Peripatetic Advising: How Socrates, Advising, and Running Shoes Influence Student Success
Christina M. McIntyre, Virginia Tech
Advising is about relationships. Relationships are important. Relationships take time.
I recently discovered that my inherent advising philosophy is founded in the Socratic method. While not well versed in Greek philosophy, my influences have been others who were. George Sheehan, dubbed “Mark Twain in running shoes” and the author of Running and Being (1978) and Personal Best (1989), emphasized the connection between the intellectual life and the physical life. I first encountered Socrates’ phrase “the unexamined life is not worth living” in Sheehan’s writings. The challenge to examine one’s life is a difficult one. It requires a balance between solitary thought and intentional dialog with others. Socratic advising involves a series of questions asked not only to discover individual answers, but to encourage insight into who we are, what motivates us, what is the basis for our decisions. In this way, advising is teaching and teaching is advising. We must continually remind ourselves that students don’t know what they don’t know. They are limited by the awareness -- or lack of awareness -- of their own ignorance.
While advising frequently takes place in the office, other opportunities for advising present themselves throughout the day: walking across campus, at the grocery store, eating lunch or riding the bus. Aristotle was known as a “peripatetic” lecturer – he taught as he walked about the peripatoi of the Lyceum gymnasium in Athens. Strikwerda (2007) presented the image of “students jostling to get close to the teacher, some rushing to keep pace while asking questions or taking notes and others distracted by a bird flying overhead” (p. 99). While this complication may be viewed as a drawback, it is actually a strength. As students turn towards one another to ask What did she just say?, they begin to learn from one another. Troop (2010) discusses many in academia who use running as a way to “help create that classic ‘Eureka!’ moment, an experience common to runners and other athletes who work their bodies and let their minds wander” (¶ 6).
My peripatos is the Virginia Tech Drill Field, the Huckleberry Trail, or the cross-country course. I have put out a call on the Honors listserv for “peripatetic conversations” and students have responded. They have googled the word, and curiosity has attracted those students who don’t often “need” advice. Whether one or ten students heed the call, the first five minutes entail a debate regarding the definition of the word and how it applies to what we are doing. The pace of the walk or jog is one that can sustain discussion.
In customary conversation, eye contact is
often encouraged; however, eye contact can be the barrier to addressing
an uncomfortable topic. Having a conversation where eye contact is
not practical (while walking or jogging side-by-side) allows for a
unique openness and flow to the conversation. Awkward topics, such as
struggling with a course and the consequences of dropping, become less
awkward. The terrain can allow for gaps in the conversation. When I ask a
question at the bottom of “chicken hill,” a quarter mile steep hill on
campus, the physical struggle to reach the top allows the student time
to also struggle with her though ts on that difficult question.
In considering advising as teaching, Lowenstein (2005) challenges academic advisors to make advising an interactive process in which the student plays an active role. The field of neuroscience supports the theory that exercise increases the production of neurochemicals associated with self-control and cognitive function. The mechanisms and specific type of learning affected is up for debate. Ironically most research studies on the effect of exercise on the brain involve walking or running trials (Chodzko-Zajko W., 2009). Walking or running with another requires an awareness of the other person. Is the pace too fast or too slow? Pace dictates the rhythm or tempo of the conversation. Culture can influence pace – a colleague from Nigeria prefers the pace of a slow stroll. When walking with Biko, I find a calmness I don’t normally have. These peripatetic walks often lead to follow-up meetings or emails: an exchange of more information, an application to a scholarship or program, a campus resource that would be helpful, an article that seemed appropriate to the student and our conversation.
Academia often touts the virtues of life-long learning; but what about life-long living? Emulating a simple but healthy lifestyle behavior such as walking can complement the goal of life-long learning. We can easily isolate ourselves in our little sector of campus. Striking out on a journey across campus or into the surrounding neighborhood helps students discover areas and community that may otherwise remain unknown to them. The National Collegiate Honors Council offers a program called City as TextTM that encourages applications of this approach toactive learning in various settings, “Small teams investigate contested areas and issues in urban environments, or competing forces in natural ones, these exercises foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines” ('National Collegiate Honors Council: Honors Seminars and Faculty Institutes,' 2011, ¶ 4). Therefore, City as Text™ refers to structured explorations of places – campuses, towns, cities, communities, etc.(Strikwerda, 2007). Most campuses and their surrounding communities make great locations for this activity. The questions are limitless. Why is the campus located where it is? How has the community been affected by the growth of the college? In discussing these questions we learn more about ourselves and each other.
It is my hope that students’ memory of me is not as an advisor sitting behind a desk, poring over Banner reports and paper files. I hope the image in their mind’s eye is of me walking, or running, somewhere on campus. I hope they remember me conversing with others and having an open door, because there is no door. I hope my example challenges them as professionals to be as accessible to their clients, patients, or students as I have tried to be for them.
Advising is about relationships. Relationships are important. Relationships take time.
Christina M. McIntyre
Chodzko-Zajko W., Kramer, A.F., Poon L.W. (Ed.). (2009). Enhancing Cognitive Functioning and Brain Plasticity (Vol. 3). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Lowenstein, Marc. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73.
Machonis, Peter. (2010). City as text™, jungle as text: Iquitos and the Amazon. Retrieved from www.nchchonors.org/honors-semesters-2010-Jungle-as-Text.htm
National Collegiate Honors Council: Honors Seminars and Faculty Institutes. (2011). Retrieved from www.nchchonors.org/faculty_institutes.shtml
Selecting and effectively using a pedometer. (2005). In American College of Sports Medicine (Ed.).
Sheehan, G. (Ed.). (1978). Running and Being. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Sheehan, G. (Ed.). (1989). Personal Best. Emmaus: Rodale Press.
Strikwerda, R. (2007). Experiential learning and city as text: Reflections on Kolb and Kolb. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council - Online Archive, Spring/Summer, 99- 105.
Troop, D. (2010, August 29). Eureka! Running jogs the academic mind. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Eureka-Running-Jogs-the/124164/
Tudor-Locke, C., & Bassett, D. R., Jr. (2004). How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health. Sports Medicine, 34(1), 1-8.
The American College of Sports Medicine ('Selecting and Effectively Using A Pedometer,' 2005) endorses the following guidelines (Tudor-Locke & Bassett, 2004) regarding number of steps per day for health and physical activity.
5,000-7,499 Low Active
7,500-9,999 Somewhat Active
>12,500 Highly Active
From the President: Together We Make a Difference!
Kathy Stockwell, NACADA President
I hope everyone had a productive spring, a successful conclusion to the school year, and a smooth start to the summer term. For NACADA, this has definitely been a busy and exciting time. At its mid-year meeting in March, the Board of Directors and the Council received updates from the various task forces and subcommittees that have been appointed to assist the Association in meeting its strategic goals. Many exciting ventures are in the works, and I look forward to sharing the outcomes of those efforts in future publications and at the Annual Conference in Denver this October. While at the mid-year meeting, we got a sneak preview of what downtown Denver has to offer; it’s a great site for our Annual Conference, and I know NACADA members will enjoy what Denver and the conference have to offer.
As spring drew to a close, so did NACADA’s Regional Conference season. This year, these outstanding and highly successful events drew 2600+ participants, a testament to the fact that academic advising continues to grow in importance on our college and university campuses. I personally want to thank our Region Chairs, the Region Conference Chairs and their committees, and all the conference volunteers (and there were many) who made this year’s conferences a success. NACADA is a grassroots organization that thrives because of the involvement of our members; these volunteers are true examples of how groups of dedicated individuals can work together to plan exceptional learning/networking experiences. As I always state in my conference welcome comments, it is a pleasure to be around so many people who are dedicated to the success of our students. I always leave NACADA conferences re-energized and proud to be affiliated with this wonderful Association.
Here are just a few of the many highlights from this year’s Regional Conferences:
- Many networking opportunities were provided, starting with the fabulous welcome receptions.
- The Orientation for New Members sessions were well attended by very enthusiastic participants. The large number of first-time attendees is further testament that academic advising is alive and well on our campuses.
- The Writing for NACADA sessions, which were held in each region and which focus on the importance of scholarly inquiry in academic advising, also were very well attended. Look for increased numbers of new authors in Academic Advising Today, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, and the NACADA Journal as a result of these sessions.
- The Region 6 and 8 conferences were held in Canada, strengthening our connections with our neighbors to the north.
- The use of social media was evident in all regions. Region 2 had a conference blog and did online streaming of several sessions. Comments on activities were “tweeted” from conference sites and numerous pictures were posted on Facebook. One of our annual goals is to increase the use of social media within the Association, and based on its use at the regional conferences, I believe we are well on our way to achieving this goal. Thanks to the “techies” in our midst who help us make this a reality!
- Also in Region 2, Heather Patterson from James Madison University, a first-time attendee who also was a first-time presenter, won the Best of Region award for her presentation “Connecting with Students Using a Syllabus and a Blog.” Congratulations to Heather and to all other Best of Region winners. We look forward to seeing your presentations in Denver.
- In Region 4, long-time NACADA leader Nancy King was honored as the winner of the Joyce Jackson Volunteer Award. Congratulations, Nancy, and thanks for all you do for NACADA!
- In Regions 3 and 5, the Research Symposiums were well attended, and participants left energized and ready to tackle their individual research-related projects. Many of these same individuals attended the Writing for NACADA sessions to learn how to publish the results of their research.
- In Region 8, which was held in Calgary, keynote speaker Andrew Brash, a world renowned mountain climber, related his quest to climb Mt. Everest to our students’ quest for success. It was an inspirational speech that left the audience in awe. Thanks to Andrew and the keynote speakers in all regions.
These are just a few of the many exciting things from our Regional Conferences that help make NACADA a premier Association for those helping students succeed.
As spring exits and summer approaches, I encourage each NACADA member to consider attending one of the two NACADA Summer Institutes to be held in late June in Colorado Springs and early August in New Orleans. The NACADA Summer Institute is like summer camp for advisors! It is an intensive, weeklong experience where participants network with colleagues from like institutions, interact with experts in the field of academic advising, and develop Action Plans that enhance advising on their campuses. This is an invaluable experience not to be missed!
I hope each of us has a great summer. Take some time to enjoy the great outdoors, have some fun, and rejuvenate!
Thanks to all -- NACADA is strong because of the contributions of each member.
Kathy Stockwell, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Fox Valley Technical College
From the Executive Director: Making a Difference: High Impact Activities that Enrich Advisors and Promote Student Success
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
As I enter my 10th year in the NACADA Executive Office, I am excited to see the continued expansion of the Association and the academic advising profession. While our steadily growing membership demonstrates NACADA’s financial health and stability, I am most proud of the work done by our NACADA leadership and Executive Office staff to expand our vast resources, services, and events that support our members and the profession. In the first five months of 2011 we have held two Institutes, a Seminar, ten Regional Conferences (including two in Canada), and two Academic Advising Research Symposiums. We have broadcast a series of highly cost effective and professional webcasts, published numerous member authored articles in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, NACADA Journal, and Academic Advising Today, and conducted a national academic advising survey. Currently in production are two monographs for publication this fall, and we have expanded our partnership with Jossey-Bass Publishers to include work on an upcoming text on effective academic advising approaches. NACADA has recognized and supported a record number of our members through our comprehensive Awards Program, a variety of graduate student scholarships, and grants to support research in the field. We also have continued implementation of our online membership, registration, and purchasing system and expanded the Association’s utilization of social media technologies to increase member participation in the Association and to enhance the impact for both event attendees and non-attendees. Last, but not least, the Board of Directors has continued our important initiative in global awareness and expansion supported by NACADA leaders visiting Australia, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands to work with colleges and universities on the importance of academic advising to student success and the importance of NACADA to academic advising globally. All of this and more has happened in just five short months!
As we know from the work of John Gardner and George Kuh, student success, retention, and persistence is enhanced by student involvement and participation in a variety of High Impact activities. NACADA enhances the success of academic advisors and the academic advising profession in higher education by supporting High Impact activities for academic advisors no matter their institutional type or size, their role (professional, faculty, peer, graduate student, or administrator), or their location in the global community of higher education.
High Impact activities for academic advisors and the academic advising profession are:
- involvement in comprehensive on-going professional development which includes research, theory, practice, and information – not just institutional issues and policies – through a variety of formats, activities, and events.
- development and implementation of assessment plans for academic advising, including student learning outcomes and program effectiveness.
- involvement in research in the field of student success and academic advising, including reading, analyzing, and utilizing research as well as conducting research on our campuses and utilizing results to enhance student success.
- rewards for professional growth and development through institutional advising career ladders or career growth paths.
- involvement in a common reading experience in an advising unit, institution, or within the international academic advising community.
- attendance and participation in NACADA’s professional development opportunities. This may include attendance at a NACADA institute, seminar, or conference and utilization of technology to participate in a NACADA webcast or one of NACADA’s growing social media opportunities.
- submission of an article about the profession, institutional/unit advising success, or individual advising interests for consideration in a NACADA publication.
- construction of a professional network across the globe for common scholarship, support, and encouragement within the academic advising field.
The High Impact activities listed above are just a few of the things we must do to grow in our profession if we are to become recognized as experts in student success initiatives in higher education. There are many more high impact activities that advisors can share with their colleagues through a presentation at a NACADA state, allied association, regional, or annual conference or through an article in one of the NACADA publications.
As we end one academic year and begin preparations for a new academic year, I propose a challenge to each of you. Set Three Goals for the 2011-2012 academic year. Make one goal focus on a high impact activity, either from the list above or from your individual professional development plan. Share your goals and how you will achieve them with colleagues – in your unit, at your institution, or through Facebook or Twitter. Then carry out atleast one activity each week to help you achieve these goals. Each month discuss your progress (or lack of progress) toward your goals with colleagues so that next year at this time you can celebrate your achievements, analyze the challenges in reaching your goals, and make plans for changes or new goals for the 2012-2013 academic year. I hope many of you will consider choosing me as one of the colleagues with whom you will share your goals, achievements, and challenges during the next year. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, “Charlie Nutt” on Facebook, or @charlienutt on Twitter.
Take some time this summer to rest and re-energize before moving into a new, exciting, and challenging year. Please remember that NACADA is always here to support you and the profession!
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Reinvigorating the Role of the Personal Tutor
Sheila Pankhurst and Jacqui McCary, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK
In a research project funded jointly by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we found that more than 40% of current students had thought about leaving on at least one occasion. These doubting students, however, continued with their studies. One of the key research findings was that students want advice from their Personal Tutor (academic advisor) on a range of specific issues related to their thoughts about leaving, (e.g., academic failure). This project highlighted the importance of the role of the academic Personal Tutor. Part of our response to the research findings has been to consider how we can reinvigorate this role at Anglia Ruskin University so that all students have access to the strong support they want.
Before looking at our findings in more detail, it is worth saying a little about how we carried out our research. We asked a sample of more than 6,000 undergraduate students to complete an online survey entitled ‘Staying the Course’ that was advertised widely within our university. The survey, which consisted of 22 free text and 29 multiple choice questions, was made available to all first and second year students in their second semester. Questions in the first part of the survey covered a range of issues identified from the literature as being important in student retention, including thoughts about leaving, expectations, social integration, and sources of support (Tinto, 1993; Benn 1982; Johnes 1990; Pascarella & Terenzini 1991). These questions focused on the student experience, but we also wanted to hear the student voice. A separate survey section, therefore, was presented as a ‘Big Grid’ which asked students to tell us where they wanted to go for support on a range of issues from sources both internal and external to the university.
We were very pleased with the 10% response rate to the survey as this represented over 700 students; in total 559 students completed the entire survey, giving us a rich dataset with which to work. This allowed us to investigate many factors affecting a student’s decision to consider withdrawing, and the sources and types of support within and outside the university which helped them decide to stay.
Our results confirmed that the role of the Personal Tutor was an important influence in a student’s decision to stay, especially in relation to academic and study issues. We found that, where students had study concerns, 60% wanted to talk to their Personal Tutor; 32% wanted to speak to other academic staff; 27% would like to speak to their Student Adviser (a non-academic student support role), and 29% wanted to talk to friends and family. More specifically, answers to the question ‘What did you do when you thought about leaving’ indicated that when students have difficulties with assessment they approach their Personal Tutor for support.
The guidance students receive can have a strong positive influence on their decision to stay:
“I spoke to my Personal Tutor who assured me that I could turn things around.”
“I spoke with my tutor about my concerns and then I set in place very strict timetables for my work to make sure that it was all completed on time.”
“When I spoke to tutors we decided that I could re-take and I have made lots of effort and I am doing really well.”
Conversely, we found that students who had thought about leaving were less likely to say that their Personal Tutor was easily approachable.
Prior to the start of our research project, the role of the academic Personal Tutor was in place at Anglia Ruskin, and had been so for many years. Our research verified this by identifying that more than 80% of students who completed our survey knew that they had a Personal Tutor, and only 9% had never met their Personal Tutor. The operation of this role, however, was not consistent across all departments and faculties. As a result of our findings, we have taken a number of steps to ensure the consistency of the role, and that students receive the support they want and need from their Personal Tutor.
All students, on arrival at Anglia Ruskin University, are now assigned a named member of academic staff as their Personal Tutor to ensure they have access to an academic experienced in their subject area and a friendly face within their Faculty. All of our academic staff are required to undertake the Personal Tutor role and must be available for a minimum of three hours a week, during teaching weeks, for students to book appointments or sometimes just to drop in. This ensures that students should not find it difficult to meet with their Personal Tutor or with other members of academic staff.
As a minimum, students are required to meet with their Personal Tutor during Freshers’ Week, then regularly within their first semester and at least once a semester after this. Students are also given a leaflet which explains that the Personal Tutor is there to support them during their studies at Anglia Ruskin University; this leaflet outlines the key issues students may wish to discuss with their tutor, such as accommodation, finances, part-time employment, social life, study skills, and any personal challenges experienced during their studies. Additionally, when students meet their Personal Tutor, they are asked to complete a study skills self-assessment exercise to help them to identify any areas that may require additional support. Their tutor then guides them in accessing appropriate support.
Within Anglia Ruskin, we have identified many areas of best practice that go beyond the minimum required of the Personal Tutor programme. In the Department of Life Sciences, for example, first year students meet weekly with their personal tutor during their first semester, and these meetings are linked to tutorial sessions for a core skills module.
The module covers a range of topics including how to access our online systems and facilities, as well as referencing, good academic practice, giving a presentation, and writing a scientific report. Personal Tutors work with their tutees to improve these skills, and provide direct feedback on assessment. These weekly tutorial sessions provide both personal and academic support.
Our research has provided new insights into the relationship between undergraduate student retention (persistence) and the Personal Tutor support role. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of this role, to implement best practice across our university, and to disseminate the findings of our project to a wider audience within the Higher Education community.
Department of Life Sciences
Faculty of Science and Technology
Anglia Ruskin University
Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK.
Faculty of Science and Technology
Anglia Ruskin University
Cambridge and Chelmsford, UK.
Benn, R. (1982) Higher education: Non standard students and withdrawals, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 19(3), 3–12.
Johnes, J. (1990) Determinants of student wastage in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 15(1), 87–100.
Pascarella, E. T. and Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years. Oxford: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition (2nd ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Advisors on Location: Expanding Advisors' Role in International Education
Vickie Morgan and Terese Pratt, University of Utah
Higher education in the United States is going global. U.S. colleges and universities are eager to increase their involvement in international education and many exciting new programs have sprung up at institutions across the country. These programs serve as access points for an increasing number of interested students from abroad. 671,616 international students studied in the U.S. last year, and the number of new international students (those studying in the U.S. for the first time) went up 16% from the previous year (Witherell and Soman, 2009).
U.S. institutions have many reasons to be responsive to international student interest. International students add diversity to our campuses and provide a global perspective in our classrooms. These students contribute valuable economic resources to schools and the surrounding communities. The Institute of International Education calculates the net contribution to the U.S. economy by foreign students in 2007/08 was over $15.5 Billion (Witherell, Soman and Gardner, 2009).
Advisors can play an important role in the success of international students, and the long-term success of international education, well before students arrive on our campuses. Many schools have international recruiters who promote their institutions to students across the globe. These recruiters often are part of an international center or an international admissions office. They usually have in-depth knowledge of admissions, immigration, and ESL resources and can speak confidently about their institutions. These recruiters usually are not accustomed to providing detailed advice about specific programs and requirements or to sitting down with individual students to discuss major options, envision future class schedules, discover involvement opportunities, or help students see the connections between their upcoming educational experiences and their future lives. These tasks are left to advisors who do not begin their work with international students until they arrive on campus. Yet, this kind of in-depth information is just what these students need as they decide which U.S. institution is their best choice. Why not get advisors involved with students before they arrive at our schools?
We began thinking about the value of advising in the early stages of students’ international educational experiences because of a newly created international bridge program in which our school, the University of Utah, is involved. The U of U became part of a consortium of four U.S. institutions working in a program called the US-Sino Pathways Program (USPP). Students participating in this three-semester program begin their college studies in one of eight centers in China. They take rigorous courses including English, math, science, and general education classes. Students receive college credit from a consortium university for the classes taken in China. During their second semester, students must select one of four consortium schools at which they will complete their bachelor’s degree. The third semester of the program consists of a summer bridge experience in America, after which students are off to finish their final requirements at their chosen schools.
In the program’s initial year, representatives from consortium schools participated in a recruiting tour in China. A second recruiting tour was planned after the first student cohort had completed their initial semester of classes. This was when students made their final decision about which school to attend. At our institution, there was discussion about who to send on the second tour. Given that these students would have three semesters of transfer credit by the time they entered their chosen institution, and that the students were headed into a number of different majors, it was important that our representatives were equipped to evaluate what had been completed and offer an in-depth look at what would be left for each student. Many students were unsure of their majors and needed help exploring possibilities. The tour format included sessions where school representatives met with students individually to discuss their specific situations. None of the services needed were things our recruiters were accustomed to providing, but of course, it is what we as advisors do on a daily basis. Four advisors from University College Advising and the Transfer Center were sent as the U’s representatives on the second USPP tour.
Between two advising teams, we visited eight cities in China and advised 160 students. In addition to working individually with the students already in the program, we participated in public fairs promoting USPP to interested students and their parents. In both situations, our in-depth knowledge of curriculum, majors, involvement opportunities, and resources was invaluable. Even at the information tables, parents and students spent 20-30 minutes talking to school representatives. The decision about which school to attend and what major to pursue is important; of course, the more information students and parents could collect, the better their choice.
Advisors have much to offer prospective international students. Our academic knowledge and experiences providing developmental interactions with students make us valuable team players in our schools’ international programs. The challenges that international students face are great. The U.S. academic system is often completely new to them and their knowledge of specific U.S. schools can be limited. The cost of attending school in the U.S. is high, and the international admissions process is long and involved. Much rests on each student’s institutional choice; their initial decision should be as solid as possible. Advisors can provide in-depth information, and lots of it, in an individualized and personal way. This information can help students make their decisions, arrive prepared to have a great experience, and successfully reach their educational goals.
Advisors, get out your maps and suitcases! Approach deans and vice-presidents with ways advisors can help international students succeed in your educational programs.
Assistant Director, Transfer Center
University College Advising and the Transfer Center
University of Utah
Coordinator of Campus-Wide Advisor Development
University College Advising
University of Utah
Witherell, S. and Soman, S. (2009, November). Record Numbers of International Students in U.S. Higher Education. Retrieved from Institute of International Education, www.iie.org/en/Who-We-Are/News-and-Events/Press-Center/Press-Releases/2009/2009-11-16-Open-Doors-2009-International-Students-in-the-US
Witherell, S., Soman, S. and Gardner, D. (2009, November). Institute of International Education:Open Doors 2009 Fast Facts. Retrieved from www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors
Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh, My! Identity in Crisis: Students Finding Their Way in Life
Christine Chmielewski, Indiana University South Bend
Editor’s Note: Christine recently completed the NACADA-Kansas State University Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising. This article was adapted from a paper written for the Multicultural Aspects of Academic Advising course and recommended for publication consideration by her professor, Doris Carroll. Learn more about the NACADA-K-State Graduate Programs.
Just like the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, students often feel lost; they need guidance and reassurance to succeed in college. The critical component to academic success, other than student will, is advising. Without the support of an experienced navigator, the institution can generate obstacles; with the help of a “Wizard,” students can discover and develop their natural gifts. Moving forward in spite of fear to confront challenges is part of the journey. It is easier to navigate through an unknown and magical world with a support structure in place.
I make choices
The Scarecrow was poised atop a pole in the field. He longed to be anywhere else, but had been placed on a post to “work” a job he had not selected. He believed he had no brain and was therefore incapable of learning or experiencing happiness. Of course, after some self-pity he figured out how to get down from the pole: “Well, I may not be very smart about things, but if you bend down the nail in the back, I may fall off.” This is exactly what Dorothy did, and it worked! The Scarecrow’s ability to reason was made clear with that statement. Although he walked through life as a victim of circumstances, the Scarecrow eventually found happiness when he defined his own path. When the Wizard presented him with a diploma he said, “Every pusillanimous creature has a brain. But what you don’t have is a diploma.” The Wizard points out that while the Scarecrow reasoned his own path, he had not done the work to face his perceived inadequacies, conquer his fear, and claim his domain.
Students often make statements not unlike those of the Scarecrow. They doubt themselves, make excuses, have poor study habits, and procrastinate until they sit on a pole in a field alone and uncertain how to succeed in class. They need advisors to listen and help unveil options while they learn how to comply with the coursework expectations and discover ways to stay motivated. Managing time and juggling multiple deadlines simultaneously is often as important as information retention and application – all brand new territory, just like the quest to the Emerald City.
I become connected
The Tin Man was doing the work he was designed to do, but had frozen stiff. He was so focused on his “job” that he forgot to take care of his long-term needs. He felt insecure and questioned his values (because he had no heart), so rather than planning his future he stayed occupied with his daily tasks. Without belonging to something bigger and with no sense of connection, he resigned himself to the way it was and eventually rusted. Only after Dorothy and her companions arrived did the Tin Man rally and discover that fulfillment comes in relationships with others.
Students often are in a similar place. They come with earlier successes defined, an established social network, and set priorities. Then everything changes, and that can be unsettling. Doing day-to-day tasks might seem overwhelming and developing connections ambiguous, but without creating community and forging a way to their future, students only stay occupied. As was the case with the Tin Man, students can have an identity crisis. They must discover a passion for knowledge and figure out how to promote their strengths through faculty engagement and professional opportunities. Being connected beyond the academic realm through volunteerism, a part-time job, study abroad, and service-learning provides context and application for learning,rounds out the college experience, and helps define humanity. Often making these connections requires assistance. Just like the Wizard gifted the Tin Man with a heart, advisors gift students with bridges to opportunity.
I create my future
The Cowardly Lion put up a front when he met the group in the forest saying, “Put ‘em up, put ‘em up! Which one of you first?” His false rhetoric was born of fear and was exacerbated by heightened anxiety. He acted strong to cover his insecurities and the loneliness he felt, but these actions only reinforced his solitude. Peeling back the masks that students present can be exhausting. They come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, often making it difficult for us to understand and recognize their motivation. The one certainty is that they are here to increase their opportunities.
A good advisor recognizes that presenting clear expectations and boundaries, providing positive reinforcement, and unveiling options provides the safety and security students need to lessen vulnerability. The Lion was able to face his fears and confront the Wicked Witch while defending his safety net, Dorothy. The journey of self-discovery is scary and it is difficult to make alone. Students often wonder if they are good enough to succeed. Thoughtful, intentional advising, coupled with honest communication and compassion, help students see their merit and figure out appropriate ways in which they can move forward.
I define my character
The Wicked Witch is the biggest obstacle that can stop student progress. She can be killed or managed. Students who are intrinsically motivated overcome obstacles through fortitude, determination, intelligence, and ingenuity. Others need guidance to find their way and create their destinies. As the Good Witch tells Dorothy, an advisor begins with simple instructions: follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Through practice and repetition, patterns emerge and confidence grows. Personal strengths, clear identity, thoughtful community, and meaningful contributions are often discovered through a robust and well-rounded college experience. Advisors serve as a road map that guides students through this process. With the support of talented “Wizards,” students persevere and succeed in finding their way to the Emerald City.
Sr. Academic Advisor
CLAS Advising Center
Indiana University South Bend
Fleming, V. (Director). (1939). The Wizard of Oz [on DVD, 2009, 70th anniversary ed. Warner Brothers, Burbank, CA.]
Academic Advising in the Third Era: The Whole Foods Market® Approach
Carol Antill, Angelo State University
“We seek the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture” (Whole Foods Market, Inc.).
The mission statement behind a company that grew from one grocery store in Austin, Texas in 1980 to over 300 stores in the United States and United Kingdom is analogous to the goals of academic advising. Light (2001) noted that results from a Harvard Assessment Project that spanned ten years and surveyed faculty and students at more than 90 colleges showed that “good academic advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience (p. 81). Whether serving students at a community college of 5,000 or a regional university of 25,000, good advising can be defined by a model that mirrors the approach of Whole Foods Market: seek the best path, maintain quality of contact, and commit to an attainable goal for each student we advise.
Key to advising students at the start of their college matriculation is identifying strengths and weaknesses. In order to point each student down the most relevant path toward a degree, the intake process must help us articulate these strengths and weaknesses for the student. Allowing adequate time for advising the student during the intake process builds rapport between advisee and advisor and can help pinpoint significant elements in the student’s life that will help determine the best academic path. Identifying lifestyle factors, such as job and family commitments, is vital to scheduling a realistic course load and recommending support services such as tutoring and workshops.
With an increasingly diverse student population, the best path is one that meets the needs of the individual. Identifying an advisee’s outlook as predominantly positive or negative can provide valuable insight. Understanding the basic principles of positive psychology and defensive pessimism can help advisors “promote excellence by building on students’ natural talents to increase confidence and self-efficacy” (Schreiner et al, 2009). Defensive pessimism, coined by Nancy Cantor, President of Syracuse University, defines an individual’s worry about outcomes and the future in a constructive paradigm. Julie Norem, an early proponent of defensive pessimism as a healthy coping mechanism, differentiates between the strategic optimist—a term for one who subscribes to positive psychology—and the defensive pessimist according to the way they achieve their goals: “A strategic optimist’s unconscious goal is not to become anxious. A defensive pessimist’s unconscious goal is not to run away” (Stewart, 2002, ¶13). An interactive questionnaire for differentiating between strategic optimists and defensive pessimists (Quiz, n.d.) is one of many tools available online to assist the advisor in building an advisee profile.
To maintain quality of contact with the advisee, academic advisors can take a cue from Whole Foods’ emphasis on a “decentralized, self-directed team culture” (About Whole Foods Market, n.d.). The nature of the third era of advising (Frost, 2000) lends itself to a decentralized structure, where each phase of the student’s academic progress, from declaring a major to seeking a graduate degree, is carefully handled by an advisor who specializes in that phase. Such a flexible environment encourages advisors to be intuitive and enterprising yet always mindful of being part of a team in guiding the student through the college experience. To some extent, intuition drives the advisor to devise enterprising ways to meet with the advisee after the first advising session. Presenting interactive workshops relevant to the student’s stage of matriculation and attending student-centered events on campus complement the advisor’s intuitive process.
Like most successful enterprises, interactive workshops require careful planning and inventive marketing strategies. Advisors must be creative, not only from the standpoint of attracting students to a workshop, but working within limited budgets. Again, the team effort is advantageous on many fronts: when advisors collaborate, their shared resources and ideas often result in a more polished and deeply-explored presentation and ultimately increased participation, due to word of mouth among students.
Attending campus-sponsored events allows the advisor to observe students in a more relaxed environment and project a support identity outside that of advisor. The student who enters work in a campus art exhibit appreciates recognition from a familiar face showing up at the event and is more likely to initiate future contact with the advisor. Scanning campus news sources for articles by or about advisees and sending a congratulatory note when the student is cited for an award likewise strengthens the connection between advisor and advisee.
Finally, whether associated with Whole Foods or academic advising, the word commitment evokes trust. No matter what phase of the student’s college experience, the advisor’s commitment to the student’s short-term and long-term goals fosters trust from the student and ultimately a realization of attaining these goals. Networking is essential to building the advisor’s resource cache and strengthening commitment. Emails channeling pertinent information between colleagues, student surveys from software programs such as MAP-Works® and Blackboard©, and internet sites like www.testtakingtips.com exemplify just a few of the networking opportunities; the challenge for advisors today is not as much what to use as how to use it. With the current generation of students often referred to as digital natives for their immersion in technological media, advisors can also benefit from instructional technology webinars and workshops.
In the world of retail groceries, Whole Foods takes the tenets of its mission statement beyond simply being a quality market; it strives to create a respectful workplace (Whole People) and a support structure for sustainable agriculture (Whole Planet). In the academic world, advisors should strive to do no less.
Center for Academic Excellence
Angelo State University
About Whole Foods Market (n.d.). Retrieved from www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company
Frost, Susan H. (2000). Historical and philosophical foundations for academic advising. In Gordon, Habley, and Associates (Eds.) Academic Advising A Comprehensive Handbook(pp. 11-13). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Light, Richard J. (2001). Good mentoring and advising. Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (pp. 84-85). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Quiz (n.d.). Retrieved from www.wellesley.edu/Psychology/Norem/Quiz/quiz.html
Shreiner, Laurie A., Hulme, Eileen, Hetzel, Roderick, and Lopez, Shane J. (2009). Positive psychology on campus, In C.R. Snyder and Shane J. Lopez (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology (p. 573). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Stewart, Sharla. (2002). The worst of all possible worlds [Electronic version]. University of Chicago Magazine, 95(1). Retrieved from http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0210/features/worst.html.
Actively Including Online Students in the College Experience
Sharriette Finley and Jeanna Chapman, Georgia Perimeter College-Online
Life obligations have resulted in more students continuing their educations online. Our observation at Georgia Perimeter College (GPC)–Online is that even though students continue their education online, many still want aspects of a more traditional college experience. GPC is the third largest college within the University System of Georgia (USG). With more than 9,000 online students, GPC has the largest online program within the USG. To better serve our growing online population, it has been necessary for us to develop and maintain consistent, high-quality student services with a specific focus on online academic advising. The GPC-Online Student Success Team (SST) has as our mission partnering with online students to promote a campus experience in an online atmosphere: providing online academic advising, complementing advising with online resources, and creating an inclusive community among online students. These strategies encourage retention and lead to student success
Online Academic Advising
Wagner (2001) declared that advisors are to “nurture, encourage, inform, and support” students during their academic careers (¶ 2). Online learners still require this “high touch” level of service in a “high tech” environment. Effective academic advising is holistic, involves others in the advising process, and helps students integrate information to make well-informed decisions (NACADA, 2005). SST members advise online students and guide them according to their individual interests, goals, and life obligations while helping them meet graduation and transfer requirements.
Advising for online learners should respond to their unique needs, instead of requiring them to fit within an established organizational structure (NACADA, 2010). Online tools like email, Advising Request Forms, Academic Plans for Success, and an Online Student Success Course (OSSC) connect advisor and student. Students submit advising requests via email or OSSC and receive a response in one business day or less. The Academic Plans for Success aids in documenting progress and charting a course for success. The OSSC provides a foundation for building a stronger online community.
Online Student Success Classroom and Resources
Accessibility to resources is essential to the success of online students. When we partner with students in a developmental manner, advisors aid students in achieving educational, career, and personal goals by using a full range of resources (Winston, Miller, Ender, Grites, 1984).
Resources created and utilized by the GPC-OL SST are an online Student Success Backpack and an Online Student Success Course (OSSC). Furthermore, an Online WIMBA Classroom is accessible from OSSC and via Web. The Student Success Backpack provides guides that help meet student needs in the areas of academic, life skills, and career development. Through OSSC, students have access to learning modules that focus on succeeding in college. Included in the modules are lessons on researching and communicating effectively online. OSSC also serves as the “home-base” for Online Student Life, as well as career news and updates. The Online WIMBA Classroom is the setting for workshops on finances, stress reduction, goal-setting, and open house Webinars.
Building an Online Community
Many students have a great deal of experience in the online world and expect high quality online interaction (Lorenzetti, 2006). In GPC’s online environment, this need is met through a discussion blog created in OSSC. The discussion blog serves as an outlet for students to express thoughts on various issues. SST members initiate and participate in commonly discussed topics including tutoring, organizing, and relieving stress. Though we initiate the discussions, the online students guide them.
Team members continue to be impressed with the level of knowledge of students and their willingness to share thoughts, information, and advice with each other. Recently, students shared their thoughts on social networking. Among their comments were how social networking may benefit people who are introverted and people with disabilities, and how age factors into using social networking for academic purposes. Students also noted that excessive social networking could have a negative impact on academics.
Online students have much to offer. They are the present and the future of education. As technology continues to evolve, we must allow it to enhance the way we interact with students. Email, discussion blogs, and Webinars have elevated the ways we communicate with our online students. SST advisors understand that we are a crucial link between students’ virtual environment and the physical environment of college-wide services. We provide the link to the well-rounded education our online students seek.
We want online students to stay, succeed, and graduate. That result is best achieved when we include them in the college experience. Online advising tools, online success resources, and secure online chat options are necessary components for the delivery of holistic online student services. These tools actively engage online students in the whole college experience.
Georgia Perimeter College-Online
Georgia Perimeter College-Online
Lorenzetti, Jennifer Patterson. (2006). Developing effective online student services. Distance Education Report. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com
NACADA. (2005). Statement of Core Values of Academic Advising. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values-Declaration.htm
NACADA. (2010). Distance Education Advising Commission Standards for Advising Distance Learners. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Commissions/C23/Documents/DistanceStandards_000.pdf
Wagner, Linda. (2001, Fall). Virtual advising: Delivering student services. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.Retrieved from citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.231.7440&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Winston, R. B., Miller, T. K., Ender, S. C., Grites, T. J., & Associates (1984). Developmental Academic Advising. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Encouraging First Generation College Student Success
Cynthia Demetriou and April Mann, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Students whose parents did not attend college are at a disadvantage when it comes to postsecondary access. For those who overcome barriers to access and enroll in postsecondary education, first generation college students (FGCS) remain at a disadvantage with respect to staying enrolled and attaining a degree (Choy, 2001). Furthermore, lower-income FGCS are disadvantaged not only by their parents’ lack of experience with and information about college, but also by other social and economic characteristics that constrain their educational opportunities (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005).
Collier & Morgan (2008) found that for undergraduates the ability to understand course material is necessary, but, alone, it is not sufficient for success. Students must also master the “college student” role. FGCS have been found to have variations from non-FGCS in understanding the college student role. This can negatively influence their ability to meet expectations and succeed in postsecondary education.
There are many ways in which academic advisors, faculty, and staff can work with FGCS to help them understand the college student role as well as to academically and socially integrate into the campus community.
What can academic advisors do to encourage FGCS success?
- Define. A first generation college student is not the same on every campus. Some institutions define first generation as a student who is first in the family to attend to college. Advisors on campuses that, for example, choose this definition, must carefully consider questions like: What if an older sibling attended college? Is a student FGCS in this case? What if one parent earned an associate’s degree but the other parent never attended college? It is important to be consistent across campus regarding the definition of a first generation student. Because student needs and campus culture differ, the FGCS definition may be different at other schools.FGCS definitions must be shared across a campus. It is also important that terms be consistent. How do campus constituents refer to these students? Are they “F-G-C-S” or “first-gen”? Is there a name that can be used as a point of pride at the institution? For example, at UNC-Chapel Hill, we proudly call our FGCS “Carolina Firsts.”
- Model. Providing role models is imperative for FGCS success. Start by identifying FGCS role models. Role models should include experienced students who have mastered the college student role. These students are academically and socially engaged and frequently utilize campus resources. Academic advisors, faculty, and staff who were FGCS also should be identified. These individuals may serve as mentors to new FGCS. Sharing the stories of these former FGCS can model success. Consider posting such stories on a website, in the school newspaper, as part of orientation programs, or in advising workshops.
- Connect. Connect FGCS to other FGCS as well as to faculty and staff who were FGCS. Introduce new FGCS to experienced, successful FGCS through peer advising and peer mentoring programs. This will help students master the college student role. We also recommend connecting parents and FGCS families to the campus and to each other. The more parents and families know about the expectations and demands of college, the more likely it is that their students will succeed.
- Support. Many FGCS are unaware or reluctant to utilize campus resources. Make sure FGCS are aware of available support services and encourage FGCS to take advantage of these resources. When academic advisors make referrals to campus services, we should communicate to students that taking advantage of such services is normal. Furthermore, students should be commended for seeking help. Asking for help should be viewed as a sign of strength. Through their daily interactions with students, advisors can convey the message that smart students take advantage of institutional resources.
- Celebrate. Celebrate the successes of FGCS on campus. This should be done from admissions recruitment events through to graduation and beyond to FGCS alumni. Make the success of FGCS a point of pride.
How can we accomplish all of this? Start small. Bring together a concerned group of individuals within a department or program to consider working on some of the following initiatives:
- Start an institution-wide committee to work on initiatives for FGCS success.
- Train academic advisors about the needs of FGCS.
- Create an advising workshop for new FGCS.
- Start a FGCS student organization.
- Create campus traditions specifically for FGCS (e.g., homecoming and graduation events).
- Work with campus communications (e.g., newspaper, websites, public relations office, alumni office) to publicize stories about the successes of FGCS.
- Partner with faculty.
- Work closely with the institutional research department. Find out how many FGCS are on campus.
- Determine the retention and graduation rates of FGCS on campus. What are the majors most frequently chosen by FGCS? How many FGCS take advantage of academic advising on a regular basis?
- Identify FGCS, determine what they need, and how they can best be served. Hold a focus group with current FGCS to do this.
- Utilize technology to connect with FGCS (e.g. website, Facebook group).
- Outreach to FGCS alumni.
- Incorporate FGCS families and parents into campus events.
- Provide information on FGCS at Orientation.
- Many FGCS are also students from underrepresented populations and/or students from low-income families. Partner with campus groups including the diversity office and student aid.
- Develop a FGCS mentoring program.
- Stay current on research and best practices for encouraging FGCS success.
When starting any new student success initiative, for FGCS or any other student group, start by identifying FGCS students, telling their stories, and celebrating their strengths. As we understand this remarkable group better, we can develop more specific academic interventions.
Director of Retention
Office of Undergraduate Education
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Director of New Student & Carolina Parent Programs
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Choy, S., (2001). Students whose parents did not go to college: Postsecondary access, persistence, and attainment. In Findings from the Condition of Education 2001: Students Whose Parents Did Not Go to College. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics.
Collier, P. J., & Morgan, D. L. (2008). 'Is that paper really due today?': Differences in first generation and traditional college students' understandings of faculty expectations. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 55(4), 425-446.
Lohfink, M., & Paulsen, M. (2005). Comparing the determinants of persistence for first-generation and continuing-generation students. Journal of College Student Development, 46(4), 409-428.
Academic Advising and the Underprepared Student: Finding a Degree of Success
Paul Fowler, Louisiana State University Eunice
Editor’s Note: The Pathways to Success program was honored with a NACADA Outstanding Advising Program Award in 2008.
Between 19% and 33% of students entering two-year institutions require developmental education coursework in every subject in order to prepare for their first general education courses (ACT, 2007; McCabe, 2003). Given that these students may not have the opportunity to attend college without such programs, the question becomes how best can we address their needs and increase learning. Louisiana State University Eunice’s Pathways to Success program utilizes a structured approach that has proven effective by addressing a trio of student factors, any one of which may actually become a barrier to success (Boylan, 2009; Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004). The academic factors relate to coursework and tutoring; nonacademic factors deal with a student’s motivation, goals, socialization, and transition to higher education. Personal factors include any issue in students’ lives that may require time away from academic work (e.g., transportation, financial responsibilities, children, work, or medical issues) (Boylan; Lotkowski, et. al.). The Pathways program focuses on orientation and transition, class attendance, tutoring, and academic advising – all of which are mandatory for these students. While all program components are important, the relationship developed with the academic advisors is crucial to helping students through the various issues they face during their first year.
For example, the advisor-student relationship begins at orientation, where prescriptive academic advising takes place one-on-one as students are enrolled in classes based upon their assessment results and personal schedules. Students who work, have family obligations, or have medical issues are advised to attend part-time their first semester to determine how their college and personal schedules will interact with one another. Very simply, advisors set students up for success by listening to “what else is going on in the student’s life” while keeping in mind that their class and personal schedules do not operate in isolation of one another.
Prescriptive advising becomes developmental advising during the three out-of-class advising visits required for students in the study skills and transition course. The preprogrammed visits play a major role in detecting and assisting students through nonacademic or personal issues that may threaten their academic success. The first advising visit coincides with the goal setting, learning styles, and temperament units discussed in class. The process is repeated again during the second advising visit as course instructors and advisors cover registration and midterm semester issues with students. Lastly, the first semester transition course concludes with an in-class career inventory where results are discussed personally with each student. It is in this advising session where frank conversations take place about students’ choices of majors. This may be as simple as pre-nursing students saying they cannot stand the sight of blood or as subtle as the same students having difficulty in the first semester biology course. Three advising visits also are required in the second semester college reading class, but those visits are more general and do not correspond to prescribed in-class objectives.
Academic advising may become “intrusive” for some students as the director and advising staff visit students in class, phone students, or visit them in the residence hall during the early warning period. Faculty let advisors know if students are not doing homework, not attending or arriving late to class, or causing any disruption. Advisors email faculty after discussing the issue with the student.
Various lessons have been learned since the Pathways to Success implementation six years ago. First is that most students follow directions if they know what to do and when tasks are to be completed. For example, approximately 90% of the Pathways students comply with the academic advising policy every semester. In addition, approximately 70% of program students comply with the attendance policy missing less than a week of classes.
Next, the program is labor intensive. For instance, the total number of students in the Pathways program at all sites was 445 in fall 2010; students logged 1,400 advising visits that required one administrator, three full-time advisors, and eight faculty advisors. Students enrolled in the program know that someone is “watching their back” and that the advisors are there to help as needed. This level of advising may not be practical at larger institutions without additional support. However, advisors could pilot a program for a small number of students and enlist peer advisors to help. Then they could examine the results to determine whether expanding such a program would prove useful.
The third lesson learned is that communication, cooperation, and consensus-building are crucial. Program faculty and staff must have a positive attitude and seek to help students. Professional development opportunities and frequent open discussion regarding what is working, and what is not, are musts. Communication with the institution’s executive team is also necessary since institutional resources are required if the program is to be effective. Communication must occur with those who may disagree with program policies; this provides opportunities to present evidence that the program positively affects students.
Finally, program administrators must realize that some environmental issues are beyond their control, (i.e., budget cuts that drive up class sizes can affect program results). Larger class sizes can affect statistics from success rates in individual classes to program completion. It is also worth noting that a small percent of students will not accept any assistance; program data indicates that less than 10% of students eligible for the program fall into this category.
The Pathways program has demonstrated that learning, course completion, and retention for students needing developmental coursework in all subjects can be improved through the use of a structured program combining best practices from the orientation, transition, academic advising, and developmental education literature – at least on a small scale. Given the economy, the challenge is discovering which program elements can be applied to larger institutions in order to increase learning, success, and retention.
Office of Developmental Education
Louisiana State University Eunice
ACT. (2007). Rigor at risk: Reaffirming quality in the high school core curriculum. Iowa City, IA: ACT
Boylan, H.R. (2009). Targeted intervention for developmental education students (T.I.D.E.S.). Journal of Developmental Education 32(3) 14-18, 20, 22-23.
Lotkowski, V.A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The role of academic and non-academic factors in improving college retention: ACT Policy Report. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/path/policy/pdf/college_retention.pdf
McCabe, R. H. (2003). Yes we can! A community college guide for developing America’s underprepared. Phoenix, AZ: League for Innovation in the Community College and American Association of Community Colleges.
Helping Students with Asperger's Syndrome Navigate the College Experience
LaDonna Bridges, Advising Students with Disabilities Commission Past Chair
Students with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) are arriving on college campuses in greater numbers. While the reason for this increase can be debated, the need to develop skills to work with these students cannot be. Advisors – whether professional or faculty – can play a significant role in helping these students realize success both inside and outside the classroom.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that falls on the mild end of the autism spectrum. It is characterized by a pattern of social and interpersonal behaviors that can range from mild to severe. Because symptoms and behaviors vary in severity, individuals with AS may present very differently, making “one size fits all” accommodation plans difficult. Although many with AS have normal to superior intelligence and no significant deficits in communication, almost all have difficulty understanding social conventions or reading social cues, and they often engage in stereotyped or repetitive behaviors. Nonetheless, with the proper support, most people with AS have the potential to function independently; they can attend college and attain gainful employment.
Typical behaviors of individuals with AS include avoiding eye contact, starting and ending conversations awkwardly, and failing to regulate interpersonal distance or space. They may seem rude or tactless; they may be unable to take hints, keep secrets, or understand metaphor, irony or humor. Individuals with Asperger’s may speak with an odd syntax and often cannot conceive that other people process information differently. Some are unusually sensitive to sounds, smells, and touch.
In addition to the social and behavioral difficulties found among students with AS, cognitive difficulties are also present. Many students with AS struggle with executive function – the skills associated with planning, foresight, and organization. They may also become rigid or fixed in their thinking, unable to see differing points of view, and abstract or inferential thinking may be particularly difficult.
Given the differences among students with AS, advisors can be pivotal in helping these students navigate the many aspects of the college experience. While developmental advising helps advisors understand the strengths and weaknesses of the student with AS, prescriptive advising can be highly advantageous during course selection and registration. Because many students with AS struggle with decision making, registration can be one of the most stressful times. Advisors can help by breaking down the registration process into a concrete timeline with specific tasks: who to meet with (office location, email and phone); what courses or major requirements to consider (including prerequisites); where to go for specific tasks associated with registration; when to register (online, over the phone, or in person); and how to make changes or corrections.
In addition to helping with the process of registration, advisors can ease the difficulty of course selection by remembering the following:
- Guide the AS student to courses with professors who are structured and well organized
- Recommend classes and majors that capitalize on the student’s strengths
- Develop concrete degree completion plans
- Connect the student to other campus resources
Once in their courses, many students with AS also face significant academic challenges, including time management, the writing process, essay exams, and group projects. Advisors who are aware of these classroom challenges can help a student choose courses accordingly and seek support from other campus offices. Time management may be an area that requires academic support outside the classroom. Dissecting the syllabus and developing a plan of action to complete assignments can be overwhelming for a student with AS. Concrete daily and weekly schedules can provide a structure and necessary framework. Advisors may need to refer students with AS to the appropriate campus resources – including disability services -- for this help.
Due to difficulties with abstract or inferential thinking, many students with AS find the writing process difficult. Discerning the facts in the reading may not be difficult, yet making connections with the material and analyzing the information may be extremely challenging. Students with AS can miss the overarching themes or the big picture and, as a result, they may write off-topic, go on a tangent, or generate essays with poor organization. Advisors should be mindful of these difficulties when helping students choose writing-intensive courses or when balancing course loads.
Group projects or presentations may be another area of difficulty for the student with AS. Perfectionism, the inability to negotiate, and poor social interaction are characteristics of students with AS that may lead to group projects and laboratory classes being problematic. Social anxiety is not uncommon among these students, and many students have an equally strong work ethic. This combination makes it difficult to interact with other students or to see differing points of view. Advisors may be able to help AS students select courses where they know other students thus creating a more comfortable environment for group or laboratory partnerships.
Advisors should work closely with other campus resources in this effort. Disability services, writing tutors, academic success mentors, and counselors are the logical places for advisors to start making connections. Above all, advisors should follow these basic guidelines when advising students with AS:
- Speak clearly about expectations (no idioms or analogies)
- Use a multi-modal approach (verbal and visual) for instructions about policies or procedures
- Recognize frustration may occur when AS students try to make decisions or navigate the social climate of the campus and/or classroom
- Be aware of sensory difficulties and allow the AS student to remove himself from an over-stimulating situation
- Do not communicate through facial expressions
- Create a system for cuing inappropriate behavior
Asperger’s Syndrome impacts a student’s experience on all levels – curricular and otherwise. The more widely information about working with AS students is disseminated among the academic community, the more likely the chance for student success. Advisors, in partnership with other campus resources, can play a pivotal role. As with all advisees, the individual needs of the AS student are paramount.
Framingham State University
Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s Syndrome: A guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Kirby, B. (2011). What is Asperger Syndrome? Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS). Retrieved from www.aspergersyndrome.org
Moreno, S., and O'Neal, C. (n.d.) Tips for teaching high functioning people with Autism. Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS). Retrieved from www.aspergersyndrome.org/Articles/Tips-for-Teaching-High-Functioning-People-with-Aut.aspx
Wolf, L., Thierfeld Brown, J., and Bork, R. (2009). Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel. Overland Park, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.
The Challenges of the College Transition as Experienced by a Student with Asperger's Syndrome
Ellyn Schwartzbauer with Janet Tilstra and Michelle Sauer, College of St Benedict | St John’s University
Editor’s Note: Ellyn Schwartzbauer was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) in 8th grade. Today, she is a senior at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN, with a major in biology and a minor in psychology. This article is based upon a paper written by Ellyn as part of a Developmental Psychology course requirement. As a successful college student with AS, she wishes to promote awareness of AS to college academic advisors. Ellyn was assisted in the development of the article by academic advisor Michelle Sauer and department of psychology member Janet Tilstra.
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) present “qualitative impairment in social interaction” characterized by “restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities” (DSM-IV-TR, 2000). Many students with AS are intelligent, highly driven, and plan to attend college (Lawrence, Alleckson, & Bjorklund, 2010). As a student with AS, I planned from a young age to go to college and graduate school. Indeed, more individuals with AS are attending college than ever before (Smith, 2007). In spite of this strong interest in pursuing post-secondary education, many students with AS end up failing or dropping out of college. Some are overwhelmed by the social stresses of residential living. Others are unable to manage themselves or their homework without parental guidance. Other issues that can set a student up for failure are lack of self-advocacy, social rejection, homesickness, and associated transition stressors. Below I briefly review existing support models for students with AS and discuss my perspective as a college student with AS.
AS was not officially recognized as a unique diagnosis until 1994 (DSM-IV: APA, 1994). Subsequently, little research has been completed on the college experiences of individuals with AS. Common models of support include: specialized first-year seminar classes, specialized live-in residences, collaboration with an external rehabilitation agency, and establishment of a working relationship with the school’s disability services or advising office.
Students with AS who attend the University of Connecticut can sign up for a specialized first-year experience class that helps them succeed in their subsequent college years. Similar to first-year classes for other incoming students, this class meets once a week to introduce students to basic skills for college success. Students with AS participate in a dedicated section taught by staff members from the school’s Center for Students with Disabilities. Some topics are specifically tailored to the needs of students with AS such as organization, time management, and social skills (Wenzel & Rowley, 2010). I believe a class like this would be beneficial to college students with AS, especially since the model is integrated into the college curricula. This way, students (and their parents) need not worry about arranging and paying for outside services. One limitation of this model for small colleges (such as my school) is that there may not be enough students with AS to warrant creating a separate first-year symposium section. This is unfortunate since the topics covered in these classes are things that I had issues with over my undergraduate career (i.e., time management and social skills). I believe such a class would be one of the best support options for students with AS.
Another support model for college students with AS is private live-in support within residential settings (Lipka, 2006). Students in this model attend classes at an area college (usually a community college) and receive support services such as tutoring and social skills classes as well as reminders to attend class, personal hygiene assistance, and assistance with household chores. Advocates and program directors may question whether students who require this level of day-to-day support should attempt college. Indeed the level of support within this model might seem patronizing for a higher-functioning individual with AS. One prospective student commented, “it seemed sort of like a day-care center” (Lipka, 2006). This support model would not have been a good fit for me since I gained independence through living by myself without such involved supervision and care. However a live-in program might be helpful for high-needs students.
Dillon (2007) suggested that another option for students with AS attending colleges that offer limited direct support is to use services from local rehabilitation agencies (i.e., programs created to aid people with disabilities). Although these programs are not tailored specifically for the college context, staff are well-versed on the supports an individual with AS needs to live independently and function in society. These services usually come at a cost; details vary by state.
While some specific programs have been developed for students with AS, most students with AS receive minimal accommodations from their colleges. The most common accommodations are extended testing times, moderately reduced course load, registration assistance, and preferential seating in the classroom. I am one of the many students with AS who relied on these academic supports throughout college since my school does not have a center for students with disabilities. Thanks to my academic advisor, my parents, and understanding professors, I have succeeded in college. I can see how someone in my situation could give up on college without proper guidance. One of the most important skills I learned in the last four years was self-advocacy; I learned that speaking with faculty members if I had a problem or question was essential and not as intimidating as it first appeared. I would like to see advisors and teachers encourage this skill in students with AS, as it is highly beneficial.
Each individual with AS has unique needs; these needs may result in different levels of support. Intensive support programs may benefit some students with AS, while more moderate support levels may be appropriate for others (Lawrence, Alleckson, & Bjorklund, 2010). After reading literature on this topic, I realize much more research is needed regarding effective support models for college students with AS. Indeed, Hughes (2009) noted that more than 50% of high school graduates with learning disabilities attend college and the percentage of students with AS attending college may be even higher.
It is exciting that more students with AS are entering college. Feedback from students who participate in various support models can help us better address the needs of students with AS and maximize their college experiences.
College of St Benedict | St John’s University
College of St Benedict | St John’s University
Department of Psychology
College of St Benedict | St John’s University
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Edition). Washington, DC.
Dillon, M. R. (2007). Creating supports for college students with Asperger Syndrome through collaboration. College Student Journal, 41(2), 499-504.
Firth, U. (2004). Emanual Miller lecture: Confusions and controversies about Asperger's Syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 672-686.
Hughes, J. L. (2009). Higher education and Asperger's Syndrome. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(40), 21.
Lawrence, D. H., Alleckson, D. A., & Bjorklund, P. (2010). Beyond the roadblocks: Transitioning to adulthood with Asperger's Disorder. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 24(4), 227-238.
Lipka, S. (2006). For the learning disabled, a team approach to college. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(17), A36-A37.
Smith, C. P. (2007). Support services for students with Asperger's Syndrome in higher education. College Student Journal, 41(3), 515-531.
Wenzel, C., & Rowley, L. (2010). Teching social skills and scademic strategies to college students with Asperger's Syndrome. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(5), 44-50.
Tying Recruitment to Retention: An Advisor's Role in Working with Underrepresented Populations
Christine Lancaster, Chelsea Smith, and Kelsey Boyer, Eastern Michigan University
Advisors have a unique view on recruitment that allows them to impact student retention. Reinarz (2000) noted that “Academic advisors are often the persons with whom undergraduates have a continuing relationship during their undergraduate experience, and as such they may have a key role in successful student navigation of complex academic choices” (p. 211). Continuing a discussion started by Peterson and Kem (2009) in “The Role of Academic Advisors in Recruiting,” we seek to add information on retention with a special focus on underrepresented populations and second or selective admission programs in teacher preparation.
Diversity is an essential component of successful teacher preparation programs. Unfortunately, reports by the National Center for Education Statistics (2008a&b) found that minority teachers represent only 16.5% of the teacher workforce, where as minority students make up 40.6% of the K-12 student population. Further, Shen (1998) studied the preparation of teachers and found traditional certification programs are comprised of 87% white students and 13% minority students. While the National Center for Education Statistics (2010) showed a possible increase in minority teacher candidates, reporting that15.1% of education degrees in 2008-09 were conferred upon minority students, the need for an increase in minority teacher candidates remains. Recruitment strategies can provide a foundation for effective retention approaches including creation of long-term relationships early in a student’s educational career, reaching underrepresented populations, and increasing access to advising via technology.
Early Relationships are Important
In recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important to develop early and consistent relationships. Advisors who express that students are valued can create a meaningful and personal connection early in each student’s educational career. This connection is especially important when recruiting students from a culture that is different from the predominant culture on campus. Building a relationship with parents of traditional aged students assists in retention and is important to underrepresented students. As suggested by Peterson and Kem (2009), the advisor who participates in orientation facilitates meetings that provide parents with information about employment opportunities and requirements within second or selective admission programs. In the same instance, advisors who let parents know that they have their student’s interest at heart will find that later, when the excitement of orientation wears off, parents are well informed, able to have discussions with their student about program requirements, and feel reassured that someone at the university values their student.
To reinforce the orientation connection, advisors should send a letter or email to students during their first semester. This contact serves as a reminder of program requirements, lets students know that advisors are available, opens a discussion about registration, and provides information on seminars that encourage students to stay on track and utilize resources.
Go Where the Students Are
When recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important that we go to the students. In particular, it can be very effective when we offer advising through organizations, locations, and support groups already established for underrepresented students. In order to attract underrepresented populations to the teacher preparation program, Peterson and Kem (2009) suggested volunteering time advising students who use these support programs and taking time to communicate with students about the opportunities an academic program provides. Suggested target programs should go beyond the obvious programs for students of color, to include English as a second language and international student programs.
Aiken-Wisniewski and Allen (2005) noted that going outside the confines of our advising offices can increase our opportunities to connect with diverse groups of students. For example, advising can be done in the student union, residence halls, hallways, or even outside (see McIntyre article this issue). An advising table set up in another campus building allows advisors to be available with helpful information and facilitate conversations with students who may never have considered teaching as a career.
Advisors should take advising to local community colleges. When four-year college advisors work with community college students, we build relationships with community college advisors and potential transfer students. Meeting with students before transfer creates a lasting advising relationship that continues at the new institution thus tying recruitment to retention in yet another way.
In recruiting to retain underrepresented populations, it is important that we find alternative communication modes. As the “Net Generation” floods our campuses it is important that advisors are familiar with technologies that can assist in recruiting and retaining students. Social networking sites, such as Facebook©, provide advisors with the ability to communicate with prospective and current students. Information shared on the site can include upcoming recruitment and registration events, student successes, and websites or other Facebook pages designed to provide information. Advisors should consider developing podcasts that can be downloaded by prospective and current students seeking advising information. The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources links to a variety of institutional podcast sites that include topics such as how to seek advising, why advising is important, and what the student can expect from their advising experience.
The ease with which students can retrieve information is important for retention of underrepresented groups who may have heavy workloads and family obligations. Advisors should be involved in how information is shared electronically as many students use these avenues to obtain information. The accuracy and ease of use of interactive web applications encourages students to value and respect advising and other school services—leading to higher retention rates.
When advisors employ relationship-building strategies, go where students are, and incorporate technology, they impact student retention. Further research is needed to tie recruitment to retention and to explore how advisor retention efforts affect underrepresented students.
College of Education
Coordinator of Advising
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University
Aiken-Wisniewski, S. and Allen, C.D. (2005). Did Einstein know the date to withdraw? Techniques and activities to educate your campus community about academic advising. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Einstein.htm
McIntyre, C. (2011). Peripatetic advising. Academic Advising Today, 34(2).
NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. (2011). Institutional Podcasts, Vodcasts, Webcasts, and Audio Downloads. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/Links/podcasts.htm
Peterson, D. & Kem, L. (2009). The role of advisors in recruiting. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/AAT32-1.htm#4
Reinarz, A. G. (2000). Delivering academic advising. In V. Gordon & W. Habley (Eds.), Academic Advising, A Comprehensive Handbook (pp. 210-219). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Shen, J. (1998). Alternative certification, minority teachers, and urban education. Education and Urban Society, 31(1), 30-41.
United States Department of Education. (2008a). Percentage distribution of school teachers by race/ethnicity, school type, and selected school characteristics: 2007-08 [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009324/tables/sass0708_2009324_t12n_02.asp
United States Department of Education. (2008b). Percentage distribution of students, by sex, race/ethnicity, school type, and selected school characteristics: 2007-08 [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009321/tables/sass0708_2009321_s12n_03.asp
United States Department of Education (2010). Bachelor’s degree conferred by degree-granting institutions, by sex, race/ethnicity, and field of study: 2008-09 [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_297.asp.
Dear Career Corner,
I’m getting ready to complete my master’s degree and would like to find a position in advising. I’m contemplating attending a NACADA conference to learn about the organization and maybe meet some people who can help me in the field. Is this a good idea?
Wanna B. Advisor
Dear Wanna B. Advisor,
Yes, that is a wonderful idea! NACADA conferences are a great way to network and learn. At the NACADA Annual Conference, Member Career Services Committee members have a booth available with information about academic advising job postings throughout the country. Committee members would also be happy to review your resume and offer practical advice on your job search. In addition, NACADA members routinely offer conference sessions with tips for conducting an advising job search. We suggest that you check the position announcements on the NACADA website before you leave for the conference. You may even be able to arrange a meeting at the conference with a potential employer.
One of the best things about an annual or regional NACADA conference is the chance to meet advisors from institutions of every size and description. We all share a common bond of desiring to help students. This common bond makes it easy to strike up a conversation. In other words, NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!
Best of luck on your job search (and we hope to see you at a conference soon),
Harford Community College
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Member
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Chair