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Voices of the Global Community


Joshua S. Smith, NACADA President

This spring more than 3,000 NACADA members attended one of 10 regional conferences. If you were able to attend, you undoubtedly learned from colleagues, shared ideas that are working on your campus, and participated in scholarly inquiry regarding academic advising. I had the distinct pleasure of serving as keynote speaker in Region 2 (my new “home” region) and Region 5 (my previous Region). It was great engaging with friends, learning from colleagues, and meeting new NACADA members. The content of the keynotes basically walked the audience through the history of academic advising as a field and posed a very serious question for the future. That question, which was refined following excellent suggestions from the Region 2 colleagues, was and remains: To what extent are advisors and advising administrators 1) on the same page, and 2) effectively articulating the purpose of advising? 

President Josh Smith.jpt

As President this year, I have presented my views on professionalism in advising and my thoughts on the issue continue to evolve. Following feedback on the keynotes and continued reflection, it occurs to me that advising is facing a question of professional identity, one that can be addressed both internally and externally. In this article I am advocating that we focus internally on what I am calling Advocacy Advising.   The concept follows from Marc Lowenstein’s learning-centered paradigm, which positions the role of advisor as a key in helping students and faculty alike in decodimg the logic of the college curriculum and, one could argue, co-constructing the meaning of college curriculum. We often think of the curriculum as content delivered through a series of courses usually consisting of major, minor, and general education components. More recently, student learning outcomes have become incorporated and valued to some extent as part of the curriculum. However, a more expansive view of curriculum also includes pedagogical philosophies, co-curricular experiences, the culture of discipline, and what it means to be learned, proficient, and knowledgeable in a particular area. For example, the Bologna Project and other entities such as the Lumina Foundation for Education are pushing higher education to reconsider the meaning of a transcript and think beyond the set of courses and the associated credits generated to get to the 36-credit major or 120-credit degree. They challenge higher education to discuss and arrive at a set of agreed-upon learning outcomes one should have acquired and demonstrated competency in to a bachelor’s degree in education or a master’s degree in history.

Advocacy Advising positions advisors and advising administrators at the table during these discussions, as well as taking a lead role in interpreting this with students. It is critical that we overtly demonstrate how advising supports student success goals and fits naturally within the mission and visions statements and strategic plans at our respective institutions. It is imperative that our actions are uniquely contributing to the access, success, and retention components. Not only must we demonstrate and remind people at all levels that  advising directly and indirectly impacts student success, we must  also critically examine and document when, where, how, and in what ways it does so. Let me provide another example of how Advocacy Advising can be actualized in the future of higher education. By next year 45 states will adopt the Common Core State Standards. Not long after, students will be coming to our campuses with years of experience in and a much greater appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and humanities, with more time engaged in problem- or project-based learning experiences, and with expectations that college will build upon these more integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. Full-time advisors can take a leadership role in learning and translating this new logic of the K-12 curriculum to undergraduate curriculum committees, department chairs, and upper-level administrators on their respective campuses. In addition to supporting faculty, advisors will continue to bridge this “next new gap” between the expectations and realities of the high school-college/university divide in curricular and pedagogical approaches.

Advocacy Advising also creates space for advisors to enter the public and political debate on the value of higher education itself. When the cover of Newsweek asks the question, “Is College a Lousy Investment?” and the answer within the article is a resounding yes, we have a problem. Entrepreneurs are paying students to drop out of college and “go to work,” and it appears that we are more likely to listen to Bill Gates than to education researchers and professionals on ways to reform education and higher education policies. I am pleased that advisors are active on Twitter and posting on blogs in order to situate the voices of the advising professionals into the current and future debates of the value of a college education. Advocacy advising calls for all of us to identify audiences on our campuses and throughout social media venues and consistently share our views on the purpose of academic advising. I am grateful to @laurapasquini, @EricStoller, @svive, @BrodyBroshears, @UOAdvDir (Jennifer Joslin), and countless other academic advisors and student affairs professionals who are front and center sharing perspectives, articles, and commentary in this space. Follow me on Twitter @NACADAJosh and share your ideas on the purpose of academic advising and feedback on the concept of Advocacy Advising.

Joshua S. Smith, President, 2012-2013
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Dean, School of Education, Loyola University Maryland
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Smith, J. (2013, June). From the president: Effectively articulating the purpose of advising. Academic Advising Today, 36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2013 June 36:2


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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.