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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Charting the Course, NACADA and You

Joanne K. Damminger, NACADA President

President Joanne Damminger.jpgIf I missed you at the 2013 Annual Conference in October, please let me introduce myself. I am Joanne Damminger, and I am honored to be the new President of NACADA. In my professional life, I serve as the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Delaware Technical Community College, overseeing Student Affairs at four campus locations that span the cozy and beautiful State of Delaware.

I was pleased to meet many of you at the extremely successful Annual Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah in October where we experienced the wonderful opportunity to interact with over 2800 advisors and administrators of advising, representing 14 countries and 699 institutions. In addition, the conference afforded attendees the chance to participate in Regional, Committee, Commission, and Interest Group meetings, while engaging in over almost 400 academic and scholarly presentations highlighting advising practices around the globe. The conference afforded NACADA’s international community the chance to network and discuss current trends and challenges facing advising today while enjoying the culture, shopping, dining, and touring possibilities in beautiful Salt Lake City.

One of my initial responsibilities as President is to share with you the first of four AAT articles that I will write during my term. Throughout the next year, I will venture through the four seasons with my quarterly articles beginning with this winter edition. Winter is often a time for reflection and self-review. I am reminded of the words of Peter F. Drucker when he advised, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action (n.d.).” Winter allows us a time to review our intentions and efforts during the past year and create aspirations and goals for the coming year. I hope you will take time to consider your many accomplishments and the improvements you have made to your advising practice or leadership of advising, and chart your resolutions for leading your advising praxis to the next level in the approaching year. It is my hope that your thoughts include advising research and scholarly publications to expand the body of advising literature, as advisors worldwide consider how to meritoriously contribute to advising as a profession.

My own recent reflections focused on my vision for NACADA that I shared at the Annual Conference, along with the wonderful initial strides that were made at the Board of Directors meeting in Utah. Once again referring, as I did at the Annual, to John Maxwell's leadership strategy to "chart one's course" (1998, 2007) for vision and accomplishment, I restate my commitment as President to strategically “chart the course” for NACADA and assist members in “charting their course” within the Association and their professional lives. One such course is related to NACADA’s commitment to professional development for the mutual well-being of the Association, its members, and the institutions they serve. In keeping with the newly written vision, revised mission, and strategic goals for the Association, the Board approved my recommendation to create a standing committee, the Committee for Sustainable NACADA Leadership, to assure that all members recognize, and have access to pathways to, leadership roles within the Association. Strategic and timely Board of Directors’ decisions such as these assure the development of leaders to guide the work of the Association for the future while providing for the development discussed at previous Town Hall meetings. I look forward to updating you on future initiatives and achievements stemming from this committee.

Equally exciting is the Board’s approval to create a standing Committee for Global Initiatives, designed to help NACADA effectively plan for members’ needs across the globe, embedding NACADA’s intention to be the premier advising association into the tapestry of our Association. In addition to meeting the diverse needs of our membership, this committee will work with the Executive Office to plan and implement a biannual international conference. Our international partners can look to this committee for assistance in contributing to the profession of advising through research design and publishing.

Additionally, in keeping with our newly emphasized focus on outcomes assessment, the Board will comprehensively assess two outcomes this year - one related to the responsibility we all have to inform and engage our advising administrators about the integral role that advising plays in student retention and success, and the second related to our strategic intention to create an inclusive environment within the Association that promotes diversity. A big thank you to Janet Spence and Nathan Vickers for leading working groups to write these outcomes and plans to assess them! The Board’s, Council’s, and Divisions’ existing dedication to outcomes assessment will be instrumental in guiding the future work of NACADA’s leaders and the Association. 

This is an exciting time for NACADA and its membership. The Association counts on you to let us know how we can assist in enhancing your advising practice and meeting your goals. Look for future article updates to assist you in designing your course within NACADA and your professional life. As an Association, we are navigating our charted course to maintain our focus on advising as a profession, the professional development of our membership, and effectively serving the needs of our diverse and worldwide members.

Joanne K. Damminger, President, 2013-2014
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Delaware Technical Community College


Drucker, P. F. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/bright9977/22-quotes-on-management-by-peter-f-drucker

Maxwell, J. C. (1998, 2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. (10th ed.). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Cite this article using APA style as: Damminger, J. (2013, December). From the president: Charting the course, NACADA and you. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


From the Executive Director: 2013 is a Year to Remember

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgWhat a tremendous year 2013 has been for NACADA, our leaders, our Executive Office staff, and most importantly our members! This year will be remembered in many ways but especially for our membership growth; our continued expansion globally; our focus on membership retention and leadership development; the Board’s approval of a new vision, mission, and goals for the association’s work; and our vast technological advances making our members’ connection with NACADA electronically easier and more beneficial to them.

(Above: Leaders and members from Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S. gather at International Conference at the University of Maastricht to discuss future global initiatives.)

But the magnificent progress that NACADA has made in 2013 has not altered an important strength of NACADA: the “family” culture of our association and the personalized attention each member receives from our elected and appointed leaders and from the Executive Office staff. Charlie in Qatar.jpgFrom the very simple message we send by not having titles on our event name tags to ensure everyone feels valued and open to meet and network with others regardless of their degree or position, to our very intentional culture in the Executive Office of members always talking to a staff member and not an electronic message, NACADA has been built on a strong foundation of learning, networking, and collaboration.

(Above: Charlie Nutt and Past Presidents Jayne Drake and Nancy King discussed NACADA global initiatives in the Middle East with Qatar University President Shaikha Al-misnad and Director of Advising and Retention Selma Albelrahim Haghamed)

Our Board of Directors and our Council members work diligently to connect with as many members as they can at our in-person events and also through electronic means. Two excellent examples are the videos about our association that NACADA President Joanne Damminger and Vice President JP Regalado have made about our association.

You can view Joanne’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB5OtKrclVY&feature=youtu.be, and JP’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CyWyfJgGME&feature=youtu.be

Nathan Vickers.jpgIn addition, all our leaders, past leaders, members, and EO staff are constantly researching and developing plans for ways our members can connect more easily, whether it be electronically through the 2013 NACADA Annual Conference mobile app, or through securing conference sites and agendas that make networking an essential part of the events. Utilizing Twitter and Facebook for networking allows participation by those both attending and not attending the events.
(Right: Board of Directors member Nathan Vickers makes personal contact with new members at the Orientation session during the 2013 Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.)

As we all know, student learning occurs best in a culture where opportunities are intentionally created for students to connect with their fellow students, their faculty members, and their advisors. Research clearly demonstrates the higher the level of student engagement with an institution, the higher the likelihood of their learning more, networking more, and ultimately graduating. Therefore, NACADA follows the same model: our association continues to focus on learning, networking, and success of all members, who connect with NACADA in many different ways.

As always, I look forward to seeing many of you at one of our Winter Events, Region Conferences, or Summer Institutes in 2014!

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

(Above: Contacts are made at the Leadership Dinner during the 2013 Annual Conference.)

NACADA director outlines plan for strategic growth

This article by Patrice Scott, communications coordinator for the K-State College of Education, originally appeared in Connections magazine. It is reprinted with permission by the K-State College of Education.

Following is a candid conversation with Charlie Nutt, executive director of the National Academic Advising Association, or NACADA. Nutt joined NACADA in 2002 and has served as executive director since 2007.

Charlie Nutt at CoE.jpgQ. How would you describe NACADA?

A. NACADA promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students. The association provides a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of ideas pertaining to academic advising through numerous activities and publications. It also serves as an advocate for effective academic advising by providing a consulting and speaker service and funding for research related to academic advising.

Q. How big is NACADA?

A. The association comprises more than 12,000 members worldwide, including professional advisors, counselors, faculty, administrators and students. I like to say we are a 12,000-person campus being run by 18 professionals and a few graduate and undergraduate students. If NACADA were an institution of higher learning in Kansas, it would be ranked as the fifth largest Regents institution and the second largest community college.

Q. What do you wish the world knew about NACADA?

A. I want the world to know that NACADA is committed to providing the highest quality professional development resources and events. But I also want the world to know that NACADA and our board of directors are strongly committed to expanding our global commission, providing a forum and outlet to conduct research in the field of academic advising and student success, and communicating the results of that research.

Q. Why do you believe NACADA is growing?

A. There are four main reasons we are experiencing significant growth:

  1. NACADA is focused on the highest quality professional development, events and service to our members.
  2. Globally, institutions are focused on student success and completion more than ever, and with the demonstrated connection between academic advising and student success, our membership has grown accordingly.
  3. Members tell us NACADA is one of the few educational associations where members are actively involved with the association’s work, and they appreciate the clear focus on networking, sharing, learning and inclusion at all levels.
  4. Our executive office staff is truly the best of all higher education associations and provides the highest quality personalized service to each member.

Q. How is academic advising critical to student success?

A. Academic advising is drastically more than just schedule building and registration. It is about the whole student and about teaching students to be self-reliant and responsible for their educations. Many professional academic advisors, as well as faculty advisors, have little to no training in student development, growth, learning patterns or in how to develop a relationship with students. In addition, it is essential that academic advisors understand the importance of assessment of academic advising and how to build a plan for such assessment.

Q. When and why did NACADA decide to go global?

A. While attending a conference in the U.K. in 2005 on “personal tutoring” (the U.K.’s term for academic advising), I clearly saw that no matter the location, academic advisors face the same issues relative to student success. At that point the NACADA board of directors began discussing the importance of a globally inclusive focus and how we could move in that direction. One of the first ways was to change our tagline to “NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.” We co-hosted two international conferences in the U.K. — in Edinburgh and in Liverpool. This June, NACADA itself hosted an international conference at the University College of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. We had more than 250 participants from 19 countries and five continents.

Q. What does the future hold for NACADA?

A. We plan to continue our global expansion, support of technology for members, focus on high quality in all we do, and focus on research and publication in the field.

Identifying Barriers to Effective Intercultural Communication

Kathy McKeiver, Global Engagement Commission Chair

Editor’s Note: Interested in learning more on this topic?  Join Kathy and her team of panelists for the upcoming Global Engagement Commission-sponsored webinar on Developing Intercultural Communication Skills for Academic Advising.

Kathy McKeiver.jpgThe United States remains a top study destination for international students, with over 764,000 enrolled during the 2011/12 academic year (“Open Doors Fast Facts,” 2012). As this number continues to grow, students and staff are increasingly interacting with those who may not share the same cultural and social norms. This can be especially challenging to advisors with low intercultural competence or limited exposure to cultures other than their own.  However, if we are open to the challenge, students and staff can make great gains, both personally and professionally. Intercultural interactions provide many benefits, but only if we are open to confronting the barriers that may hinder our success.

A growing international student population enhances university campuses by contributing to a diversified community and providing exposure to new cultural perspectives (Bevis, 2002). However, the rewards don’t end there.  Students and staff who engage in intercultural interactions tend to experience gains in communication skills, the ability to empathize and an openness to new ideas (Geelhoed & Talbot, 2003). Consistent intercultural interactions also increased individuals’ likelihood to challenge personal beliefs and embrace new perspectives (Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2013).

Unfortunately, many in the campus community do not take advantage of these benefits. Luo and Jamieson-Drake (2013) discovered that regardless of the number of international students enrolled on a campus, intercultural interactions do not occur automatically, and when they do, there is always potential for misunderstanding. As advisors, many of our intercultural interactions are prescribed in the form of advising appointments. This is an advantage, as it allows us opportunities to practice variations of our intercultural advising style in order to see what works best for us and for students. 

Making an effort to meet students where they are is especially important when working with those from different cultures. In our intercultural interactions, we are not only representing ourselves, but also the university and greater community.  International students frequently report that social and community interactions can influence decisions to persist at the university (Lee & Rice, 2007). This decision is made after the student has had some U.S. experience, and it has a lasting impact on a student’s view of the host culture (Lee and Rice, 2007). We need to recognize the interactions we have with students extend beyond academic basics. If our goal is to help students be successful, we must also provide a supportive environment where students feel valued and respected as individuals.

A student’s willingness to seek our assistance can be complicated by staff attitudes toward those from other cultures. Some findings suggest that while staff may express concerns about issues such as a student’s language ability, they tend to lack empathy for the life challenges students are experiencing, including their emotional and psychological well-being (Robertson, Line, Jones & Thomas, 2000). Staff participants did not consider their role in contributing to these behaviors, and instead blamed the students for lacking critical thinking skills and ignoring academic responsibilities (Robertson et al., 2000). In addition, Spencer-Rodgers and McGovern (2002) found domestic staff and students exhibited greater prejudice against international students by thinking of them as “frightened, sad and lonely” (p. 625). The level of prejudice varies depending on the student’s home country (Spencer-Rodgers & McGovern, 2002).

International students want to be personally and academically successful; however, when students lack confidence in their communication skills, or when they experience negative interactions with the host culture, they may be unwilling to seek guidance when they need it (Robertson et al., 2000). If some staff members characterize international students as being irresponsible, sad, and lonely, why aren’t we doing more to hone our skills and reach out to students?  Maybe because we are not cognizant of the barriers preventing us from doing so.

One such barrier is ethnocentrism. Any intercultural interaction will be influenced by an individual’s ethnocentrism, or the belief that one’s culture (“in-group”) is superior to another’s culture (“out-group”).   All humans are to some extent ethnocentric, falling somewhere on a scale between “low” and “high” ethnocentricity (Neuliep, 2012).  High or low levels of ethnocentricity influence an individual’s ability to successfully communicate interculturally. Individuals with high ethnocentricity will experience the largest communication barriers with those who are different from them. Highly ethnocentric individuals may feel “suspicious, defensive, and hostile” toward international students, especially students who have different social and cultural norms from the in-group (Neuliep & McCroskey, 1997; Spencer-Rogers & McGovern, 2002, p. 614).

However, ethnocentricity is not always negative. Those with low ethnocentricity may feel “curious, interested, and inspired” by their intercultural interactions and as a result, experience the benefits of increased intercultural competence (Neuliep & McCroskey, 1997; Spencer-Rogers and McGovern, 2002). International students report a lack of cultural sensitivity coupled with negative attitudes towards them as their biggest barrier to effective intercultural interactions (Spencer-Rogers and McGovern, 2002). Given this, personal awareness of our own ethnocentricity and its effect on our ability to work with students suddenly becomes more important.

Levels of ethnocentrism are closely connected to intercultural communication apprehension, another communication barrier.  Neuliep and McCroskey (1997) defined intercultural communication apprehension as “the fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with people from different groups, especially cultural and/or ethnic groups” (p. 148). Similar to those with high ethnocentrism, those with high levels of intercultural communication apprehension are less likely to attempt to engage in intercultural interactions. This is problematic, especially for international students, as intercultural communication apprehension also limits their ability to adapt to the host culture (Neuliep, 2012). A student’s fear to approach and communicate with advisors, coupled with our own communication apprehension, influences both the student’s personal and academic experience. Students may be reluctant to approach us because they are fearful we will not understand them, or that they will not understand us. As advisors, we may share that same fear.

Both intercultural communication apprehension and ethnocentrism can have negative effects on an individual’s willingness to communicate outside of the “in-group.”  Both these traits also contribute to another communication barrier – anxiety (Neuliep, 2012). Intercultural communication anxiety is partially due to communication obstacles such as a student’s language ability, differences in expression of emotion, and differences in verbal and non-verbal communication styles (Spencer-Rodgers and McGovern, 2002). Members of the “in-group” and members of the “out-group” may both experience feelings of impatience, frustration, and suspicion even in anticipation of the encounter, which can then increase anxiety in both parties (Neuliep, 2012).  When one experiences high levels of anxiety, a natural instinct is to avoid the situation, which again has implications for our work as advisors.

So what can we do?  As academic advisors on the front line, how can we challenge our own biases, perceptions, and ignorance when working with students from cultures different from our own?  As student service professionals, we have a responsibility to become consciously aware of the messages and actions we communicate to students and the ways they may be perceived. While it is impossible to learn every detail about an unfamiliar culture, this should not discourage us from expanding what we do know and exploring what we do not.  Taking the initiative to increase our intercultural competence and communication skills will only further support students on their path to success.

Kathy McKeiver
Coordinator: International Student Academic Advising
Center for International Education
Northern Arizona University


Barrett, R., & Cox, A. L.  (2005). At least they’re learning something: The hazy line between collaboration and collusion. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30, 107–122.

Bevis, T. B. (2002). At a glance: International students in the United States, International Educator, 11,12-17.

Geelhoed, R., Abe, J., & Talbot, D. (2003). A qualitative investigation of U.S. students’ experiences in an international peer program.  Journal of College Student Development, 44, 5-17.

Lee, J. & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination. Higher Education, 53, 381-409.

Luo, J. & Jamieson-Drake, D. (2013). Examining the educational benefits of interacting with international students. Journal of International Students, 3, 85-101.

Neuliep, J.W., (2012). The relationship among intercultural communication apprehension, ethnocentrism, uncertainty reduction, and communication satisfaction during initial intercultural interaction: An extension of anxiety and uncertainty management (AUM) theory. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 41, 1-16.

Open Doors (2012). Open Doors Fast facts. Retrieved from: http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors

Robertson, M., Line, M., Jones, S., & Thomas, S.  (2000). International students, learning environments and perceptions: A case study using the Delphi technique. Higher Education Research and Development 19, 89-102.

Spencer-Rodgers, J. & McGovern, T. (2002) Attitudes toward the culturally different: The role of intercultural communication barriers, affective responses, consensual stereotypes, and perceived threat. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 26, 609-631.

Cite this article using APA style as: McKeiver, K. (2013, December). Identifying barriers to effective intercultural communicaton. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

International Vantage Point.jpbPanel Discusses the Universal Nature of Academic Adjustment for International Students

Katy Oliveira-Lambert and Erin Ray, St. Edward’s University

Katy Oliveira-Lambert.jpgErin Ray.jpgThe wide world is becoming an increasingly small place. As more students choose to pursue an international education, university campuses across the globe are becoming microcosms of the larger world. The number of international students pursuing four-year degrees in the United States and around the world is rapidly increasing, and the number of students participating in study abroad experiences or exchange programs also continues to grow. The highly mobile nature of university students brings both interesting opportunities and significant challenges as students encounter academic systems vastly different from those they have experienced in their home cultures.

In the spirit of the rapid globalization of higher education, academic advising professionals from around the world joined together in Maastricht, The Netherlands for NACADA’s first International Conference in June 2013. Here advising professionals presented best practices and exchanged ideas and strategies for best serving students. Approaches for addressing the growing pains that accompany an expanding and diversifying student population were chief among the conference’s themes.

During the conference, professionals representing the United States, Great Britain, and The Netherlands conducted a conference panel on advising international students. The panelists, Laura Ballato (University of Groningen), Dalynda Evans (University of Oklahoma), Kathleen McKeiver (Northern Arizona University), Katy Oliveira-Lambert (St. Edward’s University), Erin Ray (St. Edward’s University) and Penny Robinson (University of Leeds), discussed a broad range of shared concerns and challenges as well as a myriad of suggestions for meeting the needs of an ever-internationalizing student population. Discussion topics and recommendations included the following.

Measuring Language Proficiency.  Many institutions currently use the IELTS and TOEFL assessments to measure English language proficiency. However, audience members discussed the challenges of relying on standardized assessments for measuring English language college readiness, acknowledging that language proficiency is a multi-faceted competency and that meeting language expectations at the university level is more difficult than merely possessing a working command of the host country language. Audience members shared experiences of working with students whose IELTS or TOEFL scores did not accurately reflect the students’ ability to function at the college level. A variety of strategies for bridging the gap between IELTS and TOEFL scores and the student’s ability to successfully utilize college level English were suggested. Panelists and audience members recommended: (1) developmental writing curriculum, (2) writing center and labs, (3) in-house placement testing, and (4) 1-credit academic support course.

Facilitating Adjustment to New Academic Culture. The panel discussed the prevalence of the American “Junior Year Abroad.” Concerns emerged regarding the vast differences between the American style of higher education and European, British, and Australian systems. The audience broadened this topic to also include challenges experienced by growing international student populations from China, Saudi Arabia, and India. International student populations universally experience some difficulty adjusting to academic systems that differ greatly from their home cultures. Common challenges international students face include: (1) adjusting to the conventions of written expression in the host country, (2) overcoming differences between teaching pedagogies, especially the difference between critical thinking and rote learning, (3) understanding classroom participation expectations, (3) learning conventions of academic honesty and avoiding plagiarism, and (4) successfully negotiating relationships with professors and with academic support staff.

The panel and audience shared a variety of best practices for assisting international students with adjustment to a new academic culture, including (1) training faculty to be mindful of cross-cultural communication gaps, (2) clarifying policies in written communication such as syllabi and academic publications, (3) creating support programs and curriculum to support international students, (4) providing more intentional academic support, and (5) utilizing peer mentoring programs.

The chief theme which emerged from the conference panel discussion is that the challenges and growing pains many universities are experiencing as their student populations grow and diversify are universal in nature.  It seems that all international students from all corners of the world will face some challenges as they transition to the academic culture of their host country. It is the job of academic advisors to be mindful of these challenges and intentional about connecting all students to campus resources that will help them to succeed. 

Katy Oliveira-Lambert
Academic Counselor, Academic Planning & Support Services
Adjunct Instructor, University Programs
St. Edward’s University

Erin Ray
Academic Counselor, Academic Planning & Support Services
St. Edward’s University

Cite this article using APA style as: Oliveira-Lambert, K., & Ray, E. (2013, December). Panel discusses the universal nature of academic adjustment for international students. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Vantage Point banner.jpgReflecting on Academic Advising in the English Language Program at Kansas State University

Leena Chakrabarti, Kansas State University

Leena Chakrabarti.jpgOver the years, the Advising Program in the English Language Program (ELP) has developed in response to the needs of the international students who come to study at Kansas State University, but do not have the English proficiency needed to enter academic classes.  In the early 1990s, one of our instructors (now associate director) advised students in addition to all her teaching responsibilities because the standard advising services that were available to all undergraduates often did not help our students.  Over time, the ELP has introduced faculty release time for advising, and with the growth in the number of students, the Advising Program has grown and taken on expanded responsibilities.

Currently, we follow a self-contained organizational model with a centralized advising office.  As the assistant director of the ELP and the head of student services (also our Advising Program), I am responsible for all the advising functions for students. Three faculty members on partial release time advise students; they also teach one or two intensive English classes each semester.  Having faculty advisors is an advantage because these advisors are very aware of classroom dynamics and the academic side of our program.  In addition, a student services coordinator assists in meeting the needs of our international students.

We use a combination of delivery modes to reach out to as many students as possible: one-on-one advising for new-student interviews and individual issues, group advising sessions to communicate program policies, and technology-assisted advising for our orientation class.  We have found group advising sessions/classes to be complementary to individual sessions, and very useful in giving programmatic information about policies and procedures.  They also help students establish connections with peer groups (King, 2008).  We have equipped all meeting rooms with computers, and advisors are trained to use the technology that K-State offers.  We also offer a blended orientation class featuring face-to-face lectures by campus experts as well as an extensive online component.  Our students from all over the world are “digital natives” and we, the digital immigrants, need to provide the students with the most comfortable learning environment (Leonard, 2008). As our exit-level students transition into the university, our advisors work with the advisors in the relevant colleges to make sure the students have the best educational experience.

Theoretical and Ideological Foundations

With an established Advising Program in place, it is only natural for us to reflect on the theoretical and ideological foundations of our practice.  Clifton, Daller, Creamer and Creamer (1997) noted that “Research suggests that there is a relatively high consistency between an advisor’s stated philosophy of advising and the behaviors he or she actually utilizes.”  The theoretical framework that primarily guides our academic advising practice in the ELP is the psychosocial theory of strengths-based advising (Schreiner, 2005). The foundations for the strengths-based approach to advising are interdisciplinary, taken from social work, business, and psychology.  Strengths-based advising uses students’ talents as the basis for educational planning (Anderson & McGuire, 1997).  This theory (Clifton & Harter, 2003) states that a person who focuses on his/her weaknesses and works to correct them only achieves average performance, but a person who focuses on his/her strengths achieves “levels of excellence.”  Strengths-based advising focuses on “areas of talent and engagement” and not on weaknesses.  The advisors in the ELP focus on student strengths to help them adapt to U.S. university life and academics.

Since we advise a special group of students, we agree with Kodama, McEwen, Liang, and Lee (as cited by Hagen & Jordan, 2008) that it is not appropriate to use traditional theories of academic advising "to explain the development of diverse groups."  Cross in developing a model for black identity formation, and Cass in developing a model for homosexual identity formation had the same idea (Hagen & Jordan, 2008). Our advising program is based on the idea of cultural differences and uniqueness as strengths, relating back to the strengths-based theory.  As the ELP grew and evolved, we realized the Office of Student Life and the Counseling Center on campus were not ideally suited to advise international students with inadequate English skills. So, we gradually developed an advising program that focuses on cultural differences as a source of strength rather than as a deviance.

We also believe that “advising is teaching” (Appleby, 2008). In our program we are firm believers in advising which leads to teaching our international students to navigate the academic world of U.S. universities.   At first they take our blended orientation class and meet individually with an advisor, who often becomes the safe place they return to when they feel lost or homesick.  While the student  learns to navigate this new academic and social world with the help of the advisor, the advisor also learns from the strengths of the culture and the individuality of each student, helping us to customize the way in which we help each student.

The ethical principles of advising are one of the most important lenses through which we view our work.  We try to make sure that a student’s well-being and learning is the focus of our advising sessions and to treat all advisees equitably.  This is sometimes hard, especially if the student is angry.  As we teach international students to be independent thinkers, we also advocate for them when necessary, while at the same time abiding by the principles and policies of Kansas State University.   As the leader of the advising group, I believe it is my responsibility to preserve the credibility of the Advising Program in the ELP.  As advisors we are also very conscious that students often share information about colleagues to which others in the program are not privy.  We always try to be non-judgmental and give our colleagues the professional courtesy and respect they deserve (Lowenstein, 2008).

The final ideological foundation of academic advising that shapes our Advising Program is that continuous professional development is essential to student success.  As Brown (2008) states, “comprehensive advisor development should be an intentional, ongoing process that supports advisors in the acquisition of the perspectives and tools needed to expand their understanding, knowledge, and skills to enhance student learning, engagement, and success.”  Continuous training and improvement is a basic ingredient in the ELP advisory group.  The first semester for an advisor is spent in intense informal training with me and with other advisors. I meet with the advisor-in-training every week and discuss ways to establish relationships with each of the students they advise. I also discuss with them the unique role they play in the program, and in being an advisor and a teacher. We stress the importance of FERPA and how they need to be aware of the boundaries they have as an advisor, and about what they can and cannot share with other instructors. I also make them aware of all the student resources on campus and how we can help them access those resources.  In addition, we use webinars, workshops, and seminars as professional development opportunities. ELP advisors are also encouraged to be SafeZone Allies. We work closely with advisors and deans in the various colleges and ask them to periodically share information about their programs. We also visit their units as a group and share information about our program.  The continuous training is not limited to campus resources, but extends to local, regional, national, and international conferences.


With U.S. universities heavily recruiting all over the world, there is an urgency to meet the advising needs of international students on U.S. campuses.  To sustain such a robust and holistic advising program, advisors have to go beyond selection of courses and graduation requirements.  With this goal in mind, the Advising Program in the English Language program at Kansas State University continues to grow and improve through self- analysis and continuous training. 

Leena Chakrabarti
Assistant Director
English Language Program
205 Fairchild Hall
Kansas State University


Anderson, E. C., & McGuire, W. (1997). Academic advising for student success and retention: A strengths perspective. In M. Hovland, E. Anderson, W. McGuire, D. Crockett, J. Kaufmann, & D. Woodward (Eds.), Academic advising for student success and retention (pp. vii-xiii). Iowa City, IA: Noel-Levitz Aspinwall, L. G., & Staudinger, U. M.

Appleby, D. C. (2008). Advising as teaching and learning. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, &T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd edition) (Chapter 6).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, T. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development.   In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd edition) (Chapter 3).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 7, 45-60.

Clifton, D. O., & Harter, J. K. (2003). Strengths investment. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship (pp. 111–21). San Francisco: Berrett- Koehler.

Clifton, D. O., Daller, M. L., Creamer, E. G. & Creamer, D. G. (1997). Advising styles observable in practice: Counselor, scheduler, and teacher. NACADA Journal 17(20) 31-38.

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

King, N. (2008).  Advising delivery: Group strategies.  In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, and T. J. Grites (Eds), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd edition) (Chapter 18).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Leonard, M.J. (2008).  Advising delivery: Using technology. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites, Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd edition) (Chapter 19).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lowenstein, M. (2008). Ethical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R.                Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd edition) (Chapter 3).  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass 7, 45-60.

Schreiner, L.A. (2005). Strengths-based advising: A new lens for higher education. NACADA Journal Fall 2005, 25(2), 20-27.

Cite this article using APA style as: Chakrabarti, L. (2013, December). Reflecting on academic advising in the english language program at Kansas State Universtiy. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

International Vantage Point.jpbA Global Perspective on Technology in Advising

Laura A. Pasquini, Technology in Advising Commission Past Chair (2011-2013)

Laura Pasquini.jpgThis past summer, the NACADA International Conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands, provided advising faculty, administrators, and professionals various perspectives to how our academic advising work in higher education differs and is also similar. The conference was designed to provide ample opportunities for formal and informal exchanges about academic advising trends, challenges, and issues in higher education.

One constant discussion thread throughout the conference was the influence and impact technology has at our institutions. Advising administrators and advising units constantly face decisions about which technologies to use, and how technology decisions impact advising practices. Is technology defining our advising, or does our advising practice shape the technology? The Technology in Advising (#AdvTech) panel shared how technology in advising impacts our student support and higher education institutions, specifically concerning practical applications, research, and implementation needs for technology in advising around the globe.

The #AdvTech Panel, composed of Richard Sober (Teesside University, UK), Joel Shelton (Zayed University, UAE), Nicolai Manie (University of Maastricht, NL), Catherine Mann (The University of Melbourne, AUS), George Steele (The Ohio University, USA), and Jennifer Joslin (University of Oregon, USA) discussed technology in advising from very different perspectives and experiences. The panel described “technology in advising” in one word as being immersive, necessary, potentially useful, electric, difficult, powerful, accessible, connected, collaborative, and student-centered. Each member of the panel shared their experiences of what provokes the use of technology of advising on campus, including system-wide enterprise solutions, student retention needs, mobile advising, and technology for communication of information.

Although the assigned topic for this panel session was technology in advising, much of the discussion dealt with managing institutional objectives, supporting learning outcomes, considering effective communication strategies, creating workflow solutions, and implementing developmental methods advising. The #AdvTech Panelists shared how varied and fluid “technology” is for academic advising in higher education.  Much of the panel discussion and general conversations about technology really involved our shared experiences and purpose – to meet the needs of our students. It was not really the WHAT or HOW, but rather the reasons WHY technology is utilized at each of our institutions.

Different practices and trends for technology in advising have emerged; however, costs, advising models, student demand, and resource issues were common challenges raised by a number of attendees. An increasing number of international advising units seem to be moving toward holistic review of technology that includes system-wide, institutional technologies to track student success, encourage mobile learning, and support streamlined administration for academic advising.  This conversation was just the beginning of what lies ahead for advising and technology on a global scale, as we, both within NACADA and at our local institutions, need to continue our assessment focusing on the following research questions:

  • How can we best determine technology needs and uses for advising practice?
  • What is your ideal technology in advising practice?
  • How does technology challenge and support your advising work?
  • What technology in advising resources would you use if they were available? What is on your technology wish list?
  • Looking ahead, what is on the horizon for technology in advising in higher education?

AdvTech panel.jpg

Thank you to the #AdvTech Panel from Maastricht: (left to right) Richard Sober (Teesside University, UK), Joel Shelton (Zayed University, UAE), Nicolai Manie (University of Maastricht, NL), Catherine Mann (The University of Melbourne, AUS), George Steele (The Ohio University, USA), and Jennifer Joslin (University of Oregon, USA).

Laura A. Pasquini
Academic Counselor and Instructor
Office for Exploring Majors
University of North Texas

Cite this article using APA style as: Pasquini, L.A. (2013, December). A global perspective on technology in advising. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Ten Tips for Advising International Student-Athletes

Sherwin E. James, Advising Student-Athletes Commission Past Chair (2011-2013)

Sherwin James.jpgAs a former international student-athlete, current academic advisor, and past chair of the Advising Student-Athletes Commission, I consider it essential that new advisors be aware of the following tips that can help generate success when advising international student-athletes.  These strategies have proven valuable in my success as an advisor in higher education. 

Academic Success

  • One of the most important factors international student-athletes need to understand is that graduating within the four-year window is a priority. They should consider taking at least 15 hours each semester in order to graduate on time (not including summer). If they are taking 15 credit hours per semester, inform them that it is not wise to withdraw from a course.
  • Students whose second language is English should take less challenging courses in the first two semesters of their study. They tend to be more comfortable when they are paired with a teammate who has a similar background.
  • Focus should always be on trying to improve the GPA, since the international student-athlete must maintain a certain GPA for eligibility purposes. High academic performance is also a plus, especially if the student wants to continue toward graduate school.
  • Refer new freshmen to departments that could support them internally and externally. Find ways to help them adjust to college life. If the institution has success workshops or strategies for success seminars, inform them of the usefulness of such programs.
  • Encourage international student-athletes to take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests during their freshman or sophomore years if they are proficient in a particular subject. This will allow them to finish their degree programs faster.


  • Once the targeted graduation date is established, provide international student-athletes with a Graduation Plan Sheet outlining which classes to take freshman-sophomore and junior-senior years, noting pre-requisites, and stressing the importance of graduating on time. A copy of the Graduation Plan Sheet should be placed in their files as well.
  • Let international student-athletes know about Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) at an early stage during their college experience, as this will allow them to obtain an internship (or job) outside of campus while attending college and could possibly be a position for after graduation. Consult the International Programs Office for further clarification on CPT and OPT.
  • Encourage international student-athletes to get a driver's license as soon as possible because it may help them get an out-of-state tuition waiver, if necessary.

Career Success

  • Stress the importance of internships. Benefits include allowing students to make and develop professional contacts and develop a better sense of their individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • Finally, make international student-athletes aware of the services at the institution that are usually offered free of charge, such as career services, tutorial services, writing studio or center, etc.  International student-athletes juggle so many demands that they may lose sight of the services being offered within their institution.

Sherwin E. James
College of Business
Clayton State University

Cite this article using APA style as: James, S.E. (2013, December). Ten tips for advising international student-athletes. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

LGBTAQ Allyhood: Academic Advisors Reflect

Craig M. McGill, Commission for LGBTQA Advising and Advocacy Member

Craig McGill.jpgDespite recent sociopolitical gains for the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Asexual (LGBTQA) community, the fight for fair treatment and healthy development of all individuals continues. While LGBTQA-identified working professionals have a vested interest in equal rights, enlisting the help of non-LGBTQA-identified individuals is crucial. An ally “works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate with and for, the oppressed population” (Washington & Evans, 1991, p. 195). The notion of allies is not new, and there are many non-LGBTQA-identified people fighting hard for equality of all people.

To begin filling a gap in the advising literature regarding ally advocacy training and development, I have contacted a small number of academic advisors and asked them to reflect on their roles as allies and how that impacts their work as both administrators and advisors. Because people are at different stages, I asked participants to consider where they were in the process of allyhood. To give these advisors full comfort of a safe disclosure, they will not be identified by name. Many advisors “are willing to be supportive but often just do not know how” (Participant B) and may feel they lack the resources to advocate.

The Commission for LGBTQA Advising and Advocacy will sponsor a webinar in January 2014 that will overview the research on ally development models, the difference between heterosexism and homophobia, and delineation of roles and responsibilities for allies. Although the study participant responses touch upon those issues, the purpose of this article is to begin to explore the needs of advisors working with LGBTQA students so that in the face of homophobia/bi-phobia/trans-phobia and heterosexism, we can better advocate for our advisees.

Although the present discussion of ally advocacy is situated in the LGBTQA community, it is worth noting that much of what is discussed here can be applied to better serve any student from any underprivileged or disenfranchised social location.


In the survey responses, the following themes emerged: allyhood formation, training and development, and altering advising approaches. First, allyhood formation was discovered by some participants through advocating for other disadvantaged people:

My experience as an ally has been shaped by my training as a rape victim advocate. During that time, I reexamined some of my unacknowledged assumptions about ‘fault,’ ‘blame,’ and ‘responsibility.’ The self-educational process gave me the vision I needed to not only support victims but to advocate on their behalf. I’m currently in that educational process regarding LGBTA issues/working with LGBTA students. I need to become a better-informed ally so I can move towards advocacy (Participant A). 

As “an equity issue,” this participant broadened the definition of diversity “to look beyond the traditional categories of race, ethnicity, religion… sexual orientation is as much a part of an individual’s identity as other features” (Participant A).

The need to ably confront misperceptions or mistreatment was also evident in responses. Participant B was concerned with “confronting those around me regarding their behavior/comments that demonstrate bias or discrimination of any kind. While I can address these things with students, I often find it more difficult to address with colleagues or superiors.” Participant A experienced a work disturbance in which she was directly confronted with ethical concerns:

Several years ago, a gay colleague was attending a meeting. His partner called the front desk, identifying himself as John’s partner, to leave a message for him. The receptionist kept repeating out loud, ‘his partner called’ (heavy emphasis on partner). It was obvious to those within earshot that the receptionist disapproved of the relationship. I was annoyed at her insistence; asked her to keep her voice down. I wish that I had addressed the real issue –not the raised voice but the disapproval she was expressing. This was a fairness issue (she would not have reacted similarly if the minority member of an interracial couple had called), but my first reaction was to remind her of office etiquette. I’m not sure I was even aware that I had opted to take the path of least resistance… (Participant A). 

The above anecdote illustrates a foundational challenge to allyhood: it is often requires withstanding the course of least resistance. Anyone may be able to refrain from uttering homophobic expressions, but how many people are equipped to address those comments?

Being better equipped involves bolstering allyhood through training and development, the second theme. Participant B said, “I would like to raise my own awareness and be able to confront those that are less tolerant. I also strive to become a resource to those struggling with their identity.” Participant C expressed the need for Safe Zone training: “I currently work at an institution where a Safe Space program or Ally development training is not readily available for staff and faculty. A few years ago (before I was at the institution), there was training but there is currently no one on campus who deems it a priority, it seems. I have asked numerous times about doing a Safe Space or Ally training and it never goes anywhere.” To deal with this lack of training or institutional commitment, Participant C drew upon the resources of other schools: “When I saw a stack of Safe Space cards at a different institution, I took one and hung it in my office. I felt like I needed at least something to show my support” (Participant C).

Even if SafeZone training is offered at an institution, Participant A believes it is not enough to go through it once. It must be ongoing and available for all student support personnel. In lamenting the lack of institutional support for ally development, Participant C recommends a more extensive training effort for academic advisors: “I wish there was another avenue for ally development…I suspect that I am not alone. I think NACADA could be a great resource for this, it’s just figuring out how to make it happen.” [In addition to the webinar this winter, the commission for LGBTQA Advocacy is currently working toward online trainings for advisors.]

The third theme deals with altering or becoming aware of advising approaches. Participant B noted, “Advisors need to be cognizant of their biases, be willing to admit to them, [and] work on overcoming them in order to deal with the wide variety of students they come in contact with in their work.” At times, this involves putting personal feelings of discomfort aside and focusing on the student who sits in front of us: “As advisors, we need to meet students where they are and to be willing to support them in all aspects of their lives. I can think of many instances when I’ve been uncomfortable talking with a student about ‘what’s going on,’ but I have not let my initial feelings dictate my interactions with/advocacy on behalf of that student ” (Participant A). Participant B says that in order to best serve students, “always remain open-minded and willing to listen to others. What we so often do is make assumptions and we do not really listen to what is going on for a particular individual, what experiences have shaped who they are and influenced their identity development in various aspects.”

The process of being an ally is certainly not easy and many participants conveyed fears, apprehension, and uncertainty. Participant B expressed “a fear that superiors will judge and penalize you for being an advocate even at a large institution that promotes inclusion and diversity.” Sometimes this fear dealt more with being ill-equipped: “I worry because I haven’t had training and much of what I have learned is from my experience with friends and colleagues in the LGBT community, limited theory in college coursework, and from my own personal research. I want all students to feel that I am someone they can trust and…who can help them grow” (Participant C). This lack of confidence may ultimately impact Participant C’s ability to challenge the status quo: “I feel like I have some knowledge, but not enough to make an impact.”

But participants also recognized that they could make a difference. Participant B said: “Advisors often do not feel they have the power to change things on their campuses; they do not realize their impact as an ally can be widespread through their interactions and the way they conduct themselves with all students they come in contact with.” However, in making an impact on students’ lives, it is important “to make sure that it’s a positive difference” (Participant A). 


When faced with people who we do not understand because they are different from us, it is all too easy to think as little as possible about that difference; thinking about why we are uncomfortable is uncomfortable in and of itself. Attempting to cope by not coping with these dissonances stunts development and causes us to miss opportunities to grow. Perhaps we feel guilt or shame. But rather than feeling guilt or shame, the participants made it clear that helpers in any profession should recognize that experiencing discomfort from difference is normal, maybe even natural. But processing that reaction—and learning from it—is essential for growth. Like any process, allyhood is ongoing and must be continually re-evaluated: “…it is critical to find individual(s) that you feel comfortable sharing your journey with and be honest about your feelings and let them know how they can help” (Participant B).

Craig M. McGill
Academic Advisor, Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences
Florida International University


Washington, J., & Evans, N. J. (1991). Becoming an ally. Beyond tolerance: Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals on campus, 195-204.

Cite this article using APA style as: McGill, C. (2013, December). LGBTAQ allyhood: Academic advisors reflect. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Vantage Point banner.jpbA Plan for Diversity

Felicia Toliver, NACADA Diversity Committee Member

Felicia Toliver.jpgAs an Emerging Leader in the 2010-2012 Class of the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), one of my goals was to to learn more about getting involved in the Association.  During the 2012 Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, I attended the Diversity Committee meeting as an incoming committee member eager to learn more about this group’s work.  The committee members engaged in a discussion about the group’s purpose, asking if it were “time to look at revising/expanding” their mission (2012 Meeting Minutes).  The group concluded unanimously that, while the committee’s purpose – to aid the Association leadership in their goal of reaching out to our “broad membership and be cognizant of, and welcoming to, the various forms of diversity that make up such a large organization” – has not changed since its inception in 2001, changes in how this work is approached, including changes in the verbiage we use to discuss this topic, may be needed over time to “reflect the changing times and needs of the membership” (2013 Meeting Agenda).  As we move forward as a committee and as an association, it is important that as many members as possible provide input to help us determine what diversity means for NACADA.

How do organizations make “diversity” work?  What should leaders do to ensure that the variety of personal and institutional characteristics held by those within their ranks is representative of the diversity of the members they represent?  Furthermore, how do we ensure the diversity of the membership is reflective of the diversity within higher education? And, by the way, what exactly is meant by the term diversity?  

As a new professional in the diversity, equity, and inclusion field, I have learned that it is important to begin with an understanding of the terminology, as it is ever evolving. Were we to search for a definition of diversity, we would find that there are many ideas about what diversity means, but there is no “industry standard.”  While some colleges and universities have crafted a full-page explanation, others define it with one word: variety.

The best approach to creating a strategic diversity plan is to begin with a clear definition.  On the NACADA website, we find that “Diversity, as defined by the NACADA Board of Directors, includes ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disabilities, and sexual orientation as well as diversity in regard to institutional type, size, and employment position” (NACADA Emerging Leaders Program). Also, “NACADA aims to “create an inclusive environment within the Association that promotes diversity” (NACADA Strategic Goals).  The way that diversity is defined is important because the elements included indicate the type of data that is collected and potential targets for programs and initiatives.

After crafting a definition that recognizes individual and institutional variety, NACADA is then positioned to designate individuals to begin addressing the “how” – in other words, outlining the methods and processes the Association plans to utilize in order to achieve the vision of diversity stated in the mission.  On the website, we find that the purpose of the Diversity Committee is “to assist in the development of plans, strategies, and initiatives to encourage increased diversity in the membership of the association and involvement in the association by diverse individuals at all levels of the association” (Diversity Committee webpage).  The committee also “assists with developing plans” such as “training and development issues, …deliberate incentives for the involvement of diverse membership, the development of an Emerging Leader Program, identifying members from diverse backgrounds for involvement, and various other initiatives and strategies.” 

Each time the word diversity is used, one should be able to safely assume that the dimensions of diversity listed in the NACADA definition will be the targets or focus of the programs, services, and incentives.

In 2013, I also served on the Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board and Emerging Leaders selection committee.  The program is designed to “encourage members from diverse groups to get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization” (Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board).  As part of this year’s Emerging Leader selection process, the committee members discussed how NACADA defines diversity, who is underrepresented, and how might one know for sure if the ELP initiative is achieving its mission.  As a new committee member, I had many questions about how closely connected the definition of diversity for the Emerging Leaders Program is to the broader NACADA definition.  Is the program targeting anyone who feels they are underrepresented or is it targeting groups with characteristics stated in the NACADA definition?  Is the NACADA definition sufficient to address the groups that are actually underrepresented?  Is there demographic data about our members and leaders to support these claims?

I began to consider what strategy the organization might use to refine the goals to continue achieving our mission.  As an association, I thought, NACADA is much like a student that might show up in the advising office.  Having completed the first year and laid the groundwork for success, how could the organization be coached into making continued progress?  Could the Appreciative Advising technique be as effective a tool for an organization as it often is for students?  Let’s give it a shot (What is Appreciative Advising?).


Disarm: Make a positive first impression with the student, build rapport, and create a safe, welcoming space. 

Disarm: Inform members that diversity work is an ever-evolving process.  Explain why demographic data is collected, especially if it is newly requested.  Before information is gathered, state how it will be requested and how it will be used.  Create a safe environment for a variety of opinions to be shared about what we do to achieve our shared vision for diversity.  Be transparent.


Discover: Ask positive open-ended questions that help advisers learn about students' strengths, skills, and abilities.

Discover: Provide opportunities for all members to contribute to the discussion.  Ask questions that put the members in the driver’s seat.  How effective are programs like ELP in increasing the diversity within leadership based upon the stated definition?  What have we been able to achieve with our current definition of diversity?  How close are we to achieving our vision for diversity?  How do we know?  What data do we have about our members, leadership, and the institutions they represent?

Dream: Inquire about students' hopes and dreams for their futures. 

Dream:  How might the definition for diversity be more inclusive?  Which elements of diversity should be added (nationality and military status, for example)?  How can more members be involved in crafting and approving the definition?  What is our ideal outcome? 


Design: Co-create a plan for making their dreams a reality.

Design:  Bring together key stakeholders and experts.  Draft a strategic diversity plan.  Gather data.  Compare NACADA to similar organizations.  Establish benchmarks.  Choose action steps that will result in continuous progress toward the goals.


Deliver: The student delivers on the plan created during the Design phase and the adviser is available to encourage and support students.

Deliver:  Implement the action steps.  Continue gathering data.  Continue providing opportunities for members to give feedback. 


Don't Settle: Advisers and students alike need to set their own internal bars of expectations high.

Don’t Settle:  Establish a timeline to revisit the definitions and initiatives.  Review the latest trends, legal cases, and organizational practices that impact diversity.


Organizations make diversity work by establishing a clear definition of the term after gathering input from the stakeholders; designating groups to focus on achieving the mission through actions, initiatives, and strategies; and ensuring that the plans and definitions are revisited periodically to be updated based upon changes within the organization and political climate.  In the past, NACADA has laid the groundwork to begin addressing increasing diversity within the membership and leadership of the association.  As the Diversity Committee explores new avenues for fulfilling their mission, advisors can use a framework they are familiar with to outline a process for improving the association’s diversity efforts.

Felicia Toliver
Director of Cultural Diversity
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College


2012 NACADA Diversity Committee Meeting Minutes.  Available at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/AdministrativeDivision/Diversity-Comm/2012-10DiversityCommitteeMinutes.pdf

2013 Diversity Committee Meeting Agenda / Diversity Committee Name Change Proposal.  Available at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/AdministrativeDivision/Diversity-Comm/2013-Diversity%20Cmte%20Mtg%20Agenda-SLC.pdf

Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board webpage.  Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/ELP-Advisory-Board.aspx

NACADA Diversity Committee webpage. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/Diversity-Committee.aspx

NACADA Emerging Leaders Program homepage.  Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Events-Programs/Emerging-Leaders-Program.aspx

NACADA Strategic Goals.  Our Vision. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/Vision-and-Mission.aspx

What is Appreciative Advising? Retrieved from http://www.appreciativeadvising.net/

Cite this article using APA style as: Toliver, F. (2013, December). A plan for diversity. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Working With: Creative Response to Change Using Permaculture Design

Nancy Willow, State University of New York at Delhi

Nancy Willow.jpgThe concept of permaculture, developed in the 1970s in response to the environmental crisis, is a philosophy of "working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system" (Mollison, 1991, p. 1).  The original definition of permaculture, abbreviated to “permanent sustainable agriculture” (Allison, 2013), quickly expanded to “permanent sustainable human culture” (Allison, 2013), reflecting its numerous applications beyond farming and food production.  With its focus on opportunities rather than obstacles and its advocacy for top-down systems thinking coupled with personal, bottom-up action, permaculture provides a unique model for responding to change in a variety of environments (Mollison, 1991; Holmgren, 2002). 

Today, as budgets continue to shrink and expectations continue to rise, we face our own crisis in higher education.  Many advisors are being asked to do more with less: more advisees, more meetings, more technology, more nights and weekends, more data, more assessment, fewer resources, less time.  This kind of environment has the potential to become toxic, leading to a culture of fear, competition, segregation, and blame.  Permaculture offers us insights as to how we can respond to these challenging times in a positive, productive way.

Working With

Let’s begin with the idea of working with, rather than against nature.  For those of us who have ever grown a vegetable garden, we may recall a time when we arrived at the garden to harvest lettuce for dinner only to find that the slugs had already devoured our salad.  Many of us might complain at this point that we have a slug problem, but Bill Mollison, one of the founders of permaculture, would say we have a “deficiency of ducks” (Allison, 2013)!  Ducks are natural predators of slugs and would therefore help restore balance to the system, curbing our infestation of slugs.  When we work with nature instead of trying to impose our will, the solution is often found within the problem (Holmgren, 2002).

One of the problems we sometimes face as advisors is a lack of time, particularly during certain parts of the academic year.  We cannot impose our will on the sun and add more hours to the day, nor can we – in most circumstances, at least – impose our will on our departments and diminish our advising loads, so how can we creatively respond to time in a way that works with, rather than against it?  In the webinar Maximizing Your Day: Effective Time Management, Alfonzo (2013) posits that time management is primarily about our mindset; what we think impacts how we feel and act.  What if we thought about time as a creative puzzle rather than a problem to be solved?   

Thought and Observation

Permaculture stresses the importance of careful, thoughtful observation over careless, thoughtless labor (Mollison, 1991).  Most of us can recall days when we’ve arrived at work and lunged into our day with a vengeance, plowing through our inbox, plugging through our reports, and pushing through our appointments on auto-pilot, only to leave exhausted at the end of the day with a sinking feeling that we are actually further behind than when we began.  We persist with the same futility as the gardener who spends hours plucking slugs from her greens only to return the next day to more slimy creatures feasting on her garden.  Again, let’s look at the bigger picture and search for the solution within the problem.  What kind of ducks can we find to help us restore balance to our system of time?

While we often think that more time or more resources would be the most logical solution to any problem, permaculture suggests that these are not usually the best responses (Holmgren, 2002).  Alfonzo (2013) offers several insights about how we can better manage our time, working with what we have instead of focusing on what we lack:

  • Be purposeful about how you spend your time. 
  • Know what you are doing and why you are doing it. 
  • Focus on effectiveness, not just efficiency. 
  • Take care of yourself.

What would happen if we took the first 15 minutes of the day to observe rather than produce?  To see and be rather than to do?  What if we deliberately chose to spend time observing throughout the day?  It may seem counterintuitive to many of us, but this sort of careful, thoughtful observation would allow us to prioritize and take care of ourselves and our students, granting space for colleagues and advisees to do the same.


As we observe, permaculture reminds us to focus on functions, connections, and relationships (Mollison, 1991; Holmgren, 2002).  In our garden, if we focused solely on the relationship between ourselves and the slugs or the slugs and the lettuce, we would miss the bigger, more comprehensive picture, closing ourselves off from a wider range of possibilities and limiting our opportunities.  In advising, we give much thought and attention to the relationship between ourselves and our advisees, a relationship that is critical to the advisement process.  However, especially in challenging times, it can be easy to lose sight of the importance of connections with colleagues, campus offices, and community organizations.  At times, we may even fall into the trap of seeing other people or departments as threats, competing with us for positions and resources.  Whether the resulting isolation is the consequence of neglect, rivalry, or fear, it does little for us as professionals or as human beings.  Permaculture offers us a different way to look at the edge between our advisor selves and the greater college community.

There is a special place in permaculture for the use of edges, the space in nature where two ecosystems meet (Mollison, 1991; Holmgren, 2002).  Whether it is the ocean and the land, the soil and the air, or the pond and the turf in our own backyards, there are unique opportunities to be found along these edges.  Instead of seeing edges between ourselves and others as obstacles or threats, we can learn to look at them as places brimming with opportunity for mutual benefit and growth. The edge between Academic Affairs and Student Life has led to the development of learning communities.  The edge between Academic Advising and Career Development has led to one-stop advising and career centers.  The edge between advisors and other professionals has led to new programs, insights and growth.  How else can these relationships, these edges, enhance our ability to creatively respond to challenges?

Permaculture calls on us to integrate rather than segregate, to value cooperation over competition, and to look for opportunities rather than obstacles (Mollison, 1991).  It asks us to observe carefully and think creatively about problems, challenging us to look at the big picture and take thoughtful action in the manner and place in which we can make the most impact (Holmgren, 2002).  In the face of constant change and lingering uncertainty in higher education, permaculture offers us a guide for our collective, creative response. 

Nancy Willow
RN to BSN Program Advisor
School of Nursing
State University of New York at Delhi


Alfonzo, J. (2013). Maximizing your day: Effective time management. Retrieved from https://nys.powerflexweb.com/indexContentDetail.php?idDivision=25&nameDivision=Centers&idCategory=&nameCategory=&idModule=9013&name

Allison, P. (2013, March). Permaculture: A toolkit for designing our gardens, homes, and lives [Lecture notes]. Conference presentation at the Organic Growers School 2013 Conference conducted at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC.

Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Hepburn, Victoria, Australia: Author.

Mollison, B. (1991). Introduction to permaculture. Tasmania, Australia: Tagari.

Cite this article using APA style as: Willow, N. (2013, December). Working with: Creative response to change using permaculture design. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Teaching Coping Skills to First-Year College Students on Academic Probation

Joy A. Cox, Probation/Dismissal/Reinstatement Issues Interest Group Chair

Joy Cox.jpgTransitioning from high school to college is a life-changing event for all students, but may be even more challenging for students who are academically underprepared. Students who are cited in the literature as being underprepared for college are labeled “at-risk” based on their academic background, prior academic performance, and personal characteristics (Museus and Ravello, 2010; Pizzolato, 2004; Tovar and Simon, 2006). Students characterized as at-risk academically lack prior knowledge of college expectations and find themselves having to make adjustments to learning in order to make up for this knowledge.  This produces added stress as they cope with professors and peers who expect them to enter college with certain academic skills.

Students characterized as first-generation college students as well as racial and ethnic minorities are especially considered academically “at-risk” and are potentially prone to academic failure and attrition (Museus and Ravello, 2010; Pizzolato, 2004; Tovar and Simon, 2006). According to Museus and Ravello (2010), more than half of minority undergraduate students will fail to complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of matriculation. Tovar and Simon (2006) found that about 39% of Latino freshmen were on academic probation after their first semester at large community colleges in California. They argued that students on academic probation are less likely to graduate since they might become disheartened and drop out or they may be academically dismissed. Consequently, teaching at-risk students to develop coping skills becomes important since it will affect what type of assistance they will pursue in order to be successful (Pizzolato, 2004).

Therefore, it becomes imperative that academic advisors provide support and guidance to assist this population with intellectual development by examining their whole life experiences. This population of students may question whether they belong in college, and the role of the advisor is to use theoretical frameworks as a tool for achieving student success. The academic advisor should be sensitive to the needs of this population, using developmental theories to assist students in developing strategies and coping skills.  One theory that may be used to inform work with underprepared students on academic probation is Schlossberg’s transition theory.

Schlossberg’s Transition Theory

According to Tovar and Simon (2006), Schlossberg developed a transition model that can be adapted to apply to first generation and minority freshmen, addressing crises that may arise as they adjust to life in college. The model describes both anticipated and unanticipated events and non-events “that result in changed relationships, routines, assumptions and roles” (p. 550). In the life of freshmen, attending college may be an anticipated transition, but being on academic probation at the end of their first semester is an unexpected event. Schlossberg describes four sets of potential resources that advisors may use with freshmen to cope with this crisis. These include paying attention to the assets (gains) and liabilities (losses) that they bring to this transition in areas of self, strategies, situation and support (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton and Renn, 2010; Tovar and Simon, 2006). These “Four S’s” provide the theoretical framework for students to assist them in evaluating their circumstances. This may require a new focus on self-control and students may ask themselves these questions:

Self: In what ways have my activities contributed to my current status?

Situation: What factor(s) has caused the low grades in these courses? How has my behavior influenced my probationary status?

Support: What types of support systems are currently in my life? How may I develop these support systems further?

Strategies: What techniques do I need to utilize to resolve this crisis?

After identifying these challenges the advisor should assist the student with designing an action plan to implement the strategies.

Schlossberg postulated that dealing with a transition is a process that extends over time, including three phases of transition:

Moving in: becoming aware of the transition event

Moving through: experiencing the effect of the transition

Moving out: post-transition

According to Tovar and Simon (2006), students on academic probation may be in any one of these phases. However probationary students seem to be in the ‘moving in’ or ‘moving through’ phases and the role of the academic advisor is to assist them in successfully resolving the crisis so they can return to good academic standing.

However, first-year college students may find it difficult to actively take charge of this situation because they have never been in this situation before. Advisors, using a holistic approach, should discuss both students’ academic experiences and their life situations.  Research has shown that holistic advising has a positive impact on student success (Museus & Ravello, 2010; Pizzolato, 2004). Tovar and Simon (2006) point out that it is not enough for advisors to show probationary students care and concern or to teach them study habits or time management skills; we also need to teach them how to evaluate and overcome the many complex situations in both their academic and personal lives since students isolate educational success from other aspects of their lives. Advisors may plan an intervention that addresses both the academic and psychosocial components that has led to the crisis. Consequently, advisors may conduct both group and individual sessions (Tovar and Simon, 2006). Academic advisors can conduct workshops for students on academic probation which will introduce the need for self- examination using Schlossberg’s “Four S” questions. The academic advisor can easily create a worksheet by listing questions under each of the important aspects for self-reflection and discussion. The worksheet may include a “gains and losses” section to help students identify supports and challenges (Evans et al., 2010). The advisor can then follow up the workshops with one-on-one advising sessions (Tovar and Simon, 2006). The adage Advising is Teaching is applicable where advisors use developmental theories to help students on academic probation enhance their education.

Joy A. Cox
Academic Advisor
School of Natural Sciences
Indiana University Southeast


Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., Guido, F.M., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K.A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory and practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.

Museus, S.D. & Ravello, J. N. (2010). Characteristics of academic advising that contribute to racial and ethnic student success at predominantly white institutions. NACADA Journal, 30(1), 47-58.

Pizzolato, J.E. (2004). Coping with conflict: Self-authorship, coping, and adaptation to college in first-year, high-risk students.  Journal of College Student Development, 45(4), 425-442. doi:11353/csd.2004.0050

Tovar, E. & Simon, M. (2006). Academic probation as a dangerous opportunity: factors influencing diverse college students' success. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 30, 547-564. doi:10.1080/10668920500208237

Cite this article using APA style as: Cox, J.A. (2013, December). Teaching coping skills to first-year college students on academic probation. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Open-Sourcing Developmental Education at Bossier Parish Community College

Allison Martin, Director of Institutional Effectiveness Initiatives

Editor’s Note:  This article is based on a presentation given by the author and colleagues at the 2013 NACADA International Conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Allison Martin.jpg

Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) has become the first college in the nation to create a cross-disciplinary, open-source series of free, online, non-credit developmental-level math, English, and reading courses called BPCC Open Campus. The initiative presently includes five developmental courses, and BPCC’s own students/prospective students are signing up at a brisk pace. Ultimately, the College hopes that what it is doing may serve as a valuable resource for other colleges and universities facing similar challenges of advising and remediating underprepared students.

Developmental-level MOOCs are still relatively new on the open-source scene, and most are targeting mathematics. Access to quality and consistent math prep is certainly a priority at BPCC; the College has created three developmental-level open-source math courses to address those deficiencies. Yet underprepared students often need help with comprehension, communication, and critical thinking skills. BPCC’s reading comprehension and grammar fundamentals courses specifically target those areas.

How is this related to advising?

About six years ago, as a faculty member, every semester I had as one of my advisees a long-haul truck driver who was taking online classes toward his associate’s degree in general studies. This student successfully completed one online course after another. Unfortunately, he was unable to enroll in math or English courses to complete a degree because he never placed above the developmental level on the College’s placement tests and, because of work restrictions, this gentleman did not have the luxury of attending face-to-face classes.

My advisee, like most “rising-potential” students who cannot attend face-to-face classes, was hindered by space/time limitations of the traditional classroom. As a result of poor retention outcomes, the majority of colleges have limited their developmental offerings only to students who’ve demonstrated aptitude markers for success. Certainly, developmental students are vulnerable from the start; they often require close engagement and, generally, are not self-starters—attributes indicative of students unsuccessful in an online environment.

When my student ran out of options, he and I, as his advisor, were stuck in a completion Catch-22. Eventually, I lost contact with him as he became discouraged over his lack of choice.

That experience left me thinking. In the past, I had designed several online courses for credit-bearing instruction and knew that some “seasoned” students, such as my truck-driver advisee (who was self-disciplined and focused), might have fared much better than the average first-time, full-time freshman if only I could design a user-friendly template tailored to a developmental-level skill-set.

I was uncertain as to how to offer a classroom “feel” in an online environment, but was convinced that face-to-face contact was an essential piece in the developmental student success puzzle.

On the other side of campus, BPCC’s Blackboard Administrator Gary Ware had researched an inexpensive lecture-capture technology that would not only allow instructors to record brief lectures but, also, to conveniently switch from white board/instructor shots to screen shots of slides, documents, and websites.

Ware and I partnered in offering a lecture-capture pilot in a face-to-face, developmental English course; from the outset, Ware recalls, “student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.” While other variables restricted the gathering of quantitative evidence within the pilot, Ware reports that students liked having the opportunity to view class lectures repeatedly as they prepared for writings and exams. He continues, “students expressed more confidence in their ability to process the notes, as they realized they could review unfamiliar details” (G. Ware, personal communication, August 29, 2013).

My post-graduate work, which focused upon Computer-Mediated Communication, and Ware’s certification in both learning management systems (LMS) and telecommunications production, allowed us to then team up to create a custom template which might better respond to the needs of developmental-level students. We had both trained in “Quality Matters (QM),” the gold-standard template for online higher ed coursework, and we started with the QM premise: that a quality, online course must be built upon a consistent, predictable framework.

Learning Modules, the template centerpiece for each course, contained only three basic features: brief video lectures, printable, open-source handouts, and multiple choice, self-graded quizzes.

Ware then researched inexpensive hardware and software options, and in April 2012, we brought our proposal to the attention of the College’s Chancellor, James Henderson. With Henderson’s endorsement and on a shoestring budget, the College’s MOOC series—BPCC’s Open Campus—quickly became a reality.

As a long-time BPCC faculty advisor, I had received much feedback from my students over the years about their classroom experiences; I knew which BPCC instructors students felt shared an enthusiasm for developmental instruction and which, in the eyes of their students, successfully “connected” with their students.

It was not difficult to solicit instructor support, and by mid-fall 2012, five developmental instructors (three math, one English, and one reading) enthusiastically began designing their content and video-recording their lectures in the small studio the team had set up. I have never experienced such a true team effort. We were all of the same mind, and we all wanted to produce a quality product that would benefit students and non-students alike.

Thirteen months later, BPCC’s Open Campus opened its enrollments to the public. Within five weeks and with only word-of-mouth advertising, the series had enrolled almost 400 students. By September 1 of that year, course enrollments skyrocketed past 1,300 students, growing at a rate of 100+ per week. Other colleges including Delgado Community College, Grambling State University, and Wiley College began to express interest in BPCC’s model.

As the fledgling Open Campus team begins phase two of its initiative, BPCC’s mission for the project remains the same: to provide individuals free and open access to quality, consistent developmental instruction.

Ultimately, while BPCC’s own students benefit from access to additional instructional support, the College offers those same resources freely to any individuals or colleges interested in closing knowledge gaps that may hinder student success in higher ed.

The Specifics

BPCC’s initiative is unique among popular MOOC sites (such as Coursera) in that courses are specifically tailored to developmental student populations. Open Campus courses have been produced “in-house” by BPCC’s most dynamic developmental faculty and feature learning modules with brief videos of lectures, hand-outs, and multiple-choice quizzes.

Each learning module/unit within a course lists its learning outcomes up front, and modules reflect the order in which course material is commonly presented. Many instructors recognize that some students may need to brush up on specific weak areas, rather than to complete the course linearly and in its entirety. “Front-loading” the learning outcomes allows students to navigate toward module content that responds to their perceived weakness.

Instructors encapsulated their video lectures into brief segments, in most cases fewer than 15 minutes. Instructors also segmented their video content so that students might avoid feeling overwhelmed by too many ideas presented at once.

Ultimately, the team felt it most important that students view an instructor’s face during the lectures, instead of hearing merely a voice over a static PowerPoint presentation. Even during screenshots, almost all videos include a minimized “head-shot” of the instructor in the lower corner explaining the concept on screen.

I strongly believe that nothing can take the place of face-to-face instruction. Practically all instructors recognize that, in a perfect world, one-on-one teacher/student interaction provides the optimal results. For most of us, that’s a pipe dream. It is all we can do to provide meaningful dialogue with 30 students in a classroom. Few institutions refuse a 30-to-one course delivery method just because it isn’t as effective as a one-to-one delivery method.

While online instruction does not present the optimal learning environment, the medium offers rich potential to extend access to those with few options.

BPCC faculty and staff worked together to design courses that help students prepare for college-level placement testing and serve as supplements for college students enrolled in credit-bearing coursework. Yet since BPCC’s Open Campus series is open to anyone, without strings attached, individuals (regardless of status) may enroll and use instructional materials in any way they please.  BPCC’s Open Campus courses are open to anyone, any age, anywhere, anytime, without cost or obligation. Course enrollments are quite scalable so that underserved populations can benefit. Sign-up is user-friendly, and, once they self-enroll, participants can access their courses through popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google.

Courses now available include Basic Math, Beginning Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Fundamentals of Grammar, and Reading Comprehension. “Phase Two” courses premiering fall 2013 include Fundamentals of Writing, College-level Algebra, and Introductory Science.

I have not forgotten about the truck-driver student whose plight prompted me to seek a solution. That single student who lacked quality, consistent instruction, who never placed out of developmental coursework, had long since dropped off the BPCC radar screen and was never able to complete his degree at the College. That lone student remains our inspiration to reach the underprepared and underserved populations who long for free access yet need instructor ‘face time’ to have a chance at success.

Allison Martin-Maastricht.jpg“We’re all working to reach the same end result,” Ware says, “to better prepare people to achieve success in their education and career goals” (G. Ware, personal communication, August 29, 2013).

For more information about BPCC’s Open Campus, please contact me at the email address below.

Allison Martin
Director of Institutional Effectiveness Initiatives
Bossier Parish Community College

Cite this article using APA style as: Martin, A. (2013, December). Open-sourcing developmental education at Bossier Parish Community College. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

The Master Advisor Series at Valdosta State University: Development and Evaluation

W. Kohle Paul, Georgia State University
J. Michael Kitchens, Valdosta State University

Kohle Paul.jpgMichael Kitchens.jpgHistorically, advisor training opportunities at Valdosta State University were department initiated and informational in nature.   Typical topics included major requirements and departmental and university policies and procedures with little attention given to the conceptual, relational, technological, and personal components of advisor training and development (McClellan, 2007).  If advisors wanted to engage in holistic advisor development they had to attend state, regional, and/or national NACADA events.  However, cutbacks to the university’s travel budget limited the frequency of attendance and number of advisors who participated in such events each semester.   

Advising Needs Assessment 

In response to the lack of advisor development opportunities and a reduction in employee travel funds, the OASIS Center for Advising staff administered a seven-item advising needs assessment to elucidate advisors’ professional development needs and their interests in an advisor development program.  They emailed the needs assessment to every advisor on campus, of which 108 responded.  The results of the needs assessment included:

  • Fifty-three percent of advisors were interested in an advisor professional development program.
  • Advisors only wanted to commit 10-15 hours to complete the program.
  • Advisors wanted to complete the program in one to two semesters.
  • The two most frequently requested training topics were working with BANNER and academic transcripts (N = 95) and developmental advising (N = 92).
Master Advisor Series

As a result of the needs assessment the OASIS staff created the Master Advisor Series (MAS).  The MAS included eight professional development courses: two core courses and six elective courses.  The two core courses were required of every participant because they included topics that were the most frequently requested and the OASIS staff believed the course content demonstrated a holistic approach to advisor development (McClellan, 2007).  The course titles were Advising 101 and Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER

The Advising 101 course included the following topics:

  • The historical background of advising;
  • Advising’s influence on student retention, progression, and graduation;
  • The theory and practice of developmental advising; and
  • Utilizing campus resources and knowledge of university policies and procedures.

The Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER course included the following topics:

  • Understanding how to interpret transcript symbols and language,
  • Knowledge of common course substitutions and course substitution policies and procedures, and
  • Utilizing BANNER and Degree Works to enhance the advising process.

The elective courses were the next six most frequently requested topics.  Course topics included Career Advising, Advising the Probation Student, Advising the Millennial Generation, Advising Students with Disabilities, Advising International Students, and Advising the Adult Learner.  Participants had to complete four of the six elective courses to complete the MAS.  Course delivery methods included lecture, group discussion, common readings, case studies, advising videos, and role playing.  The OASIS staff partnered with varying campus departments to create and teach the courses.  For example, the Understanding and Working with Academic Transcripts and BANNER course included training facilitators from the Admissions Office, Registrar, and the OASIS Center for Advising.  Both core courses were taught in the fall 2011 term.  Two elective courses were taught in addition to the core courses in the fall 2011 term while the remaining four elective courses were taught in the spring 2012 term.  Each elective course was two hours in length and the core courses were two and a half hours in length, for a total of 13 hours of coursework to complete the MAS.  The length and completion time for the MAS were both within participants’ desired time commitment range. 

MAS Summative Evaluation Procedures 

The OASIS staff piloted the MAS in the fall term 2011.  They employed a pre-test/post-test control group research design to evaluate the effect of the MAS on advisors’ developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising.  They captured advisors’ developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising using Winston and Sandor’s (1984) Academic Advising Inventory (AAI).  The pilot-group of participants included 17 advisors from varying campus departments.  The OASIS staff collected pre-test data during the spring 2012 advising period (October 2011) from a purposeful sample of 113 students whose advisors started the MAS and from 143 students whose advisors did not participate in the MAS but were in the same departments as the MAS participants.  Of the original 17 participants, 11 completed the requirements for the MAS.  The OASIS staff was able to capture post-test data during the fall 2012 advising period (April 2012) from 64 of the original 256 students.  The post-test data included 36 students whose advisors did not participate in the MAS and 28 students whose advisors completed the MAS. 


An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed a significant effect of MAS completion on developmental advising post-test scores after controlling for developmental advising pre-test scores and number of visits with an advisor, F(1,59) = 8.11, p < .05, h2 = .12.  Advisors who completed the MAS were rated significantly higher (M = 80.15, SD = 2.75) than their colleagues (M = 69.64, SD = 2.38) on developmental advising behaviors.  ANCOVA also revealed there was a significant effect of MAS completion on post-test satisfaction with advising scores after controlling for pre-test satisfaction with advising scores and number of visits with an advisor, F(1,59) = 5.28, p < .05, h2  = .09.  Advisors who completed the MAS were rated significantly higher (M = 3.30, SD = .21) than their colleagues (M = 2.64, SD = .18) on advising satisfaction.    

Implications for Practice and Limitations

The practical implications for the current study are threefold.  First, prior research demonstrates an empirical link between student satisfaction with advising and developmental advising behaviors (Hale, Graham, and Johnson, 2009).  Further, enhancing student satisfaction with advising is imperative for first-year student retention and sophomore persistence to senior year (Soria, 2012; Schreiner, 2009).  The current study’s findings demonstrate that advisor professional development positively affects both advisors developmental advising behaviors and students’ satisfaction with advising.  Therefore, the more professional development advisors participate in the greater the chance they exhibit desirable advising behaviors, which in turn enhances students’ satisfaction with advising and their likelihood of persistence to graduation. 

Secondly, Noel-Levitz (2006) reported that 42% of colleges and universities do not have any formal advisor training and development initiatives with lack of internal funding as the most commonly cited reason.  However, 75% of advisors at those same colleges and universities desired to participate in some form of professional development.  In tough economic times, creating an advisor development program can be a good alternative to expensive conferences and professional development events, in particular, professional development opportunities that are methodologically holistic and desired by advisors.      

Lastly, academic and student affairs professionals collaborated to create and teach the MAS courses.  The collaborative nature of the MAS provided advisors an opportunity to network and build relationships with other advisors and professionals from other campus departments.  Academic and student affairs partnerships are imperative for student engagement and success (Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, and  Whitt, 2005).  Therefore, advisors’ enhanced professional networks could have a positive impact on students’ college experience and ultimately their progression to graduation. 

The current study contained 64 cases from a purposeful sample for the final analysis.  Although significant results were found, future research should replicate this study and enhance the sample size to help control for extraneous variables and add credibility to the findings.  Future research should also further investigate the impact of advisor professional development on student retention and progression.  

Future of the MAS 

Administration of the MAS during the fall 2012 term followed the same format of course offerings as the fall 2011 term: two core courses and two electives.  However, unlike the spring 2012 term, both core courses were offered again in the spring 2013 term, along with two additional electives, so advisors would not have to wait another year to receive credit for the core courses.  Further, several additional MAS changes have been instituted for the upcoming 2013-2014 semesters. 

  • Advising 101 will be split into two separate courses (101 and 201).  Advising 101 will be centered on utilizing campus resources and knowledge of university policies and procedures.  Advising 201 will be centered on the historical background of advising, developmental advising, advising techniques, and appreciative advising.
  • Splitting Advising 101 into two courses will only add 30 minutes to the total time commitment to complete the MAS, which is still within the desired 10-15 hours.
  • Core courses will follow the same agenda as the 2012-2013 year.  However, four electives, instead of two, will be taught each term to allow for a wider variety of course selection as well as making the completion of the MAS attainable within one semester. 
  • The Advising International Students course will be split into two elective sections, one focusing on advising international students and another on advising students who are interested in study abroad opportunities.  Each course is one and a half hours.   
  • New elective course topics are being considered such as advising the online student, understanding financial aid, and advising student-athletes.

The MAS will continue to evolve as advisors’ professional development needs change.  The OASIS staff will continue to investigate the impact of the MAS on students’ advising experiences at VSU.  For additional information about the MAS contact Michael Kitchens at jmkitchens@valdosta.edu.      

W. Kohle Paul
Transition Advisor
University Advisement Center
Georgia State University

J. Michael Kitchens
Academic Advisor
OASIS Center for Advising
Valdosta State University


Hale, M. D., Graham, D. L., & Johnson, D. M. (2009). Are students more satisfied with their academic advising when there is congruence between current and preferred advising styles? College Student Journal, 43(2), 313-324.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. & Associates (2005). Student success in college:Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

McClellan, J. L. (2007). Content components of advisor training: Revisited. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Training-Components.aspx

Noel-Levitz. (2006). 2006 Advising needs report: Summary of findings from national advising needs survey.  Retrieved from https://www.myu.umn.edu/public/ADVISING_pdf_1106.pdf

Schreiner, L. A. (2009). Linking student satisfaction and retention. Retrieved from https://www.noellevitz.com/documents/shared/Papers_and_Research/2009/LinkingStudentSatis0809.pdf 

Soria, K. M. (2012). Advising satisfaction: Implications for first-year students’ sense of belonging and retention. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, available at www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/.

Winston, R. B., & Sandor, J. A. (1984). The Academic Advising Inventory. Athens: Student Development Associates.

Additional NACADA Resources

Ford, S.S. (2007). The essential steps for developing the content of an effective advisor training and development program. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Training-Steps.aspx

Givans Voller, J. (2012). Advisor training and development: Why it matters and how to get started. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-training-and-development-Why-it-matters-and-how-to-get-started.aspx

Cite this article using APA style as: Paul, W.K., & Kitchens, J.M. (2013, December). The master advisor series at Valdosta State University: Development and evaluation. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

If I Only Had Time

Amy Sannes, Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute Scholarship Recipient

Amy Sannes.jpgIf I only had time I would love to… 

How many times have we said those words related to wishing we could develop a component to our advising program?  I chair the Advising Committee on Minnesota State University Moorhead’s campus, and we have great ideas during our committee meetings, but never seem to find the time to develop and implement the ideas.  We needed to make a time commitment to our ideas, but we also needed some leadership and direction. To achieve these goals, we decided to send a team to NACADA’s Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute.

The faculty of the Institute are knowledgeable and eager to help participants apply the information discussed during the plenary and concurrent sessions.  The faculty presenting the sessions are actually practitioners in the advising field and bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their sessions.  These professionals have been where we are and are excited to give practical advice and direction in moving advising programs forward.

Registration for the Institute is kept small to allow for more group work, individual sessions, and feedback.  Our small group leader, NACADA Past President Jennifer Joslin, even commented, “we keep the groups small so I can get to know you and come find you if you are missing from group!”  We never missed a group meeting but, I’m pretty sure she meant what she said!

I was fortunate to receive the Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute scholarship to attend the 2013 Winter Institute in Savannah, GA.  Receiving this scholarship allowed our campus to send a team to the Institute. The experience allowed our advising committee to actually spend time together to develop a plan to bring back to campus.  We created an advising mission statement, drafted a proposal promoting advising as the theme for our fall faculty development workshop, and created the shell for a LEAD Advisor program for our institution.

Attendance at the Institute, along with the interaction with the Institute Faculty and our colleagues from other institutions, were the motivation and support our campus team needed to establish an educated foundation to take back to MSUM and “talk advising.” Upon our return to campus, our team received approval from the Faculty Development Committee to proceed with advising as our theme for the fall workshop and approval from our provost to proceed with the development and implementation of the MSUM LEAD Advisor program.

Our campus has a faculty advising model with most students advised by faculty in the major and undeclared students advised by professional advisors.  As with most campuses, reaching all faculty with training and development on advising topics is difficult due to their teaching loads and already busy schedules.  Keeping this in mind, the LEAD Advisor program was developed to identify a key faculty advisor from every department who would attend all advising training and update sessions and would be responsible for taking that information back to their individual departments and serve as the mentor for new advisors.  The LEAD Advisor would also be included in a collaborative advising team of department chairs and peer advisors during our new student registration sessions.  The LEAD acronym is being used to structure our program and design our training components.  Part of the process this first year of implementation is to further develop the components of each area.

Components of the MSUM LEAD Advisor Program

  • Lead: Serve as the lead advisor for the department.  Attend all training offered and train department advisors (and, perhaps, other departments as needed).  Serve as a mentor for new advisors in their own department.
  • Engage:  Assist faculty advisors in developing mentoring relationships with College majors.  Engage students in the education process and encourage academic success.
  • Advise: Assist in the advising of College transfer students and new students.  Collaborate with department chair and student relations coordinator (where appropriate) in covering the department for Transfer Dragon Days and summer advising.  Participate as lead advisor for department at Freshman Dragon Days. 
  • Develop: Develop meaningful relationships with students in the College.  Collaborate with the Director of Academic Support Center and the Coordinator of Faculty Development to develop advising tools and advising workshops.

The LEAD Advisor program has the support of the provost and the College deans as evidenced by their willingness to support the program financially and by allowing time at their college meetings to present the program to all faculty members.  The program is a leadership development opportunity for faculty and there is no additional regular compensation or release time for participation in the program.  However, LEAD Advisors will be compensated for an extra duty day for the LEAD Advisor training workshop and for additional summer and Saturday new student registration days that are necessary.  The additional costs to the program are meals and training materials.

Discussions with Charlie Nutt, Executive Director of NACADA, during the Institute were valuable in forming our LEAD Advisor program. He further supported our program by participating in the facilitation of the LEAD Advisor training workshop and served as the keynote speaker for the fall faculty development workshop for all faculty on MSUM’s campus this fall. 

The exposure our team received to the ideas of advising through the NACADA lens was invaluable.  As a team attending the Institute, we were able to split up and attend multiple sessions, which allowed us to maximize our investment.  The greatest part of the Institute was to have the dedicated time to actually discuss with my colleagues how we were going to apply the information to our institution and to have a plan ready to implement upon our return to campus.  Our committee is still struggling with getting things accomplished; however, we would not be moving forward with advising as the focus of our faculty development workshop, nor would we be implementing an amazing LEAD Advisor program, without our attendance at and support from the Administrators’ Institute.  

Special thanks to Theresa Hest, Professor, Communication Studies Department, Minnesota State University Moorhead, for her contribution to the team and to this article.

Amy Sannes
Director Academic Support Center
Minnesota State University Moorhead

Editor’s Note: Learn more about attending a NACADA Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute (http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Events-Programs/Events/Administrators-Institute.aspx)

Cite this article using APA style as: Sannes, A. (2013, December). If I only had time. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]  

Vantage Point banner.jpgIncorporating Student Voices in the Practice and Professional Development of Academic Advisors

Robert D. Mack and Ikenna Acholonu, Tufts University

Editor’s Note: Looking for an opportunity to improve your skills for “advising without borders”?  Join our Global Engagement Commission-sponsored panelists for the December 11th webinar on Developing Intercultural Communication Skills for Academic AdvisingInterested in joining advising colleagues at a Region Conference?  Learn more here.

NACADA promotes student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally, and providing opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for our diverse membership (NACADA, 2013). In providing support for a diverse student population as well, opportunities occur for the professional growth of academic advisors. In this article, we explore how student voices should be incorporated into the practice and professional development of academic advisors.

In March 2012, the director and student coordinator of Tufts University’s Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) program brought six students – Patrick Williams, Wayne Yeh, Whitney Arnold, Liz Palma, Daniel Vargas, and Jared Smith – to the NACADA Region One Conference, Advising Without Borders. BLAST focuses on supporting and retaining first-generation college students, students from under-resourced high schools, and students who are affiliated with college access agencies.

Robert Mack and student.jpgAs staff members, we participated in this conference to give our students an opportunity to continue their development as scholars and professionals. When asked for their feedback on their conference experience, the students’ nuanced responses demonstrated the complex understanding that students have of the advising process and how student voices can significantly contribute to the practice and professional development of academic advisors. Following is a portion of that feedback.

Students Felt Welcomed

Students found the conference environment and attendees friendly and welcoming.  While they were surprised at how few students were attending the conference, they did not feel out of place.  In most cases they were assumed to be professional advisors, and not first-year students.  According to Jared Smith, "People were generally eager to see how we [students] understood their thoughts and views on advising.  It was almost like they wished they had more students attend the conference."

Student Contributions Received Mixed Responses

Regarding speaking out during the multiple sessions she attended, Whitney Arnold said, "I felt that when I did speak up, some people praised my point of view and said that they wished more students were willing to speak up and share their experiences with them. A few advisors did come up to us after one session and told us that they really appreciated that I spoke up.” This sentiment was expressed by some of the other students as well, including Smith who commented that "I felt my opinions were valued and respected.”

As staff members, we were encouraged by this feedback as we had advised our students to contribute in sessions. Some of the students admitted that the amount of support from conference attendees varied, and others were limited by their lack of comfort with public speaking. At times students felt their contributions were underappreciated. 

Students Struggled with Session Content

Though as advisors we intended for our students to increase in their development as scholars and professionals, we also acknowledged that this conference was primarily designed for the professional development of advisors and practitioners rather than for student participants. However, despite the intended audience of the conference, our students wondered if session creators consulted with or considered students when designing their presentations.  The following are some examples that were cited:

  • Three of the students attended a session on advising first-generation students. When the session began, presenters were dressed in costumes portraying astronauts and aliens as a metaphor for working with first-generation students, foreign to higher education. The audience laughed at this representation, but our students felt silenced and unable to speak about their experience.  Two of the students expressed discomfort with the “alien” depiction connected to first-generation students.
  • In another account, a Latino student attended a session on microaggressions which was dedicated to discussing how society, and subsequently higher education, is permeated with subtle and unconscious acts of degradation, often directed at racially and/or ethnically minoritized individuals (Yosso, Smith, Ceja, & Solorzano, 2009). As an active social justice advocate on campus, he was excited to see this topic included in the session. However, he was troubled when the majority of session participants were unaware of what a microaggression was. This concern stemmed from his awareness of how much microaggressions had affected his personal experience as a college student.
  • Lastly, in a widely attended session focused on lying, two student participants wondered why issues that may prevent students from sharing information with advisors were not addressed. Instead discussion seemed to revolve around “catching” advisees lying. The students instead wanted to discuss techniques for improving dialogue while challenging the image of students as dishonest.

Students Defined “Advising without Borders”

In keeping with the overall conference theme of Advising Without Borders, the students were asked to describe what this meant to them. These are some of the perspectives that were shared:

  • Liz Palma and Daniel Vargas thought of the borders that exist in our identities, emphasizing how race, class, culture, and gender can cause divides that students and advisors need to work through. “The geographic, political, and social lines that used to divide the world are disappearing, making the need for culturally humble advisors [and these advisors are] critical for the fair development of members of underprivileged and under-resourced communities,” said Vargas. He added that the power in advising comes from providing services to all identities to empower the members of different communities. 
  • Jared Smith also expressed the need to support students, regardless of racial, religious, or personal circumstances, with that support generated by an awareness of the life experiences of students and by developing a trusting relationship between advisor and advisee. Whitney Arnold added that holistic advising which provides students with a well-rounded support system could make all the difference. Though not all institutions have the capacity to do this, Arnold expressed how much this human connection impacted her personal experience.   

Recommendations and Conclusions

As director and student coordinator of BLAST, our ideas did not completely align with our students’ when planning our presentation for the NACADA conference. Our students gave feedback about our presentation that we did not expect, and at times was tough to hear. However, through their input we changed our approach, improving our knowledge as advisors and as presenters at the conference. As we continue to develop as practitioners, we attempt to listen to our students who advise us on the support they need. This guides our work in building structures to give students more authority and accountability to the success of the program. In response, students develop a culture where they support one another while using us as resources, and we constantly reevaluate our approach based on their needs.

In an attempt to eliminate the borders that divide students and advisors we recommend that practitioners develop structures that encourage open dialogue with their students. This dialogue should include substantive feedback from students to understand the best way for advisors to support them.  In professional development environments, knowledge can be exchanged with the help of students from various backgrounds who share their personal experience. This will make practitioners culturally aware of the specific challenges students with different identities face. With increased student involvement in our advising processes the practice and professional development of advisors can be buttressed by the merging of professional expertise and student voices.

Following the conference, student attendee Wayne Yeh  asked us, “Do you believe that you advise without borders?” This is a question that we strive to answer each day working toward a style of advising that critically listens to the experiences of students in order to guide the direction of our work. As practitioners who work to empower students, we value their voices. In working directly with student feedback, the hope is that students will develop a confidence and sense of self that will assist in their academic careers, ultimately resulting in the enhancement of student learning and development in a diverse world.

Robert D. Mack
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education
BLAST Director
Tufts University

Ikenna Acholonu
Student Coordinator of BLAST
Tufts University


NACADA. (2013). Our Vision. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/Vision-and-Mission.aspx

Yosso, T.J. et al. (2009). Critical Race Theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate for Latina/o undergraduates. Harvard Educational Review.79 (4) 659 – 691.

Cite this article using APA style as: Mack, R.D., & Acholonu, I. (2013, December). Incorporating student voices in the practice and professional development of academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 36(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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