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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Four Challenges

David Spight, NACADA President

President David Spight.jpgI am fully aware that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Still, I am hopeful and optimistic that what happened at the conference in October has already been shared at institutions around the globe.  It was truly an amazing conference and a great place to kick off a year as your president!  I always come away from the conferences re-energized by the passion the members have for what we do as advising professionals.  I love that NACADA has always been an association where all of the leaders are willing to speak to any of the members, and I hope that you all feel that too.  To help with that, I should take a moment and introduce myself.  My name is David Spight, your NACADA president for the 2015-2016 year.  My day job is to help undecided/exploratory students at the University of Texas at Austin with finding their way.  

David Spight & JP Regalado.jpgIt has been an amazing past year with J.P. Regalado as our association president.  J.P. is someone truly invested in what we do, and we have been blessed to have him at the helm during an exciting time in the association’s history.  As a history major, I am a firm believer that the past builds the foundation upon which future accomplishments are possible, so I must also take a moment and thank the past leadership, the past presidents, board and council members, and association leaders for all they have done.  All we accomplish this year is in great part because of their hard work.

As an association, we have focused the past couple of years on leadership sustainability, diversity, and research.  We have made strides with all three topics, but we still have a way to go, especially as we continue to grow globally.  Consider for a moment that this past year was the first time in NACADA history that both the president and vice president were ethnic minorities.  We have to remember that not all forms of diversity are visible and that there exists an intersectionality of identities that make up each and every one of us.  We must continue to remember that diversity includes our geography, our institutional types, and our roles, in addition to what we most commonly attribute as characteristics of diversity.  Recently, the Board pulled together a task force to consider the association’s core values, and that group has been asked, as part of their task moving forward, to consider our core values through the lens of inclusivity.

As I mentioned at the conference, the philosophy from which I approach my work, our profession, is based on a book written by Nevitt Sanford (1967) called Where Colleges Fail.  Sanford describes how individuals need two things, in balance of each other, in order to grow and develop: support and challenge.  For me, not only do I believe in trying to support and challenge students, but I also believe that advisors need to be supported and challenged to continually seek to grow and develop as individuals, as academic advisors, and as members of the higher education community.  There are plenty of challenges that we are being asked to overcome, from access to affordability, from retention to graduation rates.

I have challenged the Board of Directors and the Council to focus on engagement.  We are working on increasing engagement in leadership opportunities in the association all the while keeping in mind our emphasis on inclusivity.  We are seeking ways to get you more engaged in the scholarship of advising.  We are going to hold member Q&A web events throughout the year.  We want to make sure that we are transparent, we keep you all informed, and we keep you all connected to the work of the association.

But of utmost importance, when I spoke in Vegas I challenged all of you.  As a reminder, and for those of you who were not able to attend the conference, here are those challenges:

  • Get engaged in this profession.  As I mentioned, we expect our students to be engaged in their profession, the profession of being a student.  How can we not do the same when we expect that of our students?
  • Get involved in this association.  The collective result would be nothing less than inspiring.  Consider writing an article for Academic Advising Today or the NACADA Journal, or helping with review of conference proposals, or updating commission and interest group webpages, or submitting a proposal of your own to present at an upcoming regional or annual conference.  Consider running for a leadership position in the association.  There are over 13,000 of you in this association.  Imagine the impact if every one of us engaged in this association’s efforts, even in just a small way.
  • Become a scholar-practitioner.  Be experts in the scholarship of advising as well as the practice of advising.  You do not have to conduct research, but you should be engaged with it.  Read about the scholarship that is happening in advising.
  • Learn another approach.  We have been, in many ways, like the dualistic student.  Often I hear advisors say, “I’m an intrusive or proactive advisor” or “I’m a developmental advisor” or “I’m an appreciative advisor.”  I believe an academic advisor is an academic advisor.  An academic advisor can adapt approaches for each student.  Each student is unique, with their own unique combination of experiences, of intersectionality of identities.  As a result, no one approach alone will work with every student.  It is time we moved away from being dualistic in our approach, away from seeking that one perfect approach for all students.  It’s time we increase the number of tools in our approaches toolbox, to become multiplistic in how we approach working with our students.

Consider when you advise a student to complete a task or when you refer a student to a resource on campus.  Without following up later to see what they have accomplished, or to see if they connected with that resource, then the student may perceive that what you advised was not that important.  That follow-up is an integral step when advising students.  In the same way, what kind of professional would I be if I did not follow up and see how you are doing so far with those challenges I gave you?

Have you shared what you learned at the conference from sessions or from interactions with your colleagues?  Have you tried to implement a new idea?  Have you read any articles or other publications related to academic advising and student success?  Have you discussed any readings or research with your colleagues?  Have you read up about an approach you did not know about and tried utilizing it?  The more we engage with our work, the more we know about how to help students successfully navigate through your institutions.

As I said before, with challenges must also come support.  This association has so many resources to assist you and support you: the Board of Directors and Council, the Executive Office staff, all the other leaders, we’re all here to help.  Connect with us.  Lean on each other.  Reach out to a commission and interest group.  Connect with others in your regions or parts of the globe.  Get connected to your local advising associations.  I have come to experience such great support from the people I have met in this association.  I do not have “NACADA friends,” I have my “NACADA family.”  Through all of life’s events, weddings, separations, loss, the birth of children and grandchildren, that NACADA family is always there.  Talk about a support system.

So, get engaged.  Get connected.  Become the experts.  The outcome of doing so will benefit the students we serve.  The outcome of doing so will do nothing less than change lives and change the world.

David Spight, President, 2015-2016
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Dean, James W. Vick Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling
The University of Texas at Austin  ||  The School of Undergraduate Studies

David Spight at Annual Conference.jpgReferences

Sanford, N. (1967). Where colleges fail: A study of the student as a person. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Cite this article using APA style as: Spight, D. (2015, December). From the president: Four challenges. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

From the Executive Director: NACADA Changes the Academic Advising Field and Profession for the Good

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgWhat a wonderful conference we had in Las Vegas with just under 4,300 participants from across the globe.  While numbers do not on their own indicate quality, they do clearly demonstrate that academic advising is fully recognized as a field of study and as a profession across all of higher education internationally.   From the opening session to closing concurrent sessions, academic advising was discussed in terms of exemplary programs and exciting new research in the field, and these conversations provided those of us more mature academic advising professionals with ways to connect with and learn from new professionals in the field.  Add to that the growing use of technology used by participants to connect while at the conference, as well as for those who could not be a part of the conference to learn of exciting sessions and activities occurring at the conference, and I know we can all agree with keynote speaker Casey Self: “That because of NACADA we all have been changed for the good.”

NACADA continues to change the field and the profession for the good in a multitude of ways.  One, of course, is the opening of the Center for Excellence and Research in Academic Advising and Student Success as a joint venture between NACADA and the College of Education at Kansas State University.  This is truly a historic move for the field and the profession as there has not been a “place” where research in the field was clearly disseminated from or a place where those in the field or graduate students studying the field could get assistance, support, and possibly funding for their research.  It will be exciting to see empirical, quantitative, qualitative, and action research in the field being conducted and published through the Center in the future.

NACADA continues to change the field and the profession for the good by the increase in and impact of resources available to all in the profession.  In addition to the new Jossey Bass/NACADA text The New Advisor Guidebook, which debuted at the conference in Las Vegas, in 2017 we will see another new text published, Beyond Foundations: Becoming a Master Academic Advisor.  Not only are these great resources for academic advisors in the profession, but they will also be outstanding texts for graduate programs where academic advising is a focus.  Articles in the NACADA Clearinghouse and Academic Advising Today continue to provide high-quality, hands-on support and strategies for the profession, now accompanied by some very interesting and exciting action research published in both of these venues as well.  These and other NACADA print and electronic resources not only demonstrate the high-quality work of our members, but also continue to demonstrate how NACADA constantly reaches out to our members to write and become published.  NACADA has a long and rich tradition of encouraging members to conduct research and write and supporting them in positive ways that never discourage would-be or seasoned authors.  It is my hope that our association never changes our desire for our members to become published in the field and offers positive support at each level.

NACADA is also impacting the field and the profession through three exciting projects being conducted now.  First, the NACADA Professional Development Committee members will be working over the next two years to define the competencies that academic advisors, both primary role advisors and faculty advisors, must have to be effective in their work.  They will also identify the competencies an advisor will need to be considered a master in a specialized area such as advising adult learners or advising online students.  Not only will the identification of these competencies assist institutions greatly as they create comprehensive academic advising professional development programs, but it will also provide NACADA with foundations for future professional development resources of all types based on these competencies.  Second, Past Presidents Jayne Drake and Joanne Damminger are chairing an important task force to review and revise as needed the NACADA Core Values, which serve as a vital piece of our professional work.  The task force will be asking for input from members across the association in a variety of ways, including open dialogue sessions at all 10 of our region meetings this coming spring.   Please plan to become involved with this important process.  Third, a work team led by Bob Hurt, chair of the NACADA Publications Advisory Board, will be working this year on ways to encourage more writing in the field by our members.  With the creation of the Center for Excellence and Research in Academic Advising and Student Success, it is more important than ever that professionals in the field have the skills and understanding needed to become published.

As we look forward into the next decade, I know the field and profession of academic advising will continue to grow in its importance and its impact in higher education.  It is exciting to know that NACADA will play a significant role in this growth due to our outstanding members and our superb leadership, who have laid the foundation on which we have grown and who in the future will move the association and, thus, the field and the profession forward.  It will be exciting for us all to be a part of this progress.

I look forward to seeing many of you in the spring at one of our region meetings or at our winter institutes in Mesa, Arizona in February 2016.

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

Cite this article using APA style as: Nutt, C. (2015, December). From the executive director: NACADA changes the academic advising field and profession for the good. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

2015 Common Reading1.jpg

Advisors Discuss: Advising is Advising

Leigh Cunningham, NACADA Executive Office Research Committee Liaison

Janet Schulenberg.jpgOn October 5, 2015, during the 2015 NACADA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, a lively “Common Reading” discussion took place surrounding the 2008 NACADA Journal article, “Advising is Advising: Toward Defining the Practice and Scholarship of Academic Advising.”  Sponsored by the NACADA Research Committee, the event was led by Research Committee Chair Ryan Tomasiewicz and article authors Janet Schulenberg (pictured, right) and Marie Lindhorst.jpgMarie Lindhorst (pictured, left). More than 50 conference attendees engaged in a spirited conversation, which included discussion of the definition of academic advising, advising as a “high impact” activity, and the need for sustained scholarship within the field.

As noted by the Common Reading Committee in the event handout summary, Schulenberg and Lindhorst sought to advance the profession of academic advising by challenging all who have advising responsibilities to define academic advising as a unique field of practice and study. They argued that academic advising has emerged as a distinct interdisciplinary field and profession, but the description of its key characteristics has relied on analogies and metaphors (e.g., coaching, mentoring, teaching, friendship), obscuring its unique role and scope within higher education.  Those well-intentioned efforts to explain advising practice mask the importance of the scholarship that underlies and supports its practice. Schulenberg and Lindhorst argued that the “scholar-practitioner model must be nurtured for all who engage in academic advising and for a distinct scholarly identity for academic advising to be established within higher education” (Abstract).

Event participants were asked to contemplate what Schulenberg and Lindhorst implied by encouraging readers to consider academic advising as a unique field of scholarship and practice, where its purposes, value, and outcomes are made explicit to students, advisors, and other stakeholders.  What arguments could be made for its importance?  Have there been any changes in the field since the article was written in 2008 to bring greater clarity to the explicit purpose, value, and outcomes of the field?

Some participants contended that little has changed since the article was written.  Some felt that discussion has focused on terms that serve to justify the importance of advising to higher administration rather than defining advising as a profession.  One participant suggested that advisors themselves will need to provide a meaningful definition, and the definition will not be a job description or a description of the advising process, but instead will detail what advising is.  Lindhorst agreed that regardless of the specifics of the population, location, or program, advising is fundamentally the same. Schulenberg proposed that advising professionals need to take ownership of this defining process.  Other participants suggested that advisors need to identify what language will resonate and that, while there may be utility in employing metaphor (which can be particularly beneficial in helping young advisors understand what advising is), progress ought to be made in developing a unique language to define the field.

2015 Common Reading4.jpgEvent attendee Marc Lowenstein shared that after he wrote his 2005 NACADA Journal article, “If Advising is Teaching, What Do Advisors Teach?” – which is frequently quoted in advising publications and presentations – he thought he “had it knocked” until he heard Schulenberg and Lindhorst present on “Advising is Advising” at a NACADA conference the following year.  Lowenstein said that after reflecting on their presentation, he “went back to the drawing board” and changed his approach to these issues.

NACADA Assistant Director of Resources Marsha Miller, who is the association’s representative to the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), stated that there is little understanding of what academic advisors do in higher education at large and that a theory of advising needs to be developed.  She suggested that an article be chosen for the 2016 Common Reading that could aid the process of answering this call.

One possible article that might be considered for this purpose is Lowenstein’s (2014) recent publication on the topic, “Toward a Theory of Advising,” which is the result of his long reflection and many conversations with advising colleagues following the publication of his 2005 piece.  This article was written following a 2013 NACADA Webinar, Emerging Issues in Academic Advising Theory, during which Lowenstein, Schulenberg and colleagues Peter Hagen, Sarah Champlin-Scharff, and Hilleary Himes considered a variety of questions, including What theories of advising are represented in the most important literature on the subject? and What will a successful theory of advising accomplish?

In his 2014 offering, Lowenstein discusses theories of advising versus theories in advising, considers whether a “unified theory” of advising is possible or even desirable, and explains the goals and criteria for a theory of advising.  Fundamentally, he states, a theory of advising should be tied to a philosophy of higher education, identify elements common to all advising, distinguish advising from other activities, identify what advisors do and show why advising is critical, imply a standard for what can be expected from advisors, and inspire advisors to reach for a vision of excellence. 

Lowenstein (2014) then furthers the discussion by proposing the normative Theory of Advising as Integrative Learning, which may be summed up briefly in the following six points.

  1. Advising is an academic endeavor.  Its purposes are specific to institutions of higher learning.
  2. Advising enhances learning and at its core is a locus of learning and not merely a signpost to learning.
  3. The learning that happens is integrative and helps students make meaning out of their education as a whole.
  4. The student must be an active rather than passive participant in the process.  The student has the task of constructing an education with the advisor serving as facilitator.
  5. Advising is transformative, not transactional.
  6. Advising is central to achieving the goals of any college or university.

This proposed theory, Lowenstein concludes, “offers a plausible and comprehensive statement of the essential nature of advising that sets academic advising apart as a distinctive area of practice and thought” (Conclusion, ¶2).  He completes his article by welcoming feedback and further conversation.  A future NACADA Common Reading session might be an excellent setting for such a conversation.

NACADA members who were unable to attend the Common Reading session at Annual Conference were given a second chance to engage in the conversation with Schulenberg and Lindhorst when, on October 27, 2015, the pair came to the NACADA webinar venue for an online NACADA Reads session.  Led by NACADA Associate Director Jennifer Joslin, Schulenberg and Lindhorst shared the article’s origins in their efforts to make sense of the advising profession’s struggles to define itself and the language surrounding how we describe what we accomplish through advising.  They discussed their response to Lowenstein’s (2005) “If Advising is Teaching…” article and their desire to build upon his important contribution, as well as the numerous “Advising is…” metaphor pieces that followed his work.  They considered the importance of taking care in selecting the language we use in discussing the work that we do: how we describe the role we play in the university, study it, advocate for it, and let people know who we are and what we do.  They contend that it is critical that the way we define advising adequately describes everything that we do, the full purpose and value of academic advising, and the effect that advisors have on students and institutions through this work, for the way we describe what we do affects the way we approach our work and the strategies we employ to engage in it.  Advising, they argue, can be defined as “engaging students to think critically about their academic choices and make effective plans for their educations” (Schulenberg & Lindhorst, 2008, p.43).

Prompted by Joslin, Schulenberg and Lindhorst also discussed ways that advising cohorts can create an environment of inquiry in which advisors can be critically reflective about what we do, be expected to converse with each other about our work, be focused on assessment of student learning as a result of our work, and be encouraged to take a collaborative approach to our work. They concluded by encouraging all educators who engage in the work of advising, whether they be new to the profession or well along in their careers, to take ownership: get involved in the conversation, make meaning, write and reflect, and contribute back to the scholarship of the field.

Readers who were unable to attend either the on-site or on-line Reading events still have the opportunity to prepare to join the next round of this ongoing conversation by reading the articles and viewing the recording of the NACADA Reads webinar (now available on the NACADA Reads webpage), as well as the Emerging Issues in Academic Advising Theory webinar (available on the NACADA YouTube channel).  We encourage you to use these resources for professional development in your advising unit in the coming year, and we hope to see you at next year’s Common Reading session at the 2016 NACADA Annual Conference in Atlanta.

Leigh Cunningham
Assistant Director for Strategic Resources
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

2015 Common Reading5.jpgReferences

Hagen, P., Champlin-Scharff, S., Schulenberg, J., Lowenstein, M., & Himes, H. (2013, September 25). Emerging issues in academic advising theory. NACADA Webinar Series. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VId0PiLrXA&feature=youtu.be

Lowenstein, M. (2014, August 12). Toward a theory of advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal.   Retrieved from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2014/08/toward-a-theory-of-advising/

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

Schulenberg, J., & Lindhorst, M. (2008). Advising is advising: Toward defining the practice and scholarship of academic advising.  NACADA Journal, 28(1), 43-53.

Cite this article using APA style as: Cunningham, L. (2015, December). Advisors discuss: Advising is advising. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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Evolution of a Scholar

Shannon Lynn Burton, NACADA Board of Directors

Shannon Burton.jpgResearch . . . qualitative . . . quantitative . . . these words can strike fear, or at least spark some anxiety, in practitioners as they begin their journeys of inquiry.  As faculty for the NACADA Research Symposium, my goal is to make the inquiry process less daunting.  Over the course of two days in April 2015, I was able to witness advisors (and budding scholar-practitioners) from across the world formulate and refine their questions, engage in critical reflection on methods, and map out a plan to answer those very questions.  As they worked, I was astounded at their insights and their revelations into the research process and excited to see so many viewing themselves differently in terms of their own professional identity: that of shifting from practitioner to scholar-practitioner.  One often sees the term “scholar-practitioner” used, but what do I mean?  What do I mean when I say that my identity on the practitioner to scholar spectrum shifted?  A scholar-practitioner defines themselves as someone grounded in theory and research, informed by experiential knowledge, and motivated by personal values, political commitments, and ethical conduct.  Scholar practitioners are committed to the well-being of clients and colleagues, to learning new ways of being effective, and to conceptualizing their work in relation to broader organizational, community, political, and cultural contexts.  Scholar practitioners explicitly reflect on and assess the impact of their work.  Their professional activities and the knowledge they develop are based on collaborative and relational learning through active exchange within communities of practice and scholarship. (McClintock, 2004)

As a scholar now interested in the evolution and history of academic advising, I am eager to see a scholar-practitioner community emerge in this field, and I am spurred by the growth in interest around scholarly inquiry and its rise, particularly among practitioners.  I relate to these individuals as my own scholarly journey mirrors theirs in many ways.  When I finished undergrad, I thought I was going to be a lifelong researcher pursuing an agenda centering on Russian intellectual history.  However, I had to work for a few years before pursuing my graduate school dreams.  In that first job I realized that I really enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with students that student affairs provided.  At that stage in my career, I felt that I had to forsake my dreams of historiography and intellectual pursuits for my love of student success.  This path led me to my master’s degree in student affairs administration, where I could get a grounding in theory for the work I did with students as I continued to work full-time as a professional academic advisor.  However, despite my academic interest in student affairs, research no longer appealed to me.  I described myself as a practitioner and a practitioner only.

As I moved further into my identity as an academic advisor to that of a scholar-practitioner, I found myself drawn to the big questions and the intellectual pursuits I had found engaging as an undergraduate; I thirsted for more knowledge on the ways I could improve my practice.  As a result, I pursued my second master’s degree, while still working full-time in academic advising.  Despite taking inquiry and research courses in both of my master’s degrees, I still had not written a thesis or done any type of rigorous academic inquiry by the time I finished.  I knew of research and theoretically how to do research, but never had actually done it.  However, I felt it necessary at that time to pursue my doctorate for the next step on the career ladder, whatever that might be.

During this decade (yes, I said decade), I found my identity as a scholar-practitioner of academic advising and beyond, again while working full-time.  The road to the elusive Ph.D. was definitely a long one for both personal and academic reasons.  In relation to the academic reasons, I struggled to find a topic to study.  At first I thought I had to go back to those Russian history roots and began looking at how institutions of higher education differed before and after the fall of the Soviet Union.  However, I could not sink my teeth into the topic.  Then I shifted my topic to look at something related to study abroad.  Again, my passion for doing research waned.  Finally, my graduate academic advisor suggested pulling the conversations that I was most passionate about together, and a light went off.  The topics in classes of campus internationalization, organizational theory, and academic advising excited me most.  It was an eureka moment and the moment that my first true scholarly inquiry (aka my dissertation) was born: Building the Bridge: A Phenomenological Examination of Academic Advising’s Role in Campus Internationalization.  Through this exercise I learned that I could do research, albeit not easily.

In the course of writing my dissertation, I attended the NACADA Research Symposium as a participant, not in an effort to clarify the questions of my dissertation, but to connect with other advising scholars and to create my next project.  This way I had something in the chute to work on.  Additionally, this served as an excellent exercise in thinking about research outside the dissertation and on how to structure the next big thing.  However, one of the greatest benefits of participating included connecting with others pursuing their scholarly interests.  Many of the individuals in this symposium cohort and I still look to one another for support as we write and seek out the next big idea.  This cohort consisted of people at varied stages in their scholar identity: those working on a thesis, working on dissertations, wanting to answer bigger questions about their practice, or wanting a space just to think if they were more experienced.  NACADA’s Research Symposium clearly created a support system not only for how to set up a research project, but also provided a built-in network of encouragement and constructive criticism.

I am now nearly four years out from finishing my dissertation and four years out from the research symposium.  While I still struggle to find time to write in the way that I would like to for my interests, I steal time.  I still define myself as a scholar-practitioner.  Through this time my roles at the university have shifted, from that of a frontline professional academic advisor to the Assistant University Ombudsperson.  In this position I work with students who are facing conflicts in their university experience that often impede their academic success.  Yet, scholarly inquiry is still central to my practice, and that ever elusive cohesion in a research agenda no longer evades me.

Now I seek to examine the interpretation, implementation, and impact of policies, procedures, and plans vital to higher education as new professions like academic advisors, research integrity officers, and ombuds emerge.  These professions allow individuals to look for a means to navigate often complicated university structure in terms of academic requirements, faculty/student conflict, as well as university policy to prevent a larger problem for the institution.  As a piece of the exploration into policy and procedure impact, I also examine the emergence and growth of these fields in relation to policy changes and cultural shifts.  How do these fields emerge?  How do they define themselves?  Finally, as these areas begin to grow nationally and internationally, I would like to examine how cross-cultural differences impact their development and what culturally and historically spurs other cultures to create similar structures.

While I still falter in my research agenda from time to time, if it were not for the community of scholars that I connected with in NACADA through the research symposium and other venues, as well as the resources available through NACADA to support my goals, I probably would not identify myself as a scholar at all.  So, for those afraid of terms like “research,” “qualitative,” and “quantitative,” there is hope and a place to which you can turn.  I hope that those who attended the 2015 Research Symposium where I had the honor of serving as one of their faculty members know that their scholarly journey is only beginning and that NACADA is here to support them as they determine their relationship with research.  I also urge those wanting to frame and ask questions to attend the 2016 Research Symposium and to connect with others doing research.  Please do not be shy about asking those of us who define ourselves as scholars or scholar-practitioners for insight and mentoring.  It is through these big questions that the field of academic advising continues to be defined and explained.  What we ask now sets the foundation for what others will examine in the future.

Shannon Lynn Burton, Ph.D.
Assistant University Ombudsperson, Office of the University Ombudsperson
Research Integrity Coordinator, Office of the President
Michigan State University
sburton@msu.edu | @msuburton

Editor’s Note: Unable to travel to attend the Research Symposium?  To learn about Demystifying Research in Academic Advising, join Shannon, current NACADA Research Committee Chair Ryan Tomasiewicz, and Past Research Committee Chair Wendy Troxel for their May 18th webinar!


Burton, S.L. (2012). Building the Bridge: A Phenomenological Examination of Academic Advising’s Role in Campus Internationalization (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest.

McClintock, C. (2004). Scholar Practitioner Model. In Encyclopedia of Distributed Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/distributedlearning/n134.xml

Cite this article using APA style as: Burton, S. (2015, December). Evolution of a scholar. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Students Benefit from Early Dual-Path Intervention

Kyle Bures and Sally Sudja, Neosho County Community College–Ottawa Campus

Sally Sudja.jpgKyle Bures.jpgWhen we originally began brainstorming ideas for conference proposals over a year ago, ‘Dual-Path Planning’ came to mind as a result of the countless students we encounter each semester who discover their original plan, for whatever reason, is no longer appropriate.  Elated at the turnout to our session at the statewide 2014 Kansas Academic Advising Network (KAAN) conference, we decided to convert the presentation for publication in hopes to reach more advisors about the importance of working with students to develop an alternate plan adjacent to their formulation of their initial plan.

Inevitably, the bulletproof mentality present in many students as they enroll for their first semester has faded or transformed to shock when they return as little as a month later because their name has appeared on the Early Academic Warning list or a situation in their life has forced them into a new direction.  For many, a dose of reality has set in. If their original goal is no longer appropriate, the discussion soon centers on possible alternate paths. 

Unfortunately, students who wait until they are faced with an obstacle to generate alternative opportunities in career development can experience a shock that they are not prepared to deal with.  Their initial plan is the only direction they have considered, and when the road blocks appear, students cannot see beyond them.  Consequently, creating an alternate plan is a concept driven in part by Planned Happenstance Theory, an intervention in which advisors can assist students to “generate, recognize, and incorporate chance events into their career development” and turn them into opportunities for learning (Mitchell, Levin, & Krumboltz, 1999).  What, when, and how the intervention strategy is implemented ultimately depends upon the context of a student’s situation. 

While not all students will find themselves in situational trauma with their career plans, those who do tend to find themselves on one of three tracks in their academic or career development crisis:

  • One-track: students ultra-focused on one goal but not accepted (or waitlisted) into a competitive program
  • Off-track: students with goals inconsistent with interests, abilities, or values
  • Which-track?: students with multiple interests


A one-track student may be someone applying to a competitive program such as nursing.  Well into his/her initial plan, this student has often researched and completed all the requirements necessary, performed admirably in coursework, and completed all of the necessary steps, but due to the volume of quality applicants is not accepted into the program or is waitlisted.  Schlossberg, Waters, and Goodman (1995) define such a “non-event” (something expected that did not occur) as a transition that may either foster growth or alternatively be an impetus for decline.  The outcome is dependent upon the individual’s resources in four areas: situation, self, support, and strategies.  Too often, this student comes to this juncture without ever giving thought to possible alternatives, which can compound the stress.  For this particular student, what alternate plan or intervention strategies can be introduced earlier to help the student cope better with this transition?

Because our community college is home to a number of competitive associate level healthcare fields, students have several attractive options; however, students often have blinders on to these other programs.  What students overlook is that most of these other programs have similar pre-requisites and co-requisites that can apply to several programs, killing the proverbial two (or in some cases three or four) birds with one stone.  As a result, an advising grid was designed to lay these programs out side-by-side and visually demonstrate this to students who declare interest in any of the four associate level programs.  This advising guide then serves as a visual cue to advisors to prompt a brief discussion about the students’ interest and awareness in the other programs.  Students can also be encouraged to apply to more than one of the college’s programs, as opposed to putting all their hopes into one application. 


Students who are off-track usually present their initial plan as an interest in a particular program while simultaneously disclosing details or information that suggests their interests, abilities, or values may be incongruent with their goals.  A classic example might be students who reveal that their parents own a business and will pay for school if they major in accounting.  They may share that their preference is to work with people and that numbers and math are confusing and, as such, uninteresting to them.  Yet, as long as they can make good money after graduation, they will be content.

One alternate intervention strategy for off-track students might be a technique known as challenging, pointing out discrepancies in the information provided.   As evident in the case presented above, inconsistencies can be identified within the student’s disclosure.  It is a matter of human tendency to sometimes provide discrepancies in information  (ex., a major in accounting with a genuine disgust toward math), but when “challenging skills are used, the aura of safety and support, so carefully constructed by the helper, is at risk” (Young, 2013).  Thus, identifying the appropriate time to challenge can be a delicate skill to practice and should be considered cautiously.  If done too soon, rapport can be damaged, and if never approached at all, an entire host of problems may emerge.  Off-track students may also benefit by participating in career exploration activities to identify other degree programs of interest that they can potentially work toward or explore simultaneously.

Which Track?

The third type of student, the individual with multiple interests—consequently known as the which-track student—might typically be higher achieving than some other students and, as such, may have more of a challenge narrowing down his/her choices.  These which-track students may want to change majors frequently or to take courses that do not necessarily correspond to the stated degree focus.  The initial plan for this group of students may be an attempt to pursue a particular major because of pressure or expectations from parents or peers rather than because the students themselves are interested in that area of study, which can cause a lack of enthusiasm when choosing classes.  One strategy that advisors have found to be successful with these students is to encourage them to identify themes among the courses they have completed successfully.  Through the identification of a theme, students may find they relate to one content area more than another.  Guiding students toward general education classes is another alternate plan approach.  By working through general education courses during the first semester or two, students often find areas of study that they do well in naturally, giving them a direction without as much decision-making stress.  If students still seem bent toward an unmatched direction, career exploration activities such as computerized career surveys that match skills, abilities, and interests with suitable careers are an excellent option.

By using theories such as transition theory and planned happenstance and by implementing techniques like challenging, advisors and students alike are better equipped to effectively anticipate and manage rejections and roadblocks and to incorporate them into the student’s academic and career development.  These categories were generated as a result of the interactions with students in the context of our college and may not include factors or scenarios present at other institutions.  Thus, the challenge to individual advisors on their own campuses is to identify their unique types of students who may benefit from an alternate plan, and use such theories as a guide.

Kyle Bures
Teaching & Learning Center Coordinator
Neosho County Community CollegeOttawa Campus

Sally Sudja
Teaching & Learning Center Assistant
Neosho County Community CollegeOttawa Campus


Mitchell, K. E., Levin, A. S., & Krumboltz, J. D. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling & Development, 77(2), 115-124. DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1999.tb02431.x

Schlossberg, N. K., Waters, E. B., & Goodman, J. (1995). Counseling adults in transition (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Young, M. E. (2013). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Cite this article using APA style as: Bures, K. & Sudja, S. (2015, December). Students benefit from early dual-path intervention. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

College Student Bereavement: What Advisors Need to Know

Janice C. Stapley, Monmouth University
James J. Morecraft, Montclair State University

Janice Stapley.jpgJames Morecraft.jpgCollege student bereavement is a topic that has received relatively little attention in the literature, but college students commonly have to learn how to emotionally regulate while coping with the death of someone close to them (Stapley & Morecraft, 2015).  What happens when college students experience the death of a close friend or family member?  How will the advisor know that the student is grieving and how can academic advisors help college students navigate this normative developmental experience so that it does not have a negative impact on their academic work and personal functioning?

Undergraduate students frequently experience the loss of someone close to them.  In our recent study of 115 traditionally aged undergraduates, half of the sample lost someone close to them within the past year.  For some, it was the loss of a grandparent or other adult relative (25%) and for others it was a close friend (21%) (Stapley & Morecraft, 2015).  Examining grief reactions among college students through the lens of emotion regulation (Gross, & John, 2003), two common strategies for regulating emotions are cognitive appraisal and the suppression of the emotional expression.  In our sample, male students were more likely than female students to suppress their emotions when grieving.  Conversely, female students were more likely to report that they would talk to a close friend when they are bereaved. 

Traditionally aged college students are emerging adults who may not have previously experienced coping with death.  Generally emerging adulthood is characterized as the “age of possibilities” (Arnett, 2007, p. 69), but a central loss during this period might result in instability and a narrowing of possibilities.  Bereaved students may be overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and unable to engage in their normal daily tasks, such as going to class and keeping up with assignments.  This is one of the instances in which class attendance records are very helpful.  Students who have been regularly attending classes and then suddenly disappear may be experiencing emotional difficulties that impact their ability to go to class.

At our university, females report experiencing higher levels of death anxiety than male students.  There also appear to be sex differences in how college students think about how male and females usually emotionally regulate during the grieving process.  Male students are more likely to believe that men are emotionally stronger than women.  The male students in our sample were also more likely than females to agree with the statement “Males should be strong after the loss of a loved one.”  Academic advisors need to be ready to listen and to refer advisees to their counseling center, taking into account that males are less likely to express their feelings but may be experiencing difficulties with a loss that may impact their daily functioning.

For faculty academic advisors, there are challenges to providing optimal student services in the case of bereavement.  Most generally, there is the continued resistance of faculty advisors to the Developmental Advising model that Dickson and McMahon described so clearly in 1991.  Faculty who are pulled in many directions often feel that they don’t have time to do more than offer guidance with scheduling and/or that they do not have the training to do more than help with course selection.  However, a deep advising literature has repeatedly demonstrated that advisors are crucial contacts for referring students for other services to facilitate their academic success.  Anecdotally, the topic of bereavement has been one that has often been viewed with skepticism among college faculty.  Many colleges require students to show printed evidence of having attended a funeral in order to be excused from missing a class.  But for many young people, the work of grieving is not over at the conclusion of the funeral.

There are many variables to consider when trying to determine when a college student will be ready to return to classes and keep up with assignments and whether he or she will need counseling to navigate the bereavement stage.  Obviously, the student’s relationship with the deceased is central, but also whether the student has had any previous experience with death and the student’s overall emotion regulation skills contribute to our understanding of the severity of the situation as well.  Advisors may have insight into the extent of students’ coping skills, based upon their past interactions when students were discussing transition issues.  People are often wary of asking how someone is doing with a recent death, but discussing it directly can help the advisor get a feel for how the student is coping and provide the advisee with the experience of someone listening to his or her feelings, which research has shown is therapeutic in and of itself (Gilbert, 2001).

The transition to college generally taxes students’ emotion regulation skills (Stapley, 2014) and for those who are not as proficient at self-regulation, the addition of a significant loss can be the “last straw” that results in a student taking to his or her dorm room or staying home and failing to participate in normal activities.  One of the best ways to prevent such an occurrence is to have an ongoing relationship with our advisees in which they know that they can reach out to us if they need a referral for special services. 

Whenever possible, advisors should start a meeting with a short “check in” on how things are going in the student’s life.  This practice, consistent with a Developmental Advising model, gives the advisor more insight into the student as an individual.  It also may provide an opening for students to share experiences, such as a recent death, that might impact their class attendance and performance.  One practice in our department is to send out “just checking in” emails several times during the semester.  These might prod a student to reach out to his or her advisor for help in managing a situation before it has escalated.

In summary, what do academic advisors need to know to help students manage these challenging life events so that they don’t have a negative impact on their academic progress?

  • Undergraduate students frequently experience the death of someone close to them.
  • Checking in on how students are doing provides a space for students to share about the events in their lives.
  • Grieving in males may be under identified due to gender differences in grieving behavior.
  • Bereaved students who are having difficulty managing their emotions should be referred to their college counseling center.

Knowing that for many students their first experience with death may come during college, academic advisors can serve a pivotal role in referring students for help with the grieving process, so that both male and female students can develop coping strategies and continue to succeed.  Additionally, academic advisors should keep in mind the sex differences in coping mechanisms and beliefs about emotion suppression during the grieving process when looking for signs of bereavement.  As Kuhn, Gordon, and Webber (2006) pointed out, college students are often experiencing many complicated issues outside of school that may impact their ability to progress towards degree completion.  Advisors can help students succeed by identifying complicated bereavement as one of the triggers for counseling referral. 

Janice C. Stapley
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology, Monmouth University

James J. Morecraft
Graduate Student
Department of Psychology, Montclair State University


Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it? What is it good for? Child Development Perspectives, 1, 68-73.

Dickson, G. L., & McMahon, T. R. (1991). The Developmental Advising Inventory: A new approach to academic advising. NACADA Journal, 11(1), 34-50.

Gilbert, K. R.  (2001). Introduction:  Why are we interested in emotions?  In K. R. Gilbert (Ed.), The Emotional Nature of Qualitative Research. Boca Raton, FL:  CRC Press.

Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 348-362.

Kuhn, T., Gordon, V. N., & Webber, J. (2006).  The advising and counseling continuum: Triggers for referral. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 24-31.

Stapley, J. C. (2014). Music and emotion regulation among emerging adults. In F. R. Spielhagen and P.D. Schwartz (eds.), Adolescence in the 21st Century (pp. 225-238).Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Stapley, J. C. & Morecraft, J. (2015, May). Sex differences in death anxiety and grieving among emerging adults. Poster presented at the American Psychological Association Conference, New York, NY.

Cite this article using APA style as: Stapley, J.C. & Morecraft, J.J. (2015, December). College student bereavement: What advisors need to know. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Technology's Evolving Role in Prescriptive and Developmental Advising

Zack Underwood and Ryan Underwood, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Zack Underwood.jpgRyan Underwood,jpgTechnology usage for advising can be categorized into the same two styles often used to describe advising: prescriptive and developmental.  The type of technology utilized in advising can make the advising appointment more or less efficient.  Technology type may also meet students’ needs differently depending on the situation.  Musser and Yoder (2013) suggest “seeing, understanding, and appreciating the elements that make up the total advising endeavor” to improve advising.  Technology offers a way to reach students efficiently in today’s connected world.

Prescriptive Technology

Students have a variety of backgrounds, and each student’s needs vary per meeting (Robbins, 2012).  Prescriptive technologies save time, such as email or a URL.  A short email could replace an entire appointment.  Information shared through prescriptive technologies includes unchanging terminology such as course descriptions or academic policies and procedures.  

Prescriptive advising as defined by Crookston (1994) is a relationship similar to that of a doctor and patient.  In this context, the advisor disseminates information to students similar to prescriptions.  With prescriptive technology, advisors point to a four-year plan, a preset academic plan, or core curriculum.  For instance, study abroad questions are easily answered through prescriptive websites detailing quick information such as cost, length of trip, and destinations.  For certain majors, this type of advising is a perfect fit and acts as a business-like transaction between the advisor and advisee.  Similar to Lucy in the Peanuts comic strips, it appears that the advisor is “in” and able to dispense information to the student, when in reality, it is the computer or technology.  Advisors should not be worried about losing their jobs, because of the sheer amount of information.  Similar to a library and librarians, students still need assistance to find their answers.

Thanks to proper training, advisors know about their institution’s advising websites, degree audits, student information systems, and transfer articulation systems (Leonard, 2008).  If advisors are utilizing the following tools, then they are generally engaging with prescriptive technology:

  • Articulation or equivalency websites for transfer courses
  • Course catalogue
  • Course planning information
    - Core curriculum, major/minor requirements, four-year plan or two-year plan
  • Course restrictions
  • Degree audit
  • Email (short, concise answers)
  • Entrance requirements for a college or department or for graduate/professional school
  • GPA calculator
  • Tutorial videos
  • Websites with prescriptive information or .edu websites

The technology influences advising and may stifle development or be beneficial depending on the situation of the student.  Utilizing prescriptive technologies may lead to one-sided conversations regarding class requirements only (Shaffer, Zalewski, & Leveille, 2010) and limit the advisor’s ability to assess student needs.  Prescriptive advisors live within the walls of .edu websites and specific institutional information.  While these technologies could supersede the need for direct interaction, they can also empower students to problem-solve autonomously, which is an important area of development for students (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).  Additionally, in today’s society of “I want it all and I want it now,” students are able to push a button to receive the needed feedback through prescriptive advising technologies (Rosen, Carrier, & Cheever, 2010, p. 48).  

Developmental Technology           

Instead of focusing solely on requirements and checkboxes, developmental technology focuses on the student beyond the here and now, including their livelihoods after college.  Frost & Brown-Wheeler (2003) define developmental advising as “a system of shared responsibility in which the primary goal is to help the student take responsibility for his or her decisions and actions” (p. 234).  Developmental advising and technologies both rely on students to become empowered by navigating broader possibilities for major decision and future professional goals.  Developmental advising technologies may include personality inventories, internship opportunities, goals, or even potential major options (McWilliams & Beam, 2013).  Instead of consulting with three different advisors, a student may be able to utilize a technology that will persuade them of the correct decision or keep them on task.

With first-year students, advisors play a role as a mentor to help students “negotiate their own way through our often byzantine, labyrinthine curriculum, process, and hallowed halls” (Drake, 2011, p. 9).  With developmental technology, this involves guiding a student towards a group of resources as opposed to giving them an exact answer.  This will also include exploring beyond the ivory tower walls of the institutions’ website.  This also suggests students are actively engaged in their technology, so they are utilizing information from a prescriptive resource, such as a four-year plan, to ask questions about internships or applied learning experiences that need answers from developmental technologies.

While prescriptive technologies give yes or no answers or specific information about course scheduling, developmental advising and technologies provide more depth. King and Kerr (2005) suggest that “effective academic advising is clearly much more than scheduling and registration” (p. 320).  Developmental technologies are similar to Alice’s rabbit hole with answers leading in multiple directions.  Developmental technologies include broader options such as the following:

  • Career assessments
    - Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Kuder Journey, Holland Code, Strengths Finder
  • Communication
    - What-if scenarios on degree audits, open-ended questions/answers in email, instant messages, open-ended chats, Skype
  • Goal setting websites or apps
    - Websites such as Lifetick and Joe’s Goals or apps such as Any.do and Golden Scale
  • Google searches (or search engine searches)
  • Occupational outlooks
    - Websites such as Bureau of Labor Statistics or What Can I do with a Major in Website
  • Options for graduate/professional schools
    - Websites for graduate/professional schools
  • Reflection opportunities
    - Blogging or status posts on social networks
  • Social networking leading to decisions and social opportunities
    - LinkedIn, Twitter, Internship Search Engines

Think of developmental technology as making students “more self-aware of their distinctive interests, talents, values, and priorities . . . to see the ‘connection’ between their present academic experience and their future life plans” (Cuseo, n.d., p. 10).  A student can research what it means to be a social worker, as well as engage in the community through joining a future social workers group on Facebook.  This means embracing the idea that students potentially Google their future careers to find their major, because today’s students embrace technology as a guiding light for their decisions.  Even if the advisor is not offering all or any of these resources within the advising session, guiding students to these opportunities can allow them to explore information that may widen their outlook after the session is over.

Communication gives advisors the ability to help students “explore the meaning of college, the challenges of the first year, their strengths and weaknesses, and how the college curriculum may influence their success in the first year” (Darling & Woodside, 2007, p. 14).  Students are also exploring these decisions with their friends online.  Advising conversations could be taking place between friends via social networking and these conversations could influence student decisions towards their major or career.

Through engaging in developmental technologies, today’s students could become “creative, curious, compassionate, concerned, and caring human beings, citizens of the world” (Bain, 2012, p. 220).  Developmental technologies offer students a chance to engage in a global community of learners through common dilemmas such as choosing a major, a career, or even the right roommate (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008).  Advisors are able to utilize developmental technologies as a starting point and a continual conversation with students to help them reach their goals.


In regards to choosing the correct technology to use in a given advising office or learning situation, Nutt (2004) iterates that academic advising is shaped by two questions: “What does our institution value about academic advising?” as well as “What is the purpose of academic advising at our institution?” (para. 3).  To teach students about opportunities in leadership, internships, research, and study abroad through advising, advisors need to use an intentional mix of prescriptive and developmental technologies.  For example, students could potentially find out about a study abroad trip from a prescriptive website or email, but need the developmental aspects of technology to verify if the study abroad aligns with their major or professional goals.

Similar to the best instructors, an extraordinary advisor uses the best tools to teach a student about their circumstances (Lowenstein, 2005).  This means that using mainly prescriptive technology may be the right solution for a certain advisor, but some advisors may use a mix.  “One lens cannot be used to view the experience and skills of all students” (Campbell & Nutt, 2008).  “There is no one right way to organize and deliver academic advising for first-year students” (King & Kerr, 2005, p. 321).  With tightening budgets and growing technology, it is important for advisors to reflect back on which technology they utilize to advise and which technology is appropriate for each advising situation.

Zack Underwood
Academic Advisor
University College
University of North Carolina Wilmington

Ryan Underwood
Academic Advisor
Department of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Bain, K. (2012). What the best college students do. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Campbell. S. M. & Nutt, C. L. (2008). Academic advising in the new global century: Supporting student engagement and learning outcomes achievement. Peer Review, 10(1), 4-7.

Crookston, B. B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. National Academic Advising Association Journal, 14(2), 5-9.

Cuseo, J. (n.d.). Academic advisement and student retention:  Empirical connections & systemic interventions. Retrieved from http://cpe.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6781576F-67A6-4DF0-B2D3-2E71AE0D5D97/0/CuseoAcademicAdvisementandStudentRetentionEmpiraclConnectionsandSystemicInterventions.pdf

Darling, R. A. & Woodside, M. (2007). The academic advisor as teacher: First-year transitions. In M. Hunter, B. Wriggins, & E. White (Eds.), Academic advising: New insights for teaching and learning in the first year. Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina.

Drake, J. K. (2011). The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus, 16(3), 8-12.

Frost, S. & Brown-Wheeler, K. (2003). Evaluation and examination: Philosophical and cultural foundations for faculty advising. In G. Kramer (Ed.), Faculty advising examined (223-244). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Co.

King, M. C. & Kerr, T. J. (2005). Academic advising. In M.L. Upcraft, J.N. Gardner, B.O. Barefoot, & Associates (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first-year student. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Leonard, M. (2008). Advising delivery: Using technology. In V. Gordon,  W. Habley, & T. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising : a comprehensive handbook (292-306). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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

McWilliams, A. & Beam, L. (2013, June 28). Advising, counseling, coaching, mentoring: Models of developmental relationships in higher education. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2013/06/advising-counseling-coaching-mentoring/

Musser & Yoder (2013). The application of constructivism and systems theory to academic advising. In J. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (179-196). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Nutt, C. (2004). Assessing student learning in academic advising, Academic Advising Today. 27(4), Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/December-2004-Vol-274-All-Articles.aspx#sthash.xNh8uLc3.dpuf

Palfrey, J. & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Pascarella, E. & Terenzini, P. (2005). How College Affects Students:  A Third Decade of Research (Vol. 2). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Robbins, R. (2012). Everything you have always wanted to know about academic advising (well, almost). Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 26(3), 216-226.

Rosen, L., Carrier, M., & Cheever, N. (2010). Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the way they learn. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Shaffer, L. S., Zalewski, J. M., & Leveille, J. (2010). The professionalization of academic advising: Where are we in 2010? National Academic Advising Association Journal, 30(1), 66-77.

Cite this article using APA style as: Underwood, Z. & Underwood, R. (2015, December). Technology’s evolving role in prescriptive and developmental advising. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Best Practices in Advising Non-traditional Students

Lisa C. Sapp and Stephanie A. Williams, Georgia Southern University

Stephanie Williams.jpgLisa  Sapp.jpgDue to the increased enrollment of non-traditional students, postsecondary institutions are focusing on the unique needs of this student population.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment of non-traditional students between 2011 and 2021 is projected to increase thirteen percent (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012).  Because non-traditional students have different characteristics and needs than traditional students, advisors must adapt the way they interact with this unique population.  Therefore, it is critical for advisors to develop a holistic plan which supports the academic and career goals of non-traditional students.

A non-traditional student is defined by the U.S. Department of Education (2002) as a student who meets at least one of the following criteria:

  • Delays enrollment
  • Attends part-time for at least part of the academic year
  • Works full-time
  • Is considered financially independent for purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid
  • Has dependents other than a spouse
  • Is a single parent
  • Does not have a high school diploma

Institutional focus on retention, progression, and graduation (RPG) significantly impacts the goals and objectives of advisors.  A 2013 study conducted by Noel-Levitz and the Center for Adult and Experiential Learning analyzed adult students’ priorities and satisfaction related to their educational experiences.  In this report, adult students identified the following as important to their ability to complete a college degree: easy access to advisors, a program pace that fits life and work schedules, advisors knowledgeable about program requirements, studies related to life and work goals, a broad range of course delivery methods, and the ability to apply previous coursework towards a degree program (Noel-Levitz, 2013).  With these criteria in mind, a comprehensive plan for advising non-traditional students will include the following:

Building a Relationship

Advisors are responsible for defining the advisor/advisee relationship.  When working with the non-traditional student population, it is important for advisors to understand the unique relationship requirements of this group.

A number of intentional communication strategies can be useful for advisors working with non-traditional students.  Using direct communication that addresses their needs is essential, such as providing a detailed academic plan that they can relate to their life and career goals.  Through the use of intentional questioning, advisors are able to lay the foundation for building a solid relationship.  Finally, techniques such as attending behavior and reflection of feeling allow advisors to understand students’ motivation and goals (Ivey & Ivey, 2007).  Attending behavior focuses on individually and culturally appropriate eye contact, vocal qualities, and attentive and authentic body language. For example, leaning in towards students, making eye contact, and head nodding are all attending behaviors that encourage students to tell their story.  Methods of reflecting feeling include encouragers and restatements, paraphrases, and summarizations, all of which help students feel understood.

Building trust with non-traditional students is an essential part of the relationship.  Advisors achieve this by being prepared, providing information related to program requirements, demonstrating competency in transfer credit evaluations, and connecting students with campus and community resources.

A strong advisor/advisee relationship is built through the implementation of these intentional practices.  Students feel connected with their advisor and advisors become their go-to resource and support system.

Flexible Advisement and Early Registration Options

Because non-traditional students typically have more life experiences and responsibilities than traditional students, specialized advisement and registration methods are necessary.  Offering an early registration period for non-traditional students gives them the opportunity to register for class times that fit their schedule.  If a separate orientation is not possible, advisors can plan a breakout session during orientation targeting non-traditional students.  Advisors also need to provide flexible advisement options, such as online or phone advisement and extended evening hours.

Partners for Advocacy

To provide non-traditional students with an academic success support system, advisors must develop a collaborative network system across campus and advocate for their unique needs.  Collaboration with Career Services, the office of Academic Success and Tutoring Center, Admissions, Registrar, the Financial Aid office, Housing, Academic Units, Veteran’s Affairs, Counseling Services, and the Disability Resource Center enables advisors to provide information and connect students to essential resources.  In order to advocate for non-traditional students, advisors must understand the issues they face.  

Specialized Resources

There are a variety of specialized resources that advisors can develop to support the non-traditional student population, including the following:

  • Non-traditional Student Handbook: Given to non-traditional students during orientation, this handbook includes campus resources and community contacts, such as child care and off-campus housing.
  • Non-traditional Student Support Group: Providing a peer support group for non-traditional students is a way to connect these students with one another. This would be a network of students connected through an ongoing discussion group using the institutions’ blackboard system. Twice a semester, the peer support group would meet for social gatherings.
  • Non-traditional Student Success Notebook: A common barrier to academic success for non-traditional students is a lack of effective study techniques.  The notebook includes suggestions and resources to increase academic success, including an anticipating and planning for courses chart, a time awareness planner, a calculating your GPA tool, and tutoring resources.

Training and Professional Development

Ongoing training and professional development is a vital part of academic advising.  NACADA’s Statement of Core Values of Academic Advising (2005) states, “Advisors seek opportunities to grow professionally.  They identify appropriate workshops, classes, literature, research publications, and groups, both inside and outside the institution, that can keep their interest high, hone professional skills, and advance expertise within specific areas of interest.”  To better serve the non-traditional student population, advisors should seek opportunities for professional development in targeted areas, including transfer credit evaluation, diversity training, and relationship development training.  The responsibility of advisors is to share knowledge and best practices with others in the field and to continue to advocate for non-traditional students. Participating in NACADA conference sessions, writing for NACADA publications, and presenting within the campus community are all ways advisors can share their knowledge and best practices.

As institutions continue to see growth in their non-traditional student population, advisors must engage in the process of providing these students with a comprehensive plan which supports their academic and career goals.  This support enables students to progress academically.  According to Anderson (1997), “Advising is a key to student retention. The best way to keep students enrolled is to keep them stimulated, challenged and progressing toward a meaningful goal.  The best way to do that—especially among new students—is through informed academic advising.”  Non-traditional students can achieve academic and personal success by utilizing specialized resources and a collaborative relationship with their advisor.  Supporting the institutional mission of retention, progression, and graduation, advisors can play a vital role in this process by understanding the needs of non-traditional students and developing programming that impacts their academic success.

Lisa C. Sapp
Academic Advisor
College of Business Administration
Georgia Southern University

Stephanie A. Williams
Academic Advisor
College of Business Administration
Georgia Southern University


Anderson, E. C. (1997). Academic advising for student success and retention. Iowa City, IA: Noel-Levitz.

Ivey, A. E & Ivey, M. B. (2007). Intentional interviewing and counseling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Core-values-of-academic-advising.aspx

National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_224.asp

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). Nontraditional Undergraduates, NCES 2002–012, by Susan Choy. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002012.pdf

Noel-Levitz (2013). 2013 national adult learners satisfaction-priorities report. Coralville, IA: Noel-Levitz. Retrieved from www.noellevitz.com/Benchmark

Cite this article using APA style as: Sapp, L.C. & Williams, S.A. (2015, December). Best practices in advising non-traditional students. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Vantage Point banner.jpgIt Takes a Village: An Advisory Group for Transfer Students

Kim Morton, Millersville University

Kim Morton.jpgTransfer students are a specialized population that are all too often taken for granted.  Whether moving up from a community college or over from another four-year institution, transfer students find themselves swept in with the incoming freshman.  Those that work in higher education often think that since this population of students already attended another college, they don’t need as much attention or assistance.  The students often think that since they’ve attended another institution they know all they need to know.  Both of these thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instituting campus wide efforts to address the needs of this subpopulation through avenues like an advisory group will help ensure a smooth transition for students and a better understanding of their needs by the university community.

A year ago I began a position newly created to welcome and assist transfer students through the transition of arriving and succeeding at a new institution.  Millersville University, like other institutions, now acknowledges that not only do transfer students help make up the attrition rate of their departing students, but they also add to the diversity of their campus.  Prior to my arrival, Millersville had conducted focus groups to gauge the experiences of MU transfer students.  This, combined with my prior experience of ten years at a community college, allowed me to hit the ground running.  After surveying the environment, I discovered that many people were concerned about transfers, but there wasn’t a concerted effort to work on their behalf.  One of the first things I did was create a college-wide Transfer Advisory Committee.  The goal was not only to get views and experiences of faculty, staff, and students across campus, but to have buy-in amongst them when we sought to make changes.

The committee began their first meeting with some good, old fashioned brainstorming.  I asked them where they have seen struggles or concerns of transfer students.  In a short time we had a nice list of about thirty issues.  We then split the list up into three categories (recruitment, transition, and retention) and ourselves into three corresponding subcommittees and went to work for a few months investigating the issues of the concerns on the lists as well as what, if anything, should be done to address the issue.  Some issues listed during the brainstorming turned out to not be as big of an issue upon investigation (it turns out transfer students want and seek out advising so that putting on a special hold to require advising may not be necessary), whereas other issues arose that weren’t originally on the list, such as a concern amongst faculty about the equivalency of course transfers and our lack of a policy to review the equivalencies to ensure they are still accurate.

After one year we’ve made some impressive strides towards addressing our list.  We have changed the college-wide probation policy so transfers are not penalized for the credits they brought to Millersville, awarded some transfer scholarships for the first time, will create a transfer wing in our new residence suites nearing completion, and identified new transfer students on faculty rosters.  We’ve also discussed expanding the committee to get additional departments represented as we move forward.

Advisory committees are not a new concept.  Institutions use them both internally and externally to ensure they are serving the best interests of the group they were formed to advance.  What I’ve taken away from my experience is how essential they are to see real change for the subpopulation, in this case transfers.  It would have been unrealistic for me alone to expect to get as much accomplished to advocate for transfers as we have as a group.  When a group is working together it becomes a college-wide interest instead of a singular, or even departmental, interest.

Forming an advisory group for different populations is good practice on campus.  Here are some tips I learned that will help with the effectiveness of the group:

  • Allow for all ideas to be presented and vetted.  I went in with some definite ideas of strategies that we would investigate, but many of the ones that ended up on the list were things that were unique to the viewpoints of the people that suggested them.  Not working in that department, I hadn’t even considered them as concerns.  If the leader of the advisory committee doesn’t allow for the free flow of ideas then it limits what can be done.  Put aside egos and structure to welcome everyone’s input.
  • Provide structure to the meetings, but allow for flexibility.  I’ve been to other advisory committee meetings where the leader took so much control that there wasn’t an opportunity to actually advise.  The point of an advisory committee is to get feedback and ideas from other areas across campus.  You need an agenda, but create it with enough room that allows the ideas to flow and action to occur.
  • Listen! Some of the best ideas came from a conversation that wasn’t even about the idea.  Be open to new opportunities and thoughts and when you hear the golden nugget, dig in to it.
  • Don’t work in a vacuum.  The advisory group will overlap with other groups and efforts being conducted on campus.  Why work independently when the efforts can be doubled?  At the same time we are working on improving transfer issues, the university is focusing on campus-wide retention.  Obviously some of our strategies could play into what they are planning.  By working together we are doubling our efforts and able to take advantage of their financial resources.
  • Communicate the positive work of the advisory committee to the campus.  There are many advisory committees on our campus that most people are unaware of.  Make sure to let the campus know what is being done and who is doing it.  This will allow them to follow up with people they may know that serves on the committee if they have questions.  We created two brief informational newsletters about the transfer advisory committee—one was sent internally on campus to faculty and staff while the other was sent to our partner community colleges.  Letting these groups, that should be invested in the success of transfer students, know what we are doing was key to advocating for this group of students.

Kim Morton
Advisement Coordinator of Transfer Students
Academic & Student Development
Millersville University

Cite this article using APA style as: Morton, K. (2015, December). It takes a village. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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Facilitating and Encouraging Student Exploration in the Health Professions through a Pre-Med Intake Major

Denise Malloy and Sheila Nielsen, Montana State University

Sheila Nielsen.jpgDenise Malloy.jpgAccording to the Cooperative Institutional Research Project (CIRP) Freshman Survey, one in five incoming freshmen identify themselves as pre-med for both public and private universities (Pryor, Eagan, Black, Hurtado & Berdan, 2012). As a result, advisors must be available to address the specific academic concerns of students interested in the health professions.

The Academic Advising Center and the Health Professions Advising Office at Montana State University (MSU) have partnered to develop a pre-med intake major. This optional major serves incoming freshman during their first year at MSU who are interested in attending medical, dental, physician assistant, pharmacy, physical therapy, optometry, and occupational therapy schools.  The program allows students to explore a variety of majors and, ultimately, choose a major from which they will graduate. Since health professional schools have no preferred major, students are encouraged to identify a course of study (which may or may not be in the life sciences) that is consistent with their interests, skills, and passions.  Although students do not graduate with a degree in pre-med, this program offers many benefits.  Not only does it track students into the appropriate pre-med coursework, it also serves as a mechanism to support students throughout their academic journey and clarify their continued interest in healthcare. Through this program, support is provided to all students during the year whether or not they continue to pursue a healthcare career.

The Pre-Med Intake Major: Serving Three Categories of Pre-Med Students

Students enter the program from diverse backgrounds and academic experience.  Typically, they have varying degrees of understanding of the coursework required for the pre-med path and the level of commitment required.  MSU serves a diverse group of pre-health professional students who fall into three basic categories: (1) goal-oriented, high-achieving students, (2) students who have a general interest in healthcare, and (3) students with more vague goals. 

The first category consists of goal-oriented, high-achieving students who enter college with strong high school grade point averages, ACT and/or SAT scores, and exposure to the medical field.  The traditional starting point for students who are academically ready for placement in chemistry (based on a math scores of 25 ACT or 580 SAT) is chemistry, biology, and statistics.  At MSU, the pre-requisites for the math and science coursework are strictly enforced.  These students enter the program ready to immediately begin the science coursework.  Students will take a first-year seminar course and many of them are also admitted to the Honors College.

As a general rule, these high-achieving students have excelled in high school academics.  Many have taken multiple AP courses and may have received academic credit for several college classes.  These students tend to have high levels of self-confidence.   Confident students are inclined to “work harder, persist longer, and use better learning and problem solving strategies” (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001, p. 62).  Many students have already shadowed healthcare professionals and have been active in extra-curricular activities with demonstrated motivation and preparedness.  Most of these students are searching for the “best” major to help them achieve their goal and many are actively seeking involvement in both student and community organizations that will further their objectives.  The pre-med intake advisor helps this group of students clarify their academic interests and assists them in choosing a major that will best meet their goals. 

In the second category, students refer to themselves as pre-med because they have a general interest in healthcare or because they are being encouraged by others to do so.  These students may not be fully committed to a healthcare career; however, they still want to take the pre-requisites and explore their options.   These students may not have taken AP or dual enrollment courses so their preparedness is less predictable.  One of the biggest challenges for the advisor is to support and identify resources that are appropriate for student success, regardless of whether they choose a health care career.  This cohort contains a mixture of students who have direct health care exposure and those who do not, as well as students who may or may not find academic success.  Indeed, some students may excel academically but find they are not compelled to pursue a career in health care.  The pre-med intake advisor is particularly important in supporting these students as they identify a new career trajectory. 

The third category of students who declare pre-med do so for more nebulous reasons such as wanting to help people or are attracted by the reputation of health care providers.  Since they are unable to articulate their goals with specificity, the academic path for these students tends to be less clear. Although some of these students will persist with a health care goal, many will find their niche in a non-health care field.  Students in this category require even greater advisor support since they are often less well-prepared academically.  These students tend to benefit from the advising relationship specifically as they clarify their career objectives and refine their academic interests.  The advisor is able to suggest additional course work to assist in this process. 

While some of these students, regardless of category, will make a seamless transition to college-level academics, others will need to adjust their study habits and avail themselves of campus resources such as tutoring or departmental help centers.  A partnership between the pre-med intake advisor, to support the academic transition, and the health professions advising office, for career guidance, facilitate student development.  While each role is distinct, the partnership fosters confidence in the student decision making process and academic success.   Advisors have the unique opportunity to clarify the significant differences between the high school curriculum and the academic rigors of university coursework (Hunter & Kendall, 2008).  In addition, advisors can help students evaluate study skills and time management techniques to better align with expectations for college (Hunter & Kendall, 2008, p. 145).  Viewing students through the lens of these three categories informs the advising process as to academic preparedness, strength of commitment, and level of clinical exposure. The combination of advising support with student empowerment is proving successful.  At MSU, the pre-med intake program has resulted in a five-year retention rate 15% higher than the average for the university.  According to Anderson (1997), advising has the single greatest influence in retention. 

Advising Pre-Med Intake Students: A Partnership Approach

The Pre-Med Intake Advisor for Academic Advising.  The pre-med intake advisor works with incoming students for their first year on campus, usually beginning during summer orientation. The pre-med intake advisor meets one-on-one with students to select coursework, identify areas of interest or concern, and to ascertain professional objectives. The advisor identifies the overall framework of the program to emphasize the sequential nature of the curriculum and the importance of the pre-requisites. Clearly explaining the pre-med requirements and the sequential progression of the coursework promotes student success and retention (Tinto, n.d.).  Additionally, students need to understand the purpose and rationale for the foundational coursework to comprehend the logical progression toward their goal (Angelo, 1993).  Since the pre-med advisor has regular contact with the student during the first year, there is the opportunity to consistently reinforce these concepts (Lowenstein, 1999).  The pre-med intake advisor provides a strong foundational relationship for the exploration process.

 A commitment to strong academic advising also plays a significant role in student persistence (Bean, 2005).  When students are able to see connections with their passions and strengths, they often consider new ideas for majors and careers (Bloom et al., 2008).  Advisors help students create a vision and a workable plan to assist in reaching their future goals (Markus & Nurius, 1986). During the orientation meeting and again in the fall, the pre-med intake advisor helps students clarify their interests, assists students in developing a vision for their future, and creates an academic plan for students to reach their goals.

After mid-terms, some students realize they are struggling in their coursework.  The first exams are often a wake-up call that the study habits that were adequate in high school are not applicable to the rigor of university-level classes.  Many students are able to modify their approach and experience success in subsequent tests.  Other students need to be directed to campus resources.

At the close of the first year, the pre-med intake advisor helps students transition to their new major department. This may involve exploration of potential career goals.  Advisor support is provided even, and perhaps more importantly, if the student decides not to continue a healthcare path.

The Health Professions Advising Office for Professional Advising.  The health professions advising office works with students during their full tenure at MSU as long as they are considering a career in health care.  MSU offers students a supportive environment in which to prepare for the application process and a career in the health professions through the Health Professions Advising (HPA) office.  Routine one-on-one advising as well as formal programing is available to all students, regardless of major or academic emphasis.  Consistent with the university’s Land Grant Institutional concept of education for all, students have open access to the advising services and application preparation programming provided by the HPA office.  Ideally, initial contact is made during orientation, then continues each semester until the student has a change of career path or has been accepted to a health professional school, ultimately serving as a profession- and/or professional school resource for advisors and students.

The HPA office supports students as they: 1) explore academics and career options, 2) navigate the college and extracurricular experience, and 3) prepare their health professional school applications. The HPA office provides individualized advising to help students understand professional school expectations, give students an objective analysis of preparedness, and assist students during their decision-making process.  Support provided by the HPA office culminates in a semester long, formalized pre-application process to help students prepare the most competitive application possible. In addition, the HPA office is a point of contact for numerous health-related organizations that provide opportunities for community engagement, leadership, and career exploration.  The HPA office also sponsors several health professions-related service clubs and honor societies. The HPA office, in conjunction with the pre-med intake advisor, offers monthly workshops to help students better understand the requirements for a career in healthcare.  As students further explore possible majors and the full spectrum of health care related careers, they are encouraged to take MEDS 140 Introduction to Medicine and the Health Professions.  The purpose of this one-credit exploratory course is two-fold.  During the first half of each class, representatives from academic units discuss how the pre-med coursework fits within the curriculum for that particular major.  In the second half of class, healthcare providers visit the class to share their path into medicine and the realities of their daily practice.  This course is co-facilitated by the pre-med intake advisor and the health professions advisor. The goal for the class is help students inform their decision making process, both academically in the shorter term and professionally in the long term.


The pre-med intake major allows students to identify their academic interests, adjust to the university curriculum and experience, as well as explore careers in healthcare during their first year.  With the assistance of the pre-med intake advisor and the health professions advisor, students have the guidance available to make informed choices and decisions about pursuing a career in medicine during their first year and beyond.  Through meaningful discussions with both advisors, workshops, and exploration, students are able to determine whether medicine is the right academic and career trajectory and receive support regardless of which path they choose.  The goal of the Pre-Med intake major is to increase the success and productivity of the student experience by employing traditional themes of Developmental Advising and meeting students where they are in their personal journey.

Denise Malloy
Pre-Med/Pre-Law Advisor
Montana State University

Sheila Nielsen
Coordinator, Health Professions Advising
Montana State University


Anderson, E. (1997). Academic advising for student success and retention. Iowa City, IA: Noel-Levitz.

Angelo, T. (1993). “A teacher’s dozen”: Fourteen general, research-based principles for improving higher learning in our classroom, AAHE Bulletin, 45(8), 8-11.

Bean, J. (2005). Nine themes of college student retention. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success. Westport, CT: Praeger. 

Bloom, J., Huston, B., & He, Y. (2008). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman. 

Chemers, M. M., Hu, L. T., & Garcia, B. F. (2001). Academic self-efficacy and first-year college student performance and adjustment.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 55-64.

Cuseo, J. (2012). Academic advisement and student retention: Empirical connections & systemic interventions.  Retrieved https://uwc.edu/sites/uwc.edu/files/imce-uploads/employees/academic-resources/esfy/_files/academic_advisement_and_student_retention.pdf

Hunter, M. S., & Kendall, L. (2008). Moving into college. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, and T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 142-155). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lowenstein, M. (1999). Academic advising and the ”logic” of the curriculum.  The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 9(2).  Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/000414ml.htm

Markus, J. & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954-969.

Pryor, J. H., Eagan, K., Blake, L. P., Hurtado, S., Berden, J. & Case, M.H. (2012). The American freshman: National norms fall 2012. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.

Tinto, V.  (n.d.). Taking student retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college.  Retrieved from http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/documents/Taking%20Student%20Retention%20Seriously.pdf

Cite this article using APA style as: Malloy, D. & Nielsen, S. (2015, December). Facilitating and encouragine student exploration in the health professions through a pre-med intake major. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Navigating the Journey: The PEACE Approach for Balance and Stress Management

Rebecca Hapes, Chair, NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission

Rebecca Hapes.jpgMany advisors and administrators understand basic information about stress and the dangers of its prolonged duration on health and well-being (Scott, 2014).  Additionally, many also understand the various contributing factors of advisor burnout and the necessity to mitigate and counter these factors (Deets, 2014).  Unfortunately, the practical application of these tools is something advisors and administrators may still struggle with in terms of finding an effective balance of their roles at work and home. 

Finding a way to negotiate this balance in a positive manner is necessary to effectively deal with the chronic stress that the position of academic advising can bring.  The demands and responsibilities placed on advisors can be overwhelming.  It is easy to become stressed, feel rushed or get flustered with the various projects, meetings, and students waiting for assistance.  Rather than dealing with stress in unhealthy ways, advisors should look at a regular practice of the PEACE approach for stress management.

PEACE Approach
Evaluate priorities
Assess process
Creative solutions

Advisors and other individuals who approach not only their stressful situations, but life in general, with this approach may find a more manageable and sustainable method for work-life balance and may then strive to live their life according to their perceived purpose.

Pause—Stop.  Breathe.  Repeat.  This process alone helps to reduce our stress levels and can counteract one’s fight or flight stress response. 

In the midst of stressful and chaotic situations, individuals many times unintentionally take short and shallow breaths, decreasing the amount of oxygen intake into their body.   The process of simply stopping to intentionally take a moment for slow, deep breaths will not only counteract the stress fight or flight response, but will allow oxygen to flow better through ones system and will allow advisors to think more clearly about the situation at hand.  Asking then, “What is the very next thing that needs to happen right now?” and completing that task will also assist with direction in acute stressful and chaotic times.

Evaluate priorities—Where an individual’s dreams, gifts, and passions collide is a ‘sweet spot’ (Swope, 2011).  It is at this place where an individual is most likely to be functioning at their highest potential, since individuals are typically at their best when they showcase their personal strengths.

Research shows that when individuals perceive they are performing their best, they are more engaged at work and less likely to experience burnout (Huebner, 2011a).  This information begs the question that should be asked of each individual, “Are you working in your personal sweet spot?” and if the answer is no, perhaps additional reflection should take place to determine why not.

Individual advisors should assess their activities, both personal and professional, through the lens of their dreams, gifts and passions – their ‘sweet spot’ – to determine if all of their current activities should remain and if proposed activities should be accepted.  Reflection of this nature may open a conversation between an advisor and their supervisor with respect to workload and responsibilities.  As advising centers, colleges, or departments (depending on the advising structure) are frequently asked to do more with less, this can be a catalyst for intentional conversations about realistic expectations and workload.  It is important to remember that for every ‘yes’ decision an advisor makes, there is a corresponding ‘no’ decision taking place, since advisors cannot add something to their responsibilities and calendar without taking something else away and having less time for something else.  This realization is important as individuals have a tendency to overestimate abilities while underestimating the amount of time an activity will take, which is a sure fire recipe for disaster and frustration, both at work and home.

Assess process—Evaluate the processes which cause the most stress to determine if there is a more effective or efficient way to perform them.  Including appropriate stakeholders in those conversations is crucial in order to incorporate a wide array of perspectives and to potentially achieve a more desired outcome.  Perhaps there is a novel way of thinking about the situation at hand that may result in a different outcome.

Creative solutions—Research shows that creativity fosters work place positivity, which allows for stronger connections between employees and for more flexible and resilient workers.  Work environments that foster creativity have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs, exhibit less turnover, and are more connected to the success of the office.  The ability to be creative and engage with creative solutions is connected to an individual’s sense of well-being (Huebner, 2011b).  In attempting to reduce stress and burnout, including advisors in identifying and creating solutions to issues is a method to increase employee engagement, satisfaction, and overall well-being.

Productivity tips and tricks such as utilizing specialized email signatures for increased efficiency in responding to email, methods such as the only handle it once (OHIO) approach for dealing with paper, routine menu planning, sharing of favorite recipes, once a month cooking or meals swaps for home meals can be shared and planned with and amongst colleagues in an effort to maximize efficiency, reduce stress, and increase social support.

Encouragement—Positive interaction with others, including the free exchange of ideas, can bring about the increase of feelings of engagement.  This is perhaps why many advisors report feeling good after attending a professional conference.  It has been shown that the more attached individuals feel to their coworkers, the more they rely on these coworkers for social support resources.  A professional support network can help individuals cope with stress by providing emotional support as well as providing opportunities to share success stories with others (Huebner, 2011a).  Some institutions are fortunate to have organized advising entities on their campus referred to as perhaps advising councils, advising organizations, etc., while other institutions do not, but regardless of the nature of the advising organizational structure, the joining together of advisors can be integral in professional retention and engagement whether it occurs in a formal or informal basis.

Striving for an optimal balance through the PEACE approach may be of help both professionally and personally as individuals strive for their own personal ‘sweet spot’ and work to fulfill their own life’s purpose.  In turn, as advisors gain proficiency in balancing various roles in this manner, these methods, skills sets, and tools can be passed along to their advisees and other students with whom they work and interact. 

Rebecca Hapes
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University


Deets, A. (2014, May 19). How to bounce back from burning out. Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com/lifehacks/2014/05/19/bounce-back-burning/

Huebner, C. (2011). Building an efficient and innovative office by promoting creativity. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:  http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Creativity-in-academic-advising.aspx#sthash.xxt8qp60.dpuf

Huebner, C. (2011). Caring for the Caregivers: Strategies to overcome the effects of job burnout. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Burnout.aspx

Scott, E. (2014, December 15). Chronic job stress is a risk factor for heart disease. Retrieved from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/jobstress.htm

Swope, R. (2011). A confident heart: How to stop doubting yourself & live in the security of God’s promises. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

Further Reading:

Miller, A. (2015). 100 powerful web tools to organize your thoughts and Ideas. Retrieved from http://www.online-college-blog.com/tips-and-tools/100-powerful-web-tools-to-organize-your-thoughts-and-ideas/

Smith, M., & Segal, R. (2014). Stress management: How to reduce, prevent, and cope with stress. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm

Whitwer, G. (2012, January 13). Clutter free day 5 – Editing your responsibilities according to your priorities. Retrieved from http://glynniswhitwer.com/2012/01/clutter-free-day-5-editing-your-responsibilities-according-to-priorities/ 

Whitwer, G. (2012, January 16). Clutter free day 6 – Creating a project management planner. Retrieved from http://glynniswhitwer.com/2012/01/clutter-free-day-6-creating-a-project-management-planner/

Cite this article using APA style as: Hapes, R. (2015, December). Navigating the journey: The PEACE approach for balance and stress management in the life of an academic advisor. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Let Advising with Aloha Live On: Reflections on the 2015 Region 9 Conference

Kiana Y. Shiroma, Rayna Tagalicod, and Niki Libarios, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Region 9 Conference graphic.jpgBeyond flowing waterfalls, white sandy beaches, fiery lava flows, and lush rain forests, Hawai‘i has a beautiful native language with words full of meaning that apply directly to academic advising.  The well-recognized Hawaiian word “aloha,” for instance, encompasses many characteristics that would be helpful to advisors in order to establish rapport with others and build productive academic advising environments.  In Hawaiʻi, the word “aloha” is used in many ways such as friendly greetings, fond farewells, and expressions of love.  However, the word “aloha” has even greater significance; it is a way of life and it holds within it all one needs to know to interact and relate with others in a positive manner.  Thus, the theme of this past year’s 2015 NACADA Region 9 Conference was “Advising with Aloha.”  The following Hawaiian words and meanings were embedded in the acronym of “aloha” to capture the essence of aloha in advising and representing the mission statement of the conference:

A—Ala: to rise up, arise, get up, come forward
L—Lōkahi: working with unity, harmony
O—ʻOiaʻiʻo: truthful honesty, genuine
H—Haʻahaʻa: humility, humble, modest
A—Ahonui : patient

  • We want our students to seek academic advising and to develop during their undergraduate experience (Ala).
  • In academic advising, we need to network and collaborate effectively with students and colleagues from this state, other states, and around the globe (Lōkahi).
  • When we advise students, we set achievable goals and reach responsible decisions while being authentic as we communicate (ʻOiaʻiʻo).
  • As we relate to students and colleagues, we are respectful of one other (Haʻahaʻa).
  • We are calm and understanding with students and others (Ahonui).

These characteristics were exemplified through the various interactions at this conference as 437 colleagues gathered in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi from March 4th to 6th.  A Vice Chancellor from the University of Hawaiʻi System who attended the conference said, “What a wonderful conference you and your colleagues put together!  With the excellent program, amazing/superior organization, excitement of the participants, and every detail carefully attended to—it was very obvious that the event was a great, huge success!”

Region Conference getting acquainted.jpgThere were over 200 attendees who attended the nine pre-conference workshops.  The Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees with JP Regalado (NACADA President), Charlie Nutt (NACADA Executive Director), Valarie Burke (NACADA Region 9 Chair), and Craig McGill was widely popular.  Attendees especially liked the speed dating exercise (pictured on the right), which was used to get to know other first-time attendees as well as the NACADA leaders who ran the session.

The welcome reception started off the conference with a bang!  Advisors were greeted by JP along with traditional Hawaiian music, chanting, and a hula performance by the band, Lalamilo.  The event ended with the celebration of the birthday of two attendees, Megumi Makino-Kanehiro from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and Elizabeth Wilcox from the University of California–Berkeley.  The welcome reception was well-attended and infused excitement and enthusiasm that lasted throughout the conference

Registrants shared their knowledge and learned about various topics in higher education during the morning breakfast that featured 10 posters and 63 concurrent sessions throughout the second and third days.  There was a wide array of topics covered that allowed advisors to further their professional development.  In addition, attendees took advantage of the numerous opportunities to network with colleagues.

Charlie Nutt.jpgThe keynote lunch/business meeting drew seemingly all participants as the ballroom almost reached maximum capacity.  Keynote speaker Charlie Nutt (pictured to the left) inspired everyone as he spoke about the significance of advisors and the direction of higher education, while challenging us to gain different perspectives though sharing about his own hot air balloon experience!   Outgoing Region 9 Chair Valarie Burke recognized the 2015 NACADA Award recipients of the region and nation.

All things considered, “Advising with Aloha” was the perfect theme for this conference.  This event provided opportunities for attendees to learn new ways to advise students with aloha.  Colleagues from both the same and different postsecondary institutions were able to establish and strengthen their aloha for one another.

As registration opens for the 2016 region conferences, we provide these five tips to help attendees make the most out of their conference experience:

  1. Register for the conference and reserve your flights and room early!  Regional conference attendance is steadily increasing.  In fact, last year made NACADA history for the highest attendance across all regional conferences.   As such, make sure you make your travel arrangements far in advance as possible to secure your flights and room.  Do not forget to also register before the early registration deadline to take advantage of lower fees.  Last, be aware of the travel awards (submission requirements and deadlines) your region offers for assistance with costs.
  2. Read through the program and plan which sessions, events, meetings, and social gatherings you want to attend.  You do not want to look back at the conference and regret not attending a presentation or event!  If there are events that have time conflicts, try contacting the presenter(s) of the session you missed for their presentation slides and handouts or check the conference website for uploaded presentations.
  3. Take notes, ask questions, and do not be afraid to speak with the presenters after the sessions you attended.  Being proactive at presentations will help you remember what you gained from the events and address any questions or concerns you may have about the content.  Networking with the presenter also opens the line of communication if you need to contact them or ask questions in the future when you are trying to implement what you have learned.
  4. Network, network, network!  There are hundreds of attendees at regional conferences from various institutions not only in your region but from other areas as well.  Take advantage of any opportunity to network with colleagues.  Interactions may be formal in a session or informal such as waiting in line at the bathroom.  There is no telling which connection may help you in the future, so do not be afraid to speak to that stranger sitting next to you in a session.  Do not forget to bring and exchange business cards with individuals with whom you connect.
  5. The week after the conference, follow up with people you met to exchange thoughts.  Taking action post-conference will help continue the relationships you established and kick-start the great ideas you gleaned from the event.

As Region 9 members, the authors are looking forward to the next region conference to continue sharing aloha with peers and students by gaining new knowledge, reconnecting with colleagues, and creating bonds with new associates!  Thank you to Sean Nemeth and Donald Scott of Brandman University and the rest of the 2016 conference planning committee for all of their hard work!  Check the NACADA website for more information about all the 2016 Region Conferences.

Kiana Y. Shiroma, PhD
Director, Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Rayna Tagalicod, MEd
Academic Advisor, Mānoa Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Niki Libarios, PhD
Academic Advisor, College of Education
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Cite this article using APA style as: Shiroma, K.Y., Tagalicod, R., & Libarios, N. (2015, December). Let advising with aloha live on: Reflections on the 2015 region 9 conference. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

The Importance of the Assessment Institute

Kathy Earwood, 2015 Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Kathy Earwood.jpgAssessment is a word not many like to think about, correct?  Actually, assessment can be fun when it is done right!  This is what I found when attending the Assessment of Academic Advising Institute for a week in March of 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  Of course, Orlando was an awesome place to be during the winter.  The hotel we stayed at was beautiful and conveniently near many places.   The hotel is situated on International Drive, which is the best place to be while in Orlando.  A Trolly makes moving about so easy and convenient.  There are numerous eateries and large shopping outlets both north and south of the hotel. Sea World, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove are all nearby.

AI class.jpgOur classes during the Assessment Institute were intense, long, and wonderful.  The faculty teaching the classes made the journey interesting.  We had lectures, then took a hands-on approach toward assessment in our small groups.  We left at the end of the week with a tangible plan to bring back to our institution to build upon and implement what we had learned.  Yes, I have begun the process and will complete it within the next year.

AI chart.jpgWhen I attended the Assessment Institute, I had no idea what assessment was.  I came with a clean piece of paper and an open mind.  I wanted to learn as much as possible and delve deeper into assessment.  I learned that assessment must have tools that will show validity and reliability.   Assessment and statistical analysis are the driving forces to getting funding, improving programs, obtaining more employees, and showing we are making a difference in our Institutions.   The buzz words on college campuses today are retention, progression, and graduation (RPG).  If assessment shows that we have made an impact on students and RPG, we will be invaluable to our Institutions.  Funding for colleges is changing from just having students on our campuses to needing a positive trend in keeping these students, seeing them progress to senior level students, and increasing graduation rates.  Assessment in academic programs will help to see if this is happening on our campuses and, if not, where there is a need for improvement. 

To begin, we need to find an assessment that is viable, meaning it is measuring what needs to be measured.  That is why it is important to develop and design a great assessment tool.  That being said, I am still in the design phase.  To be honest, one reason is that assessment seems to take a back seat to all other projects, assignments, and duties in the office.  Summer is impacted by orientations and getting new students registered for the upcoming fall and this year we had a larger than usual number of orientations and student admissions.  With the beginning of fall we are hitting the ground running working with students and figuring out which fires to put out first.  Our campus is no different than any other campus.   I guess I think about assessment in terms of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”   Yes, I will need several tomorrows to get this task going and that gives me purpose to come to work and complete the important work in both advising and in assessment.  It will be so much fun when I see the numbers and the tangibles of our advising area, the impact advising has made with the students, and if we are doing as good of a job as we think we are.  However, my goals are to get the design phase completed by fall semester and begin having our assessment available for student feedback in spring 2016 to have tangible data.  So that is what gets me through the rigors of working an administrative position in academia.  There is more to be done than can be accomplished in one single day; however, the assessment will show us if we are doing a great job, or show us where we need improvements. 

Every single department needs to undergo assessment.  Assessment keeps us from complacency.  The students we serve deserve for us to be the best in the academic arena.  They deserve an office that keeps up with current trends in higher education.  We expect our students to continue learning and striving for the best, so it is just as important for administration and academic advisors to continue learning and striving to be the best for the students we serve.  The one way for academia to measure our progress is to continue to assess all the models used on the college campus. 

If you do not know about assessment, the tools needed, and feel that this would be a valuable resource for you, I would encourage you to attend the Assessment Institute.  You will leave with tools in your assessment tool box that will serve you for years to come.  You, your institution, and your students would benefit greatly by attending an Assessment Institute.

Kathy Earwood
Director of Advising
Kennesaw State University

Earwood AI Small Group.jpgCite this article using APA style as: Earwood, K. (2015, December). The importance of the assessment institute. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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