Academic Advising in a Globalized Postmodern Era
Shannon Burton, Theory & Philosophy of Advising Commission Chair
In 1990, geographer David Harvey assessed the conditions of postmodernity which emerged as part of the evolution of the globalized political and economic order. Essentially, Harvey stated that postmodernism centered on:
the indeterminacy of language, the primacy of discourse, the de-centering and fragmentation of the concept of self, the significance of the “other”, a recognition of the tight, unbreakable power/knowledge nexus, the attenuation of a belief in meta-narratives, and the decline of dependence upon rationalism (Bloland, 1995, p. 526).
Furthermore, it maintains an “emphasis on discontinuity and difference in history… a rejection of ‘meta-narratives (Harvey, 9).”
The postmodern condition has generated a significant shift in the nature of institutions, whether they are regions, municipalities, corporations, or educational entities. It accounts for our move from a production to a consumption society and from national to international politics. In the United States, there has been a significant focus on how well the economy has adapted to the era of postmodernity. It can be stated that the United States has not fared well thus far.
Essentially, before the world started getting flattened, the United States was an island – an island of innovation and safety and growing incomes. And therefore it became a magnet for the world’s capital and the world’s talent. When your currency is the world’s currency and every brain wants to come over and work in your backyard, you start to take things for granted (Friedman, 2006, 343).
When institutions become known for their innovation and development of a new field, it is natural that those outside their cultural context be drawn to the ideas created. However, once those seeking the innovation adopt those ideas and concepts, so too do they adopt the means to create their own innovations.
In 2007, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising began to accommodate and change in response to the number of members from institutions located in both the developed and developing world. Given that academic advising as a field maintains a relatively new place within higher education, the increased numbers of international members may indicate a greater need to provide advising-related services on college and university campuses throughout the world. Additionally, the call for greater attention to student retention, success, and persistence is heard from external constituents who ask for increased accountability for the learning outcomes of students and these students’ subsequent contributions to the international community and the development of the world as a whole.
Today, societies across the globe are working to develop their human capital in an effort to produce leaders from their own cultures. These initiatives appear to stem from a variety of sources ranging from politics to the media. However, the greatest promoter of these initiatives lies within the private sector with its calls for more employees possessing the skills needed to thrive in the new global economy. These skills address a number of issues: economic and cultural globalization, global political relationships, information technology, immigration, outsourcing, and global, environmental, and social concerns. In an effort to develop their human capital, institutional administrators abroad, including those in charge of academic advising, often look to academic and student affairs models in the West.
NACADA leaders are focused on globalization issues within the organization in a coordinated effort to assist colleagues overseas and to promote the development of a solid body of research to inform practice. Unfortunately, the majority of research on academic advising has been done within a Western context (the United States, the United Kingdom, or Canada). Borrowing research based upon Western higher education traditions offers challenges to those seeking to improve academic advising at institutions with non-Western cultural and historical contexts.
Frost (2000) indicated that the field of academic advising has progressed through three eras: higher education before academic advising was defined, academic advising as a defined and unexamined activity, and academic advising as a defined and examined activity. I assert that academic advising is now facing a fourth era due the societal changes emerging from the globalization process. This new era, “academic advising as a global initiative,” began in 2007. This era has been defined by the refocus of NACADA as an organization seeking to expand the field as a result of internationalization and by the even further expansion of higher education due to globalization. As the premier organization for the field of academic advising, this shift within NACADA is most readily noted through the changes to its membership, mission, goals, and strategic plan.
As the field of academic advising reaches beyond Western borders and into other cultural traditions, the theories applied to advising must reflect the values, philosophies, and societal norms of each culture. In planning for academic advising and detailing the theories to be used in a particular place and time, all who seek to improve advising at their institutions should be cognizant of the cultural norms that have contributed to the development of current theories.
It is abundantly clear that there can be no science of education planning… Planning may have developed a few general principles, such as the need for an institution to pay attention both to its traditions and to the most consequential environmental factors pressing on it, or the necessity of knowing about competitors and competing distinctively between them. But to be successful, planning must also adapt to local, specific conditions and to the temper of the times. What this means… is that we must all be amateur anthropologists and historians of the present and the near-term future, as well as technicians of institutional change (Keller, 2007, 61).
Hence, if academic advising is to be a comprehensive and transformational process, not only for colleges and universities, but for the students themselves, then advising must reflect the cultural norms of the society and culture where it is delivered. For each cultural context a new set of theories should be examined. Noting how one interacts with the “other,” how language meaning varies from culture to culture, and how no one overarching concept (meta-narrative) applies to all contexts in all times, will help us maintain the relevance of academic advising in our institutions and around the world.
Shannon Lynn Burton
School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University
Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Shannon, who will receive a NACADA Outstanding Advising Award at our Annual Conference in October. If you see Shannon at the Orlando event, be sure to thank her for her many contributions to our profession!
Bloland, H.G. (1995). Postmodernism and higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 66(5), 521-560.
Friedman, T.L. (2006). The world is flat: A brief history of the 21st century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Frost, S.H. (2000). Historical and philosophical foundations for academic advising. In V.N. Gordon & W.R. Habley (Eds.) Academic advising; A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Keller, G. (2007). The emerging third stage in higher education planning. Planning for Higher Education, 35(4), 60-64.
From the President: She Said 'Identity Matters'
Jayne Drake, NACADA President
When the big screen monitor at the Philadelphia International Airport suddenly jumped to life, a uniformed young woman, smiling, asked “Why do you need to produce photo identification at the security screening area?” Because, she said in reply to her own question, “Identity matters. For everyone’s safety and security, our agents must verify that the names on the tickets match the IDs of the passengers.” Identity matters.
Would that establishing our identities were that easy. Who am I? I am the person looking at you from the front page of my passport or from beneath the plastic laminate of my driver’s license. My hair may be longer or shorter by now; I may be heavier or thinner, and I could now be wearing glasses... or not. But, yep, that’s me all right.
Alas, establishing our identity is simply not that easy or obvious. Perhaps even more challenging is working with our students to help them find and “define” theirs. Identity is a complicated thing.
I promise not to weigh down my musings on identity by referencing the collected knowledge of the saints, sages, philosophers, and divines who have had something to say on identity matters—the wisdom of the ages in all that has been thought, said, and recorded. Rather, I would like briefly to view identity formation as a process that the students who sit in our offices undertake every day of the week as they look for our assistance in navigating the sometimes perilous waters of their academic and life plans.
There are plenty of days when we as faculty advisors, professional advisors, counselors, personal tutors, or advising administrators might wish that our students came to us with mature, well-defined, well-refined identities. Our lives as advisors would be so much easier (and simpler) if our students appeared at our doorway as grounded, self-actualized, and responsible adults confident in their academic direction and career aspirations.
At this year’s Region 4 Conference in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to chat privately with the keynote speaker, Erroll Davis, the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia and an enthusiastic advocate of quality academic advising. Advisors, he commented, play a powerful role in higher education today because they stand at the nexus between the students who often enter the academy unformed and undefined and those who leave with identities and life direction shaped by a convergence of influences marked by positive interactions with faculty members and professional advisors. It is the particular responsibility of advisors, Chancellor Davis noted, to guide students to make academic and life plans consistent with their interests and abilities.
While one can reasonably argue that our identities are shaped by our families, friends, the media, education, role models, and the impact of life events, ultimately our lives are of our own making (positive or negative); the direction we choose is, at last, our own responsibility. We must be held accountable for our own actions. It is a fool’s errand to blame others instead of looking into ourselves. This awareness is part of the maturation process and is an invaluable life lesson for faculty and advisors to instill in their students. Encouraging students to accept responsibility for their own actions, and ultimately encouraging students’ self awareness are important life lessons for advisors to encourage.
With Chancellor Davis’s statement in mind, it becomes all the more important for us to be aware of various developmental theories that, in turn, provide insights into students’ cognitive, psychosocial, and ethical development. As a good starting place and overview of these theories, I would point you to Sherri Williams’ 2007 NACADA Clearinghouse article entitled “From Theory to Practice: The Application of Theories of Development to Academic Advising Philosophy and Practice,” in which she summarizes and applies to advising a number of concepts in identity formation from a number of the field’s leading theorists. Among these is theorists Arthur Chickering and the Seven Vectors of Identity Development which he identified in 1969: developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity. Close on the heels of these concepts comes Burns Crookston’s and Terry O’Banion’s views that academic advising might best be seen through the lens of student development theories. Identity formation, they argue, is a process of shared responsibility between the advisor and the student, a reciprocal relationship that helps to engender students’ self awareness. In 1982, Ender, Winston, and Miller published a volume entitled Developmental Approaches to Academic Advising that contains an array of chapters on the connections that theorists have made between student identity development and advising. Also offering a useful summary of various approaches to student developmental theory is Susan Frost’s chapter in the first edition of Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (2000) entitled “Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Academic Advising.”
While no one would argue that advisors need to know all such developmental theories (and I’ve mentioned only a few here), it is, nevertheless, important for advisors to be aware of them as they forge that sometimes sensitive but always crucial relationship between themselves and their advisees. The beginnings of student self examination and identity formation in the academy occur when advisors pose the right questions and create a “safe space” in which advisees are free to explore and make their own decisions. Standing at the nexus, advisors provide the equivalent of Ernest Hemingway’s “Clean Well-Lighted Place”—a place in which students have the opportunity to make sense of their educational experiences and face with confidence their career aspirations, a place from which they can explore their own transformations and their futures. This intersection is a powerful and humbling place for advisors who understand that identity matters.
Jayne Drake, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
From the Executive Director: Stand Up and Become the Key Advocate for Student Success and Academic Advising on Campus and Around the Globe!
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
As I sit at my computer, I am thrilled that SPRING has finally SPRUNG in Kansas! After what seemed to be the winter that would not end, it is wonderful to see flowers blooming in my yard and be able to sit on my screened porch and contemplate the importance of academic advising on our campuses across the world! (Yes, perhaps I need a hobby?)
Seriously, this has been an interesting year for higher education in what is predicted to be a series of challenging years. The global financial crisis continues to critically impact our daily work. Institutions across the world have seen dramatic increases in the number of students at a time of even more dramatic budget cuts and financial shortfalls. For the first time ever, community colleges are closing their doors to new students due to lack of space and lack of available classes. At the same time, universities in states such as Arizona and Florida have significantly reduced their freshman class sizes as a direct result of a decrease in the state funding needed to support these students.
Our colleagues in the United Kingdom (UK) recently were dealt a £500 million cut to higher education with predicted larger cuts for 2011. This has resulted in faculty and staff layoffs and the closing of academic programs at a time of record student enrollment. The cuts are coming when a record 45% of the UK population between 18 and 30 years old are enrolled in some form of higher education. In the US, the Post 9/11 GI Bill has brought a significant increase in the enrollment of veterans and active military students when the support programs needed by many of these students have decreased. At the same time, an April 2010 US Department of Education report showed that while college enrollment continues to rise, graduation rates have stagnated. This is while states such as Ohio have moved to new higher education funding plans based upon graduation and completion rates instead of enrollment numbers. These changes mean we must significantly change the culture of higher education so that we have institution-wide commitments to student success where academic advising, as all research indicates, is key to achieving student success!
This spring I have seen clearly this shift in culture evidenced in significant ways. It was very exciting to have over 200 participants registered from the US, Canada, and several other countries at the NACADA Seminar on Strategies for Improving Student Retention and Persistence. With cuts in travel and professional development funding, I believe these numbers clearly indicate that student success and academic advising are important enough that institutions made participation in this event a priority!
I also had the opportunity to be a part of the What Works: Student Success and Retention Conference in the United Kingdom, where over 150 participants gathered to discuss what works in improving student success on their campuses. Once again, much of the discussion centered on the importance of academic advising (known as personal tutoring in the UK) to student success. This culture shift is further demonstrated by the interest in research in the field of student success and retention as demonstrated by joint UK and NACADA sponsorship of literature reviews within the student retention field. The US (NACADA) portion of this literature review is a synthesis compiled by Wendy Troxel, Illinois State University, and will be available soon in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources with links to the UK effort.
Just as exciting is the public support of academic advising by numerous leaders in higher education. At the recent NACADA Region 10 Conference in Colorado Springs, CO, Tony Kinkel, President of Pikes Peak Community College, spoke of the importance of academic advising to student success and the key role academic advisors play in the instructional mission of the college. He strongly encouraged advisors to continue to collaborate with their faculty counterparts to provide the highest quality educational experiences for students. At the What Works: Student Success and Retention conference in Leeds, England, Baroness Estelle Morris, former Secretary of Education in the United Kingdom and now Chair of the Strategy Board for the Institute of Effective Education at the University of York, stated clearly the importance of student success initiatives in colleges and universities and the value academic advising/personal tutoring plays in the success of students in the United Kingdom. Dana Mohler-Faria, President of Bridgewater State College, in his keynote address at the NACADA Region 1 Conference in Newton, MA, stated that academic advising matters because it changes lives by taking people to places of their potential! He stated that academic advisors teach students how to effectively engage in their educations and with their institutions. He further stated that student success must be at the center of all institutional work and decision making; therefore, academic advising is critical to the success of higher education. At the NACADA Region 4 Conference in Atlanta, GA, Erroll Davis, Chancellor of the 35 institution, 350,000 student University System of Georgia, said that very little is more connected to the academic, career, and personal success of students than academic advising. He stated that the end goal of higher education must be the retention, persistence, and graduation of students; as such academic advising is the key to student engagement in their educational careers. Under his leadership, the enhancement of academic advising is identified as Goal #1 in the University System of Georgia’s Strategic Goals; the system is holding all institutions and college and university presidents accountable for a high level of achievement in the quality and consistency of academic advising.
During a recent visit to Florida International University in Miami, FL, I had the honor of being invited to a cookout at the home of Mark Rosenberg, President of FIU, who held this event to recognize the importance of the academic advising community at FIU. President Rosenberg welcomed the academic advisors, faculty advisors, and administrators to his home saying that the role academic advisors play in the lives of students is essential to their undergraduate success and, thus, is integral to increasing student persistence and graduation rates at FIU. In April, I had the extreme pleasure of co-presenting a workshop with Anthony Tricoli, President of Georgia Perimeter College, at the American Association of Community Colleges conference. Here we discussed the role of academic advising in the success of community college students and the responsibility college leaders have to support the development of quality academic advising programs on their campuses. President Tricoli delineated the path Georgia Perimeter College has taken in clearly connecting academic advising to teaching and learning and how important his college’s connection to NACADA has been for faculty and professional advisors.
Clearly, due to a myriad of reasons, higher education across the world is at a pivotal place in history; but no reason is as important as the increasing focus on Student Success! Academic advising is key to this success. I encourage all of NACADA’s nearly 10,000 members to be active participants in the change of culture at our institutions. Begin today – share this issue of Academic Advising Today with campus administrators; use the vast resources available through your NACADA membership to influence campus decision-makers. Stand up and become the key advocate for student success and academic advising on campus!
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Inspiration and Innovation: The Value of Pursuing 'Wouldn't It Be Cool?' Projects in Challenging Times
Tim Kirkner, Two-Year College Commission Chair
Julie Levinson, Two-Year College Commission Member
The current state of the U.S. economy has affected almost every sector, including higher education. For many advising professionals who work at two-year colleges, tight budgets have led to increased student populations, reduced resources, and pressures to hold down salaries. To the extent that higher education also relies on carrots and sticks to motivate faculty and staff, the current conditions have left the sticks in place but severely limited the supply of carrots.
Even in the most challenging times, autonomy and freedom are powerful incentives that colleges can offer employees at little cost. Daniel Pink (2009) published a timely book that makes the case for why this approach to motivating employees can be so effective. The central argument of his book, Drive, is that pay and acknowledgement for a job well done are not the sole motivations for our work. He describes numerous studies and examples that illustrate how autonomy, freedom, and creativity can keep workers happy and productive.
Several companies have made autonomy a formal policy. Google™ and 3M© are among the companies who have a “20 percent time” policy (Pink, 2009, p. 94) that officially establishes for employees an expectation that one-fifth of their time can be spent exploring ideas or projects of their choice. At 3M, allowing workers to be creative led to the invention of sticky notes; at Google it produced popular applications such as Google News and Gmail™.
While a uniform 20 percent time is not easily replicated in higher education, the core concept still can be recognized and encouraged. For example, while Montgomery College does not have a 20 percent time policy in place, freedom to pursue self-selected projects is part of the workplace culture. In fact, it is embedded in the College’s mission statement. If faculty or staff have a new idea or want to pursue professional development, they are encouraged to submit a proposal through the college’s “Make it Happen Innovation Grants' program. Conversations where ideas are first explored often begin with the words “wouldn’t it be cool if..?”
In fact, some of the college’s most highly valued advising programs, such as those focused on African American males, international students, first-year students, and returning adults all have roots in “20 percent time.” Another significant innovation to emerge from this creative license is eMAP, an online version of Montgomery College’s advising program. For years, the counseling faculty wrestled with how to efficiently and effectively provide advising to new students. Traditionally, the new student program was delivered in a group format that coincided with our peak advising periods. In fall 2005, several counseling faculty began a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” conversation that led to a successful funding proposal and an award-winning online student advising program. Those involved found that the creativity and teamwork required to produce the online program made it an extremely gratifying experience.
Of course, these examples all pre-dated the current economic crisis and enrollment boom. So the question becomes, how do we find time to have these “wouldn’t it be cool…” moments and, more importantly, develop them into something more than just an exciting idea when time is limited and resources are scarce?
While the Mid-Atlantic states were enduring the harshest and snowiest February on record, there was time to reflect and think about how to do more with less. More importantly, we were able to address how to keep people motivated in these troubled times. It is a delicate balance to meet the needs of our students in new and innovative ways and yet avoid a workplace culture where advisors feel burnt out and abused at the end of a long, tough advising rush.
Most advisors experience the intrinsic rewards that come from seeing students blossom and reach their goals. However, the loss of extrinsic rewards beyond our paycheck makes it feel like professional conferences, time to read, and freedom to explore are going the way of coffee and donuts at college-wide meetings. Poof!
Ned Donnelly’s (2009) research supports the importance of looking beyond the paycheck for attributes that enhance workplace satisfaction. Donnelly found that advisors report variety, empowerment, and teamwork as strongly related to their job satisfaction. All are related to encouraging a creative and dynamic work environment. Pink (2009) points out that what we do on the job can be broken into two categories: algorithmic tasks and heuristic tasks (p. 29). Algorithmic tasks are tasks such as answering the same question for the hundredth time, while heuristic tasks require creativity e.g., what is needed to reengineer the service delivery model. Lately the algorithmic activities encompass a larger percentage of our time; as a result, time for heuristic endeavors has declined. It is easy to see how this situation could lead to a workplace dominated by uninspired, overtaxed, and unmotivated employees.
How can advisors and advising administrators address this dilemma? A starting point may be the evaluation of our willingness to carve out time to generate and follow-through on “wouldn’t it be cool…” projects. Remember this is not part of the day-to-day routine, but rather a creative outlet. Csikszentmihalyi (1997) noted that our time is divided into: what we want to do, what we have to do, and things we do because we did not know what else to do. Csikszentmihalyi implores us to not only be more aware how our time is spent, but to consciously seek out experiences that bring “flow,” e.g. “flashes of intense living against a dull background” (p.31). Think of this as rewarding times when we feel creative and energized. These rewarding times are not necessarily tied to financial reward; money does not drive everything. This raises the important question, what motivates people to do something for the sake of doing it? The answer, in part, is flow.
Of course, it takes energy to attain these rewarding experiences. A straightforward solution is to focus on finding opportunities for heuristic work. However, even during busy advising periods, finding an extra five percent of the week to think, read, research, draw, or converse with others is critical. It is during these creative times when flow can truly take hold. Where institutions have a mission that includes continuous learning for faculty and staff, capitalize on this as an opportunity to find flow and think heuristically. Take the time to brainstorm such things as conference presentation ideas; even as travel budgets decrease or disappear, some institutions still support presentations. Develop a podcast. Join online discussions and listservs to stay current and motivated.
Finally, advisors who consider “flow” find that the most inspired ideas can be hatched while catching up with colleagues. Take time to ask the question “wouldn’t it be cool if ….?”
Professor and Counselor
Associate Professor and Counselor
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: BasicBooks.
Donnelly, N. (2009). A national survey of academic-advisor job satisfaction. NACADA Journal, 29(1), 5-21.
Montgomery College eMAP. Retrieved from www.montgomerycollege.edu/emap
Montgomery College Make It Happen Innovation Grants. Retrieved from www.montgomerycollege.edu/vpaip/mihig/index/
Montgomery College Mission Statement. Retrieved from http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=5782
Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books.
Faculty Advisor Assessment and Reward: A Hot Topic for Our Institutions
Victoria McGillin, Faculty Advising Commission Chair
Tamra Susan Ortgies-Young and Lee Kem, Members Faculty Advising Commission
Assessment and reward of faculty advisors is a hot topic at institutions with faculty advising systems. Because advising has so rarely been fully integrated into the faculty assessment and reward system, i.e., the teacher/scholar/service tenure process, the dilemma of either no assessment/reward system or parallel advising systems of assessment and recognition is often discussed. Three members of the NACADA Faculty Advising Commission brought this topic to the NACADA Annual Conference in October 2009 and solicited feedback and best practices in a survey of session attendees. Representatives from two-year and four-year, public and private institutions weighed in on this discussion.
To establish context, we first must consider why assessment and reward or recognition are important for any professionals. The faculty and professional development literature has, for many years (Diamond, 1999), emphasized that professional development must include three legs:
- First, professionals need opportunities to learn how to develop their skills (workshops, manuals, webinars, or classes). Institutions should offer faculty who advise the opportunity to learn needed information and skills.
- Second, to develop those skills formatively, professionals need consistent performance feedback ('How am I doing?') whether advisors are measured against a standard or in comparison to their own earlier skills. When professionals see how far they have come and how far they can still go, they can judge what additional learning opportunities will enable them to achieve their goals.
- Third, we all need to know that good work is recognized (and, conversely, that less than ideal performances result in reasonable opportunities to improve).
The absence of any one of these three legs undermines advisor development efforts. Unfortunately, two of those legs (assessment and reward) are least represented on our campuses.
We began our 'Hot Topics' session by sharing the results of Jayne Drake's (2008) survey of faculty and full-time advisors, followed by an exploration of what was occurring on participants' campuses. Overall, Drake found that faculty advisors, and full-time advisors working in advising centers, reported similar conditions regarding assessment and reward. Faculty, however, reported the additional concern that advising responsibilities should be considered during promotion and tenure reviews. Only 24% of Drake’s respondents indicated that advising assessment was considered during tenure and promotion review. An additional caveat was added in the Drake summary: results of advising assessments were a factor in promotion and tenure mostly at four-year schools. This was mirrored by our session attendees, where about half of the faculty and administrators reported that an advising assessment (supervisor evaluation, student survey, exit /graduation interviews) was conducted at their home institutions, while only about one-quarter noted that advising assessment played a role in tenure and promotion decisions. We asked two questions that went beyond Drake’s survey; answers to those questions produced equally discouraging results. First, only a small number of respondents reported that advising assessment results were actually used by immediate supervisors. We also asked respondents to share what happened at their home institution if a faculty member was found, through the assessment process, to need assistance. Most respondents reported that no corrective mechanism was in place to help that advisor. Based upon these results, we can say that while we are doing better collecting feedback on our faculty advisors, we are not using that information to promote the development of the faculty!
Approximately 70% of Drake's (2008) respondents reported that their institutions had a recognition or reward program for faculty advising services (30% had none). While faculty most valued support (professional development opportunities and secretarial help), tangible rewards (tenure, cash award, or merit pay), or even a simple thank you note were also valued. Least valued were banquets, plaques, certificates, or news releases; these, sadly, were the recognitions and rewards most frequently used at four-year public institutions. In our session survey, over 50% of the respondents reported that there was no reward system at their institutions. Most frequently mentioned by those with recognitions/rewards were awards, stipends, general recognition, and support for conference attendance.
It was particularly interesting to note in the Drake (2008) survey, most faculty ranked professional support as the most important recognition or reward for advising service, yet, no session respondents listed professional development support in their reward systems. However a large majority (over 90%) indicated that faculty advisor training was available at their institutions. The training programs included workshops for new faculty and development sessions offered within a discipline. The training and development sessions were reported in our survey to occur with varying frequency including by request, monthly, and as on-going endeavors. While on-campus training is crucial as the third leg of the professional development cycle, faculty attending the session would not necessarily consider an on-campus workshop a reward.
What have we learned? Advisors still report high personal satisfaction in assisting students in the advising process. We are doing better collecting feedback, but the assessment information is still not utilized to craft faculty development opportunities. Consensus of session attendees was that training still needs to be mandatory for faculty advisors if we are to adequately prepare faculty for the role of advisor. Although tenure and promotion may include an advising component, the weight given to this area is not equal to the importance of the role of advising.
We learned in this hot topic session that not much progress has been made since Drake (2008) reported results of her survey. However, faculty advisors understand the important role advising plays in the success of students. We must continue to advocate for increased assessment, training, rewards, and recognition for this major component of the college process.
Tamra Susan Ortgies-Young
Georgia Perimeter College
Murray State University
Diamond, R. (1999) Aligning faculty rewards with institutional mission: Statements, policies, and guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Drake, J.K. (2008) Recognition and reward for academic advising in theory and in practice. In Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising: A Comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). (pp. 396-412). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
The Advocates Skill Set: Lessons Learned for Building, Maintaining, or Restructuring Advising Programs in Lean Budget Times
Ralph G. Anttonen and Michelle M. White, Millersville University
During lean budget periods in colleges and universities, advisors can learn from individuals who successfully developed or restructured programs with minimal or non-existing funds. This process is especially crucial now when advising programs at all levels are being challenged to justify their expenditures. Research exists that can help advisors understand the skill set needed to successfully build, maintain, or restructure advising in these challenging times.
Outlined by Anttonen & Chaskes (2002), further described by Chaskes & Anttonen (2005), and reaffirmed by White & Anttonen (2007), the Advocates Skill Set needed to meet these challenges includes a passion and caring for students, patience and persistence, a sense of humor, good listening skills, creativity, and flexibility. Individuals who are risk takers and are willing to endure conflict in bringing about institutional CHANGE are savvy in “academic politics,” the number one skill mentioned for building successful new ventures.
Let us examine the advocates skill set in depth:
- Passion and caring for students are behaviors illustrated by constant devotion and time spent working for, and with, students of all ability levels. Such commitment to students must be genuine and perceived as authentic.
- Patience and persistence demand that advisors are willing to expend effort over a long period and not be discouraged by failure. In other words, program objectives and goals must be maintained in spite of setbacks that are inevitable in the academy. Very often we must talk to our supporters to regain the strength to move forward. DON’T EVER GIVE UP.
- Sense of humor is a must in the ever-changing world of program development in higher education. When all else fails, we must be able to laugh at ourselves, as well as at the multiple and unforeseen delays in establishing or restructuring an advising venture. In higher education Murphy’s Law is apropos and one must remember O’Malley’s corollary which stated, “Murphy was an optimist.”
- Good listening skills demand that all involved receive quality attention. Never just listen to supporters; actively engage in conversations with those opposed. It is only through such discussions that we can realize the possibility of changing opinions. We must understand the agendas of those we engage—be they overt or covert.Creativity and flexibility cannot be overstressed, as the academy includes many with strong opinions and varied ideas. The best plan in the world can be undermined by a strong campus contingent. Keeping the core mission of the advisement program in the forefront, advisors must be willing to take divergent paths to reach desired outcomes while remaining true to their values.
Additional advice for these financially challenging times:
Gain support from key administrators such as the president, the chief academic officers, and other key campus individuals.
A senior faculty or administrator with campus-wide credibility and the ability to rally the support of key decision makers is a must. Campus credibility is not established quickly; it must be developed over time. Support from campus change agents can help us navigate within the institutional governance structure.
Back up plans are necessary. If Plan A does not work, Plan B might; when Plan B does not achieve the desired results, then it is time for Plan C. Timelines for completing various stages of the process are important. We must be mindful of the institutional calendar and clock when scheduling, researching, and planning. Research, including benchmarking, resources, and a clear understanding of campus politics, is vitally important.
The dreaded cry “let’s form a committee” must be heard and acted upon. No one person in isolation ever succeeds! Although frustrating and slow, major constituents and opposing voices must be involved and encouraged to speak. Committees must include those with the political power to bring about collaboration. Consider involving key people such as administrators (academic, student, and financial affairs), union leaders, faculty senate presidents, chairs of important curriculum committees, and student leaders. Ultimately, working committees must create a coalition, forge a shared vision and goals, share the benefits and costs of a program with the institution, and align the mission of academic advising with the institution’s mission statement.
Will there be opposition? Yes! People within higher education are very protective of their turf, fear change, and have personal or hidden agendas. Will conflict occur? Absolutely! Such conflict must be addressed through compromise and the development of trusting relationships. Honesty, integrity and transparency produce positive participation.
Most importantly, even when reducing the scope of a program or initiative, we must never eliminate the CORE of the program as we remove frills, partner with others for space and dollars, and share assessment data regarding increases in student retention based on an initiative’s outcomes.
Finally, as one senior advocate stated, “One must realize that politics exist and one must be willing to credit others when the program succeeds.” Keep in mind that we in higher education seldom share kind words of appreciation to all the individuals involved in an initiative. Share the kudos sincerely and liberally.
Many successful campus change strategies are included in the Advocates Skill Set. Advising administrators will find the advice shared in this skill set helpful in forming the solid collaborations needed for building, maintaining, or improving an advising program in our current budget times.
Ralph G. Anttonen
Director of the Exploratory Program
Professor & Chair, Dept. of Academic and Student Development
Michelle M. White
Director of Academic Advisement
Associate Professor, Dept. of Academic and Student Development
Anttonen, R. G., & Chaskes, J. (2002). Advocating for first-year students: A study of the micropolitics of leadership and organizational change. Journal of the First-Year Experience, 14(1), 81-98.
Chaskes, J., & Anttonen, R. G. (2005). Advocating for first-year students. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot, Challenging & supporting the first-year student (pp. 191-203). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
White, M. M., & Anttonen, R. G. (2007). Mentoring, advocacy, and leadership: Revisiting first-year student advocate award recipients. NASPA Journal, 44(3), 432-456.
Nine Steps to a Successful Campus Professional Development Event
Elizabeth Nunley, The University of Oklahoma
Professional development is one of the best things advisors can do for themselves, their students, and their institutions. It encourages personal growth, helps students by renewing advisor skill sets, and helps institutions by providing a venue for discussion of new ideas.
My campus hosted our 4th annual professional development seminar for advisors this past year. Each seminar has been a great success! Achieving a successful event takes lots of planning, time, and effort, but it is truly rewarding. A review of notes taken when I chaired the planning committee led to the outline below of how to plan a professional development event. Hopefully, this information can aid other advisors in planning successful professional development event on their campuses!
Build a planning committee. The first and most important step to a successful professional development seminar is developing a committee; it is amazing what a group can accomplish when members work together. Ideally, committee members should represent advisors from across campus. Committee members should feel comfortable enough with each other to be honest and share ideas. All members should be willing to share the extra work load... there will be plenty to go around. Make sure all committee members are clear on their responsibilities – this helps accomplish goals with no unnecessary repetition of work. Everyone must participate and work together!
Organize. Organization, notes, and documentation are imperative. Ideas will be shared and numerous conversations will take place. A “planning notebook” can help organize receipts, agreements, and arrangements as they are made. Not only does a notebook help keep track of what has been accomplished, documentation can be referenced as needed. It also makes an excellent tool for future committee chairs, so be sure to include contact names, email addresses, and phone numbers.
Research, research, research. Everyone on the committee should research current topics and issues in advising. Check the NACADA Web site for the Academic Advising Consultants & Speakers Service and the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources for potential speakers, topics, and materials. Look at Web sites for higher education organizations, e.g., NACADA, ACPA: College Student Educators International, or NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education for hot topics from their recent conferences. Great ideas can develop from previous conference agendas. Talk to people who have attended recent conferences; find out which sessions or presenters made an impact on them. Personal references are a great way to find keynote speakers!
Money. A budget should be developed by planning all aspects of the conference and creating a detailed schedule. Include conference rooms and supplies for each event. Get quotes for room reservations, set up and take down, food expenses, speaker’s fee, flight, hotel, and transportation costs.
- On a tight budget? Consider local resources. Ask colleagues to make presentations. Sharing knowledge and experiences with each other can be invaluable.
- NACADA Webcasts (either live or on CD) are another great resource. Webinars provide a way to have a “keynote” without the extra travel expenses, plus the CDs make scheduling more flexible.
- Ask for donations. Campus administrators (e.g.,deans, vice presidents, or provosts) and local businesses are often willing to support campus conferences. Requesting small items like pens, paper, and folders quickly add up and can save lots of money. Of course, larger donations are always welcome to help defer the cost of food or room rental.
Let the Planning Begin! Location arrangements should be one of the first assignments completed by the committee. Many conference details can not be decided until the location of the event is set. Each committee member should take the lead on a specific aspect of the event. It helps to have one contact person oversee all arrangements and keep track of the details. During committee meetings each member should share new information with the committee keeping everyone apprised of progress. Communication is the key to a successful event!
Legalities. Depending on the event and the keynote speaker, check compliance with the institution’s legal office regarding contracts and the accounting office about per diem requirements and payment arrangements. Some speakers and services require that payment be made “up front” for their services, while others require payment on conference day, and still others will send an invoice. Make sure the committee will be able to accommodate all payment requirements and make arrangements well in advance.
Success is in the details. A day or two before the event make a detailed timeline. Make sure everything is covered and all arrangements have been made.
- Conference attendees should be comfortable so they can focus on the presentations. Room temperature, water availability, after-meal mints, and clearly marked restrooms all help make a conference successful. A change of scenery is also nice. Moving across the hall for lunch or having sessions in different rooms allows people to “stretch their legs” and “clear their heads.”
- Plan “breaks” throughout the day. Ice Breakers are always a great way to get the conference off to an energetic start. Allow time for advisors to visit with each other even if everyone is from the same campus. Advisors rarely have time to socialize and share with one another what is going on in their departments.
- It is nice to include one “fun” session. Book a campus student entertainment group to do a special presentation; these interludes help people relax and see a different side of campus.
Get people there. Do not underestimate how much advertising is needed. Once a date is confirmed, tell people about the conference. Have the event announced at meetings and start sending emails! Save on the cost of printed invitations by sending e-vites. Several online companies provide free online invitations and these sites can keep track of the guest list. Keeping track of RSVPs is vital for planning food and for selection of room sizes.
Evaluate. Evaluations are key to planning future events. Find out what participants liked and what they did not like about the event. What topics would they like addressed at future events? Do they have suggestions for future locations? Can they recommend speakers? Was this a good time of year for the event? This information can help in planning for future events.
Every campus has its own climate. The benefits are infinite for advisors who plan a campus professional development event that addresses their specific needs. With some planning, sharing, and camaraderie great opportunities abound for the entire campus!
Senior Academic Counselor
Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts
The University of Oklahoma
Add a New Financial Tool to Your Advising Toolkit
Joe Murray, First Generation College Student Advising Interest Group Chair
Hannah Yang, Research Associate
“Juan” is a first-term freshman who made an academic advising appointment to discuss needed courses for next term. When he arrives for the appointment, he has something else on his mind – his financial situation. Juan received grants and loans for college, but still has a $5,000 gap of unmet need and a $500 credit card debt. Juan has campus work-study hours he fulfills weekly, but he is worried about paying for next year. He has considered “stopping out” to work full-time until he can earn enough money to pay for another term. Juan is also financially illiterate: he does not understand the interest agreement on his credit card bills or his loans, or how to budget his money.
“Juan” is not unique. As most academic advisors know, students present advisors with all kinds of personal issues, including financial ones, when they seek advice. Although most advisors are not trained financial aid counselors, it is important that we have a general understanding of available financial resources if we are to refer students to the proper “expert.”
When students with financial needs come to us regarding their financial situation, we can tell them about a new financial tool called Individual Development Accounts or IDAs. IDAs are matched savings accounts that can help low-income students and their families save toward postsecondary education. In addition to matching savings from 2:1 to as high as 8:1, IDA includes financial literacy education, asset-specific education, and case management.
What is an IDA tool?
Low-income students and their families can open an IDA account (a matched savings account for postsecondary education) with a nonprofit organization and start saving. For example, if a student saves $1,000, then the nonprofit organization matches the student savings dollar-for-dollar or more. Depending on the match rate, students can make $2,000 - $4,000 on a $1,000 investment. The student savings and the match are held in a bank and paid directly to the education institution. As the student saves, he receives case management, asset-specific education, and financial education from the nonprofit. For more information about IDAs including eligibility, see the FAQ and FAQII available on the Web site.
Why a financial tool?
Finances play an important role in whether low-income students remain in college (Lyons, 2004; Paulsen & St. John, 2002; Tinto, 1993). The cost to attend postsecondary institutions continues to increase and merit-based aid programs have replaced needs-based aid in many states. Loans are on the rise (Reed, 2008). Paulsen and St. John (2002) found that due to tuition increases, financial aid (loans and grants) is often insufficient in helping low-income students persist. These authors also found that as unmet need increases, student persistence decreases as these financial concerns affect student retention.
In addition to an increasing amount of loan debt, many college students fall victim to credit card debt. A Nellie Mae study (2005) found that the average college student graduates with more than $2,000 in credit card debt. Lyons (2004) found that students who have trouble handling credit card debt also were more likely to receive need-based financial aid and their parents provided little to no financial assistance. Lyons further noted that these financial strains may affect the retention of low-income students.
What are the benefits of an IDA?
Not only do IDAs provide students with additional money to cover unmet need, IDAs have a financial education component that can help low-income, first-generation students manage their money and minimize credit card debt. Lyons (2004 and 2007) suggested that IDAs can help at-risk students better manage their money, reduce stress, and subsequently help them remain in college. In addition to providing a financial education component and serving as retention tool for low-income students, IDAs can:
- Encourage aspirations and early commitment for college. Saving, even a small amount, increases aspiration to go to college which serves as a recruitment tool.
- Reach students outside the financial aid system. Students who default on their loans, students who lose financial aid because they are not making satisfactory academic progress, and students in non-degree programs can all use IDAs.
- Empower students. When low-income students successfully save they learn to appreciate the results of their savings and are empowered.
- Decrease debt and default rates. IDAs can provide a different avenue from loans to make up the funding gap.
How can we find IDA information we can pass on to our students?
To find a nonprofit community agency in an area with an IDA tool review the following links:
Students should contact the nonprofit nearest their area and talk to the IDA coordinator. Academic advisors should check with their institution’s financial aid office to determine how much information is available on campus regarding IDA. Advisors also can provide basic information to students about financial education as a retention strategy - see partnership example 16 on the IDA-PAYS Web site.
Now imagine meeting “Juan,” the student from the beginning of this article. This time his advisor explains the basics of starting an IDA and refers Juan to the institution’s financial aid office. With guidance from a financial aid counselor, Juan begins saving a small portion of his work-study paycheck. His savings are matched at the end of his freshman year by the local nonprofit agency thus allowing him to persist in school without stopping out. Juan learns more about financial basics from the agency and begins to lower his credit card debt. The success he has with his finances positively affects his studies; the financial education skills he learns transfer to his time management and study habits. With less financial stress Juan is better able to focus on what he truly cares about – being a college student. Next time he sees his academic advisor Juan asks about majors and summer internships!
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
Note: The Center for Higher Education Policy Analyis (CHEPA) at USC, under the direction of Dr. Adrianna Kezar, received a Lumina Foundation for Education grant to conduct a three-year study to examine the potential for increasing IDA use for educational purposes and to explore the higher education community’s involvement with IDAs and the potential for greater participation. See the project Web site for detailed information about the research study and findings.
Lyons, A. C. (2004). A profile of financially at-risk college students. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 38(1), 56-80.
Lyons, A. (2007). Credit practices and financial education needs of Midwest college students. (Working paper 2007-WP-23). Networks Financial Institute: Indiana State University.
Nellie Mae. (2005). Undergraduate students and credit cards in 2004: An analysis of usage rates and trends. Retrieved from www.nelliemae.com/library/research_12.html
Paulsen, M., & St. John, E. (2002). Social class and college costs: Examining the financial nexus between college choice and persistence. Journal of Higher Education, 73(2), 189-236.
Reed, M. (2008). Student debt and the class of 2007. The Project on Student Debt, an initiative of The Institute for College Access & Success. Retrieved from http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2007.pdf
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Information for Advisors Who Work with Veterans
John D. Mikelson, Advising Military Students & Dependents Interest Group Member
Today record numbers of military service veterans are enrolling in colleges and universities as they return from deployments in Iraqi and Afghanistan. Across the U.S., Spring 2010 veteran enrollment was up from Fall 2009; 2010-11 enrollments will likely be higher. As veterans transition from a military to collegiate setting, both veterans and the campus communities must adjust to the change and the differing value systems held within the military and academic communities.
Advisors should recognize that veterans turned students are culturally different from their peers. A campus Veterans Center is a refuge for the veteran student to study or relax with people with similar experiences and backgrounds. Veteran students speak a common language not understood by the majority of their classmates. They hold different social norms and mores based upon their military training and life style.
A Veterans Center provides a welcoming and permanent setting where veterans can be nurtured and grow as they acclimate to a campus. Centers have become a focal point for cultural enrichment, academic development, and personal growth. A campus Veterans Center provides an atmosphere that allows students, faculty, and staff to interact within the academic community and helps veterans establish cultural ties and exchange knowledge.
The major purpose of a Veterans Center is to meet the needs of the veteran student through a variety of programs and services, including a wide array of diverse cultural, academic, and personal support services that facilitate their growth, success, and adjustment within the academy. Programs and services at the Centers may include:
- Liaison to campus and community organizations and services
- Workshops, forums, and discussion groups
- Study and meeting spaces
- Library and other resource materials
- Employment listings
- Film series, TV lounge, and games
- Party and social areas
- Fully-equipped kitchen
- Wheelchair accessible facilities
A campus Veterans Support Team, which includes academic advisors, should be established on each campus. Possible goals for the Veterans Support Team include:
- Integrate the role of recruitment and enrollment of veteran students into long term enrollment management plans. The Post 9/11 GI Bill means that veterans are here to stay.
- Identify campus resources that can help these students make successful transitions, e.g., health, disabilities support, retention, learning support. Nearly 40 percent of veterans of the War on Terror have service connected disabilities.
- Educate faculty, staff, and the academic community on the advantages and opportunities veterans bring to the campus environment.
- Provide welcoming and inclusive environments for the veterans and their families that are consistent with the institutional goals. Questions that need to be answered include:
- Do veterans have a voice with campus administration?
- Is a veterans’ group organized? Is the group part of a state, regional, or national network?
- Has a gathering place for veterans been created?
- Are there several individuals on campus who can serve as institutional points of contact for veterans and veteran concerns?
- Establish partnerships with campus departments, external organizations, and communities.
Across the United States, several initiatives are currently under discussion within the student veteran community. Below is a list of resources I believe will be valuable to my colleagues who advise student veterans.
Some of the featured presentations from February’s Council of Colleges and Military Educators (CCME) 2010 Symposium can be found at www.ccmeonline.org/nashville10.aspx. Over 1,000 participants gathered at the CCME Symposium to discuss various military education issues including the Post 9/11 GI Bill, distance learning, recruiting, Web-based libraries, evaluating nontraditional credits, and quality educational opportunities for service members and their families.
From Solider to Student records best practices that have led to veterans’ success, including creation of veterans’ offices, streamlining the admissions and registration processes, expanding counseling center capacity, establishing mentor programs, and training faculty and staff.
Advisors who work with military students can learn more about the complexities and successes of this student group by joining NACADA's Advising Military Students and Dependents Interest Group and its listserv, where supportive ideas are exchanged to better serve this population.
I look forward to discussing veterans’ affairs information with my colleagues at the NACADA Annual Conference in Orlando!
John D. Mikelson
University of Iowa Veterans Center
NACADA Annual Conference: I'm Worth It!
Sarah Ann Hones, NACADA Emerging Leader Mentor
It’s that time of year again. I’m looking at the end of the fiscal year budgets, preparing for summer advising commitments with summer staff, and considering the NACADA brochure—October in Orlando. Every year at this time, I contemplate my commitment to attending the NACADA Annual Conference. Typically, I don’t have funding from my university, so that’s not part of the consideration. Why go?
It’s a major part of my professional development. How can I stay active as a professional? The day-to-day concerns of my job keep me busy and leave little time to think about the bigger picture of academic advising that occurs outside my door. The Annual Conference offers me respite away from my office. It offers me the time and breathing space to choose how I want to build the advising knowledge I’ll take back and use, behind my door in Pullman, during those cold winter months. This time validates what I choose to do and helps me strengthen the tasks I do. To say the Conference reenergizes me doesn’t do the Conference justice! The NACADA Annual Conference gives me hope…hope regarding what’s possible in working with at-risk students; hope in the initiatives that seem to struggle to get off the ground; hope for my profession and my enthusiasm to work in the advising field.
Annual Conference is the opportunity to network with other professionals in advising. In 2009 in San Antonio, I met a young professional advisor from Europe attending the NACADA Conference for the first time. Nick talked about his enthusiasm for the Liberal Arts (how could I not be impressed?) and said he may attend next year with a presentation in hand. I also met my Emerging Leader partner for the first time. Luiza is doing so many exciting things in her work that I am inspired to consider how I can incorporate some into my position. Every year I renew my friendship with folks from the NACADA Executive Office and from all over North America. I call it networking, but it’s much more than that. During this last year these dear friends provided a lifeline for me during a rough and unpredictable year. I did not know if I would be able to travel again, and the thing I would have missed the most is the Annual Conference. My first trip after a year hiatus was the 2009 Conference. It was a warm and welcoming opportunity to test my wings in an environment that was safe and supportive.
The NACADA Annual Conference is unique in making me feel welcomed and a contributing member of the organization. Ever since my first NACADA Conference, I have noticed that everyone at NACADA takes an open and welcoming stance to new members. I’ve been to other conferences – usually one time! I don’t want to wander about a conference without connections or a sense of belonging. I want to be part of something that represents the academic advising field as a whole in an inviting and inclusive way. I was sitting with my speaking partner last fall when NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt walked by and said, “Hello, gorgeous.” Who could pass up that?
But here’s the real reason I’ll be there in October. I’m worth it. The NACADA Annual Conference is my birthday present to myself. For all the reasons I’ve listed above, I want to go to the NACADA Conference. I’d rather see my advising peers than have that extra cup of coffee every day, or those additions to my wardrobe, or that new chair in the living room. I want to be a part of this organization that offers a dynamic and engaging opportunity each fall for renewal, reinvigoration, and recommitment to this field I love. So I’ll be there. That’ll be me, probably in the same wardrobe, probably having had interesting airline adventures in coming across country, probably chatting happily with friends I haven’t seen since October 2009. I hope you’ll be there. Say hello if you see me!
Sarah Ann Hones
Director, Distinguished Scholarships
Washington State University
Dear Career Corner:
Help! I have an interview for a new advising position, and I’m nervous. I’ve been in my current position for quite a while. As excited as I am to explore this new opportunity, I’m afraid that I’ve been out of practice where interviewing is concerned. Any suggestions?
Dear Anxious Interviewee:
Congratulations! It’s great that you have the chance to interview. It sounds like you are a bit nervous. That is perfectly normal. Interviewees want to make a good first impression and be sure that they can succinctly, but adequately, describe their skills, training and experience in such a way that they stand head and shoulders above other candidates. Employers know this; it’s part of the game. You will probably be given a few “stressor” questions to make it even more interesting! Remember, it’s natural to be a bit nervous on the inside…..just don’t let it show on the outside!
Have you ever watched a duck glide peacefully across a lake? Looks pretty calm and serene, eh? Well, we only see what is above the waterline. Beneath the waterline, where we usually can’t see it, there is a lot more going on. Those little webbed feet are paddling a mile a minute! This is similar to an interview. Underneath our best attire, friendly smile, and professional manner, even the best of us are a little nervous.
So, what are we to do? The answer can be summed up with one word: PREPARE! Hecklinger and Black (2009), in Training for Life: A Practical Guide to Career and Life Planning, urge interviewees to remember the 4R’s: Reflect, Research, Rehearse and Remember. Here’s what Hecklinger and Black (2009) mean:
- Reflect. Take a close look at the skills and abilities that you have developed and how they mirror the job description. Find parallels and give concrete examples. Think about how you can best contribute to the organization. Look for a correlation between the mission of the school and your own philosophy on student services. You want to show that you are the best match. Likewise, you also want to be sure that the position is a good match for you.
- Research. You’re always explaining the importance of homework to your advisees. Now, it’s time to do some homework of your own. Find out as much as you can about the school. Review their Web site, their catalogs, and any other materials you can find. If possible, talk with others you may know who work there or may be familiar with the institution. If you have time, informational interviewing is a good idea too. Think of several appropriate questions of your own. But remember, do not ask a particular question if the answer can be easily found on your own. Your questions should be thoughtful and reflect your interest in the position and how it best fits your career goals.
- Rehearse. Ask a friend or colleague to help you with a mock interview. Take note of your body language. Think of how you might answer some questions. However, don’t make the mistake of trying to memorize answers or responses. First, you don’t know what will be asked. Second, you want to appear natural and unique……robotic responses do not give that impression.
- Remember. Don’t forget the interviewing basics. Bring extra copies of your resume, dress appropriately, arrive about fifteen minutes early, smile, turn off your cell phone, do not look at your watch, smile, bring any supporting materials (portfolios, references, etc.), and smile. Did I mention smiling? Do not underestimate the effect that a friendly smile and a firm handshake can have on the beginning of a good interview.
Also, consider a few things that our anxiousness can sometimes make us forget. In these times of shrinking budgets and economic worries, schools do not have the time or resources to waste on interviewing unqualified candidates. If you have made it to the interview, they obviously see promise in you. Another thing to consider is that you have probably done this before and were successful to boot! Last but not least, be yourself. Relax. You’ll do fine.
Best of luck,
NACADA Member Career Services
Harford Community College
Chair, NACADA Member Career Services
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
Hecklinger, F. J., & Black, B. M. (2009). Training for life: A practical guide to career and life planning. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
The Scary Senior Scenario: Advising Soon-to-be Graduates in an Uncertain World
Sarah May Clarkson, Juniata College
Those of us who advise students nearing the end of their degree, certificate, or training programs know that there is good news and bad news connected with advising these students. The good news: students “ready to launch” can use advice and guidance at several points during their education and training. The bad news: too many students wait to have conversations about post-graduation plans until the weeks just prior to “crossing the finish line.”
Today’s senior students find themselves in one of the most competitive job and graduate school markets in a generation. This scary senior scenario has paralyzed some soon-to-be graduates. Last spring Marilyn Mackes (2009), executive director of National Association of Colleges and Employers, reported that only 59 percent of that year’s four-year-college graduates had begun a job hunt by May (Clegg, 2009). If we “do the math,” that means more than 40 percent had not undertaken any kind of career or job placement activities before crossing the stage. More depressing, only 19.7 percent of 2009 graduates who had applied for a job actually had one by the time they graduated (Clegg, 2009).
Today’s employers and graduate schools expect a lot from graduates, and they are in a position to pick the best and the brightest from a large pool of applicants. They are looking for respectful and responsible team members who are curious and have a willingness to learn. It should go without saying that a positive attitude goes a long way when searching for a position. Honesty and dependability are key characteristics for successful candidates, as are critical and creative thinking. Communication skills (interpersonal, writing) and the ability to listen can make the difference in securing an interview or getting an eventual offer. As important as it is to be goal oriented, it is also crucial that candidates demonstrate positive energy and have a sense of humor. That’s a tall order, but students who have used their college time wisely will have practiced these skills in various venues and be able to move on confidently.
What can we say about senior students and graduates as a cohort? They are quick and creative thinkers, innovative, highly adaptable, technologically savvy, confident, not bound by norms, accomplished at teamwork, willing to take risks, and multi-talented. These skills and attributes can be highlighted on resumes and used during interviews.
But soon-to-be graduates must confront, and sometimes overcome, traits and tendencies that could impede their efforts to land a job or secure a seat in graduate school. While confidence is good, overconfidence is not. Many of today’s graduates have strong basic skills (analysis, writing, oral communication), but they can be impatient and distracted, have too many competing demands, and lack experience dealing with failure and setback.
Here are suggestions that advisors can share with students as graduation draws near:
- Use college as a preparation for what is ahead. Just as high school, life, and work helped prepare students for college, so is college a preparation for the life to come. We should inspire advisees to do their best. Success – however it is defined – in college is a predictor for success in the workforce or grad school. It, however, is not a guarantee that all aspirations will be fulfilled; students should not expect that good grades will equate to graduate admission or a high paying job. All of college – the whole experience – is preparation for what is ahead. Advisors want students to enjoy college but students should realize that college also is a training period.
- Start early. Students should have hardly arrived on campus when advisors begin talking about internships, relevant summer jobs, and work/study experiences. At the halfway point in their time with us, we should ask advisees if they know two people who could write a sterling (not lukewarm or so-so) recommendation letter for them. If the answer is “no” they must work harder to develop meaningful mentor relationships. Each student should identify someone who could serve as a mentor; such a relationship provides students with real-world advice and someone who can serve as a cheerleader. Remind students early and often that they must get to know individuals outside their family who can speak to their positive qualities.
- Get experience. Internships are necessary in today’s job market. Most colleges do not secure internships for students, but students can find opportunities if they look in unexpected places. Be sure advisees understand that finding an internship is like finding a job – it takes time, grit, and follow-up -- which makes this good practice for the senior-year job hunt.
- Polish their skills. Advise students to take advantage of mock interview opportunities, etiquette dinners, and gatherings with graduates in their field offered by Career Services or within their academic departments. Advise seniors to change their cell phone message so that it contains no music or goofy words; instead, voice mail messages should provide a crisp, clear communication of the student’s name and number and a promise to call back promptly. Social networking sites such as Facebook© should be cleaned up or taken down. Students should practice firm handshakes, good eye contact, and dressing professionally for interviews; female students should show no cleavage and college men should be in suits, wear a belt, and not wear white athletic socks. It is important that students solicit feedback on resumes and constantly refine those resumes. Recommend that students put together a work portfolio with evidence of mastered skills.
- Own their post-graduate plans. This means students must be disciplined about the search process as they consider honestly what they have to offer and what skills still need work. Ask advisees to set aside their egos and be realistic about what an entry-level position means. They should consider multiple paths or a parallel plan for reaching goals. Remind students to be positive; an optimistic, can-do attitude might set them apart. The adaptability and flexibility we so admire in these students can work to their advantage as they prepare to leave the academy. One of the most important things students can do is make time each day to slow down and reflect on dreams and goals. They should consider the preparations they have made to reach these goals and fill in any gaps in that preparation. Our culture does not make it easy to reflect but advisors can encourage it as a regular practice.
Is it scary out there? You bet. While the economy is always a factor (be it good, bad, or ugly) for our graduates, students who see opportunities early will be prepared for whatever the future holds. The advice we provide can help students succeed.
Sarah May Clarkson
Acknowledgement: The author would like to acknowledge those who attended the sessions by the same name at the NACADA Region 2 conference (April 2009) and the Annual Conference (October 2009). Their comments and insights are found throughout this article.
Clegg, Amanda. (2009, May 17). Hire me, please. Altoona Mirror citing Mackes, M. (2009, May 6). College Class of 2009 Graduates With Fewer Jobs in Hand (press release). Retrieved from www.naceweb.org/Press/Releases/College_Class_of_2009_Graduates_With_Fewer_Jobs_in_Hand_%285-6-09% 29.aspx