Robin Arnsperger Selzer, University of Cincinnati
Janelle Ellis Rouse, Elon University
Key social justice ideologies are now embraced as a part of institutional priorities. Yet, advising communities are just beginning to explore social justice ideologies as an integral part of advising practices and advisor competencies. As contemporary higher education continues to strive to become a place where historically underserved students are affirmed as a part of the institutional priorities, it is important to think about how social justice ideology can be applied at the ground level in individual advising sessions and group outreach, such as workshops. Examples of academic advisor competencies found in NACADA’s Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources touch on this concept and lead us to dig deeper when advising particular populations of students. For example, one of the advisor competencies is “informational knowledge of college student characteristics.” It is important to understand that this often translates to working with underrepresented and marginalized students who identify as LGBT, students of color, first generation, international, veterans, etc. Therefore, advisors should align our priorities with the needs of a global diverse community, whereby the integration of a social justice framework is “deeply embedded into the daily practice of advising” (Rouse, 2011, p. 28). Rouse (2011) asserts that universities need advisors who have the necessary skills to promote equality. She states, “Our diverse students need empowered advisors and academic communities that understand the battles students face in fighting sociopolitical and institutional inequality” (p. 3).
There are often social justice dynamics at play in our advising interactions. Advisors serve everyone, from the typical student seeking academic resources to students who may present with a marginalized identity and need an ally. As advisors guide students to develop educationally, vocationally, and personally, how can we be expected to set significant parts of our identities aside? Students come to advisors with diverse identities. These dynamics often influence their overall success and achievement in college. So, what should advisors do to serve the holistic needs of students through a social justice lens? What practical strategies can advisors use to intervene against systemic oppressions and individualized discriminations? One of the things advisors do best is refer when appropriate. Being aware of the resources on campus and in our community demonstrates advisors are making an effort to understand people from different backgrounds. Do we know of, or better yet, have personal contacts in our campus Hillel or cultural centers? What about Disability Services? Moorhead (2005) has created a list of suggested strategies for advising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. She suggests being aware of our language. Have we asked students about their personal relationships or family support? Assisting students through such concerns and using an inclusive language are meaningful methods to integrate social justice ideologies into advising practice.
Advisors can find meaningful ways to integrate NACADA’s philosophy of “advising as teaching” through social justice, where dialogue with students about privilege, power, and difference is encouraged. Advisors often see themselves as advocates for their students. Therefore, advisors should speak up and challenge institutional barriers, such as inequitable policies and practices that unfairly affect students and teach students how to advocate for themselves and others. Having the courage to engage students in difficult conversations about societal inequity and difference educates students about the interconnections of power and privilege on campus and how they impact the successful academic and social integration of underrepresented, first-generation, and marginalized student groups. Academic advisors are crucial in the establishment of a campus climate that creates safe space for our students (Lantta, 2008). Advisors must establish an environment that communicates a ‘safe zone’ where all students feel welcome and secure in engaging in such critical, often difficult sociocultural and sociopolitical conversations.
Finally, just as diverse identities manifest themselves in so many ways within our students, similarly, they exist within academic advisors and emerge during personal interactions with students, within daily practice, and as a part of our professional advising philosophy. Advisors must understand how our identities, biases, privilege, and stereotypes may impact the way we engage students with difference and how our practice impacts success and achievement. Advisors have a responsibility to think about how our own power and privilege may play out in our advising responsibilities and ensure we are providing an equitable practice where students feel their difference is respected. For example, advisors often tell students to go talk to their faculty member, without thinking twice about what their experience has been with regard to working with university officials in positions of power. Many students feel intimidated or uncomfortable when addressing individuals in positions of power due to negative sociocultural or sociopolitical incidents that have left them feeling disrespected, insecure, or humiliated. To change how we relate to and impact our students, Rouse (2011) suggests we “critically examine ourselves to develop a deeper and critical awareness of any personal biases, beliefs, or historical roots that may influence or contribute to any forms of educational oppression instigated by our daily practice” (p. 27). We must ensure that academic advisors and advising systems operate under a “personal/professional ethical balance that safeguards advisors from using their positions of power, privilege and social dominance in making unethical decisions that negatively affect students’ success and the institution at large” (Rouse, 2011, p. 35). To achieve this, Rouse (2011) calls for academic systems to engage fully in social justice work as an academic advisor. Rouse (2011) designed the Social Justice Development Model to guide advisors through critical, transformative, and consciousness-raising phases to facilitate social-conscious growth; cultural competence; and race, class, gender, and ethnic awareness. The model is made up of three developmental phases: critical awareness; transformation; and action theoretically designed from critical theoretical constructs such as critical theory (including critical race, critical feminism, and critical pedagogy), transformative leadership, Freirean pedagogy, and constructivism. It is designed to guide individuals through a logical sequence of stages to introduce several critical sociopolitical and sociocultural competencies and habits of mind to actively engage in social justice leadership, action, advocacy and empowerment.
Rouse’s (2011) model “encourages advisors to examine the fundamental connections and conflicts between self and society that influence our personal lives/relationships and our interactions within our social world” (p. 114). The design and critical framework of the model posits that a “critical awareness of self, critical social constructs and cross-cultural competencies are fundamental components in developing knowledge that spurs a transformation toward critical consciousness (or a personal concern for social action), which in turn, through “sustained involvement” (Landreman, King, Rasmussen, and Jiang, 2007, p. 275) may encourage academic advisors to support and promote social justice ideologies through various modes of social action such as advocacy and empowerment” (Rouse, 2011, p.115).
Now is the time for advisors and academic systems to institute a contemporary approach to advising where a commitment to social justice is deeply embedded, acknowledged, implemented and lived in daily practice. As NACADA re-conceptualizes the commitment to diversity and inclusion, so should academic advisors begin to create strategies and pathways to become a more “inclusive, affirming, and engaging teaching and learning environment for today’s multicultural student population” (Rouse, 2011, p. 26). Let us find meaningful ways to connect social justice leadership and advocacy to NACADA’s Statement of Core Values (2004) and strategic goals for diversity and inclusion. Let us find ways, through social justice education, to practice self-reflection and introspection and unearth biases and stereotypes so that we are able to fully support difference, promote equity and encourage social change.
Robin Arnsperger Selzer
Pre-Professional Advising Center
University of Cincinnati
Janelle Ellis Rouse
Director of Education Outreach
Academic advisor competencies. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academic-advisor-competencies.aspx
Landreman, L., King, P., Rasmussen, C., & Jiang, C. (2007). A phenomenological study of the development of university educators’ critical consciousness. Journal of College Student Development, 48(3), 275-295.
Lantta, M. (2008). Supporting social justice through advising. Academic Advising Today, 31(2).
Moorhead, C. (2005). Advising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in higher education. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-Lesbian--Gay--Bisexual--and-Transgender-Students-in-Higher-Education.aspx
Rouse, J.E. (2011). “Social Justice Development: Creating Social Change Agents in Academic Systems (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/Rouse_uncg_0154D_10642.pdf
Cite this article using APA style as: Arnsperger Selzer, R. & Ellis Rouse, J. (2013, September). Integrating social justice and academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 36(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]