Amy Sannes, NACADA President
The following was adapted from a presentation to the Council of Academic Advisors at Arizona State University.
Why am I an academic advisor? Why do we do what we do? There are many reasons that, as advisors, we do what we do. But I would venture to guess that for most of us, we do this because we believe in our students. We do this to support, guide, and help our students find their passions and leave our institutions in a better place than when they entered our lives.
NACADA’s recently revised Core Values for Academic Advising really are at the heart of why we do what we do. The NACADA Core Values provide guidance to academic advisors in their professional lives and exemplify their commitment to the students they advise, their institutions, their professional practice, and the broader advising and educational community. The Core Values provide us guidance in our hiring practices and are a great tool in explaining expectations with newly hired advisors.
The remainder of this article will review the description of each of the seven core values and reflect on how the value plays out in the words of actual students. The core values also address how advisors interact with their peers, institutions, and our profession, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.
Core Value: 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).
“You take the time to talk with me and don’t just tell me courses and send me on my way. You know me. Thank you.”
We talk about helping students find their passion; I believe caring is the advisor’s passion. I have seen this core value exhibited every day, and I hear it in advisors’ voices when they talk about their students. We care without asking for anything in return. Our students deserve this unconditional care. And yes, even when we are tested by hearing our student tell us their grades are much better this term and they are attending class, and we proudly watch them leave only to turn to our early alert system and see an alert pop up for lack of attendance for that very student, even then, we still care.
Core Value: 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).
“My advisor knew to ask questions I hadn't even thought about yet.”
That passion that we have to care for our students spills over into commitment. As advisors, we are committed to the success of our students, our institution, and our profession. We look beyond the basic class registration questions and try to anticipate the needs of our students and what we as advisors can do to help them succeed. We remain committed to treating each student like they were our first student of the day.
Core Value: Empowerment. Academic advisors motivate, encourage, and support students and the greater educational community to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect and express individuality (NACADA, 2017).
“My advisor believes in me and I know it. That is the most important thing an advisor can do for a student.”
We cannot do it for them, but we can be there to push them to do it for themselves and support their dreams and goals. As an advisor, never underestimate the power of your actions.
“I was about to give up, I felt so worthless, I kept going down the same path and my grades kept getting worse to the point I was about to be suspended. I couldn’t face my family. My advisor helped me see that I was chasing a dream that really wasn’t my own. She helped me realize I never really wanted to be a doctor and that there are other ways to help people. She helped me find the courage to talk to my parents, change my major, and be proud of doing what I love—teaching. Life is beautiful when you live your life.”
Core Value: Inclusivity. Academic advisors respect, engage, and value a supportive culture for diverse populations. Advisors strive to create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, institutions, and colleagues through openness, acceptance, and equity (NACADA, 2017).
“You look beyond my status. You helped me feel like I belonged, that I deserved to be here.”
This is a tall order, but it is our responsibility to help all of our students feel like they belong and are safe on our campuses. Belonging can take different forms for our students, and as advisors, we can take the lead in having continuing conversations around inclusivity and engagement on our campuses.
Core Value: 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).
“A mistake was made: I’m not sure by who, but my advisor explained the error to me and worked out a compromise that helped me meet the requirement. Was I happy, not really, but I did understand I needed to meet the academic requirements to get my degree.”
Our job is not to always say yes to the student. We have to maintain the integrity of the degree and sometimes this means helping students understand that a mistake was made and we cannot just ignore a requirement. However, sometimes we can compromise, if there is no risk to the integrity of the major. We try to honor what is told to a student as we know trust is important to the advising relationship. A more complex issue here is when what is right for institution occasionally conflicts with what is right for the student—a sort of ethical dilemma.
Core Value: Professionalism. Academic advisors act in accordance with the values of the profession of advising for the greater good of students, colleagues, institutions, and higher education in general (NACADA, 2017).
“She knows her stuff man—go see her!”
This may not be an obvious quote for professionalism, but it is the story behind it that has meaning. This specific student was struggling and avoiding his advisor, but after being put on probation, was required to meet with his advisor. To shorten a long story, the advisor connected with the student and helped him not only get back on track but find a major in which he was much more engaged. This student became the advising office’s biggest recruiter—he told all his friends to go see his advisor. Professionalism in our field includes knowledgeable, helpful, and committed advisors who put student success at the forefront.
Core Value: Respect. Academic advisors honor the inherent value of all students. Advisors build positive relationships by understanding and appreciating students’ views and cultures, maintaining a student-centered approach and mindset, and treating students with sensitivity and fairness (NACADA, 2017).
“He treated me like an adult. Like I had something to say.”
Respect is the utmost gift we can give our students. Even when we have those days when we feel a bit challenged ourselves, we never let it affect our students.
So, why do we do what we do? Or why are we academic advisors? We do this to ensure we provide an inclusive environment where all voices can be heard, where individuals are treated with integrity, where we remain professional in all our actions, and above all, where there is respect for our students, each other, and our institution.
This is why we are academic advisors. This is why we do what we do!
Amy Sannes, President, 2017-2018
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Director, Academic Services Natural Sciences
Arizona State University
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx
Cite this article using APA style as: Sannes, A. (2018, September). From the president: Core values-why we do what we do. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]