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Voices of the Global Community


Jeffrey McClellan, Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission Chair 
Shannon Lynn Burton, Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission Member

JeffMcClellan.jpgShannonBurton.jpg“It’s a dangerous thing… going out of your door…You step into the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to” (Tolkien, 2004, p. 74). In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien foreshadows his main character’s adventure with this wonderful literary declaration. Enticed by the mystery and wonder of this statement, the reader is drawn onto a road filled with adventure and peril. It is just such a road onto which NACADA moves as it teeters on the verge of an international expansion. Presently, it is unclear what this expansion will bring; nonetheless, it will likely involve both adventure and peril.

In Tolkien’s classic series, many individuals advise and assist the protagonist on his journey. As NACADA moves forward, the Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission hopes to contribute similarly. The commission focuses on expanding the theoretical and philosophical foundations of academic advising to better inform the practice of advisors, the scholarship of the field, and the performance of the organization. Given the imminent adventure of internationalization, this article provides some key concepts and suggestions for consideration during this expansion.

Knight (1994) defined internationalization as the “process of infusing an international or intercultural dimension into the teaching, learning, research and service functions of higher education” (p.7). As NACADA begins this process, leaders and members must examine their intercultural communication skills and improve their abilities

 to skillfully assimilate ideas, customs, and philosophies from other cultures through fostering relationships of trust. Such relationships, if nurtured and managed effectively, increase networking opportunities, cost advantages, and learning tools. Accordingly, NACADA should strive to become a Global Learning Organization (GLO) (Tolbert, et al, 2002). GLOs are characterized by (Tolbert, et al, 2002, 465):

  • individuals who recognize they are responsible for setting the organizational climate;
  • systems and procedures which are constantly examined to ensure they support diversity, creativity, and global thinking;
  • recruitment, promotion, and employee development processes based on input from a variety of sources and that are closely monitored to ensure they are consistent with the organization’s global philosophy; and
  • maintenance of cultural awareness as a clear and consistent organizational priority.

Until recently, NACADA operated primarily within the United States/Canadian cultural contexts; however, to the extent that NACADA seeks to become a GLO, the culture must shift to accommodate these priorities. Thus, it is important that we recognize the value of other frames and worldviews within NACADA’s internal and external cultures. Becoming aware of contextual differences like individualism vs. collectivism, high context vs. low context, and differences in value, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance (Gudykunst, 2004) will further strengthen the organization.

Advisors should likewise understand such differences and be aware of their influence when interacting with international colleagues and students. Furthermore, they should learn from and respond to others’ ways of knowing, thereby setting an example across campus and in the broader community. At the core, it would be contradictory were advisors to ask students to become globally competent, without doing so themselves. Advisors’ actions have far more significant effects in this arena than they might suspect.

As advisors and leaders focus on creating a climate of intercultural dexterity, they will realize four key benefits for NACADA, their institutional communities, and themselves:

  • increased success and influence of NACADA, advisors, and the students they serve within the global marketplace;
  • increased mutual understanding and resolution of global issues;
  • expanded knowledge and skills; and, finally,
  • increased expansion, growth, and success.

Gerzon (2003) recommended five values that, if activated, foster global citizenship. These include:

  • integrity -- a willingness to focus on acting in the best interest of everyone;
  • learning -- an openness to acquiring new knowledge;
  • dialogue -- engaging others in open, authentic interaction;
  • bridging -- a commitment to overcoming interpersonal/group barriers through community; and
  • synergy -- a willingness to work together to address common problems (p. 15-16).

As individuals enact these values they become “stewards of the whole” and able “to find common ground in a world of differences” (p. 16). Some recommended means whereby NACADA members can implement these global values include:

  • increase their awareness of their own paradigms, perspectives and practices, in essence, their worldview;
  • read literature on cultural competence and world events;
  • become aware of intercultural issues, domestically and internationally, especially in higher education and advising;
  • interact and partner with individuals with different worldviews, again both domestically and internationally, for publications, presentations, work projects, etc.;
  • organize and participate in projects, task forces, commissions, interest groups etc. focused on issues of a global nature; and
  • explore and invest in technology that facilitates collaboration.

Advisors should realize that diversity often results in conflict. Consequently, to engage effectively in a multicultural, international context, they will have to increase both their comfort with and their skill in managing conflict. Likewise, advisors must learn new means of overcoming conflict because many of the traditionally “American” ways of resolving conflict are not valid in global settings. Both Gerzon (2006) and Lebaron (2003) provide excellent insights regarding how this can be done effectively.

NACADA Leaders must maintain an open mind and flexibility within the organizational structures. Organizations tend to resist change and, as humans, we often look at issues from our own frames of reference. Unfortunately, this may impede our growth. If we are to embrace this change we must learn to adapt to new ways of doing things, becoming skillful at navigating a new frame is central.

Bolman and Deal (2008) state, “In trying to make sense out of a complicated and ambiguous situation… we depend very much on the frames, or mindsets, to give us a full reading of what we are up against” (p. 38). They suggest four frames through which we typically view our organizations: structural, human resources, political, and symbolic. Each brings its own strengths when looking at an issue and none are more right or wrong than the other. They simply allow us to translate observations into making decisions and moving to action. When advisors understand our frames and those of others, we function more effectively and then NACADA will strengthen its knowledge base for advisors and, by extension, for students.

This is a long journey; one not to be taken lightly. It will call for a sustained commitment from NACADA leaders and members to the fostering of intercultural competence and dexterity. In Tolkien’s classics, stepping outside the door proved beneficial for not only Tolkien’s protagonist, but also for those who were brought together in the united quest to make a difference. To this end, it is time to cross the threshold.

Shannon Lynn Burton
Academic Advising Specialist
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
[email protected]

Jeffrey McClellan
Assistant Professor of Management
Academic Advisor
Frostburg State University
[email protected]


Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T.E. (2008). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gerzon, M. (2003). Becoming global citizens: Finding common ground in a world of differences. Retrieved August 13, 2008, from http://www.mediatorsfoundation.org/relatedreading/becoming_global_citizens.pdf

Gerzon, M. (2006). Leading through conflict: How successful leaders transform differences into opportunities. Boston: Harvard Business School.

Gudykunst, W.B. (2004). Bridging Differences: Effective Intergroup Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Knight, J. (1994). Internationalization: Elements and checkpoints (Research Monograph, No. 7). Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Bureau for International Education.

LeBaron, M. (2003). Bridging cultural conflicts: A new approach for a changing world. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Tolbert, A.S., McLean, G.N., & Myers, R.C. (2002). Creating the global learning organization (GLO). International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 26, 463-472.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (2004). The Fellowship of the Ring. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Cite this article using APA style as: McClellan, J., & Burton, S.L. (2008, December). Going out the door: The internationalization of NACADA. Academic Advising Today, 31(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]  


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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.