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Voices of the Global Community


Jeannie Brown Leonard, Kansas State University 
Marché Thompson, Kansas State University 

Creating advising excellence in a large, decentralized university is imperative for student success (McMurtrie & Supiano, 2022). The literature supports the power of the academic advising relationship to promote belonging, learning, and degree completion (Higgins, 2017; Smith & Allen, 2006; Wei, 2022; Young-Jones et al., 2013). Once a university commits to improving academic advising, how can it achieve consistent excellence across diverse colleges?

Through her student leadership roles, Marché (the student author of this article) learned of widely different experiences with advising among her peers. As part of a conversation with Jeannie (the administrator author of this piece) about the challenges and aspirations of academic advising excellence, Marché shared details about her experience on a recent trip to Dallas where she learned about a particular hotel chain. For this hospitality management major, this trip offered an insider’s view of the corporate enterprise. She learned about brand identity, quality standards, consistency of the client experience, training, and client recovery. Replace “client” or “guest” with “student” and the key words for excellence in hospitality offer a creative twist on academic advising excellence. This article aims to disrupt the conventional narrative on advising excellence by borrowing key constructs from hospitality.

The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA) has published core values (NACADA, 2017) as well as Nine Conditions of Excellence in Academic Advising (NACADA, n.d.). These professional norms guide the creation and assessment of academic advising systems at colleges and universities. The aspirations of the profession are clear; delivering on these ideals is harder.         

University educators talk about the student experience. The corollary for hospitality is the guest experience. The guest experience differentiates failing businesses from wildly successful ones. According to Suleri et al. (2021), the “customer experience is more than the result of one single touchpoint; it is the total sum of the customers’ interaction[s]. . . . Two customers can follow the same steps, procedures, and journey and still feel as if it was a different experience” (p. 113). An excellent guest experience is more likely to produce a repeat consumer. In recent years, the hospitality industry has focused on creating exceptional guest experiences rather than simply great guest service, coining the term “experienscape” (Pizam & Tasci, 2018). Restaurants and hotels do not want to leave the quality of the guest experience to chance. They vigorously put in systems to control the experience. This effort is important because COVID-19 showed the world, especially the hospitality industry, that tomorrow’s business is not guaranteed.

There are multiple hospitality industry frameworks available for this comparison and analysis. The nine basic principles that contribute to “remarkable service” (Muller, 2016, para. 1) are useful, as are the standards of service adopted by Ritz Carlton, an "exemplar of behavioral differentiation” (Bacon & Pugh, 2004, p. 62). Ritz Carlton’s Gold Standards include a credo, an employee promise, and expectations for service. Bacon and Pugh (2004) outline the foundational elements that make it possible for Ritz Carlton to deliver extraordinary service consistently. Attention to all elements is critical in delivering on the Gold Standards, including employee recruitment and selection, employee orientation and professional development, internal communication and storytelling, focus on purpose over function, and measuring performance.

Table 1 displays these guiding ideas from two different industries side-by-side to help the reader follow along in this interdisciplinary thought exercise. What can the academic advising community learn from hospitality to accelerate movement toward a more consistent advising experience? One can argue that consistency is not the most important part of advising excellence, but it is a thorny problem in large, decentralized institutional contexts. For many, this comparison will feel abrasive. Reserve judgment until we have made our case. Of course students are not hotel clients. Even though some voices in higher education equate students with customers, the critical insight from hospitality is how to ensure a consistent, high-quality experience across time and place. Here is where advising can learn from hospitality. 

Table 1

Comparison of NACADA and Hospitality Underlying Principles 


Core Values 


Conditions of Excellence for Academic Advising

Hospitality Excellence Ritz Carlton Gold Standards

 Hospitality Principles 

Caring, Inclusive, Respect 

Commitment—advising is critical to student learning; clear mission

Commitment—genuine care

Welcoming, friendly, and courteous 

Professionalism, Commitment 

Learning—the what and the how for student learning

No corresponding standard




Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity—policy and practice that promotes equity (e.g., universal design)

Diversity is Valued

No corresponding principle


Advisor Development—clear expectations, feedback, and ongoing professional development

Ongoing Orientation and Professional Development—

21-day; 365-day booster shots



Scholarship of Advising—assess, evaluate, and contribute to literature

Continuous Improvement


Commitment, Professionalism

Collaboration and Communication—partnerships for information sharing and coordinated communication

Daily Lineup—communication and inspiration moment each day


Empowerment, Commitment, Professionalism 

Organization—leadership and resources as well as equitable advising experience

Problem Resolution Authority

Well timed 


Integrity, Respect 

Student Purpose and Pathways—exploration and guidance to follow chosen path

Purpose over Function—a waiter’s function is to serve food, but the purpose is a great guest experience

No corresponding principle

Professionalism, Commitment 

Technology Enabled—access and training on advising technology

Management of Measurement—CRM (Client Resource Management)




The data in Table 1 highlight several opportunities for advising to learn from hospitality. This analysis focuses on consistency. Consistency in this context is a set of expected experiences. As signaled by the conditions for excellence in advising, it helps to start with a shared vision and mission for academic advising at the institution. In a large, decentralized context, mission statements help orient intentions, define an ideological stance, and express a commitment to equity. Shared expectations for what advisors need to know, do, and value also help create a uniform understanding of the services and learning outcomes expected from the advising relationship. A robust onboarding followed by a series of professional development opportunities help ensure advisors have the knowledge and skills to deliver on these expectations. Vehicles for communication, collaboration, and effective leveraging of technology also are important. Finally, robust assessment of the advising process promotes a culture of continuous improvement, tracking key advising metrics beyond satisfaction.

Borrowing from the hospitality industry, consistency requires performance standards, communication, training, and agency to report and correct problems. Both industries attempt a holistic person-centric approach. The scope of the Professionalism value (hospitality terms appear parenthetically) is noteworthy as it includes students (guests), colleagues (other employees), institutions (Ritz Carlton), and higher education (hospitality industry). Bacon and Pugh (2004) point out that the Gold Standards “address not only how to behave toward guests but also how employees should behave toward each other—and how the institution should behave towards them” (p. 65). The NACADA core values speak to advisors. The Excellence in Academic Advising (EAA) principles are broader, but do not include expectations for how institutions should behave toward advisors beyond broad statements about support, leadership, and adequate resources. Institutions should provide career ladders for advisors, invest in and make participation in robust professional development possible, and provide advisors with the tools and agency to address problems rather than requiring a referral (McMurtrie & Supiano, 2022). These expectations appear in the EAA conditions, yet greater institutional accountability might be a lesson learned from hospitality.

Performance Standards

The advising core values of Commitment, Empowerment, and Professionalism point the way to an ideal state. However, to improve consistency, advising needs its own Gold Standards. Imagine a set of core standards that each institutional context can embellish. Organizational control is a process to influence members of an organization to “behave in ways that lead to the attainment of organizational goals and objectives” (University of Minnesota, 2015, section 15.3). Organizational control involves the following steps: “1) establish standards, 2) measure performance, 3) compare performance to standards, 4) take corrective action as needed” (University of Minnesota, 2015, section 15.3). Assuming standards are taught, this prescription is useful. The last three steps require a commitment to assessment and continuous improvement. How do institutions know they are doing an excellent job in academic advising? Thanks to NACADA’s leadership, evaluating advisors and the advising experience is moving beyond measures of student satisfaction to capture student learning and assessing advisor behaviors. Evaluating consistency calls for a consistent set of standards, metrics, and opportunities for data collection.

Communication, Training, and Agency

Using the Ritz Carlton exemplar, advising directors could consider the following ideas.

  • Is there an advising model equivalent to the Daily Lineup communication approach used by the Ritz Carlton? Clarity in communication is challenging for large, complex organizations. This centrally guided but decentrally delivered daily message may be worth trying. The content included procedural updates and stories that represent the purpose and heart of the organization.
  • Could academic advisor efficacy and confidence improve by creating a strong onboarding experience followed by intentional professional development at key intervals? Could this professional development model support professional advancement and align with advisor experience and duties?
  • Finally, what if advisors had the tools to solve problems in the moment? Ritz Carlton provides resources (dollars) to help front line team members fix problems. Employees learn their purpose, not just their function, and their purpose is to provide an outstanding guest experience. The hotel chain also leverages technology to allow staff to document problems that they may not be able to fix directly. Problem identification is the first step to problem resolution. Imagine a database where faculty and staff can report advising challenges for investigation and correction; allowing for success stories in this system appeals to our asset-oriented profession.

This cross-disciplinary borrowing has its limitations. Students are not guests; they are far more complex than hotel guests. The crises experienced in each realm have different consequences. Advising promotes learning outcomes whereas hospitality promotes comfort/care and seeks to ensure repeat business. In hospitality, the relationship with a guest is superficial and transactional. The bottom-line outcome for hospitality is a repeat guest. Although retention in higher education is akin to a repeat guest, persisting in college also includes learning and growth.

The Coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down and forced us all to pivot. Businesses must fight for repeat customers. Higher education is facing similar challenges. Academic advisors can commit to student learning outcomes and high service standards. Respectful, friendly interactions help people feel valued, which improves the likelihood of learning. As colleges and universities refine business processes and invest in advising excellence to improve the student experience, decentralized advising models should consider developing clear service standards and commit to robust models of professional development and communication to create consistent excellence across the student experienscape. It is time to disrupt the traditional narrative of advising excellence and embrace learning from other disciplines (Charlton, as cited in McMurtrie & Supiano, 2022). To conclude this thought exercise, we modernize Ritz Carlton’s motto: We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen to: We are curious humans challenging, supporting, and serving curious humans.


Bacon, T. R., & Pugh, D. G. (2004). Ritz Carlton and EMC: The gold standards in operational behavioral differentiation. Journal of Organizational Excellence, 23(2), 61–76. https://doi-org.er.lib.k-state.edu/10.1002/npr.20009

Higgins, E. M. (2017, May). The advising relationship is at the core of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 40(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Advising-Relationship-is-at-the-Core-of-Academic-Advising.aspx 

McMurtrie, B., & Supiano, B. (2022). The future of advising: Strategies to support student success. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Muller, M. (2016, August 19). The nine basic principles of hospitality and service. MBB hospitality. https://www.mbbmanagement.com/hospitality-hacks/basic-principles-hospitality-service/

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

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (n.d.). Conditions of excellence in academic advising. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Programs/Excellence-in-Academic-Advising.aspx

Pizam, A., & Tasci, A. D. A. (2019). Experienscape: Expanding the concept of servicescape with a multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary approach. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 76, 25–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhm.2018.06.010  

Smith, C. L., & Allen, J. M. (2006). Essential functions of academic advising: What students want and get. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 56–66. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-26.1.56

Suleri, J., Meijer, R., & Tarus, E. (2021) Exploring hotel identity by focusing on customer experience analysis. Research in Hospitality Management, 11(2), 113–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/22243534.2021.1917178  

University of Minnesota (2015). Principles of management. Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA). https://open.lib.umn.edu/principlesmanagement/chapter/15-3-organizational-control/

Wei, J. (2022). Stealth advising: How advisors introduce academic substance into routine conversations. NACADA Journal, 42(1), 53–63. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-21-12

Young-Jones, A. D., Burt, T. D., Dixon, S., & Hawthorn, M. (2013). Academic advising: Does it really impact student success? Quality Assurance in Education, 21(1), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1108/09684881311293034


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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.