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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Effectively Articulating the Purpose of Advising

Joshua S. Smith, NACADA President

This spring more than 3,000 NACADA members attended one of 10 regional conferences. If you were able to attend, you undoubtedly learned from colleagues, shared ideas that are working on your campus, and participated in scholarly inquiry regarding academic advising. I had the distinct pleasure of serving as keynote speaker in Region 2 (my new “home” region) and Region 5 (my previous Region). It was great engaging with friends, learning from colleagues, and meeting new NACADA members. The content of the keynotes basically walked the audience through the history of academic advising as a field and posed a very serious question for the future. That question, which was refined following excellent suggestions from the Region 2 colleagues, was and remains: To what extent are advisors and advising administrators 1) on the same page, and 2) effectively articulating the purpose of advising? 

President Josh Smith.jpt

As President this year, I have presented my views on professionalism in advising and my thoughts on the issue continue to evolve. Following feedback on the keynotes and continued reflection, it occurs to me that advising is facing a question of professional identity, one that can be addressed both internally and externally. In this article I am advocating that we focus internally on what I am calling Advocacy Advising.   The concept follows from Marc Lowenstein’s learning-centered paradigm, which positions the role of advisor as a key in helping students and faculty alike in decodimg the logic of the college curriculum and, one could argue, co-constructing the meaning of college curriculum. We often think of the curriculum as content delivered through a series of courses usually consisting of major, minor, and general education components. More recently, student learning outcomes have become incorporated and valued to some extent as part of the curriculum. However, a more expansive view of curriculum also includes pedagogical philosophies, co-curricular experiences, the culture of discipline, and what it means to be learned, proficient, and knowledgeable in a particular area. For example, the Bologna Project and other entities such as the Lumina Foundation for Education are pushing higher education to reconsider the meaning of a transcript and think beyond the set of courses and the associated credits generated to get to the 36-credit major or 120-credit degree. They challenge higher education to discuss and arrive at a set of agreed-upon learning outcomes one should have acquired and demonstrated competency in to a bachelor’s degree in education or a master’s degree in history.

Advocacy Advising positions advisors and advising administrators at the table during these discussions, as well as taking a lead role in interpreting this with students. It is critical that we overtly demonstrate how advising supports student success goals and fits naturally within the mission and visions statements and strategic plans at our respective institutions. It is imperative that our actions are uniquely contributing to the access, success, and retention components. Not only must we demonstrate and remind people at all levels that  advising directly and indirectly impacts student success, we must  also critically examine and document when, where, how, and in what ways it does so. Let me provide another example of how Advocacy Advising can be actualized in the future of higher education. By next year 45 states will adopt the Common Core State Standards. Not long after, students will be coming to our campuses with years of experience in and a much greater appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and humanities, with more time engaged in problem- or project-based learning experiences, and with expectations that college will build upon these more integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning. Full-time advisors can take a leadership role in learning and translating this new logic of the K-12 curriculum to undergraduate curriculum committees, department chairs, and upper-level administrators on their respective campuses. In addition to supporting faculty, advisors will continue to bridge this “next new gap” between the expectations and realities of the high school-college/university divide in curricular and pedagogical approaches.

Advocacy Advising also creates space for advisors to enter the public and political debate on the value of higher education itself. When the cover of Newsweek asks the question, “Is College a Lousy Investment?” and the answer within the article is a resounding yes, we have a problem. Entrepreneurs are paying students to drop out of college and “go to work,” and it appears that we are more likely to listen to Bill Gates than to education researchers and professionals on ways to reform education and higher education policies. I am pleased that advisors are active on Twitter and posting on blogs in order to situate the voices of the advising professionals into the current and future debates of the value of a college education. Advocacy advising calls for all of us to identify audiences on our campuses and throughout social media venues and consistently share our views on the purpose of academic advising. I am grateful to @laurapasquini, @EricStoller, @svive, @BrodyBroshears, @UOAdvDir (Jennifer Joslin), and countless other academic advisors and student affairs professionals who are front and center sharing perspectives, articles, and commentary in this space. Follow me on Twitter @NACADAJosh and share your ideas on the purpose of academic advising and feedback on the concept of Advocacy Advising.

Joshua S. Smith, President, 2012-2013
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Dean, School of Education, Loyola University Maryland

Cite this article using APA style as: Smith, J. (2013, June). From the president: Effectively articulating the purpose of advising. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

From the Executive Director: NACADA of the Future

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

ED Charlie Nutt.jpgIn addition to our excellent institutes and seminar in February, our 10 regional conferences, and the excitement of our international conference in June at the University of Maastricht, this spring has been an exciting time for our association.  As it is at many of our own institutions, this has been a time to reflect on where we have been and to look forward to the NACADA of the Future. In our nearly 40 years of existence, NACADA has grown into one of the most respected and valued higher education associations globally. This has occurred not by accident, but by the careful planning and hard work of many amazing volunteers and leaders as well as the NACADA Executive Office staff at Kansas State University.

Consequently, in April the NACADA Board of Directors, NACADA Council, and Executive Office liaisons to our Divisions gathered in Salt Lake City for our annual midyear meeting; however, this midyear meeting was like no other! This year, due to the vision of President Josh Smithand Vice President Joanne Damminger, the two days in Salt Lake City were spent planning for the future of NACADA. Rich Robbins, former NACADA Board of Directors member and chair of the Summer Institute Advisory Board and the Assessment Institute Advisory Board and currently the NACADA Journal co-editor, facilitated our discussion and our work in looking at where we have been and where we want the association to go in the future. While the NADADA Board is charged with determining the strategic path of the association, President Smith and Vice President Damminger felt strongly that the NACADA Council must be involved in this work as they represent the association members at the grassroots level.

With Rich facilitating our work, I am excited to announce that the NACADA Board of Directors has approved the NACADA mission, vision, and strategic goals that will drive the work of the association over the next five to 10 years.  As we move forward, it is important for our association to have a clear pathway to follow that is not dependent on individual leaders, Board members, or Executive Office staff but is focused on where the association should be in the future.

While the new mission, vision, and goals officially take effect following the annual conference in Salt Lake City in October, I want to take this opportunity to introduce to the membership what will guide the NACADA of the Future:


Recognizing that effective academic advising is at the core of student success, NACADA aspires to be the premier global association for the development and dissemination of innovative theory, research, and practice of academic advising in higher education.


NACADA promotes student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally. We provide opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for our diverse membership.


  • Expand and communicate the scholarship of academic advising
  • Provide professional development opportunities that are responsive to the needs of advisors and advising administrators
  • Promote the role of effective academic advising in student success to college and university decision makers
  • Create an inclusive environment within the Association that promotes diversity
  • Develop and sustain effective Association leadership
  • Engage in ongoing assessment of all facets of the Association
  • Pursue innovative technology tools and resources to support the Association

As you can see, the future of NACADA is exciting and challenging as we all work together to reach these very important goals, driven by our vision and mission. Over the next year and a half, each unit in the association will begin serious conversations about how their work will align with our vision and mission, and what strategic outcomes they will develop and measure to achieve our goals.

I am also excited to tell you that the NACADA Leadership Development Task Force, appointed by President Smith and chaired by past Presidents Jennifer Joslin and Jayne Drake, is working strategically to identify how we best can recruit, train, and sustain the NACADA leadership so that we can be assured that the work we do is always focused on reaching the very highest achievement of our association’s mission, vision, and goals.

Please watch carefully over the next 18 months to see how we are moving along our new path and how each and every one of you can be a part of the exciting work we are doing on behalf of student success and our profession.

Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
(785) 532-5717

Cite this article using APA style as: Nutt, C. (2013, June). From the executive director: NACADA of the future. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

You Say Advice, I Say Advise: Let’s Not Call the Whole Thing Off

Angela Ogburn, Elgin Community College

Angela Ogburn.jpgA recent conversation with colleagues from other departments reminded me of a pervasive thought about academic advising on college campuses: it’s just advice, anyone can do it. That this notion persists isn’t surprising. Confusion among higher education professionals about exactly what professional advisors do continues—even in advising offices. Only a couple of years ago, I sat in a staff meeting with another advisor who announced to all, “If these students read the catalog, none of us would have a job!”

As budgets tighten and institutions look to collaborative advising to alleviate financial restraints, conversations emerge about who is equipped to do the job. Can only professional advisors do it? What about faculty advisors? Is a combination of both needed? But answering who can do the job of advising is a premature conversation if the definition of advising is still unclear.

Those of us in the advising realm know that those two words—advice and advise—are not synonymous. But we also know trying to convince all of higher ed of that point can be quite a task. Many would believe it’s of no consequence to use them interchangeably; to some, it’s just like the Gershwin brothers’ “you say eether, I say eyether.”

NACADA (2003) has provided a number of definitions for academic advising that encompass its complexity and thoroughness. Within these definitions the word “process” can be found in almost all of them. Advising as a process implies that there is no one-shop stop for what advisors do—it’s not something to be picked up or grabbed on the go. That one-shop stop does exist for advice, which can be found in the brochure racks around the entrances of campus.

If simply dispensing information from the college catalog or career-related resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook can be called advising, then surely any employee of a higher education institution with access to these resources has the intellectual wherewithal to provide this.

As Freitag (2011) notes, there is some variability in the realm of advising philosophy, and he encourages advisors to wrap their skill set around their advising practice purposefully and thoughtfully. But once again, that conversation is premature without a working definition of academic advising.

A thorough understanding of advising, to include its theoretical and philosophical underpinnings, is not needed or expected for all higher ed employees. Comprehensive knowledge of one’s own field is the expectation. But when conversations emerge about collaborative advising, it’s best that a working definition of advising be agreed upon among affected parties.

In addition to reviewing the various definitions of advising, one may also consider the complexity inherent in this singular, semantic difference alone: “advice” is a noun, and “advise” is a verb. The implication of exploring this seemingly nuanced difference is meaningful in its contribution to a definition of advising. 

To see advising as a verb is to define advising as an active process of integration. From this view, advising is the convergence of information about the institution and the person of the student. This dynamic process involves both exploration and assessment of the student as well as the institution. Not only are the student’s needs, capabilities, and desires explored, but each is then connected and matched with appropriate campus resources and activities in a meaningful way.

Where advice would be telling a student the importance of campus involvement and what opportunities exist, the act of advising would be the exploration of the student’s interests, past experiences, and future goals and connecting these to what the campus has to offer that may be of benefit and a good fit for the student. In this way, advising is listening turned into meaningful reflection and action. It is thought provoking and purposeful.

As a verb, advising is a fluid process of give and take. It requires an equal partnership of engagement and activity needed by both individuals. It requires checking the student’s tool belt and helping him or her assess what’s there and what is yet to be added. The advisor provokes deep, critical thinking through facilitation, and the student responds with rich, multi-faceted exploration. 

Advising is such an active process that some professionals are engaging in advising with a coaching mentality. Research suggests that advising as coaching reinforces skills students need to be both academically and personally successful (McClellan & Moser, 2011). These relationships are full of engagement and forward movement. The diploma comes at the end, an intentional trophy sought after along the way.

Just as learning outcomes for academic success are not measured by content knowledge alone, nor should outcomes for personal life skills be measured by the amount of content information absorbed via advice.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (2012) has identified “inquiry and analysis; critical and creative thinking; integrative and reflective thinking; written and oral communication; quantitative literacy; information literacy; intercultural understanding; and teamwork and problem solving” as critical mass for student academic achievement. As advisors, we are tasked with not only helping students utilize these skills, but also with educating our campus communities that these skills are likewise applied to personal, life achievement.

If our students only need advice, then I would agree with my former colleague that resources such as the catalog exist for that. And it’s true that sometimes all our students want from us is a quick answer or a finger pointing toward a resource. But more often than not, those quick questions bleed into larger schemas or questions that benefit from further exploration. Fortunately, the profession of advising is all about that exploration.

Advice or advise? The semantics matter. Our students deserve the experience of advising, so let’s answer that call. Let’s not call the whole thing off.

Angela Ogburn
Counseling and Transfer Center
Elgin Community College


Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2012). A Sea Change on Student Learning Assessment: An AAC&U Working Paper. Retrieved from:http://www.aacu.org/resources/assessment/documents/AACUAssessmentConceptPaper5-18-2012.pdf

Freitag, D.A. (2011). Freedom to choose: Advisor classifications and internal identities.Academic Advising Today 34(1). Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic AdvisingResources web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Personal-philosophy-of-academic-advising.aspx

McClellan J. & Moser C. (2011). A Practical Approach to Advising as Coaching. Retrieved fromNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources web site:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-as-coaching.aspx

NACADA. (2003). Paper presented to the task force on defining academic advising. Retrieved fromNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:

Cite this article using APA style as: Ogburn, A. (2013, June). You say advice, I say advise: Let’s not call the whole thing off. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Other Voices: Female Adult Learners

Pat Mason-Browne, The University of Iowa
Tamra Ortgies Young, Georgia Perimeter College

Editor’s Note: Tamra has recently completed the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program.  Pat served as her mentor throughout the program, leading to this collaboration.

Pat Mason-Browne.jpgAn adult learner:  “Any student, regardless of age, who has adult responsibilities beyond college classes, and for whom those adult responsibilities take priority in times of crisis” (NACADA Advising Adult Learners Commission).

Tamra Ortgies Young.jpgAdvisors of undergraduate students have become aware of a shift in their advisee demographic.  As reported by the Lumina Foundation (Headden, 2009), colleges and universities have been experiencing an increase in the enrollment of “nontraditional” students.  The advisees sitting across from us may be adult learners who have deferred enrollment in order to pursue employment or military service immediately after high school.  Because they may be financially independent, their job commitment is closer to full-time than part-time.  And as commuters to our campus, their level of engagement is less than that of our 18- to 22-year-old advisees.   Adult learners also bring a variety of life experiences to the new educational environment. Advisors need to listen carefully and give these students time to share their significant life stories with us. Only in this way can we offer the kinds of support they need to thrive academically and personally in our classrooms. 

Neal and Bell (2008) describe characteristics that can affect the performance of female students who decide to enter the new learning environment of higher education.  While they experience many of the same challenges as male students (time management, balancing family, work and academic commitments), women tend to seek networks of cultural peers in order to grow developmentally.  A decision to enroll in college can disrupt the peer or support network by bringing negative judgment and criticism to bear: why is she leaving her family to fend for itself just so she can go to school?  Female adult learners may find themselves stretched physically and emotionally as they try to maintain their existing networks while incorporating new ones (instructors, advisors, and the campus community).

What do nontraditional female students say about their experience as adult learners? Their voices speak eloquently to advisors about the importance of listening and responding to student needs. 

In a study conducted at a two-year urban public college in November 2011, female students (ages 34+) were surveyed to ascertain their experiences as adult learners.  While some questions focused on demographic information and use of college support services, the main thrust of the research was to better understand the stories of these women.  This was accomplished by a series of open-ended questions that allowed students to express from the heart of their successes and struggles in pursuing academic dreams at this point in their lives.  Why did they enter or return to college?  How does this experience make them feel?  How has the experience changed them? And finally, what advice would these students have for peers considering college?

Students were asked to complete a 20-question survey with many open-ended response opportunities.   The survey was conducted online via official college student email solicitations.  The email requests for participation were colorful and included a changing series of inclusive images of women designed to attract a higher response rate.  Examples of these images included African-American and Latino women readers looking over reading materials.  A fortuitous bit of timing was that the month of November falls in the early registration period when students check email for information about their dates for pre-registration for spring term.  The combination of the two strategies resulted in a response rate of 14% (419/2901) of possible respondents. The rate of completion of the survey was consistent with the demographic spread in each age grouping, suggesting that the sample was valid across age ranges above 34.

Results from the survey data revealed that 21.5% of respondents were enrolled in college for the first time. Those who were returning to college reported numerous reasons for having left, including family and financial concerns and lack of motivation/support, as well as scheduling, transportation, and technology issues.  Comments from students about the desire to return to college are particularly illuminating.  Statements suggested that returning to college resulted from extrinsic factors including the state of the economy, wish for a better job, need for career change, unemployment pressures, and timing related to empty nest syndrome.

Other data suggested that for some women, intrinsic motivators were at work, such as the need for a career rather than a job, a better life, renewed personal motivation, the desire for personal satisfaction, and the need to prove self-worth or to do more with one’s life.  Those surveyed felt strongly that other women considering returning to school or entering college should not wait for the exact “right time.”  Suggestions included getting help, support, peer assistance, and motivational assistance to make a successful transition into academia.  Several students commented that is never too late to learn, and that the key to academic excellence is to remain determined! 

The survey asked female students over age 34 whether they had used or would like to use a number of different student services.  A vast majority reported that they have used the advising (78%), library (76%), and tutoring and technology services (60%) on campus.  A relatively low number, however, have participated in student organizations (12%) or wellness programs (18%), with only 15 students indicating that they were active in the designated campus organization for adult students, the Second Wind Club.  Despite this low number of adult student organization participants, a majority (59%) said that they would like to connect with other students.  Most suggested that virtual contact was the best way for them to participate due to scheduling and family issues. 

While a clear majority of those surveyed (327/419) suggested that they had visited the campus advising office at least once, most indicated that they were self-advised (31.8%), advised by family (10.9%) or by other students (10.4%), or not advised (3.9%).  The number of students who received academic advising through official college venues turned out to be surprisingly low.  Only 29% percent of the women said they were advised by advising service counselors, 11.7% by a faculty member and 2.3% by a student club advisor.  Students did suggest that advisors can help facilitate sessions by listening, guiding, sharing, providing goal setting activities, tracking progress, and/or assisting with focus, graduation planning and general encouragement.

A key to encouraging students to succeed may be found in the final survey query.  The women surveyed answered the question, “College makes me feel…”  with responses that included “active, encouraged, frustrated, successful, young again, empowered, courageous, studious, wonderful, positive, challenged, self-assured, confident, valuable, and hopeful.”

As academic advisors, we can help to facilitate important support networks for female adult learners on our campus.  It is imperative to learn the student’s life story, not just what is revealed through the course schedule, test scores, or existing grades but rather what motivates her individual drive to succeed.  As a partner to this transformation process, advisors can tap into the student growth that is already occurring at this point in the lives of nontraditional female students due to internal and external triggers and transitions.  Harnessing this naturally occurring development can provide a multiplier effect for positive outcomes.  Dig a little deeper and the richness of what is uncovered will reward both student and advisor.

Pat Mason-Browne
Senior Associate Director Academic Programs & Student Development
The University of Iowa

Tamra Ortgies Young
Social Science Faculty Member
Georgia Perimeter College


NACADA’s Advising Adult Learner Commission Website: 

Neal, S.J., & Bell, A.  (2008). What I do matters, too:  Transformation and success of first-generation adult women in undergraduate education.  Denver: American Association of Adult and Continuing Education.

Headden, S.M. (2009, Fall). ‘Adult ed’ grows up: Higher education seeks to better serve increasing numbers of nontraditional learners.  Lumina Foundation Focus.  Retrieved fromhttp://focus.luminafoundation.org/pdf/fall2009/ 

Peck, L.G. & Varney, J.  (2009). Advising IS teaching: Providing adult learners with strategies for self- advocation. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising ResourcesWeb site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Providing-adult-learners-with-strategies-for-self-advocation.aspx

Varney, J. & Peck, L.G. (2012).  Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Adult Learners.  NACADA Pocket Guide Series PG12.   

Cite this article using APA style as: Mason-Browne, P. & Ortgies Young, T. (2013, June). Other voices: Female adult learner. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Key Theories of Lev Vygosky and John Dewey: Implications for Academic Advising Theory

Jeremy Bohonos, IUPUI Community Learning Network

Jeremy Bohonos.jpgIn the September 2012 edition of this publication, NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission member Terry Musser advocates for the development of a philosophy of academic advising.  Musser (2012) argues that “when we share the same basic understanding of the underlying theory, it is easier to collaborate on developing strategies, techniques and resources.”  She goes on to propose a constructivist theory of academic advising and points to Crookston’s (1972) theory of “developmental advising” as a starting point.

Crookston’s (1972) theory focuses on the relationship between the student and advisor and also the roles for each. Bloom’s (2008) Appreciative Advising approach also emphasizes the importance of relationships and seeking holistic understandings of students.  These can be complemented nicely by an understanding of Vygotsky’s (1978) “Zone of Proximal Development” theory, as well as by Dewey’s (1938) emphasis on personal experience. 

Vygotsky (1978) believed that each student operates within a range of ability and that educators would best facilitate learning by presenting students with work that challenges without overwhelming them. If work is too easy the student will be bored, while if the work is too difficult the student will not have the intellectual tools necessary to learn anything from attempting the work. Vygotsky’s work focused on learning and cognitive development in children; however his insights can be successfully adapted and applied to both traditional and non-traditional college students.

Advisors see the practical implications of Vygotsky’s theory every day. His theories underpin the many university degree structures and prerequisite systems. They are probably easiest to see at work in mathematics and hard sciences. Most schools have structures in place that require certain prerequisites before taking more advanced classes. A good advisor would never dream of putting a student in calculus who needed to remediate algebra, and most prerequisite systems prevent those types of obvious errors. As useful as prerequisite requirements are, they cannot protect against all eventualities. A good academic advisor, informed by Vygotsky’s theory, should be proactive in working with students to assess readiness for particular classes. As important as it is that advisors help ensure students are prepared for the courses they enroll in, it is also important that advisors help students to find challenging electives.

Students often come to advisors for help when they feel they are ready for a particular course, but are blocked from registration because they do not have the prerequisite. While it is ultimately a faculty decision to allow exceptions to prerequisite systems, advisors who are informed by Vygotsky’s theory may recognize a student’s potential for success in a certain course, and encourage the student to self-advocate to be allowed to register. These situations are probably most common with transfer students who have taken equivalent coursework at a different institution. In these circumstances advisors may want to inform the student on procedures to request an equivalency waiver.

John Dewey (1938), in his work Experience and Education, emphasized the importance that previous experience and prior knowledge play in the development of new understanding. Kincanon (2009) advocated an approach to advising that accounted for cultural as well as personal experiences. This model can be complemented by a reading of Dewey. Advisors should consider a student’s previous coursework as well as life experiences when providing academic guidance. Taking the time to understand the life experiences of adult learners is particularly important (Bohonos, 2013). Understanding students’ cultures, communities, extracurricular pursuits, and employment goals all allow advisors to help students formulate the best possible programs of study for holistic educational development. Understanding the importance of past experience in generating interest and in facilitating academic success can help advisors skillfully address many student questions. For example, students who make tedious requests for help finding “easy” classes can be directed to reflect on positive learning experiences they have had in the past and on topics that hold intrinsic interest to them. If students can identify areas of interest and experience the advisor should be able to help find courses that will both challenge and engage students.  

Dewey’s emphasis on experience and Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development” can be integrated seamlessly into academic advising practice and theory. The two perspectives complement each other nicely and when combined provide advisors with tools to account for both a student’s academic preparedness and the context of his or her broader life. Each theory also squares nicely with the theoretical groundwork laid by Musser (2012), who challenged the advising community to build on the constructivist foundation of advising theory. The inclusion of Vygotsky and Dewey in the theory construction process is an important step because of the influence and legacy that each theorist has exerted on the field of education. The creation of a philosophy of academic advising, however, is only in its beginning stages and should be continued through both the integration of other important theorists, and through philosophical innovation in the field of academic advising.              

Jeremy Bohonos
Career and Academic Advisor
IUPUI Community Learning Network
Center for Adult and Lifelong Learning

Bloom, J. (2008). Moving on from college. In Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., Grites, T.J. and Associates (Eds), Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bohonos, J. (2013)Appreciating the experiences and expertise of adult students. Journal of College Orientation and Transition(20)2.

Musser, T. (2012, September). Theoretical Reflections: Constructivist foundations for academic advising. Academic Advising Today(35)3. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Theoretical-Reflections-Constructivist-Foundations-for-Academic-Advising.aspx

Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12-17.

Dewey, J. (1938).  Experience and education.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kincanon, K. (2009). Translating the transformative: Applying transformational and self-authorship pedagogy to advising undecided/exploring students. Retrieved from the NACADAClearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Transformational-Theory-in-Academic-Advising-.aspx

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological process. London: Harvard University Press.

Cite this article using APA style as: Bohonos, J. (2013, June). Key theories of Lev Vygosky and John Dewey: Implications for academic advising theory. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Applying Career and Identity Development Theories in Advising

Kyle W. Ross, Washington State University

Kyle Ross.jpgMany advisors work with students who are exploring, either initially or after a first (or second) choice of majors doesn’t work out; other advisors work with students who have chosen their major.  It is common that both of these types of students don’t know what career they wish to pursue.  How can advisors adequately help students explore and commit to a major or career choice?

Career and counseling theories can generate practical approaches that can be used by advisors.  Although many advisors do not have a counseling background, they can nevertheless draw on techniques developed from counseling theories to guide students in their exploration and commitment processes.  This article provides foundational knowledge of Marcia’s (1966, 1980) identity status theory and Gottfredson’s (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise, and explores how they intersect and how advisors can employ techniques derived from them when working with major- and career-exploring students.

In her 2006 text on child development, Laura Berk discusses the importance of identity in the decision-making process and highlights James Marcia’s theory of identity development based on exploration and commitment.  Marcia’s four identity stages are diffusion (low exploration, low commitment), foreclosure (low exploration, high commitment), moratorium (high exploration, low commitment), and achievement (high exploration, high commitment).  Using this matrix, advisors can recognize whether students have or have not explored a great deal, and whether they are committed to their choices.

In the identity diffusion stage, students are unmotivated to even begin the exploration process.  They may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of major and career choices, resulting in having no idea on where to start.  Further, they may not understand how critical it is to their success to decide on a major/career.  Students may also be completely unaware of the number of realistic choices they have, and believe they must choose the major/career path they have previously identified. 

To help students with this process, advisors can discuss a timeline for choosing a major/career pathway and highlight the difference between majors with a very prescribed or structured four-year plan and majors with more flexibility.  This can serve two purposes.  For students who need to understand there are more choices, the more flexible majors can help them see they have time to decide.  For students who have no motivation to explore, more structured majors highlight the need to make a decision more quickly before they risk longer time-to-degree.  Linda Gottfredson (in Brown & Lent, 2005) summarized this perfectly: “Vocational understanding and decision-making tends to garner attention only when its demands crescendo, that is, when adolescents simultaneously realize the full complexity of making life decisions and the imminent need to do so” (p. 74). This also provides an excellent opportunity to ask open-ended questions about a student’s future career aspirations.

While the moratorium stage may sound negative, it demonstrates clear advantages over identity diffusion and foreclosure (Berk, 2006).  By the time they have explored a variety of options yet still cannot commit to one or two choices, students have obtained the knowledge and the resources sufficient to continue actively inquiring into these choices until a decision is made.  These students are motivated and will eventually reach the identity achievement stage.  Advisors working with these students can foster confidence in their choices.  Even if a major/career is suitable, students are typically anxious about committing to it because they are not confident it is the absolute best choice.  One way advisors can help with this anxiety is to suggest conducting informational interviews, internships, and other forms of experiential learning in the career or major areas under consideration.

An additional theory on which advisors can draw is Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise (in Brown & Lent, 2005).  The “circumscription” piece of this career development theory is centered on the process of eliminating choices not suitable for the student until only a list of ideal choices remains.  For students, it may seem simpler and less stressful to choose what they don’t want to major in or consider as an occupation, rather than what they do want to pursue.  Gottfredson theorized that in student development, students start eliminating possible career choices when they are quite young, but not necessarily for accurate or suitable reasons.  As children, they may eliminate career choices based on perceived gender roles and authoritative figures, whereas students in college are better able to use critical thinking skills to evaluate each choice based on interests, skills, values, or personality traits. 

Advisors can help students see patterns in the process of elimination and inquire about eliminations made for a seemingly trivial reason.  The overwhelming number of choices then is narrowed down to a select few, with the student more able to research those areas to find their ideal major or career path.  This strategy worked well in our University “college majors and career choice” course for exploring students.  Guiding students through the process of elimination, they were asked to research the list of all available majors to determine their interest in each major.  Student evaluations showed that they highly valued this process and recommended the activity be continued in future semesters.

Typically, the most difficult population advisors can work with is students in the foreclosure stage.  These students have committed to a decision/major without much exploration.  If the foreclosed student is not successful in the chosen major, they are often closed-minded about a suggestion to study something else (Berk, 2006).  Moreover, once they realize they need to choose a different major, they typically conduct a “truncated search” and will jump to another major, again without much exploration (Gottfredson, 2004).  Gottfredson’s theory is an excellent framework to help us understand and advise these students.  The “compromise” process is a helpful second phase of this career development theory.  Students may open up toward a zone of acceptable alternatives if the ideal major or career path is unrealistic (Gottfredson, in Brown & Lent, 2005).  Usually, foreclosed students have a focused set of reasons for their choice, and Gottfredson suggests removing some of the less impactful reasons so that other majors and career paths will be open to them.  This may help prevent the student’s truncated search.  Importantly, advisors should also emphasize that there are different majors and paths that will still allow the student to pursue their ultimate career goal.

Finally, according to Josselson (1994) and Marcia, Waterman, Matteson, Archer, & Orlofsky (1993), students who have reached the identity achievement phase exhibit higher self-esteem, higher critical thinking skills and self-insight (as cited in Berk, 2006, p. 458).  Even if a student has decided on a major and is successful in that major, advisors can still help with their career exploration.  Another benefit to these two theories is that the techniques developed from them can be utilized with all advising styles.  With knowledge of these theories, advisors can feel more confident in career advising and know that they are helping students accomplish realistic and ideal goals.

Kyle W. Ross
Academic and Career Advisor
Center for Advising and Career Development
University College
Washington State University


Berk, L. E. (2006). Child development (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (2005). Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Gottfredson, Linda S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28(6), 545-579.

Gottfredson, L. S. (2004). Using Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise in career guidance and counseling. Retrieved fromhttp://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/2004theory.pdf

Gottfredson, L. S. (2005). Applying Gottfredson’s theory of circumscription and compromise in career guidance and counseling. In S. Brown & R. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 71-100). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Josselson, R. (1994). The theory of identity development and the question of intervention. In S. L. Archer (Ed.), Interventions for adolescent identity development (pp. 12-25). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Marcia, J. E., (1966), Development and validation of ego identity status, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 3, 551-558.

Marcia, J. E., (1980).  Identity in adolescence.  In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Marcia, J. E., Waterman, A. S., Matteson, D. R., Archer, S. L., & Orlofsky, J. L. (1993). Ego identity: A handbook for psychosocial research. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Cite this article using APA style as: Ross, K. (2013, June). Applying career and identity development theories in advising. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

“How am I doing?”: Self-management and Resiliency as Keys to Student Motivation

Shehna Javeed, University of Toronto Scarborough

Shehna JaveedAcademic and social challenges in university can test a student’s motivation and resiliency. Theories of motivation have evolved from motivation resulting as a response to basic needs and drives and developed toward goal setting and task orientation as key to success (Brophy, 2010). A discussion about motivation must also consider resiliency strategies, also known as the “bounce-back factor,” since rising from setbacks is so important for continued motivation.   

 Advisors and learning strategists often work with students who are aware that they lack motivation; however, these students do not know how to change their predicament.  Advisors can inspire motivation by introducing tangible tasks that move the student to action. Motivation comes both from action and from gentle, honest, and optimistic evaluation of these actions. Two ways that this can be done are self-management and task analysis.  Additionally, resiliency, or the ability to bounce back, can play a vital role in sustaining motivation.


One effective self-management strategy is self-directed talk.  Alderman (1999) suggests that this can be accomplished through self-instruction. Although self-instruction can be a covert process, recording it overtly on a worksheet can help the student to manage her self-talk.

According to Alderman, some of the self-instruction techniques include:

  • Strategy statements
  • Self-correction statements
  • Coping and self-control statements
  • Self-reinforcements

After identifying the problem, the student must select the strategy that will work for her and record it: “I will read the textbook using the method I was taught in the workshop I just attended.” A self-correction statement serves to assess the strategy and see why it may not be working, and looks toward self-correction. In this case, the student may book an appointment with a study skills peer coach to evaluate and seek feedback on her method of reading and see if she is on the right path. Coping and self-control statements manage emotions and ensure that she stays on track: “No need to panic, I have some time to understand this.” Self-reinforcement is a necessary strategy, especially in a testing situation, by which the student can remind herself that “I know the material because I studied it. I can do this.”

The method is twofold. The strategy and self-correction statements address the strategy or method that moves the task forward while the latter two statements, coping and self-control and self-reinforcements, manage the negative emotions that may be evoked. The two-fold method addresses thoughts and emotions within the context of self-instruction. Although Alderman does not attach rewards to these statements, it must be said that rewards for maintenance and achievement can support and reinforce repeat behavior.

Task Analysis

Task analysis requires self-evaluation. It compels the student to reflect and consider the steps to action. Covington and Teel (1996) suggest using a worksheet with questions to record the next steps. Planning early is essential, thus time management is also included in this task analysis. Their suggested questions are:

  • What do I have to do to complete the assignment?
  • What will be hard about this assignment?
  • What will I do to make the hard part easier?
  • What do I think I will enjoy most about this assignment?

The questions help the student to strategize. The last question compels the student to think about the learning as well as the enjoyment of the task which can be easily forgotten when there are multiple deadlines to meet. Recording the anticipated positive experience here makes it integral to the student’s understanding and can build an appreciation for learning.


When it comes to achieving one’s goals, occasional or even frequent setbacks are inevitable. Resilience, or the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity, is necessary to maintain motivation. The task analysis worksheet clarifies that it is the task and the various steps within that task which may be the cause of temporary failure, and not the individual’s self-identity or self-worth. Thus, motivation strategies can work hand in hand with resiliency techniques.

Reivich and Shatté (2002) offer an interesting exercise in building resiliency called “putting it in perspective.” They outline the following steps:

  • Worst case belief
  • How likely?
  • Best case belief
  • Most likely outcome
  • Solution

Let’s examine a scenario and contextualize the method above. It is late at night and Ella is working on a history paper that is due the next day. The paper is worth 30% of the course. For each day that the paper is late, Ella will lose 10% from the paper. She has not finished the paper and cannot possibly hand it in the next day.  An exam also remains to be written in the course as part of the full evaluation.

Worst case beliefs: Ella is overwhelmed with anxiety due to not finishing the paper on time. She catastrophizes that not submitting the paper on time will amount to a poor grade and lead to failure in the course. She has never failed a course in the past. How humiliating! Her parents will be disappointed in her.

How likely?: Ella thinks about the worst case scenario and she is asked to consider how likely is it that she will fail the course. This step requires a percentage or rating. What is the probability? (e.g. 100% likely, 50% or 10%?) When she considers that this paper is worth 30% of the total course and she knows that she has a B- standing in the course currently, she knows that she would have to do very poorly on the paper and the exam to fail the course. Thus the probability that she could fail this course is low – estimating perhaps 10%. Further thought leads Ella to believe that she could try to get this paper in one day late. Examining the probability can reduce anxiety.

Best case belief: This requires Ella to think creatively. It requires “out of the box” thinking. For example, the best case belief here could be that if she were to fail the course, she will drop out of university and travel to a warm country with a beautiful landscape and work in hospitality and tourism. This may bring a smile to her face. She knows that she is not about to quit university. This step can be challenging for an individual who is currently feeling anxious; however, it can also rejuvenate the student and lead her away from limiting and catastrophic thoughts. Although a challenging step, it becomes the turning point toward resilient thinking.

Most likely outcome:  She will hand in the paper late. She is not likely to fail the course unless she also does poorly on the exam, which she does not expect to be the case.

Solution: She will clear her schedule the next day so she can focus solely on the paper and hand it in one day late and expect a 10% reduction in the paper’s evaluation, with minimum impact on her final grade.

As illustrated in this article, motivational strategies and resiliency techniques support each other. Students can learn simple strategies that if practiced regularly can lead to increased motivation and enhanced resiliency, benefitting all areas of their lives.

Shehna Javeed
Academic & Learning Strategist
Academic Advising & Career Centre
University of Toronto Scarborough


Alderman, M. K.  (1999). Motivation for achievement: possibilities for teaching and learning. Mahwah. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Brophy, J. (2010).  Motivating students to learn. New York: Routledge.

Covington, M.V. & Teel, K.M.  (1996). Overcoming student failure: changing motives and incentives for learning.  American Psychological Association.

Reivich, K. & Shatté, A. (2002). The resilience factor.  Broadway Books.

Cite this article using APA style as: Javeed, S. (2013, June). “How am I doing?”: Self-management and resiliency as keys to student motivation. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Advising Pre-Professional Students: Encouraging an Optimistic yet Realistic Perspective

Tobin Richardson, Indiana University Southeast

Tobin Richardson.jpgAn extremely complex facet of advising pre-professional students is how to instill realism in students whose goals mismatch with their current academic performance.  Many struggle with how to approach this situation without leaving the student with a “bad taste” in his or her mouth, leaving the student to feel angry, hopeless, or overwhelmed. Although no advisor wants to discourage a student from pursuing his or her goal, advisors also may feel a responsibility of instilling a level of realistic expectations with their advisees.  While this mindset is shared among advisors in general, it becomes imperative to those working with students interested in gaining admittance to competitive professional programs such as medical, dental, or pharmacy schools.  These programs by nature deny admission to the majority of students who apply, and typically accept only those with truly outstanding academic and extracurricular records.

To provide an example, as indicated on their website, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) School of Medicine, the only medical school in the state of Indiana, received nearly 4,000 applications for their entering M.D. class of 2012, while fewer than 400 of these applicants ultimately enrolled in the program. The vast majority of these applicants were denied admission.  Although this scenario may seem disheartening, we have reason to believe it is fairly common.  IUPUI School of Medicine does not possess drastically different admission statistics from most other medical schools across the nation, and other professional programs such as dental and pharmacy schools often indicate a similarly competitive selection processes. Although this reality is likely known and accepted by most advisors, it is not always as well understood by those being advised.  Conveying this information to undergraduate students in a way that they can understand, without discouraging or offending them unnecessarily, is ultimately key.  This process is made more effective by developing an advising plan.  Following are suggestions to consider exploring with an advisee:

Understanding the mandatory requirements

A common misconception among pre-professional students is that they must choose a major within the sciences.  Although this may be suggested for a variety of reasons such as better preparation for the Medical Admission Test (MCAT) or Dental Admission Test (DAT), advisees should understand that even as pre-professional students they often have flexibility in terms of major, and that major itself does not typically affect chance of admission.  For example, in order to be accepted into medical, dental, or pharmacy school, students typically must meet certain pre-requisites outlined by the school such as specific coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and math.  Although the student must take and be successful in these courses, most medical schools will not require that they take any additional upper-level science classes.  Students can often fit these specific pre-requisite courses into a variety of majors.  For this reason it would not make sense for a student who did not enjoy or excel in biology, for example, to choose this major only for the purpose of medical school admission.  Especially for students whose academic performance within science is deficient, explore other options for major or area of focus. 

Strategizing coursework

Although typically only a handful of courses must be taken, the timing of these courses can be crucial.  It is advisable to explore the students’ level of comfort in these prerequisite courses as soon as possible.  If a student believes his or her goal is to attend medical school, for example, but plans on taking general chemistry in his junior year, he has lost two years of time to consider how this requirement may help or hinder his chance of admission.  Although it may not be sensible to take all science requirements immediately, figuring out how to begin them early without overloading a single semester is desirable.

Considering a back-up plan

Regardless of a student’s academic performance, at least considering a back-up plan is sensible. Advisors should remind the student that a back-up plan is necessary for a variety of reasons, and even for those who might feel certain of their admission into a professional program.  Some students, for example, realize they do not enjoy their professional program’s focus only after they have begun in that program.  Other students may experience personal or professional barriers that prevent them from completing their program.  It is impossible to know when a back-up plan will be necessary, and advisors should stress that it can never hurt to have one in place.  Especially for students who have not yet been admitted into their program, advisors should explore what other career opportunities they have considered, and keep in mind that certain majors may help to promote certain back-up plans. Explore with the student how they can devise a back-up plan while simultaneously preparing for admission into their professional program.


Professional school admission is complicated.  It is not an advisor’s responsibility to know exactly how to develop a plan for admittance, as this changes from student to student, school to school, and year to year. Although an advisor could never memorize the requirements for each school or come up with an ultimate plan of coursework that would benefit all students, the advisor can stimulate an advisee to consider the process in a way that he or she has not before.  Only conveying the fact that professional schools are competitive may not be helpful as the majority of even beginning students have already heard this; explaining the logistics of the admission process is more important.  Advisors should encourage advisees to research the program or programs that interest them, paying attention to admission requirements and statistics, which most schools make readily available even on their websites.   Encouraging an understanding of mandatory requirements, strategic timing of coursework, and a back-up plan are ways of assisting students toward their goal, while also preparing them for the sometimes harsh reality that that may ultimately be denied admission. By doing this, you are preparing the student for his or her future, regardless of whether it includes a professional program, without being overly aggressive or intimidating.  Although each advisee must be approached based on the individuality of the student as a whole, it is best to have a plan in place beforehand for how to approach this type of student.

Tobin Richardson
Academic Advisor, School of Natural Sciences
Indiana University Southeast

Cite this article using APA style as: Richardson, T. (2013, June). Advising pre-professional students: Encourging an optimistic yet realistic perspective. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Prophets of the Possible: On Valuing the Liberal Arts

William E. Smith III, Indiana University Bloomington

Will Smith.jpgTo start, an anecdote. I read a book called Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning (1992) in a class while an undergrad. I have never shaken free of the story it told. Browning’s historical narrative traces the descent of men into monsters. These Germans were basically good in the general sense of the term. Or at least they were until tasked with massacring Jews during World War II. Initially repulsed by their assignment, they quickly found the duty to kill easy and it even became a sort of game to them. My understanding of human ethical nature remains partially shaped by Browning’s tale of horror to this day.

I share this tale with students during advising sessions when our conversations warrant it as an example of what a person might gain from taking a class. Learning this long-term lesson was possible because I participated in a liberal arts education. Yet I am not sure how to translate this value into economic terms, or if it ever could be so rendered. But economic terms—valuing education for its employability payoff—is the main game in town. I fully agree that students’ ability to earn good wages, ideally through reasonably satisfying work, is a valuable thing. Yet I fear that what students will not learn from local and national cultures suffused in the rhetoric of a degree’s potential economic value is an ability to speak the languages of other educational goods.

For advisors who work in liberal arts milieus, I believe one of our pressing obligations to our students is to become more fluent in the language of these alternate values. Tasking ourselves with this duty will help us to aid our students in understanding the potential post-graduation implications of the “logic of their curriculum” (Lowenstein, 2005). Such a move challenges advisors to pivot, at times, the temporal axis of advising from the synchronic focus of Marc Lowenstein’s model (2005) toward diachronic ends.  In other words, we should advise with an “and/and” logic regarding the future. In doing so, this approach also reveals that there is an interminable practice of reinterpretation involved in this approach to the conceptualization of the curriculum. While advisors can guide students toward some post-graduation possibilities, it is the student’s responsibility to continue this reflective process upon graduation.   

A recent argument made by Amy Lewis (2012), a business professor, provides a launching pad for thinking about non-employment based values of liberal arts classes. Lewis muses on the example of a GAP t-shirt with “Manifest Destiny” printed on it to demonstrate why business students need liberal arts classes in order to help maintain “a vibrant economy” (Lewis, 2012).  This t-shirt provoked strong criticism, created a PR scandal, and proved a waste of design, production, and marketing resources (Lewis, 2012). If only GAP employees, Lewis insists, had taken courses in American history, sociology, and ethics that discussed the history, legacy, and ethical implications of manifest destiny, then GAP would never have sold the t-shirt in the first place and could have used it resources differently (Lewis, 2012). Yet Lewis’s argument points us in another direction when it comes to identifying alternative values. The protest around the t-shirt is an example of consumer criticism in action.

Consumer criticism is a particular form of cultural criticism, which is a core value enabled by a liberal arts education (Guterl, 2011; Roche, 2010). Students can become more insightful consumer critics by taking a variety of liberal arts classes, thus accruing a range of analytical and interpretative skills that enable them to assess synthetically new situations and determine when and why they should protest a product or company. Of course, if a class or series of classes covered relevant material to the matter at hand, then this scenario would add even more to the connective value of an undergraduate education to post-graduation life.

At times more formalized “introductions” to a post-graduation craft are available to students. At my university, for instance, students can earn a “PACE” certificate. PACE stands for political and civic engagement. Comprised of course, seminars, deliberation-oriented issues forums, and an internship, the PACE curriculum offers students opportunities to relate theory and practice and link aspects of their individual degree paths to forum discussions and internship projects. One student I advise, for example, has made connections between his sustainability-oriented studies and his individualized portions of the PACE program. PACE, in the end, arms students with the necessary skills and experience to be more effective, engaged participants in the public sphere. It is a pedagogy of personal formation of the self as democratic citizen.

Alternately the non-economic value of liberal arts classes can be more personal, even if, at times, still communally oriented. While the point of religious studies courses, especially at public institutions, is not the advance or detraction of personal religiosity, some students inform me that taking religious studies courses impacts their own religious life. One of my religious studies advisees, for instance, shared with me that she regularly draws upon material from her classes when participating in a variety of church activities as well as her own theological thinking about life and the world. In other words, her case models how former students can employ what they have learned so as to be an “enricher” of self and elective communities.   

In a time of fierce economic trials, it is easy for us as well as students to fixate on job preparation. But we must not fall into the alluring mistake of advising students as only aspiring employees. Instead, we should cultivate an advising practice that narrates multiple educational payoffs for our advisees, including, but not limited to, employability. I have covered a few forms the educated self can take: the consumer critic, the engaged citizen, and the “enricher” of self and elective communities. By helping students master this approach to understanding their own educational experiences we aid them in being able to continually reconstruct the logic of their curriculums after graduation. In making this move, in turn, we advisors become prophets of the possible. 

William E. Smith III
Academic Advisor, College of Arts & Sciences
Indiana University Bloomington


Browning, C. (1992). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Guterl, M. P. (2011, June 30). The humanities are more important. Insidehighered.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/06/30/essay_defending_the_humanities

Lewis, A. (2012, November 5). Why history matters. Insidehighered.com. Retrieved from:http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/11/05/essay-value-liberal-arts-business-students

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73.

Roche, M. W. (2010). Why Choose The Liberal Arts? Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 160-162.

Cite this article using APA style as: Smith, W.E. III (2013, June). Prophets of the possible: On valuing the liberal arts. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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“Just Tell Me What Classes To Take”: How to Advise Students in a Non-Prescriptive Major

Kristina Allemand, Nicholls State University

Kristina Allemand.jpgWhat is a non-prescriptive major? It’s a major that provides a variety of alternatives or electives for a student to select within the curriculum. There are many curriculums that spell out or prescribe almost every course a student must take in order to graduate within that degree program. At the other end of the spectrum, there are curriculums that are full of free electives. Of course, there are varying degrees of this within the spectrum depending on the major. For example, at Nicholls State University our General Studies degree requires 120 credit hours for a student to graduate but within those hours, students can choose multiple minors and humanities electives amounting to over 45 elective credit hours. Others curriculums may be more prescriptive, but students can still struggle to choose a minor or general education electives such as a social science elective or humanities elective.  

I have been advising for many years, but more recently I began advising all athletes pursing our Bachelor of General Studies degree. I am a full-time faculty member and in addition to my teaching duties, I advise approximately 100 student athletes each semester. Our student-athletes are required to visit their advisor at least once each semester to discuss and complete a registration plan for the upcoming semester. In my new advising role, I quickly learned that there are a large number of students within this population who did not choose to major in general studies. For one reason or another, general studies became their major so they could maintain their athletic eligibility.

The most common phrase I hear from these students during advising is “just tell me what classes to take.” As an advisor who wants to help students reach their goals and full potential, I cringe each time I hear it. Although sometimes I may wish I were immune or desensitized to this statement, that hasn’t happened because that’s not the type of advisor I am. I truly want my students to be successful and happy after graduation. I don’t want them to take classes just to meet the degree requirements. I want them to capitalize on the options they have and design a meaningful degree plan.

In an attempt to get my advisees more invested in their academic career, I try to make them more knowledgeable of the curriculum. Knowledge is power, and I want to give them power and control over their degree. This is accomplished through an advising class set up in our electronic delivery system, such as Moodle or Blackboard. It is not a class in the sense that students are graded, but used as a tool and valuable resource.

Within this class, I created four sections of information. First, I posted our specific degree information. In this section I provide information regarding our curriculum, such as a copy of the advising degree checklists. (Our advising checklists are more descriptive than the degree checklist posted in the university catalog.)  The next section discusses the university’s general education requirements. I provide an explanation of what general education courses are and why students need to take them. I also provide the general education core curriculum list. The next section provides resources relevant to our degree requirements. Students majoring in General Studies must have at least one minor, an intercultural studies elective, and an additional nine credit hours of humanities above the general education requirements. Therefore this section includes a list of all of minors offered by the university and the required courses for each minor. It also includes a list of all the humanities electives offered by the university and a list of the possible intercultural studies electives. The final section contains my contact information and contact information for various support staff on campus. The contact information includes resources such as tutoring, career services, counseling, and the library. My contact information includes my current office hours for the semester, location of my office, email, and phone number.

So how do I help students who truly just want me to provide a list of courses they should take with as little conversation and interaction as possible?  I have to help the students make the connection between their curriculums, each individual course taken within it, and their life goals. Therefore a discussion must take place about their interests and goals. As an advisor, it is my job to make the connection between the students’ goals and the curriculum. Advisors must be knowledgeable about the options students have and communicate these to the students. Each advisee is “enrolled’ in the Moodle advising class I set up. This class has become a valuable resource for my advisees and our advising sessions. It allows me the opportunity to discuss their interests and goals in an initial advising session and then make recommendations for minors and electives that match these goals. The advisee now has a centralized resource that he or she can access to explore these options. In subsequent visits, the advisee and I discuss which options are most appealing and how those minors or electives would benefit them, and then develop an action plan based on our discussions and their goals. As students learn about their options and complete their advising visits, I slowly see a change from “just tell me what classes to take” to “I really think I would like to take this” or “would this elective complement my minor?” As an advisor these types of statements and questions are heartening as they illustrate the students’ involvement and investment in their degree plan!

Kristina Allemand
Assistant Professor
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Nicholls State University

Cite this article using APA style as: Allemand, K. (2013, June). “Just tell me what classes to take”: How to advise students in a non-prescriptive major. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Race, Racism, and International Students in the United States

Yung-Hwa Anna Chow, Global Engagement Commission Chair

Anna Chow.jpgThe economic crisis and federal budget cuts have forced many colleges and universities to increase their international student enrollment.  However, this shift in enrollment practice has caused many domestic students to protest that tax dollars are being unfairly spent on educating foreign and out of state students.  In fact, in 2011 alone, international students contributed $21.8 billion dollars to the U.S. economy, and roughly 70% of all international students’ primary funding comes from sources outside of the U.S. (Open Doors 2012a, Open Doors 2012b).  Not surprisingly, international students are actively recruited to North American universities and colleges, not only because they generate revenue in tough economic times, but because they increase diversity and cultural exposure for our domestic students.

Inaccurate assumptions, coupled with the steady increase of international enrollment all over the U.S., have resulted in a number of racial incidents targeting international students.  “Students at Ohio State University Tweet comments like ‘The [I]ndian next [to] me [at] the gym smells like a curry covered butt hole’ and ‘Every Asian that walks past us in the oval wants to eat our dog.’  A column in the student newspaper at Kansas State University argued that American tax dollars shouldn’t be spent to educate Afghan, Chinese, Iranian, Iraqi or Turkish students ‘who could, in the near future, become the enemy’”  (Redden, 2012).

A recent study by Shideh Hanassah at UCLA, in which she surveyed 640 international students, found that discrimination also extends to these students’ interactions with professors, university staff, classmates, potential employers, and the larger community.  Students’ examples of discriminatory acts include comments like: “Latinos cannot be logical or scientific.  [The professor] had little regards for different academic trainings, cultures, and ways of thinking;” “A White guy (staff) was laughing at my name and making fun of it in public;” ”I get very frustrated if a professor ignores me because my English is not as good compared to a native speaker…such times, I feel I’m stupid” (Hanassah, 2006).

University administrations across the country have proposed that we need to create safe and welcoming environments by encouraging cross-cultural interactions between domestic and international students.  Programs such as “Campus Cousins, Friendship Families, and Global Greek” (Redden, 2013) pair international students with domestic students or recent study abroad returnees to promote one-on-one interaction.  Other campuses encourage campus integration of international students by offering credited courses that act as semester-long orientations.  These courses might target transitional issues (such as housing and transportation), academic issues (such as plagiarism), and educating students about university resources.  In addition to interactions with American students, international programs might also offer opportunities to build friendship amongst international students from various countries.  Research has shown that relationships with other international students “play a critical role in staving off depression, improving academic performance, and increasing student satisfaction with their college experience” (Glass & Braskamp, 2012).

However, to complicate this issue we must recognize that international students might also bring with them a set of stereotypes that often preclude them from interacting with certain groups on campus.  When asked if a Korean international student would date someone who is African American, she responded, “No, they will hurt me because they are big and I don’t like their curly hair and big lips, it’s not my style” (Ritter, 2012).  Due to popular culture, stereotypes and racist ideologies have been spread worldwide.  In Japan, Blacks are considered “backward” and “good singers,” and “Sambo”-like images are regularly consumed (Greenwald, 2001).  In China, people with “darker skin” including Filipinos, Southeast Asians, Latinos, and Blacks, are considered “inferior” (Shanghai Star, 2003).  Bert Berry, Director of International Services at Webster University, also points out that what’s most disturbing is “the perception that the dominant white culture is inherently ‘right.’  Too often [the international] students are only interested in associating with people from their home country and U.S. whites.  They shun Blacks, Hispanics, and all other minority groups” (Althen, 2009).

What further exacerbates this issue is that some university campuses exempt international students from American history requirements and many do not require diversity courses (Ritter, 2012).  International students’ perception of race affects who they choose to interact with and the overall quality of their college experience.  This in turn affects campus climate as a whole.  To combat stereotypes harbored by international students, Gary Althen (2009) argues that we must educate international students about race.  He encourages international student offices to partner with multicultural affairs offices to create opportunities to educate students about race relations in the U.S.  ESL teachers at Central Connecticut State University use movies and short essays to illustrate and facilitate discussions about race.  Gonzaga University introduces race relations through African American history during ESL orientation.  University of Michigan offers credited courses and dialogue groups for international and domestic students on a range of topics including race, ethnicity, multiracial identity, and gender issues.  Jennifer Yim, the director of the Global Scholars Pilot Program, says “the goal of these dialogues is to bring the two student groups together in a space for understanding one another” (Althen, 2009).

As academic advisors, we can also encourage our domestic and international students to enroll in diversity courses, such as Ethnic Studies courses, where students can learn about issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality.  Students need to be able to understand cultural differences and systems of inequality within the U.S. and also in their home countries.  These courses should teach students how to critically analyze the ways in which race and privilege are communicated to us globally and we internalize these ideologies.  Perhaps the most important skill that we should promote in the discussion about race and racism is the ability to critically analyze oneself. 

We should recognize that having international students on our campus is a unique privilege.  They bring cultural diversity and perspectives from which we can all benefit.  But the issue of racism definitely reaches further than just misunderstandings between domestic and international students.  It’s something we need to actively address so that we can eventually benefit from stimulating cross-cultural interactions between domestic and international students. 

Yung-Hwa Anna Chow
General Studies and Advising Center
Washington State University


Althen, G. (2009, May and June). Educating international students about ‘race.’ International Educator, 88–93.

Glass, C. & Braskamp, L. (2012) Essay on how colleges should respond to racism against international students. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved fromhttp://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/26/essay-how-colleges-should-respond-racism-against-international-students

Greenwald, J. (2001, June 24) Japan prejudice and black sambo. Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,149882,00.html

Hanassah, S. (2006) Diversity, international students, and perceived discrimination: Implications for educators and counselors. Journal of Studies in International Education10, 157–172.

Open Doors 2012a. (2012) Economic Impact of International Students.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/Special-Reports/Economic-Impact-of-International-Students

Open Doors 2012b. (2012) Fast Facts Open Doors 2012.  Retrieved fromhttp://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors

Redden, E. (2012) Tensions simmer between American and international students.  Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/16/tensions-simmer-between-american-and-international-students

Redden, E. (2013) International educators consider the challenges in integrating students from abroad. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved fromhttp://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/04/international-educators-consider-challenges-integrating-students-abroad

Ritter, Z. (2012) Essay on dealing with racist ideas of international students. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2012/10/26/essay-deadling-racist-ideas-international-students

Shanghai Star. (2003) Racism in China. Retrieved fromhttp://app1.chinadaily.com.cn/star/2003/0417/cu18-1.html

Cite this article using APA style as: Chow, Y. (2013, June). Race, racism, and international students in the United State. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Increasing Visibility and Student Retention: Marketing Within a Departmental Academic Advising Office

Jennifer Papadakis, Wright State University

Jenny Papadakis.jpgAs institutions of higher education face increased budget cuts and reduced state support, academic departments are forced to become increasingly self-supported.  Department-level academic advising offices must evolve and compete for support while serving the ever-changing needs of their students. While geography once determined enrollment, globalization has given students myriad options and they have come to expect a new level of service (Brown, 2004). The Psychology Department at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio offers a model for implementing marketing efforts at the department level that serve to increase visibility and student retention while fostering departmental growth in a time of fiscal tightening.

Marketing and branding functions are often performed at the highest levels within an institution; however, intentional marketing can and should be done at the departmental level. Departmental academic advising offices can create marketing plans that fit within the university’s strategic plan but are tailored for the students in the major they serve (Brown, 2004). While marketing efforts were once considered taboo in academia, increased competition has forced strategic planning at all levels (Constantinides & Zinck Stagno, 2011).  In addition, marketing efforts such as branding, program outreach, and social media programming create necessary cohesion, unified efforts, and a sense of belonging for students.


Departments are unique ecosystems within their institutions, each with their own culture surrounding their subject areas. The act of branding engages a department in identifying key pedagogies, learning outcomes, and characteristics that form an overarching identity for the faculty, staff, and students. The brand solidifies the goals and mission of the team and gives each academic advisor a charge within their daily work and a cemented sense of belonging to the team. Branding can also serve as a sort of built-in quality control, as all academic advisors are expected to represent the brand and adopt the values of the department within their own pedagogy (Waeraas & Solbakk, 2009, 450).

Branding requires departments to have a well-rounded profile of their students. This knowledge of the demographic served by academic advisors in a given department allows for tailored marketing as well as tailored curriculum and support services. When possible, department-level academic advisors should gather statistics on their student body regarding at-risk factors, rate of transfer and stop-out rates and probation.

Branding uniquely serves students as well. Interactions with the department academic advising office are more unified and the student benefits from a broader sense of community and belonging. Research shows that a student’s sense of belonging to their learning institution is fundamental to success and the academic department serves as the entry-level arena for such relationship building (Brewer, von Hippel & Gooden, 1999). 

Program Promotion

In an ever competitive market, academic programs must learn to highlight their strengths and sell them to students. Financial models based on program enrollment are becoming more common and make smart marketing of academic programs mandatory. At the departmental level, such marketing starts with brainstorming the assets of the curriculum and how it might cater to other students on campus.

Academic departments might consider promotional activities to support increased enrollment in minor or certificate programs. Communicating across colleges ensures that a department stays informed of cross-listed courses and in turn, what students would be served by dual-major promotions or email notification of a new special topics course. Such program promotion need not be aggressive or intrusive to other departments but allows academic advisors to ensure student satisfaction through tailored curriculums.

A surprising benefit of program promotion is increased visibility among students. The Psychology Undergraduate Program office at WSU sets up informational tables a few times a semester where students can get more information on minors, the psychology program and concentration options. While a number of new students visit the tables, many students currently enrolled in the major take the opportunity to reconnect with their academic advisor or ask specific questions of the student representatives. Offering regular connections with academic advisors outside of the office setting is a powerful student success practice, and involvement in the campus community can work to serve a dual purpose of student success and marketing goals (Cannon, 2013).

Social Media

Departmental Facebook™ pages are becoming increasingly popular but are not always expertly managed.  Such platforms should be updated regularly and consistently—ideally, by the same person with the same voice and style – and should be used as modes of two-way communication rather than editable billboards (Constantinides & Zinck Stagno, 2011).

The PUP Office at WSU has had success posting videos to this website as well as student testimonies and content that is easily shareable. Dynamic, informative content serves to solidify the brand of the department while giving students a feeling of belonging that lends itself to retention.

Helpful Tips

All marketing decisions should be data-driven and created in response to student’s needs (Brown, 2004, 52). In this way, marketing at the departmental level is beneficial for students as academic advisors are armed with a thorough understanding of their student population and make informed, purposeful curriculum and process decisions. In addition, an academic advisor that has a thorough student profile can compete more easily for limited university resources. The PUP office at WSU has welcomed graduate teaching assistants from local higher education graduate programs to serve as research and data collectors as well as social media marketing interns. To meet the demands of comprehensive marketing efforts, advisors and directors must creatively problem solve and utilize various resources.

Marketing at the department level is evolving quickly in response to a changing climate in higher education. Academic advising programs can utilize marketing practices to increase student success while supporting department enrollment and retention. Marketing practices demand that academic advisor remain aware and supportive of their brand that represents the unique curriculum and pedagogies offered within their department. While marketing practices remain relatively new in academe, an expanding and diversified market calls for innovative approaches to program growth and development.

Jennifer Papadakis
Academic Advisor
Department of Psychology
Wright State University


Anctil, E.J.  (2008). Marketing and advertising higher education.  ASHE Higher Education Report (34)2, 19-30. Academic Search Complete.

Brewer, M.B., von Hippel, W., & Gooden, M.P. (1999). Diversity and organizational identity: The problem of entree' after entry.  In D. Prentice & D. Miller (Eds.), Cultural divides: Understanding & Overcoming Group Conflict, 337-363.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Brown, J.A.  (2004). Marketing and retention strategies for adult degree programs. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education 103: 51-60. Academic Search Complete.

Cannon, J. (2013, Mar). Intrusive advising 101: How to be intrusive without intruding. Academic Advising Today (36)1.  Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Intrusive-Advising-101-How-to-be-Intrusive-Without-Intruding.aspx

Constantinides, E., & Zinck Stagno, M.C. (2011).  Potential of the social media as instruments of higher education marketing: A segmentation study." Journal of Marketing For Higher Education(21)1. 7-24. Academic Search Complete.

Drake, J.K. (2011). "The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus (16)3. 8-12. Academic Search Complete.

Wæraas, A., & Solbakk, M. (2009). Defining the essence of a university: Lessons from higher hducation branding.  Higher Education (57)4, 449-462. Academic Search Complete.

Cite this article using APA style as: Papadakis, J. (2013, June). Increasing visibility and student retention: Marketing within a departmental academic advising office. Academic Advising Today,36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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First Semester Experience as an Academic Advisor

Mark S. Nelson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Mark Nelson.jgpOn my first day at work, I could feel the little kid inside me. I pictured him standing on the corner waiting for the school bus, shivering in his new penny loafer shoes, lunch box in hand, his new outfit ironed and pressed ready for the first day of school, not knowing what to expect. I imagined Mama hiding in the bushes making sure her baby was going to be okay. 

This time around, I was a grown man coming to a new institution in a new state, getting into my car for the first day at work. Nice shirt with slick necktie, briefcase in hand, without a clue of what to expect having crossed “enemy lines” (Kansas into Nebraska). Thoughts ran through my mind: “Did I make the right decision?  What if this…what if that…Can I adjust to the new system? What will really be expected of me?” My fears were confirmed as the very first hour of my very first day, I sat in my first staff meeting taking it all in.  Wide-eyed and lost, I sat in silence thinking to myself, “Okay, I can do this.” The first hours quickly turned into days, then into months. Six months in, I still may not know what the next day will bring, but I always enjoy thinking about what is around the corner. Every day is a new endeavor to be explored.  This is a bond new advisors share with the students we serve. 

I have been fortunate to serve in my current position as academic advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for these six months. The transition from being a graduate student at another institution in another state was an overall success, but I must say I was able to make the transition with the love and support of my family, mentors, and colleagues old and new, as well as friends. As I reflect on my first semester, I share some advice that may benefit new and aspiring professionals coming into the profession of academic advising.

New advisors should possess the willingness to learn. My mentor once told me, “You will never know everything.  Pick your passion, focus on it, and become an expert.” Becoming an expert requires patience, awareness, trust, respect and admiration, which takes possessing the willingness to learn. Take time to learn about new colleagues, students, the campus, and the community. 

New advisors should work to improve. Accepting a new position always presents new challenges. Keep these small rules in mind:

  • Change is constant. Work to adjust and be as flexible as possible. Developing new relationships requires patience. Becoming better acclimated to the new role is not only a change for the new advisor; new colleagues and students are also going through the same process. 
  • Become thorough. Document everything as clearly as possible. Explain things when necessary and do not be afraid to pose questions to colleagues to gain familiarity with the institution’s policies.
  • Set new, attainable goals every semester. One of the ways we become better professionals is by setting manageable goals for ourselves so we may see our growth. Define and discover personal goals as they fit individual needs. 
  • Assess performance by accepting constructive criticism from those with good intentions. We all make mistakes, and we all have to adjust to a new system, especially when transitioning into a new system on a new campus. Be open to feedback, take what works and move forward.
  • Strive to develop professionally, do the best you can and do not stress. It goes without saying our profession may not be the easiest because we do not always see immediate results or receive instant recognition. The best reward we can receive is staying up to date on training from our institution, maintaining a positive rapport with those we serve, and continuing to make a difference where we can.

New advisors should maintain a positive attitude. The Great Muhammad Ali said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘don’t quit!’  Suffer now, and live the rest of your life a champion!” Every day on the job will be an opportunity to learn something new or become a little bit better. Walking into the office, I ask myself these questions every day:

  • How can I better serve students and colleagues today?
  • What am I going to learn today?
  • Who can I make smile?
  • Where did I do best/where can I improve?
  • Why did I become an academic advisor?

New advisors should “set the scene” to boost motivation.  Have a sentimental or motivational piece readily visible, whether it is a picture on a computer desktop, a family picture, a poster with a motivational phrase, etc. I have a picture from a scene in the movie “300;” it is something to which most students can relate. For me, it serves as the purpose of remaining focused on the task despite being challenged by adversity.  When I have those long days of walk-in appointments, I look at the picture and remember, “I am here to serve the students – I need to stay focused!” When working with a student who is going through a tough stretch in the semester, I make a comment about working through the challenging period of time and relate it to the movie. 

As academic advisors, we impact the lives of our students as well as influence the reputation of our Institutions, and we invest in the future of our society.  Though it may seem overwhelming to new advisors, we can accept the demands of the new position as part of making a difference in the lives of those we serve: students, colleagues, and the community. The road of life sometimes has its gatekeeper; we as advisors serve as navigators! Stay focused, stay fresh, and have a great semester!

Mark S. Nelson
Academic Adviser
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Cite this article using APA style as: Nelson, M. (2013, June). First semester experience as an academic advisor. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]


What Have I Gotten Myself Into?: Tips for New Advisors

Tiffany Labon and Heather Ammons, The University of Alabama

Editor’s Note: This article is drawn from What have I gotten myself into?: Tips for new advisors, presented at the 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN.

Tiffany Labon.jpgThe field of academic advising has various aspects that new advisors must navigate to fully embrace their position.  From acclimating to all of the curriculum requirements, university rules and regulations to gaining a perspective on the culture and climate of the university, advisors can find these tasks daunting.  In addition to working toward understanding the campus, the advisor also begins the process of understanding what advising entails. Trying to embrace all of these elements at the same time can be rewarding, but finding the starting point and the pathway to navigate this process can be difficult as well.

Heather Ammons.jpgThe guide below can assist a new advisor in navigating these pathways and reveal new areas to explore within the profession.  These tips are about the advisor and his or her growth in the profession, not about how the advisor interacts with and assists students. It may assist new advisors to separate the policy and curriculum aspects of their job, and truly focuses on the development of the advisor by looking at the advising profession, establishing a balance, understanding the institution, and enhancing personal and professional growth.

Getting into the institution

Establishing a physical and philosophical home at their institution allows new advisors to gain a more complete understanding of its framework.

  • Identify the stakeholders at the institution and what they do.
  • Understand the institution, college, and office mission. Evaluate to determine where an advisor fits.
  • Examine the institution’s advising processes.
  • Gain an understanding of the institution’s culture/climate by studying the institution’s population and how the services, policies, and procedures work together to meet the needs of the students.
  • Enhance ability to work with students effectively by gaining comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum, both at the departmental level and across campus. Seek out professors and other staff to gain an understanding of the established curriculum.
  • Talk to students and develop relationships with them.

Getting into the profession

New advisors can gain perspective and pathways into the field in multiple ways.

  • Network with campus advisors and other resources on campus to gain contacts who can assist when questions arise or new ideas are proposed.  It is okay to start small and then work to expand the network within the institution, state, and national level.
  • Explore the literature on advising – including approaches, theories, best practices, and the history of the field – to gain a better perspective on the path the field has taken.
  • Seek training opportunities; move outside the comfort zone by going to conferences, participating in webinars, or crossing departmental lines to gain new skills.
  • There are no dumb questions; it is always better to ask than to risk giving incorrect information.  Write down new information and share it.
  • Things change day to day, especially in helping fields; be flexible.
  • Interactions with students can be challenging and emotionally wrenching.  Identify someone at the institution who can provide understanding and an outlet.
  • Embrace those moments of laughter or frustration, because as much as we teach our students, they teach us as well.

Getting into a balance

New advisors need to discover their own balance, even when the personal and professional boundaries overlap.

  • Advisors’ boundaries between work and life can be intertwined.  Since it belongs to us, we must embrace them!
  • This is the advisor’s own personal journey and no one else can instruct us on how the balance can be reflected.
  • What are the factors that impact the advisor’s balance? Identify all of them, which can include school, work, family, and personal time, among others.  Once the factors are identified, the advisor can work toward establishing a fluid way to balance them and realize when it is time to change.
  • Oftentimes there must be a separation between the advisor’s personal and professional lives.  Find ways to disconnect and recharge!

Getting into growth

Planning for and reflecting upon growth transforms the advisor, both professionally and personally.

  • Personal
    • By reflecting upon their pathway, advisors can ask themselves who they are and where they want to go.
    • Learning from those around us – students, family, friends, coworkers or random strangers – allows every moment to be a teachable one.
    • Once an advisor has learned from a situation, sharing those lessons with others allows for future growth for everyone involved.
    • Change is inevitable and if an advisor allows it to happen the advisor can move out of his or her comfort zone and into newer heights.
  • Professional
    • Professional growth does not just happen. The advisor has to make things happen!
    • Establishing a timeline for professional goals allows the advisor to complete them.
    • Explore the various levels of the profession – state, regional, and national – and become exposed to them by presenting and attending conferences, as well as volunteering on commissions and other committees.

In essence, exploring these areas will allow advisors to begin discovering the pathways to strengthen their journey as an academic advisor. We may not need every piece of information during each advising encounter, but it may contribute at some point during our career.  

Tiffany Labon
Academic Advisor/Coordinator
Culverhouse College of Commerce
The University of Alabama

Heather Ammons
Academic Advisor/Coordinator
Culverhouse College of Commerce
The University of Alabama

Cite this article using APA style as: Labon, T. & Ammons, H. (2013, June). What have I gotten myself into? Tips for new advisors. Academic Advising Today36(2). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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