Regan Baker, Kimmy Brake, and Kathy Davis, Missouri State University
Many higher education professionals are expected to have specific competencies and skills when they begin working with students, but are only able to gain these skills after beginning their career (Brown & Ward, 2007). When advisors are asked about what rewards are most valuable, “seventy-four percent of respondents consider support for professional development activities of most value to them” (Drake, 2008, p. 404). Advising, which often has no standardized training for new employees, has a unique need for additional training.
How can advisors more effectively train incoming professionals as they enter the field? At Missouri State University (MSU), the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) program has partnered with the Academic Advisement Center to create a system of educational internships for graduate students interested in academic advising. The following article outlines the internship structure at MSU and discusses experiences from the perspectives of the internship supervisor and interns from the past year.
Preparing for an Internship
Before hosting an intern, there are factors to consider. One concern includes the available physical space, which ideally includes a computer and a work station. Another factor is determining which candidates to select. At MSU, the internship program is typically linked to the SAHE program, and selection is done on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Structuring the internship before it begins is vital to its success. First, supervisors and students should establish a manageable schedule that includes key times for learning (for instance, during staff meeting or high traffic times). At MSU, this is typically only between six to eight hours per week. The most helpful step to creating a learning environment is setting clear learning goals and selecting activities aligned with those goals. Below is an example of one of five goals used during an MSU internship that follows the ABCD assessment method (Penn State, 2014).
Audience: Kimmy (intern)
Behavior: Understand the importance of professional associations and how they impact professional positions
Condition: Read and discuss NACADA publications, determine office involvement in associations during interviews with advisors, participate in training sessions, and create and implement presentations at MACADA and NACADA
Degree: Have experience presenting at regional and annual conferences, ability to articulate goals and missions of MACADA & NACADA, and training as a Master Advisor
How supervisor will assess: Supervisor will look for the ability to explain the role and responsibilities of student affairs professional associations, engagement in service to the associations, and articulation of plans to incorporate emerging values
Both the supervisor and intern should be realistic about what can be accomplished in just one semester and ensure that all tasks will be educational. While planning, consider activities that make the intern feel involved (staff meetings, major events, trainings, or social events) and the needs of the office. Due to the shorter length of internships and liability concerns, the MSU internship program does not allow interns to advise, which is a question that may need to be considered individually.
It is easiest to have some activities that recur with each internship and other activities, including possibly a larger learning experience, that are specific to the student. Below are examples of each type of learning experience with activities that have been successful in the MSU Academic Advisement Center.
- Interviewing advisors in the office or across campus
- Observing advising sessions (with written student permission)
- Writing advising notes
- Attending advisor trainings
- Reading selected advising literature
- Co-teaching a student success course
- Planning an “Ask an Advisor” program in residence halls
- Assisting with larger events such as a majors fair
- Writing a manual on advising a specific demographic of students
- Creating promotional materials for advising
During the Internship
As part of the learning experience, it is important for the student to have opportunities to reflect on and track learning. Because the MSU internship program is connected to a master’s program, this is accomplished through classroom requirements, but these could also be implemented into the internship.
Journal: Accounts of what the student experienced during the week, what they observed about the office and themselves, what conclusions they have drawn from these experiences, and what actions they need to take based on those conclusions.
Individual Meetings: Opportunities for interns to receive feedback from a direct supervisor. It has been helpful at MSU to meet at least every other week for an hour. These scheduled meetings allow for the supervisor to answer questions, discuss the work of the intern, and review learning goals.
Midterm/Final: A review of the learning goals midway through the experience to determine how the second half of the internship may be adjusted to accomplish the learning goals. This experience may be repeated in a final interview to give the supervisor and intern an opportunity to reflect on the experience and establish any future goals.
Kathy (Supervisor): Eight years ago I was approached by the director of the SAHE program and asked to supervise a student intern. I was hesitant at first: it is a considerable commitment of time to help graduate students develop learning goals, choose educationally sound projects, and process their experiences. However, what I did not know was how personally rewarding it would be to develop relationships with emerging professionals and how the interns would bring a fresh perspective, current research, and new technology into my professional life.
Part of my role has been to help interns decide whether a career in academic advising is right for them by giving them a realistic view of the field. For the interns who do get excited about becoming academic advisors, I have the great privilege of being part of their entry into a profession that I love. Some of my past interns still call when they have professional challenges. I have watched them present at state and annual conferences, read their NACADA Journal articles, and helped them polish up their resumes to apply for advancements. My relationships with my interns have reenergized me, reminded me of what a privilege it is to work in this field, and brought me opportunities for great pride. I am convinced they have enriched my career at least as much as I have enriched theirs.
Kimmy (Intern): As someone who learns best from practice, I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to intern in the Academic Advisement Center with Kathy. Being in the office, at conferences, and engaged in the literature helped me learn so much about the the field of advising, best practices and techniques, and what it would really be like to be an advisor. Not only did my internship provide a significant amount of learning and professional development, but it also confirmed that I would greatly enjoy a career as an academic advisor before having to fully invest myself in the career. I also think opportunities like internships can really bring a lot of passion into an office; an eager new professional met with one pouring out their knowledge of the field can create mutual motivation that I felt with Kathy and other advisors in the office.
Regan (Intern): As part of a Student Affairs program, I think an advising internship can be a segue into a profession that otherwise may not have a clear starting point. Being a part of an advising office not only gave me the chance to experience elements that you would expect, like understanding the daily responsibilities of an advisor and different advising styles, but has fostered relationships in the advising office that have encouraged me to participate in a number of other opportunities. Kathy has continued to be a mentor to me after my experience, encouraging me to work on my advising certification through Kansas State University, partnering with Kimmy and me in completing two professional presentations, and finally partnering with us on this article: a learning opportunity that has continued throughout my master’s experience.
Professional development continues to be a key component for advisors, but where does one start their journey in academic advising? Internships create an opportunity for new professionals to begin their development early, as well as a chance for experienced professionals to give back to a collaborative and supportive field. At Missouri State University, we have found that a connection between academic advising and graduate programs can open doors to students who may have an interest in the field. We encourage advisors to consider how their offices could be a resource for training and professional development as a collective effort to contribute to the field of academic advising.
Graduate Assistant, Co-Curricular Programs
Missouri State University
Graduate Assistant, Career Center
Missouri State University
Director, Academic Advisement Center
Missouri State University
Brown, T. E., & Ward, L. (2007). Preparing service providers to foster student success. In G. L. Kramer (Ed.), Fostering student success in the campus community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Drake, J. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.) (pp. 396-412). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Penn State. (2014). Writing objectives. Retrieved from http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/Objectives/ActionVerbsforObjectives.pdf
Cite this article using APA style as: Baker, R., Brake, K., & Davis, K. (2017, June). Enhancing the advising profession through internships. Academic Advising Today, 40(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]