among adult students.

Also, the formation of an adult learner honor society has provided an opportunity for our adult students to meet and share stories at the annual induction ceremony. In April, we held our third annual Alpha Sigma Lambda induction. Again, busy schedules meant that only half of the new members were able to attend the ceremony, but the ones who did attend remarked upon the connection in the room. As is often the case at traditional universities, this was the first time these adult learners had been in a room exclusively with other adult learners. Most of the time, adult learners tend to blend in with the traditional-aged students on campus, and they can almost assume invisibility. Jay was one of last year’s inductees and I invited him to be the speaker. In his speech, “The Possible Dream,” Jay shared anecdotes about his journey away from academia at the traditional age and back again as an adult learner. There was a palpable connection between Jay and the audience. Smiles lit up faces and heads nodded in agreement as Jay spoke of his academic journey.

A few years ago, as a way to begin peer connections early in the adult learner’s academic journey, I began holding an adult learner orientation the week before classes begin. The orientation lasts about two and one-half hours (approximately as long as an evening class), and students are not only invited to eat and chat with representatives from various campus offices, but they are able to meet other returning students, who share their stories,questions, and challenges. Student evaluations (both formal and informal) indicate how meeting fellow adult learners, prior to beginning classes, eases the transition back to higher education, assuring returning students that they have peers on campus. Adult learners discover that they are not alone in their quest for an education while juggling other life responsibilities and obligations.

Why should advisors care about helping to ease the adult learner’s transition to academia? The Noel-Levitz and Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) 2008 National Adult Learners Satisfaction-Priorities Report remarked that “Satisfied students are more likely to be successful students…Satisfaction with an institution includes a combination of academic factors as well as areas related to campus services. An institution needs to identify all of the issues that are relevant to students” (p. 2). Many universities consider the social aspect of student success for the traditional student; however, the importance of peer connections can be overlooked for adult learners.

Julian (as quoted by Skorupa, 2002) said that adult learners have different psychological needs and perspectives than traditional-aged learners. 'Adult students have a greater need for motivation, inspiration and guidance since they have more responsibilities than younger students whose primary responsibility is school,' Julian said. Julian goes on to indicate that many adult students have some degree of fear and stated, 'When they verbalize their fears, they feel better about the investment.” Not only do adult learners need to verbalize their fears to peers who can empathize, but also, as Jay stated in his email, there is comfort in knowing one is not alone. That comfort leads to a sense of place for the adult students at our institutions, and we all know what that means to our institutions – in a word: retention. A comfortable student is a retained student.

Lisa G. Peck
Assistant Director
Academic Advisement Center
Western Connecticut State University


Marques, J., & Luna, R. (2005, June). Advising adult learners: The practice of peer partisanship. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 19(6), 5-6. Retrieved June 19, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Noel-Levitz and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. 2008 National Adult Student Satisfaction-Priorities Report. Retrieved August 25 2009, from

The Bologna Process and Academic Advising

Rose Begalla, Study Abroad Interest Group Member

Rose Begalla.jpgStudying abroad has become a focal point on many U.S. college and university campuses. Academic advisors often are called upon to help identify and evaluate suitable programs of study for their advisees. In Europe, broad higher education reform may help ease this burden; that reform is known as the Bologna Process. Bhandari and Chow (2008) noted that 57.4% of 241,791 total American students studying abroad did so in Europe during the 2006-07academic year (p.64).

The resources listed in the Reference section of this article provide a detailed history of the Bologna Process. What advisors should understand is the magnitude of this reform. The Institute of International Education (April 2009) noted that the 46 countries currently signed on to the Bologna Process collectively represent 25% of the world’s nations and include nearly 4,000 institutions of higher education (p.1).

The Bologna Process will help the movement towards a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by the 2010 target date (Bergan, 2003, p.32). The EHEA will not be defined by a country’s singular boundaries but by Europe as a whole. Crosier, Purser, and Smidt’s Report (2007) stated that, “increasing the attractiveness of the EHEA for the rest of the world has been a driving force of the Bologna Process since the inception…” (p.46). Although there are several salient points to remember when discussing the Bologna Process, those of primary interest to academic advisors are:

  • Nations will work toward a system of easily readable and comparable degrees (bachelor’s, master’s,  and doctoral), including implementation of the Diploma Supplement;
  • The institutional structure will consist of two separate and distinct layers (undergraduate and graduate);
  • A common system of academic credits will be used (Reinald & Kulesza, 2006, p.9).

Creating a system of easily readable and comparable degrees addresses the second point with two distinct layers that will help determine the education level completed by a student. An essence of quality assurance is added by making degrees comparable, i.e., a political science major in France will receive a similar degree to a political science major in the United Kingdom. Before the advent of the Bologna Process, that was not always the case. There still will be nuances as university faculties intertwine their academic specialties with the standardized curricula defined by the governing bodies of the European Higher Education Area.

This type of delineation will help American students who go overseas and bring credit back to their home institutions. This structure will allow U.S. schools to develop policies and implement consistent standards based upon universal degree types. Of course, this standardization is not a panacea for all credit transfer issues, but it is a good stepping stone.

Creating two distinct layers at the undergraduate and graduate levels will help the mobility of students to and from the United States. Take for example an American student who matriculated to a British university before the Bologna implementation—the student might graduate with a bachelor’s degree. The British degree is usually obtained in three years and may or may not be comparable with a four year bachelor’s degree in the United States. Complicating matters further would be if the American student graduated with an Honors Bachelor. This degree in the U.K. would typically mean a student could go on to a doctorate level program in the same area. In the United States, many registrars and admissions offices consider the 4th year to be still at an undergraduate level.

The creation of undergraduate and graduate levels will help the flow of students and will not create unnecessary duplication of coursework. Students will be placed in the appropriate programs across the Atlantic. This should ease the workload of academic advisors trying to make sense of ambiguous names on transcripts. The Diploma Supplement should clarify a student’s standing making placement easier.

The regional accrediting bodies in the U.S. lend an aura of quality assurance to the potential student and labor market. In Europe, the quality assurance of higher education was handled by the Ministries of Education in the respective countries. With the advent of the Bologna Process and the adoption of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) some standardization will be implemented and initial quality assurance measures produced. Respective countries will still have a Ministry of Education that ensures proper licensing, degree awarding certification, etc., as (at least at this point) there is no central governing authority.

Mobility for American students will be impacted. Before the Bologna Process was implemented, courses at several European universities were not compatible with the American higher education course structure. Students coming from schools on the quarter system were usually restricted to fall study overseas and semester-school students were usually limited to spring study abroad as fall semester in Europe ends after the New Year holiday. In the past, science and technology courses were usually taught on a year module and arts and humanities courses were semesterized. Some semesterized courses could be assessed before the winter holidays.

Although the Bologna Process is relatively new, there have been tremendous efforts across Europe to implement the action items originally introduced in the Bologna Declaration. American students will still study in Europe. Hopefully these reforms will help students who take courses on a semesterized module stay on track for graduation at their home schools. Academic advisors should work closely with their global education/study abroad/international programs office to stay on top of the Bologna reforms and how these reforms impact advising at their schools.

Rose Begalla
Academic Advisor
College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
Cleveland State University

For more information on the Bologna Process:  NAFSA: Association for International Educators. (2007). Bologna process supplement.  Washington, DC: NAFSA.


Bergan, S. (Ed.). (2003). Recognition issues in the bologna process. Strasbourg, FR: Council of Europe Publishing.

Bhandari, R. & Chow, P. (2008). Open doors 2008: Report on international educational exchange. New York: Institute of International Education.

Crosier, D., Purser, L., & Smidt, H. (2007). Trends V: Universities shaping the European higher education area. European University Association Report.

Institute of International Education. (April, 2009). Three-year bologna-compliant degrees: Responses from U.S. graduate schools. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from www.iie.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Research_and_Evaluation/Briefing_Papers/SurveyBolognaProcessBriefingPaper2009.pdf

Reinalda, B. & Kulesza, E. (2006). The bologna process—Harmonizing Europe’s higher education (2nd ed.). Warsaw, Poland: Barbara Budrich Publishing.

Foster Care Alumni on Campus: Supporting an At-Risk First Generation Student Population

Chris Bennett Klefeker, First-Generation College Student Advising Interest Group Member

Chris Bennett Klefeker.jpgFoster Care Alumni are an often overlooked student subgroup within the First Generation student population. Within a given year, the number of foster youth who emancipate grows by more than 26,000 individuals who are demographically 52% male, 32% black, and 19% Hispanic (US Dept Health and Human Services, 2008). Foster Care Alumni are individuals who were part of the foster care system while under the age of eighteen. Once they emancipate, otherwise known as “aging out,” their chances for success are extremely bleak. Just 44% of this population graduate from high school (Martin, 2003); only a dismal 2% earn a bachelor’s degree, which is in contrast to 24% of young adults in the general population (Pecora P. et al., 2005 p. 36). In a time where a college degree or a postsecondary training certificate is a way to end the cycle of poverty and broaden life choices, it is discouraging to see an entire population of disadvantaged students left behind. This is not a case of potential students not desiring to attend college. Rather, Martin (2003) found that 70% of polled Foster Care Alumni high school graduates expressed a desire to attend post secondary institutions, with Casey (2003) noting that only 13% actually enrolled (p. 22-23). However, with less than 3% of this population obtaining a degree, obviously there are other factors that need to be addressed.

This is a retention issue. As we know, advisors play a key role in helping students persist and succeed. Advisors on commuter campuses or at community colleges are the primary point of contact for students who are Foster Care Alumni. Advisors can advocate for these students, connect them to vital campus and community resources, and follow-up with them to support their successes. In many cases, these students are an independent First Generation population without a support system. In a number of instances, they do not have reliable housing, medical care, or any academic role models. We, as advisors, are in a position to help them overcome institutional road blocks. We need to be more intrusive with this population through our outreach and interventions.

Many colleges have adopted specialized programs geared toward recruiting, retaining, and supporting Foster Care Alumni. At a number of institutions these programs are known as Guardian Scholars or Renaissance Scholars. These programs are generally located on residential campuses through a student services model. Sometimes, as in the John Seita Scholars program at Western Michigan University, scholarships are connected to the program (www.wmich.edu/fyit/index.html). Other successful models, such as in the Guardian Scholar program at Ball State University, do not include designated scholarships, but there is a central office with staff who provide programming and support for these students, including advocating for them in the areas of housing and financial aid (www.bsu.edu/ssrc/guardianscholars/ ).

It is important to note that there are models that incorporate academic advising centers in support of these students with little or no additional staffing or funding. The Academic Champions program offered through the Austin Community College system is one such example. All seven of their campuses have a designated academic advisor who ‘champions’ retention and program completion for these students. Each advisor is trained on foster care topics and meets with students exiting the foster care system (www.austincc.edu/fca/). 

Miami University is another example. Here Foster Care Liaisons are named at each of its four Ohio campuses. These liaisons meet with prospective students exiting the foster care system, offer priority emergency advising appointments, and advocate for these advisees when they encounter roadblocks along their college journey. Community resource packets have also been developed that allow advisors to share resources with any of their students in crisis, not just those emancipated from foster care (www.regionals.muohio.edu/fostercare). 

Check the Orphan Foundation of America (www.orphan.org)  and Casey Family Programs (www.casey.org) for further free resources, student stories, and statistics. Of particular mention is Casey Family Programs free book for postsecondary personnel:
Supporting Success: Improving Education Outcomes for Students From Foster Care. This is a step-by-step guide for working with Foster Care Alumni students and provides tips for establishing campus based support programs.

As is often quoted, students will not always remember every piece of information we share with them, but they will always remember how we made them feel. Advisors are in the position to empower a vulnerable population during one of the biggest transitions in their lives. Foster youth are everyone’s children, and therefore everyone’s collective responsibility. Let us step up to the plate and help our children realize their potential.

Chris Bennett Klefeker
Academic Advisor, Retention Specialist and Foster Care Liaison
Miami University Hamilton


Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2003). Connected by 25:  A Plan for Investing in Successful Futures for Foster Youth.  Retrieved August 17, 2009, from Annie E. Casey Foundation Web site: www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B061111FD-7991-4BFE-A794-48E1A4354BCF%7D

Martin, J. (2003 ). Foster youth desire college, study shows, but face roadblocks to learning. News and Information, University Communications, Washington University in St. Louis, October 2, 2003.  Retrieved August 17, 2009, from the Washington University in St. Louis Web site: http://mednews.wustl.edu/tips/page/normal/452.html

Pecora, P., Kessler, R., Williams, J., O’Brien, K., Downs, C., English, D., et al. (2005). Improving family foster care:  Findings from the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study. Seattle: Casey Family Programs. www.casey.org/Resources/Initiatives/FosterCareAlumniStudies/NorthwestAlumniStudy.htm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. (2008). AFCARS Report: Preliminary Estimates for FY 2006 as of January 2008 (14). Retrieved September 2, 2009, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report14.htm

Additional Resources for Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Young Adults from Foster Care: A Selected Bibliography

Calderón, S.I. (2005). Foster care project promotes higher ed. The Stanford Daily, May 2, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2009 from www.stanforddaily.com/cgi-bin/?p=1017810

Higher education reform: Incorporating the needs of foster youth (2003). Casey Family Programs, Seattle, WA. Retrieved August 24, 2009 from www.casey.org (Enter “higher education” in the search box). 

Connected By 25: A Plan for Investing in Successful Futures for Foster Youth. (2003).   Basehor, KS: The Youth Transition Funders Group, Foster Care Work Group with the Finance Project www.ytfg.org/knowledge_pubs.html (Scroll to “Foster Care”).

Davis, R. J. (2006). College access, financial aid, and college success for undergraduates from foster care. Washington, DC, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, July, 2006. www.nasfaa.org/publications/2006/rnfosterkids072506.html

Representing our Clients: Advisors as Defense Attorneys and Prosecutors

Alison Chandler, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Alison Chandler.jpgAcademic Advisors have a very distinct role as being the main point of contact for our students.  As a result, we are the ones that they come to in order to vent, to plead, to cry, and to beg.  I am sure we all have heard about the unfair professor, the important email that was never received, or the reasons why a class was failed.  After being presented with excuse after excuse, are we advisors too quick to conclude that students are guilty until proven innocent?

Before entering the world of advising, I worked in a very challenging role as a counselor for foster care children.  It was a position that was both heartbreaking and emotionally draining.  There I interacted with kids who were defiant, apathetic, unruly, and mentally unstable.  Many of those in their lives dismissed them as lost causes headed for a life of destruction.  My job was to take the time to dig a little deeper to see what was just beneath the surface.  What I found was that many of these children were really good kids who had been abused, neglected, abandoned, and subjected to more negativity than most adults could handle.

I recall a time when I had to attend a school board hearing, regarding a student who was accused of being a constant source of trouble and disruption for his class and teacher.  It had progressed to the point that he was on the verge of expulsion.  I quickly realized that this student, a young boy who was abandoned by his mother and bounced around from home to home for a large portion of his life, was in for an uphill battle.  The room was filled with intimidating suits and glaring eyes, all appearing ready to object to his every word.  I expected a clash of wills to ensue.  Surprisingly, this usually outspoken and discourteous student was silent and somber.  He was terrified.  I knew that he felt alone in this room and needed someone on his side.  I would be that be person for him.  I played his defense attorney to the best of my ability, and as a result of some compromise on both parties, which included a verbal apology to his teacher and class and continued counseling on his part, as well as more one-on-one time from his teacher, he was able to remain in school. So despite the behavioral problems of many of these children, I, as well as the other counselors, was there to support them, to help them overcome personal boundaries in order to become productive, responsible, and well-adjusted individuals, and to serve as their advocates.  As an advisor, my first instinct is to do the same.

I realize that there are situations when a student has failed to do his or her part.  Maybe he procrastinated or just plain forgot.  Possibly she deleted that email or did not attend class.  I also believe that there are times when a student has a legitimate case, and unfortunately, is not given the proper representation.  Perhaps the focus is not on what we as advisors can do to assist, but what we can do to point out to the student what he or she did wrong.

Advisors play such an essential role in a college student’s experience.  We are a teacher, a guide, a coach, a case manager, and an attorney all rolled up into one.  We are presented with cases, complaints, and offenses all the time. However, before we make our closing arguments, before we are ready to rule, I believe that we should first take the time to dig.

Alison Chandler
College of Education Advising Center
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Advising in the Face of Apathy: Collaboration, Connection, and Communication in Higher Education

Nikol Luther, Lewis-Clark State College

Nikol Luther.jpgWe witness it in our classrooms and offices, see it in the vacant stares of students at Registration and Orientation, and sense it in the lack of response to our written, phone, and email communications.  Apathy is spreading across campuses at an alarming rate, and it is highly contagious. Faculty are not engaging students, advisors are not connecting with their advisees, and morale is plummeting in the wake of the “do more with less” juggernaut.  Retention rates are dropping. If the cure for apathy has anything to do with its antonym, then the best way we can overcome this epidemic is to increase our activism, vigor, and purpose. It is a daunting task, but as professional and faculty advisors, we can reverse the effects of apathy in order to strengthen our institutions and promote student retention and success.

Throughout history, apathy has come in waves, usually determined by the social environment and history-making events. The current generation of privilege shows apathy in a variety of ways, but predominantly as a form of disconnection. This seems odd given the fact that the online marketers have labeled this the “connected” generation.  However, student dependence upon technology is actually resulting in disconnection and disengagement from the human, social contact needed to successfully collaborate, connect, and communicate.

The symptoms are recognizable: apathetic students are those who are disengaged, disconnected, unmotivated, uninterested, unexcited. They are students who do not communicate with faculty or advisors, students who avoid studying and who do not attend class. They are students who do not participate in activities; cannot fend for themselves; want the fastest, cheapest degree; and lack any concern with current social issues (NSSE, 2008).  The 2008 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) found that  69% of the students surveyed report that they often come to class unprepared; 47% stated that they never discuss course material with faculty outside of the classroom; 46% “rarely or never” seek tutoring services; only 8% engage with faculty in activities “outside of the classroom”; and “35%-51% of students rarely or never take advantage” of academic advising and career counseling services despite recognizing the importance of doing so (pp. 11-16).

The effects of apathy appear in fairly alarming disengagement statistics. Harward (2008) noted that while “over 40% of ‘millennial age’ students self report episodes of depression sufficient to interrupt their academic work,” many are unrecognizable to faculty, and “over 35% of current students engage in binging with alcohol or other drugs with the intent of passing out – emotionally and physically disengaging” (¶ 1).  This disconnection trend has a direct effect on student success and retention, and many institutions are taking note. Investment in student retention is resulting in the organization of programs and policies and revised mission statements are being pumped out in a promotional frenzy to let our potential students know that we care. These promising words are easy to read and comforting to hear, but the follow-through is not always as simple. In fact, Harward further stated that some educators believe “that the efforts and resources currently in place on campuses are offering, in large part, partial treatments of symptoms, rather than dealing with causes” (¶ 6). So what does it take to defeat apathy, especially in a climate of insufficient funds, minimal resources, and low morale and motivation? Awareness and action.

Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth (2004) report that students who “fail to develop adequate academic self-confidence, academic goals, institutional commitment, and social support and involvement” are those who present the greatest attrition risk, and advisors are best suited for addressing these issues (p. vii).  Identifying the at-risk population and implementing a tracking, monitoring, and early alert program is a logical starting point.  At-risk students are those who lack basic skills and responsibility, are unrealistic about grades, apathetic toward learning, unmotivated, and unable to handle their own affairs (Walsh, 2003). According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (2008), in comparison to highly prepared students, at-risk students are “significantly less engaged in academic activities and collaborative learning” (p. 19), do not understand the importance of developmental courses, are “three times more likely to report ‘C’ averages” (p. 19), are less likely to plan on completing their degree, and have a much more difficult time transitioning to college.  Identifying and monitoring at-risk students requires effective communication methods, and collaboration.

Modes of communication are steadily evolving as campuses seek alternatives to institutional emails in an effort to engage and connect with their students. Social networking tools such as Red Rover©, Facebook©, Ning©, and Twitter© allow students to connect with their peers, advisors, and instructors.  Junco and Heiberger (2009) noted that “94% of first year students spend at least some time on social networks every week” (slide 18); however, ASSETT (2009) reported that “most universities are in a transitional state” (¶ 4) when it comes to updated communication technology, and “fewer than 45%” of IT specialists “believe that their university’s current communications infrastructure is equipped to meet evolving needs” (¶ 4). Effective retention programs take into consideration a variety of communication methods if we are to connect with and engage our students.

Perhaps the most important goal of retention efforts is helping first year students successfully transition to college life.  Hunter and Linder (2005) stated that campuses offering first-year seminars promote student learning, involvement, and “engagement in the learning process” (p. 276). ACT (2008) found that roughly 32% of public 4-year college students drop out without completing their first year; this indicates that a first-year seminar focusing on transition, connection, and active learning is an obvious step in the right direction (p. 3). Lance (2009) affirmed that, “academic advisors are ideal instructors for FY courses because they are often the most familiar with institutional policies and procedures and the resources available to new students” (¶ 6).

In order to address the disconnection that leads to retention issues there must be campus-wide awareness and buy-in. Frustration builds as apathy’s contagion becomes evident in the lack of faculty involvement, decreased awareness of advising issues, lack of responsibility for student success, and the lack of knowledge of advising roles and responsibilities. One way to promote awareness is to publish a monthly advising newsletter to keep faculty advisors updated on current trends and issues. Advisor trainings, workshops, and roundtable discussions also offer forums for faculty and professional advisors to discuss retention problems and solutions. An easily accessible and routinely updated advisor handbook is a necessary tool for successful advising.

These are demanding and challenging times. We face uncertainty on nearly every front, yet as academic advisors we are charged with guiding the education of tomorrow’s leaders. We must decide. Will we join the ranks of individuals whose pessimism is manifested as roadblocks? Or will we take action, and initiate a call for change? Quality academic advising may be the key to student retention and success.  It depends upon awareness, optimism, active collaboration, connection, and effective communication if we are to reverse the effects of apathy.

Nikol Luther
Career and Advising Services
Lewis-Clark State College


ACT, Inc. (2008). National Collegiate Retention and Persistence to Degree Rates.  Retrieved August 27, 2009, from www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/retain_2008.pdf

Arts and Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT). (2009) Higher Ed Updating Use of Messaging.  Retrieved July 1, 2009 from http://assett.colorado.edu/?p=436

Essential Elements of Engagement: High Expectations and High Support.Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). (2008). Retrieved June 30, 2009 from www.ccsse.org/survey/bench_student.cfm

Harward, D. (2008).  A different way to fight student disengagement. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved June 20, 2009 from www.insidehighered.com/views/2008/04/15/harward

Hunter, M. & Linder, C. (2005).  First-year seminars.  In M.L. Upcraft, J.N. Gardner, & B.O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student (p. 276).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Junco, R. & Heiberger, G. (2009, March). You can use Facebook for that? Research-supported strategies to engage your students. Presentation at the National American College Personnel Association Meeting, Washington, DC. Retrieved July 1, 2009 from http://blog.swiftkickonline.com/

Lance, A. (2009).  Advising is teaching: Advisors take it to the classroom! Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved May 21, 2009 from www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/AAT32-2.htm#4

Lotkowski, V., Robbins, S., & Noeth, R. (2004).  ACT Policy Report. The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. Retrieved June 30, 2009 from www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/college_retention.pdf

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). (2008). Promoting Engagement for All Students: The Imperative to Look Within. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from http://nsse.iub.edu/NSSE_2008_Results

Walsh, P. (2003). At risk students. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/FAQs/atrisk.htm

Reflection in Advising

Bryant L. Hutson, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Jennifer L. Bloom, University of South Carolina
Ye He, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Bryant Hutson.jpgJennifer Bloom.jpgWhile advisors often encourage students to become lifelong learners, they themselves are often so strapped for time that they shortchange their own lifelong learning pursuits. Fortunately, there are cost-effective options that advising administrators can use to promote lifelong learning. The approach to professional development described here is among the oldest: reflecting upon one’s experience in order to develop one’s professional identity (Schön, 1983). This article shares some specific ideas for incorporating reflective practice into professional development programs.


Encouraging Reflective Practice

Advising administrators are ideally situated to introduce intentionally reflective practices into advisor training, as well as encourage advisors to actively reflect on and develop their own personal theories of practice.

 Developing Personal Practical Theories

Emerging from the teacher education literature, one powerful way to help advisors become reflective practitioners is to have advisors develop their own “Personal Practical Theory” (PPT) of advising (Connelly & Clandinin, 1985; Cornett, Yeotis, & Terwillger, 1990; He & Levin, 2008; Levin & He, 2008). A PPT involves engaging in reflective practice by asking advisors to identify what they believe to be characteristics of outstanding academic advisors aswell as the sources for their beliefs about these characteristics. This allows advisors to develop an integrated and dynamic set of beliefs, ethics, and self-authored practices which promote the development of advisors’ professional identities.

Advising administrators can help their advisors formulate their PPTs during a staff meeting or an office retreat. A handout can be distributed with this sentence at the top: “My Personal Practical Theory of Being an Outstanding Advisor is….”  Underneath there should be two columns – the first labeled “Attributes” and the second titled “Source.” Advisors would then be given 20-30 minutes to identify what they feel are the attributes of outstanding advisors, and in the second column they would identify the sources of this belief. That is, did they learn this through a personal experience as an advisee or an advisor, from a family member, book, class, etc. Advisors should then be encouraged to share their PPT with a partner or the group. Insights gained through this exercise allow individual advisors to translate their personal, professional, and educational experiences into their advising interactions with students and offers a method to incorporate new theories and experiences into subsequent practice.

Role Modeling

Advising administrators can model reflective practice by sharing their own PPTs of advising. They can also accomplish this by sharing how they approach difficult advising situations, underscoring not only how they address these situations, but also explaining the theoretical rationale for their behaviors. Additionally, during one-on-one and staff meetings administrators can ask questions that lead staff to reflect on their approach to advising students. Examples of questions that promote reflection include:

  • Tell me about a time that you had a positive impact on a student’s life? What specific things did you do that promoted a positive outcome?
  • What matters to you most in your daily work?
  • What is your most important goal for the upcoming day, week, semester, and/or year?

By asking these types of questions of advisors, it not only encourages advisors to reflect, but also provides examples of questions that advisors could utilize with their students.

Keeping an advising portfolio

Some advising administrators require that their advisors maintain a comprehensive portfolio that includes their advising philosophy, major accomplishments, notes from grateful students, awards, publications, etc. For example, at University College at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, these portfolios are also used to help advisors develop their professional development plans and goals (Buyarski, personal communication, August 21, 2009; Buyarski, 2003). The process of creating and updating an advising portfolio allows advisors to reflect on past accomplishments and provides a powerful incentive to continue to develop each year.

Promoting lifelong learning

There are multiple ways that advising administrators can promote lifelong learning among advising staff.  First, when a staff member comes up with an innovative programming idea that proves successful, encourage the advisor to write an article about the program. There are multiple venues for such articles including the NACADA Journal, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, Academic Advising Today, and The Mentor. This writing process will encourage reflective thinking. Another option is to encourage staff members to submit proposals to present their work at local, regional, and national conferences. Sometimes staff members may be hesitant to write or present on their own, so encourage advisors to pair up with others on the staff or elsewhere.

Second, ask advisors who attend professional conferences to share with their colleagues the take-home messages from the presentations they attended. This will help them assimilate the information by reflecting on how they can incorporate what they have learned into their advising.

Third, assign staff members to meet with representatives of offices where staff typically refer students for help, e.g., Financial Aid, Counseling, and Career Services. Ask advisors to report their findings about services offered, key personnel, and suggestions for effectively referring students to each office. This allows advisors to reflect on their role within the institutional environment as well as to compare the services they provide to those offered in other campus offices.

Finally, establish a monthly “common reading” opportunity where a book or journal article is discussed as a regular part of staff meetings. Select readings that will stimulate personal and/or professional growth.  Allow staff to engage in dialogue about the readings and the implications the piece’s message has for each advisor.


Providing structured opportunities for advisors to develop their professional identities through reflection is one of the most important things advising administrators can do to promote professional and personal development.  Advisors that understand who they are, what their Personal Practical Theory of advising is, and are encouraged to grow and develop their professional identities are best positioned to effectively advise students.

Bryant L. Hutson
Associate Director, Student Academic Services
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jennifer L. Bloom
Clinical Associate Professor
Director of the Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s Degree Program
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
University of South Carolina

Ye He
Assistant Professor
Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education
School of Education
University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Buyarski, C. (2003). IUPUI University College advising center advisor portfolio. Retrieved September 24, 2009, from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources at www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/portfolioexamples.htm

Connelly, F.M. & Clandinin, D.J. (1985). Personal practical knowledge and the modes of knowing: Relevance for teaching and learning. In E. Eisner (Eds). Learning and teaching the ways of knowing (pp. 174-198). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cornett, J. W., Yeotis, C., & Terwilliger, L. (1990). Teacher personal practice theories and their influences upon teacher curricular and instructional actions: A case study of a secondary science teacher. Science Education, 74, 517-529.

He, Y. & Levin, B. (2008). Match or mismatch? How congruent are the beliefs of teacher candidates, teacher educators, and field mentors? Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 37-55.

Levin, B., & He, Y. (2008). Investigating the content and sources of preservice teachers’ personal practical theories (PPTs). Journal of Teacher Education, 59(1), pp. 55-68.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.

 What Hiring Committees Want to Hear

If you are launching into a job search for an academic advising position, you are headed for one of the most rewarding, appealing, and exciting careers in higher education. However, in the current economic climate, you should be prepared for fewer advertised positions and some fierce competition. Arriving at your interview well prepared is always important, perhaps now more than ever. Describing your past experiences and how they relate to the following topics will help you make a good impression.

  • Tell your story: personal attributes. Recent interviews with directors of advising and an examination of positions advertised on the NACADA Web site, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and HigherEdJobs.com have revealed several preferred candidate attributes. The first is interpersonal, organizational, and communication skills. Problem solving skills, decision-making skills, and multitasking are also important to employers. Plan to address these issues by discussing a challenging situation you have faced and how you successfully met that challenge.
  • Tell why you love working with students. Several advertisements and advising directors stress the need for a student-centered approach to advising. One advising director stated that she wants to hear evidence of listening and advocacy skills. NACADA Past President Casey Self, Executive Director of Academic Advising at the University College of Arizona State University, also reports that relational skills are essential. He looks for how candidates would function as team members and how they would deal with conflict. He also looks for candidates who have a good understanding of the NACADA Core Values of Advising and the NACADA Concept of Academic Advising. Additionally, there is an expectation of experience with a diverse student population, including sexuality issues as well as students with learning differences and students who are differently-abled. Additionally, employers will also want to understand your approach to dealing with parents. More information on all of these topics may be found in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.
  • Discuss your skills. Employers look for candidates who have time management and technological skills, as well as those who can discuss their knowledge of software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and specific student information systems. Be sure to share your experience with or willingness to learn about social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Also, be prepared to discuss how the use of such technology is impacted by privacy laws such as the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • Show your initiative. Some directors report that they want to know that the candidate is a self-starter and demonstrates initiative. They want evidence that candidates have gone on the Website and already know the school’s mission and the mission of the advising department. Celeste Pardee, Curriculum Associate at Arizona State University, suggests that candidates should have “formulated questions about the nature or scope of the job, training or professional development, communications, or staff meetings.” 

For more information on any of these topics, go to the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.

Alison Hoff
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Chair
Academic Advisor, Mastodon Advising Center
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)

Mary Manning
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Member
Landmark College


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U. S. Department of Labor. (2007, December 18). Education administrators. In Occupational outlook handbook (20008-09ed., pp.1-5). Washington, Projections. Retrieved May 28, 2009, from U. S. Department of Labor Web site: www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos007.pdf

Dessoff, A. (2009, March). Special report: Higher ed and the economy. In University Business. Retrieved May 28, 2009, from www.universitybusiness.com/article/special-report-higher-ed-and-economy

HigherEdJobs.com. (2009, May). Higher education employment report.(First Quarter, 2009). Retrieved May 28, 2009, from www.higheredjobs.com/career/HEJ_Employment_Report_2009_Q1.pdf

Snyder, T. D., Dillow, S. A., & Hoffman, C. M. (2009). Digest of Education Statistics 2008 (NCES 2009-020). National Center for Educational Statistics, Institute of Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education: Washington, DC.

Sparkler.jpgIt 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 Leigh@ksu.edu.


This edition’s SPARKLERs come from Eve Leedy (University of Colorado-Boulder) and Jamie Brenner (University of North Carolina-Wilmington).

Eve Leedy.jpgEve Leedy, Associate Director of Undergraduate Services at University of Colorado-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, tells us that their business program has approximately 3000 students.  Many students, Eve says, “are not initially qualified to enter the Business School and are admitted to another college.  Those students, along with the students who discover business as a major later in their academic career, need detailed information about what it takes to transfer into Leeds. For years, we met one-on-one with these interested students.  But as we spent more and more time with non-business students, to the detriment of our own students, we realized we needed another model.”  Five years ago, they instituted “Intra University Transfer” or IUT meetings, which are held several times during the month prior to the application deadline as well as during the rest of the semester.  The meetings have proven useful for students ready to apply as well as those who are just curious about the requirements.  Eve explains, “The IUT meetings are mandatory and applications are distributed there.  The academic advisors present the curriculum material and answer questions.  It has allowed us to continue to provide quality advising to a large group of students who are not currently part of our Leeds population and who need a lot of information to make good choices while they work towards their goal of getting into the business program.  The information is available on our Web site, but being able to meet with an advisor is more helpful and students are less likely to make planning mistakes.  We are also able to reinforce the minimum GPA requirement and deter students who are not being realistic in their ability to meet it.  This model has saved a lot of time and energy while allowing us to meet the needs of our prospective students.” For more information, contact Eve at Eve.Leedy@colorado.edu.

Jamie Brenner, Pre-Health Academic Advisor for University of North Carolina-Wilmington’s University College (UC), tells us that “in Fall 2008, UC organized committees to efficiently and creatively plan for advising and programming.  The Professional Development Team (PDT) was created to provide on-going, cost-effective professional development for academic advisors.”  The PDT’s utilization of existing resources on campus to create a “home-grown” program proved highly successful.  They drew on expertise from faculty, advisors, and student affairs staff to provide a mini-conference, informal Brown Bag discussions, a monthly electronic newsletter, and an end-of-year celebration.  Faculty from the UNCW Military Task Force contributed to a Brown Bag about student-veterans while other faculty presented their research at a Brown Bag regarding student prescription drug abuse.  One faculty member presented an imaginative list of “statistics” at the year-end celebration to recount pre-registration.  UC advisors facilitated Brown Bags, including sessions on student use of technology and its impact on advising.  The UC Associate Dean presented a session in the mini-conference regarding Appreciative Advising.   UC advisors prepared the end-of-year presentation.  Representatives from Student Affairs participated in several PDT functions.  The Counseling Center facilitated a mini-conference session on QPR Suicide Prevention Training which resulted in certification of participants.  A representative from Financial Aid participated in a Brown Bag regarding the impact of the struggling economy on students’ ability to pay for college.  UNCW’s substance abuse prevention and education program, Crossroads, was represented by its director at the Brown Bag regarding students’ prescription drug abuse. Faculty, UC advisors, and Student Affairs’ staff all contributed articles to The Prerequisite, a monthly electronic newsletter edited by the PDT chair.  Jamie notes, “PDT’s offerings provided cost-effective professional development amidst budget cuts, including information and a chance for staff to add to professional repertoires.”  The PDT has a full menu of programming scheduled for the ’09-’10 academic year including existing and new initiatives.   “Program Information Days” allow academic departments to share curriculum changes and major information.  “Case Study Presentations” will offer advisors an opportunity to obtain insight from other professionals regarding difficult cases and to share success stories.  For information about PDT initiatives, email University College at uc@uncw.edu

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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.

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