AAT banner

Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Because You See Me, I Exist

Erin Justyna, NACADA President

Erin Justyna.jpgDuring the opening of the 2019 Annual Conference in Louisville, I had to opportunity to share remarks with many of the 3300+ conference attendees. I would like to share some of those words with you here, both to reiterate to those who were there and to speak to those who were not able to be in attendance. However, I should disclose my words have been altered since I first delivered them. You see, shortly after conference ended and I returned home, I received some constructive feedback from a concerned member regarding my opening remarks. I grappled with the feedback and continued to ask for clarification on exactly where the member felt I had gone wrong. I hope as I share my words now, that I honor our members and their lived experiences more effectively.

The work of a NACADA President spans a singular year. This time will pass as though only a moment. This might cause me sheer panic if I did not embrace the words of Sir Isaac Newton when he wrote, “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I know the work of NACADA is not dependent on me. I simply share in the work with many members and leaders who have gone before me, those working, volunteering, and presenting during events, and those supporting students in the advising offices at each of our campuses. 

As advisors, in whatever ways we engage—reading literature that informs our practice, attending conferences, presenting, researching, writing, taking on a leadership role—each of us push the association and profession further, and a little further, and a little further into an unfathomable new future. That future also includes those new to the profession and/or the association and those who have not been fully engaged by the association.

About ten years ago, I read that the Zulu tribes of South Africa acknowledge each other with the greeting “Sawubona” in much the same way we say “hello” in the English language. The phrase “Sawubona” translates to “I see you”. In essence, this greeting conveys, “all my attention is with you. I see you and I allow myself to discover your needs, to see your fears, to identify your mistakes and accept them. I accept you for what you are, and you are part of me” (Sawubona, 2018). Often, this greeting is met with the reply, “Sikhona,” which is equivalent to saying “I am here.” The order of the greetings within this exchange is important—and what it is saying…in literal translation is, “Until you see me; I do not exist” (Senge, 1994).

I know NACADA is wholly committed to seeing those who may be more likely to be overlooked. Over the last several years, a team has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the regional division of the association—to determine how to best serve our members around the globe, rather than just those in North America. The Professional Development Committee has simultaneously been conducting a gap analysis to determine what professional development needs exist that are not currently being met. The Global Initiatives and Inclusion and Engagement Committees have been focused on disrupting inequities that exist in membership and leadership activities for our members.

Karen Archambault’s last action as sitting NACADA President, with full support from the Board of Directors, was to appoint a Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion. The task force was specifically asked to challenge the status quo and present the Board of Directors with the best practices and next steps for moving the association to a next level of meaningful inclusion. As my first order of business, I have re-appointed this Task Force for work during my presidency.

As an association, we work to serve each and every one of our members, and therefore to support the success of all students in higher education. We don’t always get it right; we don’t always truly see every advising professional or every student with whom they work. Some of our members have raised their voices again and again and still have not been heard. I pledge to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to acknowledge you and your experiences. And I challenge each of you, as well, to remember our shared humanity—to actively work to see one another, to embrace and engage one another. Sawubona. Sikhona.

If nothing else, I wish for my NACADA presidency to be remembered for radical transparency and an ethic of care. I hope members continue to tell us about the things we are doing as an association that effectively support you and your work and continue to tell us when you think we fall short. There is no doubt, a great deal more must be done to see all of our members. We will do the work. Our profession is all of us. We exist together. We create the future of advising.  

Erin Justyna, President, 2019-2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Assistant Provost for Student Affairs 
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 
Pronouns: She/her/hers


Senge, P. M. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. Crown Business.

Sawubona: An African tribe’s beautiful greeting. (2018, October 18).  https://exploringyourmind.com/sawubona-african-tribe-greeting/

Formation of the NACADA Virtual Idea Development Group: History, Critical Components, and Future Directions

Jennifer S. Ashlock, Southwestern Community College
Sharon E. Hay, Indiana University Bloomington
Ruth Ann Herstek, Penn State New Kensington
Rathan L. Kersey, Emory University
Michael T. MacLean, Athabasca University
Shelley R. Price-Williams, Northern Illinois University

When asked how NACADA Writing Groups evolved, Wendy Troxel, Director of the NACADA Center for Research at Kansas State University, shared two recollections. She first related her experience as a faculty member and the constant pressure to publish which led her to create supportive writing networks. The second recollection drew on her more recent experience of being an editor for the NACADA Journal and recognizing that support is needed for developing and nurturing more sophisticated academic writing skills.

With these narratives in mind, and her experience as a professor teaching research methods courses, Dr. Troxel shared, at the NACADA Region 7 research symposium, "wouldn’t it be fun to create better writers together across NACADA?” As luck would have it, Rhonda Dean-Kyncl was in the audience and came up afterward to talk with Wendy about a writing initiative. Dr. Dean-Kyncl holds vast experience as a professor of college composition and as an advising administrator. This was just the type of project for which she was searching. Rhonda shared with Wendy that she finally found how to wed the two things she was most passionate about: writing and academic advising. Wendy and Rhonda decided to create a writing program and, after many virtual meetings on Zoom and coffee shop meetings in Oklahoma, the NACADA Writing Group initiative was born. This NACADA Virtual Idea Development Group comprises one of two such writing support initiatives.

Communities of Practice

Shortly after formation, this group found itself operating as an efficient and committed community of practice, which is described as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). Formal communities of practice allow people to participate in structured frameworks where the learning involves participation (Smith, n.d.-b). Lave and Wegner (1991) described members of these communities as apprentices involved in apprenticeships. The idea of how members are situated in groups indicates that individuals think less about obtaining knowledge and more about their social participation. According to Smith (n.d.-a), “Learning is in the relationships between people” and it “does not belong to individual persons, but to the various conversations of which they are part” (p. 5). When learning occurs within the social relationships between people, information takes on relevance within communities of practice; without these social systems, there is no learning and little memory (Smith, n.d.-a).                                       

Faculty Writing Groups as a Model for Virtual Idea Development

Scholarly production and practice-sharing can be a great challenge for advising practitioner-scholars as the demands of advising practice far outweigh the time available for developing research ideas and writing for the purpose of disseminating best practices to the field. Connection with others in the field can also be a barrier. Olszewska and Lock (2016) identified the following as challenges to productivity: time for writing, self-discipline, lack of support, and fear of rejection. Scholars and practitioners are not immune from the need for community and support nor the competing demands of their professional and personal time.

Factors of Successful Writing Groups

Particular factors yield a successful writing group. Many scholars have emphasized the involvement of senior faculty as beneficial to writing groups composed of predominantly junior faculty (Olszewska & Lock, 2016; Page, Edwards, & Wilson, 2012; Swaggerty, Atkinson, Faulconer, & Griffith, 2011). Trust prevails as a key factor to success (Olszewska & Lock, 2016; Swaggerty, et al., 2011). Olszewska and Lock (2016) also distinguished commitment, critical feedback, and structure as success factors. The authors characterized necessary conditions for sustainability: participation of all group members, effective facilitators, a balance of structure with individual needs of writers, and shared responsibility of the group by both group members and facilitators. Finally, Page et al., (2012) identified flexibility and celebration of productivity as important components to a successful group.

Establishing Trust & Respect

MIke MacLean.jpgMembers of the NACADA Virtual Idea Development writing group hold several unique, yet coinciding, reasons for participating. A common theme is the desire to connect and network with the wider advising community. Mike MacLean, Senior Program Advisor at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, stated: “My involvement with [the] Idea Generation and Idea Development groups has led to great relationships and invaluable feedback and discussion.”

Shelley Price-Williams.jpgWith members working in a variety of institutions—universities, community colleges, branch campuses, online institutions—there is a rich array of perspectives and experiences from which to draw inspiration. Shelley Price-Williams, Instructor at Northern Illinois University, is working on projects addressing the broader topics of student success and advising. Jennifer Ashlock.jpgTherefore, she joined a writing group to receive “feedback and guidance from others in the profession of advising on an undergraduate or graduate level, regardless of academic setting or institutional type.” Members also view the writing group as a pathway to expand their professional roles and presence. Jennie Ashlock, TRIO Student Support Services at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina, shared: “I hope to hone my research and writing skills so I may contribute to the growing body of scholarship on academic advising.”

Sharon Hay.jpgGroup members realize, however, that writing requires time and focus. Therefore, members also want assistance with developing ideas and seek the group’s support and accountability to stay on task. Sharon Hay, Associate Academic Advisor in the Center for Students in Transition at Indiana University Bloomington, said that “having a group of like-minded professionals, Rathan Kersey.jpgI am motivated to pursue these goals in a timely and accountable manner.” In a similar vein, Rathan L. Kersey, Program Administrator in the Laney Graduate School at Emory University, said, “When I heard about the writing groups, I felt it would be a wonderful way to collaborate with fellow burgeoning scholars. I was thrilled when the experience exceeded my expectations.”

Ruth Herstek.jpgIn discussions, members request and offer each other constructive feedback and guidance. Writing in a silo is ineffective and frustrating, so members act as a sounding board for one another when the inevitable roadblocks appear.  Ruth Ann Herstek, Associate Director of Advising at Penn State New Kensington, shared that “since joining . . . this group has become very important to me as a support system . . . for presentations and current and future writing projects.”

Critical Feedback & Accountability

The group established meeting guidelines during the first discussion. Members live in various time zones (EST, CST, MDT), so finding a time to meet was a primary issue. The group settled on 9am every other Thursday for 1 hour. Sharon Hay agreed to take notes and coordinate the meeting schedule, and Shelley Price-Williams set up the Zoom meeting platform.

At each meeting, a group member shared a writing idea or project. Five to seven days prior to their designated meeting day, the member sent the group an outline for pre-review. The goal at each meeting was to provide critical feedback along with suggestions for future research or publication. The meeting format was simple, focused, and within the allotted time to honor everyone’s schedules. When members could not attend, the member sent an email stating such. The group created an accessible Google drive, which contained shared documents and meeting notes.

Group Collaboration and Cohesion

As the group continued to meet, we decided to pivot to discussions about future articles in which we could continue to collaborate. This article is merely the first in a series we intend to produce. Our next article will focus on the various conversations we engaged in throughout the course of the year. Some of those conversations focused on the original mission of the group—helping one another write an article or craft a presentation proposal. As we continued to collaborate, however, our group went in very surprising (and welcome) directions. Whether it was celebrating one another’s professional successes, encouraging one another to seek new opportunities, or engaging in deep conversations regarding the nature of academic advising across the higher education landscape, the group continued to operate as a haven of collaboration long after every member presented on their scholarly ideas.


In our time together, we have realized Wendy’s vision of a supportive network in that we have become a model for a NACADA Writing Group. Our plan for a future article is to explore the history of writing groups and differing models of practice. We will highlight concrete ways in which this group established trust in a virtual environment. An informative narrative will disclose group conversations regarding the nature of academic advising. Finally, we plan to reveal some of the challenges of establishing and maintaining an ongoing working group of this type. 

Jennifer S. Ashlock
Health Science Academic Advisor/Tutor Liaison
TRIO Student Support Services
Southwestern Community College

Sharon E. Hay
Associate Academic Advisor
Center for Students in Transition
Indiana University Bloomington

Ruth Ann Herstek
Associate Director of Advising
Penn State New Kensington

Rathan L. Kersey
Program Administrator
IMP and MMG Programs
Graduate Division of Biological & Biomedical Sciences
Emory University

Michael T. MacLean
Senior Program Advisor
Faculty of Business
Athabasca University

Shelley R. Price-Williams
Department of Counseling and Higher Education
Northern Illinois University


Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press.

Olszewska, K., & Lock, J. (2016). Examining success and sustainability of academic writing: A case study of two writing-group models. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 46(4), 132–145.

Page, C. S., Edwards, S., & Wilson, J. H. (2012). Writing groups in teacher education: A method to increase scholarly productivity. SRATE Journal, 22(1), 29–35.

Smith, M. K. (n.d.-a). Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice. The encyclopedia of information education. http://infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm

Smith, M. K. (n.d.-b). The social/situational orientation to learning. The encyclopedia of informal education. http://infed.org/mobi/the-socialsituational-orientation-to-learning/

Swaggerty, E. A., Atkinson, T. S., Faulconer, J. L., & Griffith, R. R. (2011). Academic writing retreat: A time for rejuvenated and focused writing. Journal of Faculty Development, 25(1), 5–11.

Wenger-Trayner, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice: A brief overview of the concept and its uses. http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

Why Allyship Matters In Advising

Cody Harrison, Lincoln Memorial University

Cody Harrison.jpgThe Anti-Oppression Network says being an ally is not an identity but “a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people” and “must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with” (Allyship, n.d.). Patton and Bondi (2015) stated, “engaging in ally work is ongoing, requiring continual reflection and perseverance. It involves moving beyond words toward actions that disrupt oppressive structures [emphasis added] and understanding one’s positionality in oppression.” Until the oppressed and marginalized recognize and name the systemic disruption someone is bringing, they cannot call themselves an ally.

Why does this matter? An internet search reveals many incidents of marginalization faced by students and educators across the county. As I was preparing a presentation on being an LGBTQ+ ally for the 2019 Region 3 conference, I easily and quickly found 11 pictures of attacks against the LGBTQ+ population on campuses across the United States within the past 9 years. This search did not include the many incidents of black face, vandalism of mosques, or other hate-related occurrences appearing on campuses across the country. The need for support from those with power: the cis, straight, white, male, Christian, educated, socio-economically advantaged, and/or able-bodied is clear.

What does that mean for advisors? As members of NACADA, advisors work toward promoting “the role of effective academic advising in student success” and fostering “inclusive practices within the Association that respect the principle of equity and the diversity of advising professionals across the vast array of intersections of identity” (NACADA, 2018). The charge to utilize advising as a tool for student success while focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion means advisors need to be aware of how they are supporting and fighting for marginalized students and colleagues. Gaffney’s (2016) reminders help form a good action-based framework:

Do listen and ask how you can help. Don’t expect another person to educate you about their identity. Do accept criticism thoughtfully. Don’t broadcast your qualifications for being an ally. Do speak up when you hear biased language. Don’t apologize for the actions of your identity group. Do seek support from experienced allies within your identity group. Don’t expect credit for being an ally. Do acknowledge intersectionality. Don’t selectively support one group over another.

Listening is the only way to hear what people have to say. As an ally, the best way to learn to use one’s power and privilege is by listening to those who want/need support. Allies ask how to help instead of assuming they know how to help.

As advisors meet with students to discuss class schedules and the current term, they recognize that they are not the student in this situation. Similarly, an ally is not a member of the community they are fighting for; therefore, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made along the way. When misspeaking, misgendering, or other mistakes happen, those who were slighted or offended might offer criticism, suggestions, or even a hurtful response. Take their response and turn it into a learning opportunity. When a mistake is made, it may seem helpful to apologize on behalf of an entire identity group, but that does not leave room for others to learn from their own mistakes. Allies are responsible for themselves and apologize when they do wrong, but they do not try to apologize for the wrongdoings of an entire demographic they align with.

How many times have advisors heard “who is the easiest professor?” or “what is an easy elective?” from their students? Do answers sound something like “everyone learns differently, so the classes and professors that work for some students do not work as well for others”? How about questions or statements like “what professor is from America?,” “I only failed because my professor could not speak English,” “this assignment is gay,” or “I can barely make it up the hill and I can walk, I do not see how handicapped people do it!” How do advisors respond to these? When allies hear someone say something derogatory and down-putting to another group or individual, they use their power to let them know, “hey, that is disrespectful, and here is why . . . ” This may be an uncomfortable position, but being an ally can be uncomfortable at times.

Who do advisors turn to when they have a new situation or get an unexpected question from a student? A supervisor, a seasoned advisor, or a faculty advisor in their department? Even if the situation or question is about a student concern, rarely will they ask students or people with no advising experience or education for the answer. Allies need to do the same. Look around and name those from the same identity group that are disrupting society for those who cannot always do it for or by themselves. Seek those people out and be intentional about watching and listening to what is going on in work circles, the field of higher education, and beyond.

Allies asking for support and learning from people of their own identity group is important. Expecting a [insert any marginalized group member here] to educate an ally about their identity and the history behind their exclusion is like asking a professor if this will be on the exam. Maybe it will, maybe it will not; either way allies should be doing their own research, studying what they have access to, and educating themselves on the subject. Invisible labor and “cultural taxation” (Padilla, 1994), expecting someone who is already burdened by pressures of society to add more to their plate, is inconsiderate and can be harmful. Think of this: the gay advisor in the department becomes the go-to referral for all gay students because “they can relate and connect” or the same eight staff members of color serve on search committees across campus because “they add diversity.” While the gay advisor can relate and the staff do add a diverse perspective, an ally can be educated and versed in the history and struggle students may come to them with. Those outside of their identity group can be additional resources for students to connect with, but they cannot be replacements for education or work.

Students are more than just biology majors. They are a combination of majors, organizations, siblings, spouses, parents, and more. The same applies across sections of diversity: every person is a mix of multiple identities. An advisor might, for instance, work with a student or colleague who identifies as a lesbian, Black, Muslim, woman, and the first person in her family to attend college. Listen to what she is going through, and be aware and acknowledge that the identities she presents intersect and interact. Advisors are not expected to be expert allies for all of someone’s identities, but can be constantly educating themselves on all forms of identity. Many times it is hard to know where the most self-education is needed. Advisors can actively support their LGBTQ+ students while unknowingly (or sometimes knowingly) not learn ways to support their other marginalized students. Learning about personal bias is a great way to learn where more education may be needed. (Take a look at Project Implicit for more information.)

Constant education is one of the easiest forms of action an ally can take. Use the resources provided by NACADA such as Advising Communities, the Emerging Leaders Program, and the resource page. Take full advantage of employer-provided access to peer-reviewed journals to stay up-to-date on research across the diversity spectrum (LGBTQ+, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, ability, first-generation students, transfer students, etc.). Talk to co-workers and colleagues doing the work. Find new books by diverse authors, fiction and non-fiction, to listen to on daily commutes. Show up to programs and presentations put on by underrepresented student groups. There are endless ways to continue learning and growing.

Allies support those who are marginalized, seek to make changes so that others can get the credit they are due, and are constantly learning. The work is hard, but if an advisor is committed to growth and change, it is work they will want to do. Now, go out and earn the title of ally!

Cody Harrison (he/him/his)
Director of Academic Support
Admissions and Student Services Department
DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine


Allyship. (n.d.). https://theantioppressionnetwork.wordpress.com/allyship/  

Gaffney, C. (2016, Summer). Anatomy of an ally. Teaching Tolerance, https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/summer-2016/anatomy-of-an-ally

NACADA. (2018, March 17). Strategic goals. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/Vision-and-Mission.aspx 

Padilla, A. M. (1994, May). Ethnic minority scholars, research, and mentoring: Current and future issues. Educational Researcher, 23(4): 24–27. doi: 10.2307/1176259

Patton, L. D., & Bondi, S. (2015). Nice white men or social justice allies?: Using critical race theory to examine how white male faculty and administrators engage in ally work. Race Ethnicity and Education, 18(4), 488–514. doi:10.1080/13613324.2014.1000289

Advising Emerging Adults: How Adult Education Theory Can Inform Advising Practices for Traditional Undergraduate Students

Char Lessenger, University of Wyoming

Char Lessenger.jpgTraditional undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 25 are often assumed to be adolescents. Dachner and Polin (2016), however, recognize this demographic of students as emerging adults. They consider this stage of a student’s life important to keep in mind when discussing their learning experiences in and out of the classroom (Dachner & Polin, 2016). Those learning experiences are impacted by a range of circumstances from instructional technique to how an academic advisor utilizes their philosophy of practice to support students. The changes occurring during this time period in a student’s life and during college have a great impact on their development as an adult. Shifting the mindset from treating traditional undergraduate students as adolescents to recognizing them as emerging adults could allow advisors to build genuine and meaningful relationships with their advisees. Recognizing traditional undergraduate students as emerging adults lends itself well to the theory and practice of andragogy or “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 42).

Malcolm Knowles is known as the pioneer of andragogy. Throughout his career, Knowles (1988) developed six principles for educators to utilize when interacting with adults or, in this case, emerging adults. These principles allow educators to shift the theoretical framework of teaching emerging adults from pedagogy (the art and science of teaching children or adolescents) to andragogy. Knowles’ principles encompass the learner’s self-concept, experiences, readiness to learn, orientation to learning, motivation to learn, and relevance. The following sections provide a pertinent definition of each principle as well as ideas on how to apply each principle in everyday advising practices.


As emerging adults enter college, their personal identities start to become multifaceted and their self-concept shifts from being externally dependent to becoming internally dependent (Dachner & Polin, 2016). Emerging adult students desire to translate this shift in persona into their educational experiences when they enter college. They no longer wish to act as a “passive receiver” in education but rather aspire to be an “active participant” in their college experience (Zachary, 2011). As advisors, it is important we help to facilitate their shift in self-concept.

In order to facilitate with this transition, at the start of each advising appointment, advisors could ask students “What’s on your agenda for today’s meeting?” Even though we may already have an idea why a student is there to meet with us, asking this type of question allows the student to bring forward any other concerns they might want to address which were not expressed previously. By allowing students to guide their own advising meetings, they are able to become “active participants” in the meeting instead of “passive recipients” of information, which in turn allows room for transition in self-concept.


Past experiences provide a basis for learning. While emerging adults may not have a vast array of experiences to guide their learning, advisors have an opportunity to give students a chance to talk about what they do and do not know (McCauley, Hammer, & Hinojosa, 2017). As advisors, it is important that we attempt to understand our student’s past life experiences. Doing so helps build genuine, meaningful relationships in order to connect our students to resources in a more holistic and personalized way.

For example, a first generation student most likely will not know much about the things they need to do in order to get ready to start college. Advisors should not assume the student knows anything about starting school other than what they have experienced so far. Instead, it is better to ask clarifying questions like “Do you know what your next step is after you register?” or “Do you have any concerns or worries about starting college your first semester?” These types of questions allow advisors to check-in with their advisees and get to the bottom of what students know about attending college. Furthermore, asking questions like “What intrigues you about the major you chose?” or “Do you have any classes that you’re curious about taking?” allows room for students to open up about the things they are excited about. These conversations can help advisors think about ways to holistically personalize their advisees’ college experiences and talk about resources and opportunities across campus that could positively impact their advisees’ life overall. Knowing students’ background experiences and not assuming what knowledge they have acquired thus far helps to ensure connection to as much information and resources as possible.

Readiness to Learn

Social roles play a big part in the relevance of the material advisors give their advisees. Emerging adults are more likely to receive new information when they realize it can be practically applied in their everyday lives (Dachner & Polin, 2016). Talking to students about real life situations and the soft skills they are going to learn in classes will help them make those connections. As advisors, it is important to provide information to our students in a way that can be immediately and practically applied.

For example, most higher education institutions require a history or government course as part of their general education requirements. When a student asks why they have to take a history class if they are declared as an engineering major, I let them know the knowledge they will gain in that class will allow them to become an informed citizen of their country, state/province, and community, and in turn will help them make more informed decisions when voting for a president, governor, or local official. Using language like “you just have to get through it” or “I don’t make the rules, it’s just a requirement” does not help them in the long run. It is important as an advisor to understand students occupy other social roles outside of higher education. Being able to help make connections between their social role as a student and any other social role ultimately helps students learn in the classroom more effectively and become better global citizens.

Orientation to Learning

Students have a desire for immediate application of knowledge and information. They wish to solve problems with the knowledge they receive on a day-to-day basis. However, emerging adults might not understand how to ask for help to a problem in a way that elicits an appropriate and efficient solution (Dachner & Polin, 2016). As an advisor it is important to be sensitive to the ways in which students ask for help and gather information. Ultimately this will help students recognize better ways to apply the information we give to them.

For example, a student walks into the office with a hold on their account that does not allow them to register and they are unsure of how to fix it. Although I might have emailed them multiple times to tell them how to fix the hold, the information may not have been applied as intended or understood altogether. In order to prevent that from happening again, asking questions like “How do you learn best?” or “What was confusing about the information I gave to you?” may help. Sometimes students are perfectly fine with an email, and some students need a different kind of guidance. As advisors, it is important to pay attention to the signs students give and recognize when they may need a different, more directed type of help.

Motivation to Learn

Learning should lead to personal growth and fulfillment. Emerging adults understand the importance of a higher education; however, their motivation for completing a degree is more extrinsic than intrinsic (Dachner & Polin, 2016). Many students are more concerned with getting good grades than how the subject matter they are learning will prompt positive behavioral changes or help them to become a better citizen of the world. As advisors, it is important that we help facilitate the shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

For example, utilizing extrinsically motivating factors like receiving an “A” in a class as an opportunity to open a discussion about how that “A” impacts them personally will help develop their intrinsic motivation. It is not just the grade that is a motivation. Being able to break down the sources of a student’s motivation and connect them to how their grades can impact their future will also help them figure out how to get through harder classes. Additionally, it may also help to look over a student’s syllabi and break down the learning outcomes or objectives for each course with them if they allow it.  It is important as advisors to help students become more intrinsically motivated and see the value in their education beyond just getting a job.


Students crave the reasons behind why they must do something, or learn something, in order to immediately apply that knowledge. Part of this is about managing expectations and mentally preparing students for the information we give them. Being able to inform students what they need to do, why they have to do it, and how to do it correctly is crucial to helping them make connections to a larger perspective (Dachner & Polin, 2016). As advisors, it is important to provide information effectively without patronizing, and be open to answering questions we may personally perceive as imprudent.

For example, many students complain about the hoops they have to jump through in order to register for classes for the first time. Helping students understand why processes are in place, what things they need to complete those processes effectively, and how to complete them will help get mandatory tasks, like preparing for registration, done. This also teaches students, in an uncondescending tone, that the world is a confusing place and they will have to be able to navigate difficult situations outside of college. Having the practice in a safe environment will help students to thrive once they get out in the real world. Simply replying “that’s just the way it is” or “just because” when a student asks why helps nobody and ultimately sends a message to the student to not ask questions.


The foremost goal of higher education is to mold upstanding citizens of the world and build positive behavioral changes (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002). As advisors, it is important we attempt to shift our mindset from seeing traditional college students as adolescents to viewing them as emerging adults.  Utilizing Knowles (1988) six principles of andragogy, not as a checklist but as a mindset, will allow advisors to build meaningful, genuine, and authentic relationships. An advisor that adopts this mindset will facilitate their students’ shift from emerging adult to adult, which will ultimately have a positive impact on their overall higher education experience as well as their persistence through to graduation.

Char Lessenger
Academic Advising Professional
College of Engineering & Applied Science
University of Wyoming


Boone, E. J., Safrit, E. D., & Jones, J. (2002). Developing programs in adult education: A Conceptual programming model (2nd ed.). Waveland Press, Inc.

Dachner, A. M., & Polin, B. (2016). A systematic approach to educating the emerging adult learner in undergraduate management courses. Journal of Management Education, 40(2), 121–151.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562915613589

Knowles, M. S. (1988). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Prentice Hall/Cambridge. 

McCauley, K. D., Hammer, E., & Hinojosa, A. S. (2017). An andragogical approach to teaching leadership. Management Teaching Review, 2(4), 312–324. https://doi.org/10.1177/2379298117736885

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. Jossey-Bass.  

Zachary, L. J. (2011). The mentor’s guide: Facilitating effective learning relationships (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Moving the Retention Needle One Individual at a Time

David B. Spight, NACADA Past President

David Spight.jpgThe end of the 2019 calendar year fast approaches, and many of our institutions have students graduating this December. It is important, however, to consider the many students who did not persist to degree completion. On my campus, for every five students who walk across that stage, one member of the class is missing. This is the non-persister, the student who even six years later does not receive a degree with the entering members of their class. Across the country, for decades, institutions have been pondering how to improve retention and degree completion rates. And yet, in spite of all kinds of programs and centers and initiatives, few of us have really moved the needle much in the right direction.

In our search for the easy answer to a complex question: How can we help our students persist?, our institutions have overlooked the fact that we have been asking the wrong question all along. The revision should read: How can we help our student persist? And we need to ask it thousands of times.

Reliably, our campus’ strategies for moving this needle have centered on improving retention for a particular group of students. Attention has often been placed on improving the retention rates of this group, or that group, because that group is at greater risk of leaving than the other groups of students. In fact, centers designed for a particular group of students have tremendous value on a campus. They provide places where students can feel they belong, connect to others with similar experiences, and collectively address institutional barriers to their success.

Yet centers, initiatives, and even analytics software aimed at retaining groups of students miss the mark when it comes to getting more students to graduation day. This is because no group is at greater risk than any other group. The group does not progress towards a degree. The group does not take calculus, or chemistry, or fail to find a tutor at a critical moment late in the semester. And the group does not leave. These experiences fall to individual students who are infinitely varied and unique, regardless of particular characteristics they may have that place part of who they are within a URM or low-income or first-gen group.

Our fixation, whether as institutions or as advisors, on single characteristic retention strategies prevents us from addressing the holistic individual needs of each student. Everything that each and every one of our theories about student retention or attrition assert, suggests that for each student, the reason(s) for staying or leaving are unique. The needs they have, for support and challenge, from the institution are unique. The response to retaining each student, on some level, must also be individualized and unique. Thus, if we focus on each individual, who they are and who they want to be, then we can move the retention needle for that student. These students add up, and suddenly the needle for the group moves.

This is the work, most critically, of academic advisors. Yet all of us, whether faculty, staff, students, even legislators can assist by picking up some of the following techniques.

When campuses have an advising requirement for all students, and advisors who are well trained to work with students to identify their strengths, articulate and address challenges, and seek support from campus resources, they have two to three retention interventions a year. Multiply that times two or three for programs that require more than once a term advising. These one-on-one sessions can be conversations about who the whole student is, and who that student wants to be. It becomes a relationship that is about helping the student learn that which will help them succeed at our institutions and beyond.

If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But, if we overestimate him . . . we promote him to what he really can be.” – Viktor Frankl

To make the above quote more inclusive in today’s context, if we take a person, an individual, as they really are, we make them worse. But if we overestimate them, we promote them to what they really can be. If we approach advising a student with the goal of getting them a class schedule, then we make the interaction about getting a class schedule, and as such, make the student less than who they are as a whole individual. We make the student just someone who needs a class schedule. But, if we approach advising with the belief that the student is someone who can, and will, profoundly change the world, then the advising discussion becomes about more than classes. And, the student not only persists, they learn, they grow, they graduate. Then, the retention needle moves.

And how do academic advisors do this work?

  • Treat the advising appointment like a class, with an enrollment of one. Have desired learning outcomes. Take time at the start of each workday, one that will undoubtedly be filled with appointment after appointment, and prepare an advising lesson plan for each appointment. Be prepared with topics to discuss, questions to ask, things to assess. Granted, the student may have their own agenda for the meeting, and there may be a need to adjust as the meeting happens. But, preparing in advance helps structure the appointment so that the student gets more than just an answer to a question, a form signed, or a class schedule.
  • Build rapport. At the start of appointment, do not ask “how can I help you today?” Part of building rapport is also about establishing that the advising relationship is a shared responsibility between student and advisor. Try instead, “what do we need to accomplish today?” Give the student the ownership over their own education. While it is important that the advisor articulate what they think needs to be discussed, it is the back and forth that establishes institutional support and care.
  • Actively listen. Let the student complete their question or thought before even beginning to formulate a response. The moment we start thinking about our response, we are no longer actively listening to the student. Students need to know our campuses make space for them.
  • Ask questions. Ask who they are, who they want to be, what they want to accomplish. The more we learn, the more we can collaboratively chart a path forward for the student’s growth, even in the face of challenge.
  • Detour into immediate personal concerns, do not derail. Students need their advisors to acknowledge factors in their lives—family, work, finances, relationships—that adversely impact academic success. They also need us to bring them back to their academic goals, and how to reach them.
  • Be sticky when it comes to referrals. Yes, the campus is filled with experts who can help students with mental health, food insecurity, financial aid, academic subject expertise. And yes, part of our job is to get them to those experts. Here be a GPS system rather than a paper map. Do not send the student away without guidance on what questions to ask, what goals to have for that visit, and knowledge that their advisor is going to expect them to let you know what they learned. Like any good GPS, give them the reverse direction feature to lead them back.

See the whole student for who they are and help them get themselves to where they want to go. Do this, and move the retention needle for that student by helping them to persist. Doing that for each student will help move the retention needle for the group. And it will be done without actually thinking about the group, or retention.

David B. Spight
NACADA Past President, 2015-2016

Beyond Faculty Referrals: Advisor Facilitated Early Intervention

Mike Dial and Paige McKeown, University of South Carolina

Early Intervention Background

Paige McKeown.jpgMike Dial.jpgSeidman (2012) proposed a formula for student retention RET = E ID + (E + IN + C) IV (p. 272). He suggests that student retention may be achieved by the early identification of student needs plus early, intensive, and continuous intervention. Similarly, Tampke (2013) suggests that “effective intervention” occurs “at the first indication of academic difficulty” through a “systematic method of recording and communicating student behaviors that contribute to student attrition” (pp. 523–524). Consistent with previous literature (Barefoot, Griffin, & Koch, 2012; Habley, Bloom, & Robbins, 2012), the 2017 National Survey of the First-Year Experience (NSFYE) (Estrada & Latino, 2019) found early alert programming to be a prominently featured initiative at a majority (79.4%) of institutions.

Estrada and Latino (2019) report that effective intervention requires the identification of “behaviors that contribute to success” and the implementation of “a systematic method to intervene when students fall short of those behaviors” (p. 53). It is likely that when advisors and other staff think of early intervention, they picture systems in which faculty report student red flags to some intervening agent (Gordanier, Hauk, & Sankaran, 2019; Tampke, 2013; Winfield, 2018). In fact, respondents to the 2017 NSFYE indicated that faculty engage in early alert programs at 89.6% of institutions (Estrada & Latino, 2019). Two of the greatest barriers to implementing high-quality early intervention programs, however, are the challenges of generating faculty buy-in (Estrada & Latino, 2019) and determining a “reliable set of predictors” (Beck & Davidson, 2001, p. 710). Given these challenges, it should be noted that academic advisors can design and implement a host of student interventions relying only on data readily available in existing campus advising technologies. Advisors may be uniquely qualified to serve as intervention agents due to the relationships they form with students, often beginning at orientation.  

In their work on choice architecture, Thaler and Sunstein (2009) suggest that individuals make poor choices when “they are inexperienced, and poorly informed, and in which feedback is slow or infrequent.” On the other hand, they make “good choices in contexts in which they have experience, good information, and prompt feedback” (p. 9). By reaching out intrusively to students who exhibit potentially problematic behaviors, advisors equip students with context and valuable information they may lack as novices in the collegiate setting. Advisors are distinctively positioned to gather information, uncover predictive behaviors, and identify students who are at heightened risk of not persisting. The following section examines some of these opportunities where advisors can gather data and leverage their relationships with their caseload to positively impact student success and persistence.

Minimum Credit Hours

Distinctively, advisors have the ability and positioning to examine students’ credit hour enrollment in aggregate, where faculty and other stakeholders may only be looking at students through the lens of a particular course. By establishing a standard number of credit hours, generally 15, at which a student is most likely to balance the ability to succeed with timely completion of a program and graduation, advisors can intervene when students are dipping below this threshold early, and oftentimes catch a student that may otherwise have exhibited no other early risk factors (Szafran, 2002; Venit, 2017). For many students, financial concerns may also arise from lower credit hour enrollment, resulting in extended time to degree.

Enrolling in adequate credit hours may seem to be too simple of a factor on which to conduct an intervention, or even one that advisors may assume many students do not need. However, Whitcomb and Mathews (2014) have demonstrated that there is no statistically significant correlation between any one student demographic and understanding of degree requirements, and “encourage academic advisors not to attempt to predict students’ understanding of degree requirements solely based on grade point average,” among other factors. Utilizing their unique ability to see students’ total enrollment, advisors can contact students, alerting them to the benefit of enrolling in at least 15 credit hours. It should be noted that students may have valid reasons for enrolling in less than 15 credit hours, including disability status, serving as primary caregivers for children or elderly parents, and financial obligations for self and family. This intervention also allows advisors to establish context in these cases and better serve students in future meetings.

University Mandated Compliance and Registration Holds

Advisors can also work in collaboration with key campus partners to assure student compliance in university-wide mandates, neglect of which may trigger academic consequences both directly and indirectly. An example of such a mandate is the completion of online prevention education courses on topics like substance abuse and sexual assault. Directly, failure to complete requirements by university established deadlines will, at many institutions, trigger a registration hold on a student’s account, preventing them from future course registration actions until they have completed the related action item. If students cannot register, despite taking other required actions, then they cannot persist by default. Advisors can work with the campus partners responsible for these initiatives to intervene with students who are not in compliance, emphasizing the importance of the requirement from an academic standpoint and leveraging the advisor to student relationship to encourage compliance.

Indirectly, advisors that are involved in intervention to encourage compliance with prevention education are supporting student success and persistence due to the intended outcomes of the course. A case study conducted at Oregon State University by EverFi (2018) concludes by stating “students [who receive the course] are safer and satisfied—giving them a greater opportunity to succeed. Incidents of alcohol abuse and sexual assault can dramatically disrupt students’ lives, but effective prevention education enables them to remain in school and enjoy every opportunity to succeed.”

Non-Registered Students

Intervening with students who have not registered for the upcoming term in a timely manner—after they have been advised and the opening week or two of registration have passed—can be considered a light touch intervention with a big impact. Hutt (2017) describes the value of a simple, 34-word email that can be sent from advisors to non-registered students asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?” The original campaign, sent by Hutt, the Assistant Vice President for Academic Advising at Kennesaw State University, was sent to 4,000 students with 3.0 or higher grade point averages. This further enforces Whitcomb and Mathews’ study that advisors cannot rely on perceived levels of student success to determine whether students will benefit from intervention. Over 35% of students responded to Hutt’s outreach, many within a few days, to describe registration barriers that they were facing. Factors such as parking tickets, course availability, and lack of resource information“I know where I want to go, but I don’t know how to get there”—arose frequently in Hutt’s (2017) responses. These are challenges that advisors can assist students in overcoming through intervention, thus encouraging their students to persist and succeed.

Effective Timelines for Intervention

A final component of impactful early intervention conducted by advisors is intentional timing. To construct an effective intervention timeline, it is necessary to think about meeting students where they are and providing the support and resources they need, when they need them. The role of the advisor, particularly in intervention, says McElwee (2013), is to “at each stage . . . respond to the students’ characteristics and developmental stage, providing information, support, or encouragement as needed.” An intentional framework will use academic dates and deadlines as a guide to avoid “too much, too soon.” If an intervention about non-registration is sent before students have had the opportunity to get comfortable with the process and system of registration, it will likely not serve its intended outcomes. Likewise, an intervention to reach student below a minimum credit hour threshold sent after the timeframe during which students can add additional classes is ineffective and likely frustrating for the student.

Implications for Institutional Improvement

Early intervention programs, such as those detailed above, target intrusive outreach to students based on the display of potentially problematic behaviors beyond-the-classroom that may hinder their ability to progress within their degree programs. By monitoring all students and not just those that enter the university with an at-risk label, advisors and therefore the institution are able to reach more students at risk of departure. This is especially significant upon acknowledging that many at-risk students will go on to lead productive academic lives and complete the requirements of their degree program while some students admitted as high-achievers will face academic and personal struggles that may lead to their departure. High-touch, high-impact interventions, such as these carried out by academic advisors, as students’ primary points of contact, further demonstrate the attention and care promised to students and their families in the admissions and orientation processes. They also may deliver increased benefit to first-generation and low-socioeconomic status students, leveling the playing field for novice learners who lack context. Most importantly, the interventions described herein do not require institutional buy-in/support. Individual advisors can implement these initiatives of their own accord for the benefit of the students in their caseload.

Mike Dial
Assistant Director of First-Year Advising
University Advising Center, Office of the Provost
University of South Carolina

Paige McKeown
Coordinator of First-Year Advising and Academic Intervention
University Advising Center, Office of the Provost
University of South Carolina


Barefoot, B. O., Griffin, B. Q., & Koch, A. K. (2012). Enhancing student success and retention throughout undergraduate education: A national survey. The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.

Beck, H. P., & Davidson, W. D. (2001). Establishing an early warning system: Predicting low grades in college students from survey of academic orientations scores. Research in Higher education, 42(6), 709–723.

Estrada, S., & Latino, J. (2019). Early alert programs. In D. Young (Ed.), 2017 National Survey on The First-Year Experience: Creating and coordinating structures to support student success (pp. 53–61). University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

EverFi. (2018, March 9). Going online: Sexual assault and alcohol abuse prevention at Oregon State University. https://everfi.com/insights/case-studies/oregon-state-university/

Gordanier, J., Hauk, W., & Sankaran, C. (2019, October). Early intervention in college classes and improved student outcomes. Economics of Education Review, 72(1), 23–29.

Habley, W. R., Bloom, J. L., & Robbins, S. (2012). Increasing persistence: Research-based strategies for college student success. Jossey-Bass.

Hutt, C. (2017, November 24). Breaking down barriers to retaining students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Breaking-Down-Barriers-to/241814

McElwee, R. O. (2013, April). Teaching and advising first-year students. Observer, 26(4). Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/teaching-and-advising-first-year-students  

Seidman, A. (2012). Taking action: A retention formula and model for student success. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention formula for student success (pp. 267–284). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Szafran, R. F. (2002). The effect of academic load on success for new college students: Is lighter better? NACADA Journal, 22(2), 26–38. https://nacadajournal.org/doi/pdf/10.12930/0271-9517-22.2.26

Tampke, D. R. (2013). Developing, implementing, and assessing an early alert system. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 14(4), 523–532. https://doi.org/10.2190/CS.14.4.e

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New York, NY: Penguin.

Venit, E. (2017, August 21). Why even C students should consider taking 15 credits their first semester. https://eab.com/insights/blogs/student-success/why-even-c-students-should-consider-taking-15-credits-their-first-semester/

Whitcomb, H., & Mathews, S. (2014, December). Exploring the relationship between student understanding of degree requirements and academic performance. Academic Advising Today, 37(4). https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Exploring-the-Relationship-between-Student-Understanding-of-Degree-Requirements-and-Academic-Performance.aspx

Winfield, J. (2018, December). The art of intervention: Partnering with faculty for early academic alert. Academic Advising Today, 41(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Art-of-Intervention-Partnering-with-Faculty-for-Early-Academic-Alert.aspx


Vantage Point banner.jpg

Online Graduate Advising: It's Much More than What Class Comes Next

Kristi A. Preisman, College of Saint Mary

Kristi Preisman.jpgThe national attrition rate in doctoral programs hovers near 50% for reasons such as student demographics, high college costs, technology challenges, isolation, poor program fit, and motivation. Some authors (Cassuto, 2013; Gilmore, Wofford, & Maher, 2016) bring to light that the blame may not necessarily lie with the student who is leaving the program, but rather with the graduate department itself. At this small Catholic university, the online Ed.D. program feels the impact of attrition. While some factors are beyond control of the program, the program director realizes more can be done to support students and help decrease attrition. Online advising, which has been highlighted more recently in the literature, may be a one way to retain Ed.D. students. The director and her faculty are working to positively impact students’ success in the program with the Graduate Advising Space (GAS).

The Ed.D. program director is responsible for both program execution and student advising for everyone in the program. Acknowledging this responsibility, the GAS has become a substantial member of the program. The GAS is a course within the program’s learning management system and was originally created to communicate basic advising information, such as plan of study, textbook information, contact information, and introductory videos; however, it now provides more information for students than “What class do I take next?” The GAS (see Fig. 1) is based on the Core Values from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising (2017), as well as theory related to socialization (Bragg, 1976) and community in online learning (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010). This article addresses some strategies used to offer advising support, socialization as an Ed.D. student, and a community for peers and faculty.

Preisman graphic.jpg

Figure 1. Theoretical framework behind the Graduate Advising Space (GAS)

NACADA Core Values

Students rely on their advisors for academic information as well as university navigation, policies, procedures, problem-solving, and decision making (Smith & Allen, 2014). The GAS provides this information to Ed.D. students based in the seven core values of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising (2017). Those seven core values are caring, commitment, empowerment, inclusivity, integrity, professionalism, and respect. Though these values are aimed at the actions and purpose of the actual advisor, the GAS was created as a tool to help support the human element of advising. Acknowledging that graduate students may never meet face-to-face with the program director (advisor), this virtual space becomes a home base for academic support throughout the program. Below are some select illustrations of how the Graduate Advising Space demonstrates the core values for online learners in regards to academic support:

Caring. “Academic advisors respond to and are accessible to others in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach. Advisors build relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, colleagues, and others” (NACADA, 2017).

Cross (2018) mentions that students value advisors that care about their successes. The GAS is a place which validates that the program director and faculty care about and are invested in the well-being of the Ed.D. students in this online program. Multiple announcements are made that address not only the advising basics (program of study, textbooks, etc.), but also communication regarding specific milestones, program or institution information, and challenges ahead. The messages demonstrate support and encouragement as students advance each semester. In the GAS, there is also a place called Worthy News to Share! It is here that students share good news, request prayers and positive thoughts, and share personal and professional stories from their lives.

In an online program, it can be both difficult and frustrating to make contact with financial services, technology assistance, library services, or tutoring. These are important aspects of any online graduate program, and it is vital that students have timely and productive access to these resources. In order to provide for the direct needs of students in a world of I want the information now, the GAS provides direct access to institutional resources and websites so that students do not have search through the campus’s main site. By providing easier connections to these aspects of student success, the care provided by the program director is more fully demonstrated.

Commitment. “Academic advisors value and are dedicated to excellence in all dimensions of student success. Advisors are committed to students, colleagues, institutions, and the profession through assessment, scholarly inquiry, life-long learning, and professional development” (NACADA, 2017).

Cross (2018) proposes that students desire advisors to initiate contact at the start of their program because it makes the transition to the online learning environment easier. Maintaining the GAS each semester and making real-time updates when needed demonstrates commitment of the program director to the students. When student needs or programmatic changes arise, the GAS is updated to support student success through the various stages of the program. One specific area that demonstrates the commitment is Suggestions for Success! This evolving section provides information that highlights challenges students may face throughout the program. Resources, videos, and readings address issues such as receiving critical feedback, creating and maintaining a growth mindset, self-regulated learning, and motivation.

Integrity. “Academic advisors act intentionally in accordance with ethical and professional behavior developed through reflective practice. Advisors value honesty, transparency, and accountability to the student, institution, and the advising profession” (NACADA, 2017).

The GAS also includes modules focused on academic integrity, APA reference and citation, and scholarly writing. Each of these modules was created with the intent to lead and guide students in professional work throughout the program and are completed prior to beginning coursework. These ideas are also addressed throughout various synchronous meetings through the program as a reminder for students regarding the importance of integrity in all of their work during the Ed.D. program.


According to Bragg (1976), socialization is a process where “the individual acquires the knowledge and skills, the values and attitudes, and the habits and modes of thought of the society to which he belongs” (p. 9). Socialization contains three distinctive elements: socialization as a continuous process, as a learning process, and as a social process.

To start the socialization process, students gain early experience in the GAS prior to the start of the program. This is the first opportunity for students to begin to feel a part of the program community with their cohort. Throughout the program, virtual advising sessions are held to assist students in each new phase of the doctoral student role .

Woven throughout various stages of the Ed.D. program, students experience socialization as a learning process as they are introduced to their particular roles: student (course work), doctoral candidate (pass comprehensive exam), and researcher (dissertation). During the course of the program, more experienced cohort members join virtual meetings to answer newer members’ questions and address their concerns, thereby providing the less experienced members solid examples and awareness of behaviors, values, and attitudes.

Finally, socialization takes place as a social process between individuals and groups. It is within these interactions that a “reciprocal process [occurs] in both the person being socialized and in the person or group doing the socializing (the socializing agent)” (Bragg, 1976, p. 15). Though this can be more challenging in an online program, students have the opportunity to interact early and often with more experienced cohort members and will, eventually, find role models within their own cohort group. Ultimately, the end product of socialization is for the individual to feel a sense of identity within the group (Bragg, 1976).


Specific keywords arise when examining the research for reasons why students leave online programs.  Some common words and phrases include lack of support, quality of interactions, isolation, and disconnection. The Graduate Advising Space was created in order to mitigate some of these negative experiences in online learning by working to create a sense of community among the cohort members. As Shea, Swan, Sau Li, and Pickett (2005) described, elements such as connectedness, belonging, support, spirit, and trust can help to develop a strong sense of community. The idea behind the GAS is to help reduce feelings of isolation as students begin this online program and build continuous bonds between cohort members as they complete the program.

As mentioned previously, one priority of the GAS is to introduce students to the Ed.D. community. Students are exposed to the college and program mission, program outcomes, expectations, and video snippets of the campus. The GAS also incorporates virtual meetings that allow students to meet with faculty and peers to achieve face-to-face contact. It is also suggested at the start of the program for students to meet in person if they are in the same location. These pieces will help students gain an understanding of the program and begin to identify with the community in a low pressure and trusting environment.


The Graduate Advising Space is an important tool in the online learning environment as it provides students a home base throughout the program. It is a space that provides students with academic support, a means of socializing as an Ed.D. student, and a community with peers and faculty with the ultimate goal of decreasing attrition and developing successful and contributing educational leaders in their communities.

Kristi A. Preisman
Program Director and Associate Professor
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program
College of Saint Mary


Bragg, A. K. (1976). The socialization process in higher education (ERIC/Higher Education Research Report No. 7). American Association for Higher Education. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED132909

Cassuto, L. (2013, July 01). Ph.D attrition: How much is too much? Chronicle of Higher  Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/PhD-Attrition-How-Much-Is/140045

Cross, L. K. (2018). Graduate student perceptions of online advising. NACADA Journal, 38(2), 72–80. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010, January). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. Internet and Higher Education, 13(1–2), 5–9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222118442_The_first_decade_of_the_community_of_inquiry_framework_A_retrospective

Gilmore, J., Wofford, A. M., & Maher, M. A. (2016). The flip side of the attrition coin: Faculty perceptions of factors supporting graduate student success. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 11, 419–439. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6d35/82ead6235ddcecc3c968262b7da147a2862c.pdf

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Shea, P., Swan, K., Sau Li, C., & Pickett, A. (2005). Developing learning community in online asynchronous college courses: The role of teaching presence. Online Learning Consortium, 9(4), 59–82. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249746923_Developing_learning_community_in_online_asynchronous_college_courses_The_role_of_teaching_presence

Smith, C. L., & Allen, J. M. (2014). Does contact with advisors predict judgments and attitudes consistent with student success? A multi-institutional study. NACADA Journal, 34(1), 50–63. https://nacadajournal.org


Vantage Point banner.jpg

Monitoring UAE Students who are Studying Abroad

Mariam AlZaabi, Scholarships Office, United Arab Emirates

Miriam AlZaabi.jpgEvery year, the government of The United Arab Emirates grants numerous scholarships to distinguished Emirati students. The purpose of the scholarship is to grant them the opportunity to pursue their dreams and graduate from the top ranked universities across the world. Currently, we have students in Asia, Europe, and North America. The following section elaborates on the strengths, weaknesses, and challenges faced by the advisors in the United Arab Emirates while they monitor these students and discusses the role of these advisors.

Students travel to other countries with the aim to obtain a quality education that will eventually help them serve their country. Most of the scholarships in the United Arab Emirates have an objective to make sure that students made the correct choices prior to being awarded the scholarship and prior to the students leaving their home. Moreover, some of these scholarships offer an Early Preparation Program for eligible students in tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. The benefits of this program include enhancing the student's skills and critical thinking, gaining knowledge of cultural difference, and increasing awareness of the admission process and deadlines. There is also a summer program for eligible high school students to travel to these universities across the world and to learn more about the study abroad program. The UAE scholarships seek to find common questions from these students and share how to draw the right path before applying to universities. For example, programs guide students on some of the required assessments/tests: SAT, TOEFL, ITLES.

Initially most students seem to be enthusiastic regarding their study abroad opportunity. However, they begin to present challenges for the management of the scholarship for a variety of reasons: not complying with the scholarship policies, lack of motivation, and a lack of preparation to study abroad. According to McLaughlin and Durrant (2017), many students realized after spending some time in a new country that they were unable to carry on their studies because they had a hard time adjusting to the new environment. Students struggled, academically as well as socially, to cope with the difficulties that they were facing there.

One of the biggest challenges that advisors face while monitoring students studying abroad on scholarship is the language barrier; some students complain about the communication style with professors, while others feel shy in the larger classrooms and need more time to adapt and to learn how to associate with their classmates and university staff. Therefore, we advise students to be at campus prior to the orientation day. The second challenge is cultural difference; UAE students graduate from high school at the United Arab Emirates with their peers from the same culture. However, once they reach university, they discover new cultures from different countries with different foods, unfamiliar living circumstances, and new learning styles. In this situation, we guide our student to get more involved on the university social committees and participate/volunteer at any event on campus. In order to avoid the above challenges, we hold a pre-travel departure orientation where we discuss challenges, solutions, and outcomes.

Professionally, the lack of resources for the advisors in the United Arab Emirates is another challenge. There are not many training programs or workshops that are specialized in academic advising in the United Arab Emirates that help advisors develop skills. In response to this need, a NACADA (The Global Community for Academic Advising) workshop was held here to learn more about the advising standards and skills training. We got valuable information at that workshop. One of the most important things I took from the experience was setting the goal to write an article for NACADA to share my advising experience with other members. The NACADA Core Values challenge advisors to “motivate, encourage, and support students and the greater educational community to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality” (NACADA, 2017).

As an advisor, we must know how to be good at motivating, recognizing challenges, and encouraging students to not give up on their goals and ambitions. In order to achieve our goal of reducing student challenges in the UAE, we targeted students deemed to be at-risk and worked with them closely to try to resolve their cases before having to take any formal disciplinary measures to the management. In my personal style of advising, I do not mind if students contact me directly via my personal phone outside of office working hours if their issue is urgent. I believe that an advisor should work closely with students on matters that can affect student success and find the best solution to solve it. Furthermore, I believe advisors should build strong relationships and have mutual trust with their students. I keep asking my students to think beyond their major and encourage them to apply for other educational experiences such as study abroad opportunities and internships which will help them to get tangible real-world experience.

Every year, delegates from the United Arab Emirates Scholarships travel to different universities across the world. The most important reason for these missions is to meet our students and to make sure that they are settled, adapted to the new environment, and have no issues. Additionally, we have met with university representatives to discuss their admission processes, available majors, university facilities, and potential candidates. These visits helped us to build a strong relationship with both universities and our students. Advisors in the United Arab Emirates also ask students to meet with them frequently upon their return home. This meeting can be over their winter break or summer vacation. The purpose of this meeting mostly is to discuss their current progress, future plans, and any other issues. Also, some students applied for practical training (an internship) in the UAE according to the conditions and criteria that were explained in advance by their academic advisor. 

Finally, students will graduate and return to the United Arab Emirates with their final degree. The scholarship top management strives to ensure that the graduates will find their desired job. A feeling of fulfilment and accomplishment is witnessed every time when our students have received their degree, and students, advisors, and families live out a proud moment every year during the Annual UAE graduation ceremony.

Mariam AlZaabi
Senior Academic Advisor
Scholarships Office
United Arab Emirates


McLaughlin, J., & Durrant, P. (2017). Student learning approaches in the UAE: The case for the achieving domain. Higher Education Research & Development36(1), 158–170. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2016.1176998

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising.  https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx


Create an Advising Mission in Four Meetings

Steve Schaffling, Syracuse University

Steve Schafling.jpgAn advising mission statement is the cornerstone of an academic advising program. Fundamentally, an advising program’s mission statement is the guiding principle that should be at the back of an advisor’s mind as they enter every student interaction. In his seminal article, Habley (2005) offers guidance on the formulation of an advising mission statement and argues that the mission statement should directly inform the writing of office goals and learning outcomes. Essentially, without having first put an advising mission statement in place, an office cannot effectively implement programmatic assessment, which is a requisite of all advising offices today (White, 2000).

Habley (2005) offers his readers a simple rubric that establishes a list of characteristics every mission statement should be measured against. Specifically, Habley argues that mission statements should be visionary, broad, realistic, motivational, concise, understandable, and memorable. This is an effective framework for every advising office to work from, either when developing their own mission statement or when revisiting the one they already have. However, Habley’s (2005) work is limited in its scope and does not offer a clear process for navigating the contentious meetings that can accompany the drafting of a mission statement. In response, I have developed and utilized the following five-step process to write three mission statements across two major institutions. Two of these mission statements were written at the university level and the third was written at the program or college level.  This demonstrates that the process works well, regardless of the level or scope of advising mission being implemented. 

Step One: Advancing Habley’s Rubric

The process begins with reference to Habley’s (2005) original rubric, which has been developed and refined to incorporate new elements. This new rubric, pictured in Table 1, still rates mission statements with reference to Habley’s seven factors. However, users are requested to rate their statements on a scale of one to four. In addition, the rubric retains Habley’s definitions for each of the seven factors. In the rows, however, the rubric is expanded to include reference to the participant’s aspirational peers, who are included in the first column of the expanded rubric and listed one peer per row. This is a critical part of the new process. By offering participants the opportunity to refer to their aspirational peers and rate their advising mission statements against Habley’s factors, the process undermines any potential antagonism within the room. It facilitates consensus around the mission statement from the beginning, because everyone participating in the process has already agreed that these institutions have qualities that they are also striving to emulate. Future users of this process can further emphasize this aspect of the process by hyperlinking to the peer institution mission statement within the rubric itself. In addition, users will need to divide the peer institutions evenly, and within small groups, giving a total score column at the end. 

Table 1

Schaffling Mission Statement Rubric

Schaffling graphic.jgp

Step Two: Establishing a Mission Statement Committee

To complete the second step in the process, participants must hold their first meeting, which requires the establishment of a mission statement committee. The committee should be composed of a broad group of advising constituents and should ideally not exceed 20 members. Prior to the first meeting, the committee should have built their rubric and made copies for distribution amongst meeting participants.  It is useful to use Google Drive so that the document can be live-edited by anyone with the link. Finally, copies of Habley’s (2005) article on the development of effective mission statements should also be made available, with an emphasis on the section defining each of the seven factors. The meeting should aim to achieve the following outcomes:

  1. Defining of Habley’s factors for the group.
  2. Displaying of Habley’s flow chart connecting the mission to the learning outcomes.
  3. Dividing of the group up into three to five sub-groups.
  4. Activity in which the smaller groups either live-rank the peer advising statements in the rubric during meeting number one or have the small groups complete this work in the time between meetings one and two.

Step Three: Identifying Common Values

The first meeting provides material for the mission statement committee to work with in their second meeting. Thanks to the rubric, the peer mission statements which proved either popular or unpopular can be easily identified by the total column. As a result, the second mission statement committee meeting should begin with a discussion of both the top three or four and the bottom one or two ranked peers. Having completed their work within smaller subgroups, this exercise offers a good sense of perspective to the group as a whole. In addition, at this stage of the meeting, it is advisable to read and display each of these mission statements. This activity helps to achieve the two key goals for this meeting: to identify the common values within mission statements that were rated well by the process and to identify pieces of peer mission statements that speak to the unique institution. The undergraduate advising mission statement at New York University (NYU) is a good example of a mission statement component that is unique to its home institution. It states that “NYU’s academic advising programs aspire to help students find their purpose, achieve their potential, and become active and engaged global citizens.” The latter part of this sentence identifying students as future “active and engaged global citizens” clearly connects the mission statement to NYU (New York University). The outcomes of the second meeting should include the following:

  1. Discussion of high and low-rated peer mission statements from small groups.
  2. Identification of common values found in highly rated peer mission statements.
  3. Identification of aspects of the mission statement that are unique to the home institution.
  4. Whole-group discussion of other value statements that should be present to represent the institution in question.
  5. Setting the next task for the committee’s sub-groups. Before the third meeting, each sub-group should craft sample mission statements that include the value statements identified by the broader group, alongside any statement which might uniquely identify your institution. 

Step Four: Identifying Key Draft Mission Statements

The third meeting of the mission statement committee will utilize the draft mission statements written by each of the small groups. This meeting should be a working session. The meeting facilitator should display the draft mission statements from each of the groups so that the broader group can work on them. What will begin to surface, and what the facilitator must focus on, are the similarities between the statements. The significant differences at this point will likely center on the structure of the statements or an individual group’s decision to include or exclude certain values. The key outcomes for this session are:

  1. To finalize the values that the mission statement committee wish to include in their mission.
  2. To identify any statement that uniquely identifies the institution in question.
  3. To identify one or two draft mission statements that best convey the sentiment of the entire group.
  4. To request that the small groups meet before the final large group meeting to further hone these two draft mission statements.

Step Five: Finding Consensus

For the final meeting of the mission statement committee, the facilitator should review the draft statements and combine them alongside the group. This is where the facilitator really plays their most important role by focusing on the similarities between statements as opposed to differences. In this final meeting, there should be one goal: come to a consensus around a single statement. This statement need not be final. From here the broader mission committee should share the statement with other constituents and communicate their thoughts back electronically. Deans and vice presidents should be afforded the chance to read the statement at this point. 


The key elements of this process include the rubric, the facilitator, meeting preparation, and an understanding of the importance of an advising mission statement as it connects to advising outcomes. The rubric helps a mission statement committee identify what constitutes a good mission statement for the institution in question. The facilitator sets the stage for a productive group by directing the group to analyze other mission statements from institutions that they hold in high regard. These pieces, coupled with a common desire from mission statement committee members to define what they want for their own campus, result in a simple process. I have experienced success with this process across multiple different groups and argue that it is the very first step in establishing a programmatic assessment of advising for other units. 

Steven Schaffling, Ed.D.
Assistant Dean for Student Success
College of Arts & Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs


Habley, W. R. (2005). Developing a mission statement for the academic advising program.  https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academic-advising-mission-statements.aspx

New York University. https://www.nyu.edu/students/academic-services/undergraduate-advisement.html

White, E. R. (2000). Developing mission, goals, and objectives. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 180–191). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Our Lived Experiences as Participants in the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program

Rebecca Hapes, Texas A&M University
Locksley Knibbs, Florida Gulf Coast University

Rebecca and Locksley.jpgKram (1983) describes the phases of the mentoring relationship as initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Initiation is described when the mentor is admired and respected for their competency and/or capacity to provide support and guidance. In the cultivation phase, the expectations established in the initiation phase are continually tested within the relationship against reality. After a period of time, the status quo of the pairing relationship changes and it moves into the separation stage, moving eventually into the redefinition stage, where the relationship is one of ongoing friendship and less of mentoring.

In this article, we will examine the lived experiences of an Emerging Leader and his Mentor as they progressed through the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). After graduating from the program after the two-year experience, both continue to serve NACADA in various ways.

Emerging Leader Perspective (Locksley)

Locksley Knibbs.jpgI became an Academic Advisor in the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013. As an Advisor, I serve as a facilitator of communication, a coordinator of learning experiences through course and career planning and academic progress review, as well as an agent of referral to other campus agencies as necessary.

It has been over two years now since I became part of the ELP Class of 2016–2018. This has been a wonderful, tremendous, and awesome journey for me, but as they say, “all good journeys must come to an end.” I can affiliate with this analogy, because this was indeed a wonderful, fabulous, exciting, worthwhile, and eventful experience of my advising career. This journey has exposed and enlightened me to many things that I did not think I could do but eventually did. I am sad and happy at the same time that it has ended. I am happy because of the numerous things that I was able to accomplish. Most notable was the primary goal of presenting at the various levels of NACADA conferences. I presented at the state level, the regional level, the national level, and the international level. Who could have imagined a young man from Jamaica making such leaps and bounds in his professional career and doing all these things that have made him so noticeable at NACADA events! In addition, I have developed a network of colleagues from around the country and abroad who I can today call friends. The lives I have touched and the paths that I have crossed are immeasurable. I have travelled extensively to numerous places that I could only dream of but now are a reality.

I view the ELP as something that is dedicated to the success of mentees, to help us spread our wings and grow as it relates to leadership in NACADA. The objectives of the program provided me with lived experience in the form of a mentor/mentee relationship in lifting each other as we ascend to new levels of leadership within NACADA. This program has provided an avenue for me to build upon my leadership strengths and to learn new ways to achieve greater impact. The ELP is a dynamic program, which has allowed me to learn all of the critical elements that successful leaders must master to deliver results, including how to set goals, build and inspire teams, and drive change. For these reasons, I am grateful that I was selected to be a participant and to be affiliated with something that prepares me to receive coaching on how to leverage these next-level practices to achieve my career and organizational goals.

I am sad that my experience is over because I wanted this to last just a little longer than the normal time. I feel that despite the things I have accomplished, that I was just getting started, and now it is the end. I do understand that the time has come for us to move on based on the wealth of knowledge we have acquired setting goals, realizing those goals, and accomplishing those same goals as emerging leaders. I have acquired an immense amount of skills from this program; however, the melancholy feeling about not being an active ELPer still makes me crave this experience some more.

When I began this journey in the NACADA ELP, I had no idea how much of a difference being an active participant in this program would make in my professional and personal life. The goals that I made when I started were solidified, because I saw where they would get me to be more directly involved with NACADA. When I wrote my assignment regarding the type I mentor I would like, I wrote from the heart. I was desirous of someone who would help to guide my growth and development, but at the same time would be there for me as an advocate and someone who had my best interest at heart. Reflecting on that particular assignment, I was quite aware that a mentor could be extremely useful in one’s career development. The challenging questions back then were how does one know what to look for in a mentor? What exactly do you do with one? I sought someone who values ongoing learning and growth in the profession and NACADA. However, in order to make a mentoring relationship useful, it became evident to me that I must first know why I wanted one, so I had to revisit my initial goals. I wanted that mentor to assist me with a better understanding of the organization’s culture. I wanted to gain some guidance on career exploration as far as developing specific leadership skills. As with every other area of life, I figured that you must know where you are going before you can decide how to get there.

At the time, I wrote that I believed a good mentoring relationship provides individuals with someone who will share their professional knowledge and expertise in the field. A good mentor is someone who makes themself available to answer any questions relevant to the profession and life in general with the understanding that a good mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street; consequently, if you want a good relationship with your mentor, it is a wise decision to become a good mentee. Therefore, the top five characteristics I indicated that would make a mentor a good fit for me were:

  • someone who is willing to share skills, knowledge, and expertise;
  • someone who demonstrates a positive attitude and acts as a positive role model;
  • someone who takes a personal interest in the mentoring relationship;
  • someone who provides guidance and constructive feedback; and
  • someone who sets and meets ongoing personal and professional goals.

Reflecting on these criteria, I have indeed found those qualities in the mentor who was assigned to me, Rebecca Hapes. She embodies what a true mentor is, and I will truly miss my wonderful mentor. Our monthly dialogues, card exchanges, text messages, and kind words of encouragement were uplifting and made me feel like I truly belonged to something exciting. We have been a perfect match since we were paired at the Annual Conference in Atlanta in 2016. I could not have asked for a better mentor to guide, support, encourage, and lift me as she climbed. These are some of things that the ELP cannot document: the lived experience, the personal connections that will last for a lifetime.

Rebecca and I worked assiduously together to develop my stated ELP goals. We have developed a great relationship over the past two years. We have worked together as a team and have developed short-term goals as well as long-term goals. My short-term goals included joining the Advising Community on Theory, Philosophy & History of Advising group via the NACADA website and joining the Advising Community on Advisor Training & Development. I expressed my desire in joining and serving as an active member of the Diversity Committee. I assisted in reading proposals for the NACADA Annual Conference. Today, I am pleased to report that I have accomplished all of my short-term goals and to some extent have exceeded them. I have joined both Advising Communities, and I was recently elected as to chair the Inclusion and Engagement Committee (formerly Diversity Committee) for the 2019–2021 term, after serving on the committee for the 2017–2019 term. I have read NACADA proposals for the Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO and the NACADA International Conference in Sheffield, United Kingdom, hosted by The University of Sheffield in 2017.

There are a few things I wish I had done differently, such as taking on fewer things. I spread myself thin with too many competing interests as it relates to NACADA. However, I felt like since I made the commitment, I had to adhere to what I originally set out to do and do it void of complaints. I have learned to multi-task by handling my work obligations, personal obligations, and NACADA obligations. As a result, I have acquired new skills: I learned not to be rigid, but to take on and accept additional responsibilities with a smile. I have performed several tasks single-handedly not out of any compulsion, but because I want to see our association at the highest level of success. I view performing multiple responsibilities as not a job, but a passion to serve. I actively participate in various NACADA training programs and other sessions or seminars with an open mind to upgrade my existing knowledge and hone my skills, which eventually will benefit not only me, but also NACADA.

However, the recommendation I would make to future program participants is to view this participation in the NACADA ELP as an investment for the future to give back and to serve our association. Therefore, get connected and realize that you are accepted into a community of people who care. You are never told you cannot lead because of who you are. You are instead encouraged to be the best at what you love and develop your personal strengths so that you find your own sense of leadership. Take into consideration that you will begin the program as one person and you will end the program as an entirely new person who is more confident and knows so much more about yourself, your growth, and your association. Finally, know what you seek in a mentor, because in order to make a mentoring relationship useful, you must first know why you want one.

Mentor Perspective (Rebecca)

Rebecca Hapes.jpgAs we near the one-year anniversary of the conclusion of our two-year mentorship pairing, it is interesting to reflect on my initial apprehension about being a mentor through the Emerging Leaders Program. I believe my biggest hesitancy was whether I would be able to support a colleague remotely in the manner in which they needed.

I felt the most challenging part of this relationship was trying to ensure that Locksley felt valued, and that he did not feel like he was an afterthought if/when life happened, schedules adjusted, and our mentorship meetings needed to move around. We did a great job of cultivating our relationship, communicating and pre-scheduling our regular mentorship meeting time at the beginning of each semester. However, when emergencies and/or issues arose that prompted the need to reschedule or cancel, I was concerned that Locksley may feel as though I was not giving him the time and/or attention that this mentoring relationship deserved. I believe that we both worked diligently at communicating in a variety of ways on an ongoing basis to connect, communicate, and support each other’s lives during this time (texting, Facebook, cards via mail, email, etc.).

We set a suite of goals each year in the program, and each year Locksley made short work of those goals. During the time in this program, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Locksley’s continued success as he accomplished one thing after another, making short work of his to-do lists in mere months. It amused me that he seemed surprised when he realized how much he had actually accomplished, yet I think he short-changed himself and how much he is able to do. His list of NACADA accomplishments throughout the period of this program is remarkable, and I have enjoyed celebrating him and his successes. I am thrilled to celebrate him as the Chair of the Inclusion and Engagement Committee, and I recall discussing this as a leadership goal of his at one of our first meetings.

Being a part of the Emerging Leaders Program as a mentor has been a rewarding experience for me.  Working with Locksley over the course of the program encouraged me to become a bit more introspective and reexamine my personal goals as well. Within this time, I looked at some of the things I had been meaning to do and decided if I wasn’t making progress towards those goals, they wouldn’t be any closer to completion in a year from now, or five years from now . . . so I began taking active steps towards them. I decided to submit my application to the NACADA Academic Advising Consultant and Speaker Service and was accepted, began a doctoral program at my home institution, and just completed my second year in that program. Helping Locksley explore NACADA and professionally grow and develop encouraged me to reflect and do so as well.

Hapes & Knibbs.jpgWhile it is normal to be apprehensive about embarking on a mentorship journey, it was the journey itself, rather than the outcomes created, that was the rich and rewarding experience I thoroughly enjoyed. I needn’t have worried about being able to support Locksley, as our burgeoning friendship cultivated the support he needed to thrive during this time. Our relationship has gone through the mentoring stages as described by Kram and is now defined by trust and friendship.

We encourage participation in the Emerging Leaders Program and other mentorship programs to grow within the advising profession and develop yourselves personally and professionally.

Rebecca Hapes
Academic Advisor IV & Assistant Lecturer
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University

Locksley Knibbs
Lead Academic Advisor – Team Natural Sciences
College of Arts & Sciences
Florida Gulf Coast University

ELP Class.jpg


Kram, K. E. (1983). Phases of the mentor relationship. Academy of Management journal26(4), 608–625. doi:10.2307/255910

Supporting the Marginalized Majority through Assessment

Jamaica DelMar, Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Jamaica DelMar..jpgI came to the NACADA Assessment Institute with significant informal experience in assessment and evaluation work. Throughout my career in higher education, I have found myself drawn to improving processes and student experiences and have always worked hard to do both of those things. I carry the lens of a first generation student of color in my work, so it is important to me that students facing challenges are benefiting from our processes as much as students who may not have as many challenges. I believe that using assessment to identify gaps in learning should be an integral piece of supporting the marginalized majority through advising and in other areas.

While much of my past work experience included using data to inform decision making, I did not have a solid understanding of what formal assessment practices included. As an academic advisor representative on a newly formed Assessment Committee for the College of Management at Metropolitan State University, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the NACADA Assessment Institute in 2019 for formal assessment training. The College of Management was lucky to send a team to the 2019 Assessment Institute. Two professional advisors (including myself), one professor, and the Director of Advising made the trip to further the work we began in fall 2018. I felt it unique and beneficial that we were able to include a faculty person on our team who is leading the college assessment activities for our Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accreditation.

Metropolitan State University is a four-year, commuter institution located in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. The average age of our students is 31 and close to half are students of color. Many of our students hold jobs and most have additional responsibilities commonly facing nontraditional college students such as caring for children and/or aging parents and dealing with poverty. Metro State caters to working adults and strives to create an anti-racist learning community as expressed in the university’s vision statement. The students we educate often represent multiple marginalized communities. That fact, along with the expected demographic changes facing our region, are primary reasons for me to try and ensure all students are learning and equitably benefiting from our advising work.

We came to the institute with a previously created mission statement and student learning outcomes that had been in existence for years. Our intent was to improve the language of those two things, identify next steps, and figure out an implementation plan. We ended up doing so much more! The first plenary session “Advising—Creating a Culture of Success” got us thinking about other stakeholders we need to include, and the importance of developing a culture of assessment—not just at the college level, but across the university.

The first breakout session we attended was “Vision, Mission, & Goals”; the facilitator did a great job in explaining the differences and importance of each. We were able to knock out a vision statement and get some work done on improving our mission statement language, taking into account our institution’s mission and vision of serving a diverse student body. We also started thinking about our goals as a department. We felt really good leaving that session and wished we could continue working but needed to stop for lunch.

The afternoon of that first day, we were inspired and energized by working sessions focused on developing strong student learning outcomes, how to improve our student surveys, and creating advisor outcomes which was something our team had not discussed much up until then. Each session provided valuable resources to refer to while working on each topic (and long after). After the day was done, we returned to our hotel rooms exhausted. Reflecting on my day, I was both surprised by and satisfied with the work accomplished. I looked forward to getting back to it the next day.

On day two of the Assessment Institute, the plenary session “Assessment—Part of Your Daily Life” started off the day by encouraging us to think about how assessment can and should impact and inform our daily work with students. Throughout the day, we had great conversation with other attendees while discussing measures for data and assessment. We started thinking about how having a rubric would impact our assessment practices, and finally, we learned some new ways of thinking about how to map our assessment process. On day two, we also had dedicated time to work together as a team, with NACADA faculty available for questions. That time together was valuable; we were able to finalize our mission statement and continued brainstorming departmental goals.

Day three of the event was a short one, cut shorter by our need to get to the airport to return home to the frozen tundra of Minnesota. However, we were able to do some networking over breakfast and attend the work group session where we began thinking about the implementation and sustainability of our assessment program. Interestingly, our last work group session seemed to take us full circle back to what was sparked in the first plenary. We revisited the list of stakeholders we needed to invite to the table; we discussed buy-in, and the importance of celebrating our assessment successes, which seems to be a great way of contributing to a culture of assessment.

The NACADA organization has guided the great work we do as advisors at Metropolitan State University. It is important to me that the organization guiding our work has values that are in line with my own, such as Caring, Empowerment, Inclusivity, and Respect (NACADA, 2017). As NACADA members, we are fortunate to have access to events like the Assessment Institute which facilitate understanding of best practice in a specific area. NACADA provided us with the tools, resources, and guided work time to actually get things done! The faculty involved with teaching the working sessions at the institute were knowledgeable and had real life experience with assessment in higher education settings; they were fantastic to learn from.   

While my personal reasons for contributing to assessment work will continue to motivate me, there are other equally important reasons for assessing our advising program: accreditation, showing results in time of budget constraints, and contributing to a culture of innovation and improvement. I am thankful for the scholarship I received, which allowed me to attend the 2019 NACADA Assessment Institute. I gained a lot of new, applicable knowledge, and our team has made great progress and identified next steps because of our time at the Institute. I expect to attend again in the future as assessment is an ongoing process, and we are just getting started!

Jamaica DelMar
Academic Advisor
College of Management
Metropolitan State University


NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx


There are currently no comments, be the first to post one!

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.

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

Search Academic Advising Today