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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Change Perspective

David Spight, NACADA President

President David Spight.jpgOver the course of this year, one of the greatest perks of being president has been the chance to meet lots of amazing professionals working in advising and student success. So many of them have mentioned some of the challenges they face at their institutions and the changes that have affected them. Sometimes it can feel like everything is changing: work, personal life, etc. Sometimes that change is wonderful and sometimes it is less desirable.

The topic of change, well, can be funny. Consider this: when something changes, our first reaction is that we do not like the change. One might even express that they “don’t like change.” This reaction is quickly followed by a wish to make another change, “possibly back to the way things were.” Suddenly we went from disliking change to wishing for it.

We often think about change in terms of the things someone or something else is changing that affect us. That perspective makes it easy to feel frustrated, overworked, underappreciated.

But what if we consider change from a different perspective? What can I, as an academic advisor, change to make things better? Herein lies the reason why getting engaged in your profession and getting engaged in the scholarship on advising becomes more important. Consider this: if you learn more about a particular factor that affects student persistence, how might you incorporate that new information into your practice? With changing demographics at many of our institutions, the more we learn about how college affects our students, the better we can help those students get engaged in their education. How we view change – the perspective or lens through which we view change –  that’s a choice that is up to each of us as individuals.

Being engaged in your profession helps you to have a better lens through which to assess your advising practice. Assessment provides you with data, both quantitative and qualitative, that you can use to tell the story of advising at your institution. That information, in combination with knowledge of the scholarship on academic advising and student success, enables you to be in a position to advocate for and make change. Then, you are not subject to change out of your control, but instead are driving change for the sake of your students.

Change at an institution of higher education is most often about the institution, about responding to challenges to higher education, about improving the student experience. Rarely is the change about us. I do not know of a policy change at an institution, or a new technology platform being implemented, that was decided upon with the sole purpose of upsetting one particular advisor.

Have changes that have been made negatively affected your ability to advise students? Maybe. But rarely do the changes made at our institutions dramatically affect that one-on-one session with a student. Despite the changes, we still can build rapport with the student, actively listen, and assist them with figuring out their educational and life plans. Sure, some of the pathways that students use to navigate their way through our institutions may change, but our ability to meet with them and partner with them in their success, well, that is determined by each of us.

Let us also consider what we hope to accomplish as institutions of higher education. We hope to help students grow and develop in a positive way. We are simply in the business of change. That growth and development means challenging a student’s perspectives and supporting them through that dissonance. That growth and development means trying to help students change and adapt to a new environment and new experiences and find ways to incorporate it all into who they are and who they will become.

So, I ask and encourage you again to get engaged in your profession and become a scholar-practitioner. Doing so will help you to change the lives of students, who will in turn, change the world.

David Spight, President, 2015-2016
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Dean, James W. Vick Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling
The University of Texas at Austin  ||  The School of Undergraduate Studies
[email protected]

From the Executive Director: Are You a Student of Academic Advising?

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgEach quarter as I prepare to write my column for NACADA’s Academic Advising Today, I follow the advice I gave my students in my English composition classes for twenty years…research…. brainstorm…. outline…. write the first draft…. the second draft…the third draft….and then start all over! And after all that, right before the final final FINAL deadline I find an article that inspires me greatly and so I start from scratch again!

This time the article that inspired me is by Dr. Joshua Kim, a columnist for Inside Higher Ed and Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning. His article in the May 23 issue of the Inside Higher Edu entitled “Are You a Student of Higher Education?” intrigued me, challenged me, and inspired me as NACADA and the College of Education at Kansas State University move toward opening the first Global Center for Excellence and Research in Academic Advising and Student Success with our newly appointed Director Dr. Wendy Troxel, formerly of Illinois State University.  In our 38-year history, NACADA has always thought of our members as students of academic advising.  With our new Center, the association is even more focused on this concept.

Therefore, after reading Dr. Kim’s article, I immediately contacted him to tell him how much I enjoyed his article and asked for permission to cite his article and use his concept in my column.  He graciously agreed – thank you Josh!

In the same manner that Dr. Kim’s article explore how we define a Student of Higher Education, I want to discuss how we as a profession and an association can define a Student of Academic Advising. Consider these atributes:

In the same manner that Dr. Kim’s article explore how we define a Student of Higher Education, I want to discuss how we as a profession and an association can define a Student of Academic Advising.   Consider these atributes:

  1. You have a powerful curiosity about the theory, practice, and impact of academic advising on student success.

Just having the title “academic advisor” or “faculty advisor” does not make one a student of academic advising.  This innate curiosity goes far beyond solving course scheduling/registration issues, investigating the latest software because your institution has purchased it, or finding solutions for long lines during registration periods.

The Student of Academic Advising will investigate how theory is driving the practices on his or her campus, will dig for data about the students he/she advises and their specific retention, graduation, and completion rates, and will constantly be viewing advising as a profession, not a job.

Students of Academic Advising are those who attend NACADA regional, annual, and international conferences and institutes to delve more deeply into their curiosity about the field by networking with and learning from others. They will take advantage of the NACADA Web Events to learn more about theory and practice and to have the opportunity to hold campus discussions about the webinars.

  1. You feel a strong connection to the community academic advising on your campus, in your state, and at the national and international level.

We stress to our students that in order to be successful they must work to become part of a community of learners and scholars who have the same curiosities they have.  Being a college student is not a spectator sport on which students sit on the sidelines and watch learning, but instead sre part of a culture of learning they have built themselves.

Students of Academic Advising also don’t work in isolation. Advisors need to learn from each other at all levels, discussing and even debating issues of the profession and field. It is imperative that Students of Academic Advising be part of multiple communities in the field and find ways to connect regularly with their fellow community members.

A responsibility that NACADA has taken seriously and that the Board of Directors, Council, and Executive Office work on constantly is how the association can assist in building these communities and finding new ways for members to connect, discuss, and debate.

  1. You read constantly about the field and work diligently to find ways to become part of the academic advising community through your own informal and formal research and publication.

Our students cannot be successful if they only attend class and never read a textbook or article, and never reflect through writing their own thoughts on their education. Successful Students of Academic Advising find the time and space to read about the field and the profession. Obviously that will include reading NACADA Clearinghouse articles, the NACADA Blog, the NACADA Journal, NACADA books and other publications, and additional resources such as the Penn State Mentor or ACPA’s About Campus. You cannot be a Student of Academic Advising and a professional if reading about the field and finding ways to add to the literature in the field is not a priority for you.

  1. You are passionate about the field of academic advising BUT have a deep desire for it to improve and a deep desire to be a part of those improvements across the profession.

As a Student of Academic Advising and a longtime NACADA member, it has been so exciting to see the powerful increase in the number of academic advisors who view their role as a career and not a job, as well as observe faculty advisors who view academic advising as part of the teaching and learning process they are involved in every day with students in their classrooms.

However, a Student of Academic Advising will never be satisfied with the status quo of the field and the profession. He/she will always be focusing on improving the field and working as part of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising to move the profession and field forward internationally.

So, where do you fall in my definition of a Student of Academic Advising? And how can NACADA help you move closer to being a strong, powerful, and impactful Student of Academic Advising?

Thank you again to Dr. Joshua Kim for his inspiration!

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


Kim, J. (2016, May 22). Are you a student of higher education?  Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/are-you-student-higher-education

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NACADA Stirs a Global Conversation to Address Gaps of Practice of Academic Advising Internationally

Selma Haghamed, Qatar University

During the NACADA International Conference sponsored by Zayed University in Dubai in February 2016, the NACADA Academic Advising Consultant and Speaker Service (AACSS) led an important discussion panel.  AACSS helped delegates from institutions across the globe start a conversation about gaps of ­­academic advising in their campuses, shedding the light on how the NACADA Consultant and Speaker Service could help bridge gaps in practice and bring academic advising programs to their full potential.

Qatar International Conference.jpgThis discussion panel was attended by delegates from American University of Kuwait, New York University in Shanghai, Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, Qatar University, Dubai College, and Zayed University.  Charlie Nutt, Kathy Stockwell and Selma Haghamed from NACADA AACSS stirred a conversation about how these gaps can be bridged.  The panel represented a good opportunity for the delegates to see what other institutions are doing to build comprehensive academic advising programs.  The session provided a framework for participants to evaluate where their institutions fit in the ever evolving and developing picture of academic advising programs.  Such conversations are vital for improving and enhancing academic advising programs at the international level.

Academic advising is emerging as one of the important academic support services for students in higher education.  It is no longer an accessory or an additional function.  It is a necessity, and its organization and planning is a must.  Academic advising plays a significant role in fostering student learning, success, and development (Kuh, 2011).  In addition to this, research shows that students learn a great deal outside the classroom (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).  These principles, practices, and beliefs might still need to be implanted in other parts of the world.

The discussion revisited the NACADA foundations of practice of academic advising.  These foundations provide direction and guidance in establishing and providing excellent academic advising programs and services with minimum gaps in the practice of academic advising.  Foundations such as the NACADA Concept of Academic Advising, NACADA Core Values, and the Council of Advancement of Standards (CAS) in academic advising are essential for a seamless practice and a holistic student experience.

The panelists discussed some of the gaps that NACADA resources could help bridge in institutions.  For instance, the definition of academic advising is still not well-established on many campuses today.  What defines advising?  What is the role of an academic advisor?  Campuses need to start a conversation about the role and definition of advising.  To do this, they need facilitators of dialogue.  They also need to gain insightful ideas about what other campuses are doing.

One of the main barriers to success for an advising program is the lack of proper understanding of diversity and its effect in advising.  Students today are diverse in terms of age, race, culture, religion, and most importantly, academic background.  Many of them are commuters and others are first generation.  The diversity of students requires that institutions of higher education develop well-structured, comprehensive academic advising programs to support student success and address attrition.  It might be challenging for many colleges and universities to find the appropriate organizational structure of academic advising.  Not only this, but they might also find it difficult to integrate the ideal advising structure in the institution.

As a consequence of the diversity of students, institutions, and organizational structures of academic advising, there are gaps in planning and organizing academic advising on many campuses.  If gaps are discovered, they are easy to address.  However, identifying these gaps is not an easy task, let alone bridging them.

Another gap in programming for advising is the block in the flow of information from different campus constituencies to academic advising.  Academic advising programs are known as referral hubs to institutional resources.  It is the role of academic advisors to connect students to resources and update them about changes such as adjustments to study plans or degree requirements.  It is also part of their role to interpret some of the institutional policies and procedures for students and help them navigate the complexity of higher education.  If there are changes in institutional policies and regulations, advisors should be updated in a timely fashion. However, many academic advising programs are not serving their mission as referral hubs, because advisors’ role in referring to institutional resources and interpreting policies is not defined.  This in turn results in a blockage of information. It is important to define advisors’ scope of duties and highlight their roles as referral hubs as this is expected to improve the flow of information. Most of the time, if the advisors are not well-informed, the students aren’t.

The lack of consistency in student to advisor ratio or caseload is another common gap; for instance, there is no limit to the number of students that faculty can advise.  Therefore, faculty might be burdened with many responsibilities in addition to their major role in research and teaching.  Not only this, but in order to carry their role as academic advisors, faculty should receive support or professional development that is geared toward their role as faculty advisors.  The lack of this support could hinder their role as advisors.

The discussion panel also identified some of the common gaps of practice of academic advising in different institutions across the world such as those in the Middle East and North Africa.  One of the most common gaps in this part of the world is students and administration considering the advisors’ main function to be helping students register for courses. Some administrators and students might mistakenly assume that advisors’ main duty is to tell students what courses to register for.  Certainly the main duty of an advisor is to help and empower students to think about the course selection process differently and to make decisions rather than dictate the courses that the students register for.

Another common gap in this region is using only one type of provider, such as faculty, whereas there are many types of providers (especially in large public institutions), such as full time, paraprofessional, and peer advisors.  Also, in some institutions, full time academic advisors do not receive proper training to carry their duties; their role is defined more as a clerical staff.  Rather than spending time with students in educational planning, they spend their time fulfilling office duties which may limit their role as student development and success specialists.

Despite the fact that students in the Middle East have unique characteristics and cultural norms that might affect the advising process, advising students from Middle Eastern background is regarded as the same as advising students everywhere else.  If academic advisors are not trained to identify these differences and develop strategies to address them, this create gaps and challenges both for students and advisors.

Another gap that was highlighted during the discussion is the lack of reward and recognition for faculty advisors and full time staff.  Regardless of the type of provider, generally academic advisors are in the front line with students.  If their position is not rewarded, this could lead to quick burn out and loss of interest in advising as a profession.  Advisors need a well-defined and established system of recognition and reward in order to be motivated.

At the conclusion of the discussion panel, NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt and NACADA Past President Kathy Stockwell highlighted a number of services and resources provided by NACADA that could help campuses start a healthy conversation about defining, planning, and organizing academic advising.  There is also a wealth of information and resources for advising administrators to improve their skills in student development and success and enhance their strategies and techniques in advising a diverse student body in diverse institutions.

One of the important services for institutions, especially the ones in the Middle East, is the Academic Advising Consultant and Speaker Service (AACSS).  The ACSS assists colleges and universities by providing external consultants who can offer an outsider perspective to challenges inside of the organizations.  They act as a positive catalyst for change.  During the course of this process, they may provide organizations with a fresh, objective viewpoint with very minimum emotional involvement.  This service also provides internationally and nationally recognized experts in the field of advising to give keynote addresses, motivational speeches, and faculty and administrator trainings.

During the discussion panel, two representatives (one from Zayed University in United Arab Emirates and another one from Qatar University in the State of Qatar) presented their organizational structures, some of the challenges they faced, and how NACADA AACSS helped them address these challenges.  It is worth mentioning that as a result of their efforts to improve academic advising and with the help of AACSS, Qatar University won the NACADA 2014 Academic Advising Certificate of Merit Award.  Such models in the Middle East may serve as a beacon and a guide for other institutions to start their journey.

Selma Haghamed
Academic Advising Consultant and Research Coach
Former Director of the Center for Academic Advising and Retention
Qatar University
[email protected]

NOTE:  Learn more about past and upcoming NACADA International Conferences on the NACADA website.


Kuh, G. (2011). Student success. In J. H. Schuh, S. R. Jones, S. R. Harper, & Associates (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 428-447). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research (Vol. 2). K. A. Feldman (Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Changing the Culture of Advising on Campus: A Three-Pronged Approach 

Jennifer Plante and Michelle Bata, Clark University

Jennifer Plante.jpgMichelle Bata.jpgThere are a number of reasons why a university would want to change its advising culture.  With advising practices linked to retention (Swecker, Fifolt, & Searby, 2013), student engagement (Vianden & Barlow, 2015), and first destinations (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2015), robust advising is increasingly being viewed as a panacea to many student support issues. 

In our case, at Clark University, we have been particularly eager to improve our first destination outcomes, defined by the National Association for Colleges and Employers (2014) as the percentage of graduates who fall into the following categories six months after graduation: employed full time, employed part time, participating in a program of voluntary service, serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and enrolled in a program of continuing education.  Moreover, at Clark, advising is not required, so the challenge that presented itself was how we might change the advising culture in such a way so as to see tangible results in our first destination outcomes. 

To answer this question, we took a cue from NACADA’s statement of core values of academic advising (2005): advisors need to take a holistic advising approach and, “help students integrate information so they can make well-informed” (para. 5) decisions, both academically and co-curricularly. 

We took this advice literally, and three years ago began to devise and implement a new advising model premised on a philosophy of holistic advising that leveraged an already strong background in academic and co-curricular advising and focused on strengthening our students’ personal and professional development.  We set about doing this not by making advising required, but rather by trying to get students excited about linking their academic coursework with what they do outside of the classroom as they prepare for life after Clark. 

The University branded this approach to undergraduate liberal arts education LEEP, or Liberal Education and Effective Practice (Budwig, Baird, Wright, David, & Carville, 2011).  As LEEP advisors, we set out to offer students holistic advising by connecting them with resources that align their academic and co-curricular interests and prepare them to be responsible and engaged members of our global society.  To get students excited about this rather large cultural shift, we relied on a three-pronged approach: 1) marketing and outreach; 2) relationship-building; and 3) developing student-centered programming.

Marketing and Outreach

To let students know that a different model of advising was available, we quickly discovered that we not only had to educate the new, incoming students, but also re-educate the returning students about the new offerings.  We also realized that we had to be proactive in our marketing and outreach.

We began by educating students about who we were and what we could do for them by emailing students before they arrived on campus.  These emails introduced ourselves, explained the role of the LEEP Advisor, and informed students of our workshops, information sessions, and events that would be held in the fall.  

As marketing of our new advising model unfolded, we focused heavily on triangulating our marketing, focusing on print (Pocket Guide to LEEP Advising, topic-specific tip sheets), digital (by developing a new website and rebranding our social media channels), and direct mail and e-mail campaigns (designing an e-newsletter and targeting outreach to specific student groups, faculty, and parents).  By implementing a cross-media marketing strategy, our analytic tools indicate that we have been able to reach a wider audience than previously.  Further, thinking critically about which messages should be delivered by certain channels, we have been able to avoid audience saturation.


This second strategy of relationship-building has been perhaps the most critical to our advising success.  In the past, our advisors were reactive, transactional, and rather passive about cultivating student interest; they simply waited for students to come to them with a need.  With the new model, LEEP advisors were trained to be proactive and relationally-focused.  Our mantra was to “get out of the LEEP Center,” and that is exactly what we did.  By turning up in classrooms, residence halls, at athletic events, and in the dining halls, we strove to be visible and engaging, capitalizing on the impromptu and informal nature of our interactions with students to answer questions, build interest, and develop relationships. 

LEEP advisors also developed stronger relationships with those faculty teaching first-year seminars.  The faculty often requested classroom visits by their LEEP advisor, during which the advisor had another opportunity to engage with advisees and promote the benefits of holistic advising.  Advisors and faculty also communicated about students’ interests and needs, thereby ensuring that fewer students fell through the cracks.

Finally, LEEP advisors rationalized that if others were well-versed about our new advising model, they could serve as advocates for us during their own meetings with students; we thus situated ourselves as but one node in a student’s network of support, recognizing and validating that many others on and off campus provide critical advice and guidance to our students.  Our outreach has proven to be so successful that, in the last academic year, LEEP advisors have been asked to join a majority of University boards and committees, engaged almost half of the active student groups on campus, partnered with the majority of offices across campus, and interacted with over three-fourths of the faculty.

Developing Student-Centered Programming

We began to see some positive results after implementing the first two strategies, but we noticed that we were not seeing an uptick in student appointments when we expected.  Thus, we implemented a third strategy: meeting students where they are, both developmentally and vis-à-vis their personal and professional goals. 

We developed a strategy of “purpose-driven advising,” for which we re-thought the reasons why a student might seek out a LEEP advisor from a developmental perspective rather than from an office-centric perspective.  Our best example here was the introduction of something we call summer advising.  Instead of trying to focus on enticing students to LEEP advising for summer courses, internships for academic credit, etc., we thought instead about why a student would want to seek out those experiences in the first place, and one answer emerged quickly: all students need to figure out how they will spend their summer months.  We started a marketing campaign asking, “What will you do this summer?”; held a Summer 101 fair, showcasing the many opportunities—at a 30,000 foot level—available to students over the summer; and introduced drop-in hours specifically for summer advising.  It worked.  In its first semester, spring 2015, we saw more students by spring break than we had during the entire spring 2014 semester.

The success of this campaign has motivated us to think about the ways that we approach advising more generally and allowed us to reframe our offerings, events, and services in such a way that focuses on the student perspective, always with a specific purpose in mind. 

Measuring Success

How do we know that we have changed the advising culture at Clark?  Unfortunately, the University does not conduct student satisfaction surveys, so we have to rely on indirect measures of advising impact to attempt to answer this question.  The key performance indicators we do have, though, are considerable and favorable.  For example, over the last three years, we have seen a 25% increase in traffic to our offices.  Perhaps even more compelling is our first destination outcomes: the percentage of students employed, in graduate school, in the U.S. Armed Forces, or in service programs at the time of graduation increased by almost 75% from 2014 to 2015.

Of course, it is difficult to tell which of these strategies, if any, contributed to the increase in our key performance indicators.  What we do know is that our collective efforts at revamping, rebranding, and rethinking what it is that we do in order to consistently embrace a proactive, purpose-driven, student-centered approach feels authentic and organic, for both us and the students we serve.

Jennifer Plante, MA
Director of the Writing Center
Clark University
[email protected]

Michelle Bata, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Director of the LEEP Center
Clark University
[email protected]


Budwig, N., Baird, D., Wright, W., David, P., & Carville, K.  (2011). Liberal education and effective practice.  Worcester, MA:  Clark University. 

Chambliss, D. F., & Takacs, C. G. (2014). How college works. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Core-values-of-academic-advising.aspx

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2015). Career services: Student use and perceived helpfulness. Spotlight for Career Services Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/s08192015/career-services-use-helpfulness.aspx

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2014). Standards and Protocols for the Collection and Dissemination of Graduating Student Initial Career Outcomes Information For Undergraduates. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/uploadedFiles/Pages/advocacy/first-destination-survey-standards-and-protocols.pdf

Swecker, H. K., Fifolt, M., & Searby L. (2013). Academic advising and first-generation college students: A  quantitative study on student retention. NACADA Journal 33(1), 46-52.

Vianden, J. & Barlow, P. J. (2015). Strengthening the bond: Relationships between academic advising quality and undergraduate student loyalty. NACADA Journal 35(2), 15-27.

A Sideways Approach to Dealing with Procrastination: The Art and Science of Making Progress 

Maureen Reed, Lewis & Clark College

Maureen Reed.jp

Procrastination, a challenge faced by many students (and perhaps a few advisors), demands a nuanced approach.  Most students will acknowledge that they procrastinate, but answers to the questions of why they do so and how they can best address this issue vary widely.  For some, procrastination may be a problem of over-scheduling or time management, because having too much to do or ineffective work habits can lead to putting off challenging tasks.  For others, procrastination emerges from deeply rooted issues of motivation, a basic resistance to doing what must be done because one simply does not want to do it or feels fear about the outcome, perhaps because it may be less than perfect.  And for a blessed few, procrastination may even be an effective way to preserve energy until deadlines insist that the work must begin.  Procrastination matters because, as the Encyclopedia of Social Psychology states, it “lies at the heart of the psychological study of goal attainment” (Tice & Dewall, 2007).  It follows that, from an academic advising perspective, procrastination matters because students must deal with it in order to advance on their educational journeys.  Advisors do need to be watchful for students who procrastinate because of more deeply rooted issues, such as anxiety, and steer them to the additional help that they need.  But for many students, cultivating awareness of the multiple ways to understand procrastination serves as a useful first step in actively reckoning with it. 

Some students may find it helpful to consider the possibility of procrastination as an art form—as a mindful act of delaying a task now that may in fact improve performance on it later, or of choosing tasks that may be more important in the long run.  Procrastination, this reasoning goes, could give us an advantage in a world that increasingly demands quickness.  Philosopher John Perry, Professor Emeritus at Stanford and co-host of the radio show Philosophy Talk, offers this unconventional way of thinking about procrastination in a 1995 essay, “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done.”  Though it took him over ten years to do so, Perry (2012) eventually expanded his exploration into a book, The Art of Procrastination, a consideration of how and why to embrace the idea of being a “structured procrastinator: a person who gets a lot done by not doing other things” (xv).  Another book published in 2012, Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, applies this philosophical ideal to the professional world, highlighting how a particular form of procrastination—a knowledge of when to act—might serve as a useful tactic for those seeking success in financial realms.  Such “delay” may also offer benefits in an academic context: students who take time to mull over a problem or formulate a response to an essay prompt may perform better than those who rush into their work.  

And yet a more common academic advising problem may simply be that students need help in getting their work done, or even started at all.  When students consult advisors about procrastination or attend workshops on academic time management, they often seek a list of tips that will be certain to improve efficiency.  They ask for, and often receive, “scientific” approaches to addressing procrastination, perceiving that better use of executive function skills will ensure better performance.  But the student who thinks that ending procrastination is simply a matter of learning smart time-management moves may be at a disadvantage.  Self-help books on increasing productivity no doubt can offer students useful strategies, but these need to be employed mindfully, rather than as simple cures.  Jeanette Passmore’s (2015) account of a “productivity journey” in which she adapted processes from efficiency guides “into a system that works for [her]” (para. 2) offers a thoughtful look at how scientific time management works best when strategies are adapted and applied selectively.

Whether students seek to embrace or end procrastination, they will likely be more effective in this quest if they consider why it matters, both to themselves and to others.  American college students come of age in a culture that tends to see one’s productivity as a reflection of one’s character.  Anne Wheeler’s (2012) essay details the layers of “judgmental language” students themselves use when they equate procrastination with “laziness.”  A scientific approach to ending procrastination may inadvertently suggest that it is a character flaw to be conquered through will, discipline, and reason.  Acknowledging the values we associate with procrastination also helps us to see the investment we may feel if we set out to rescue procrastination and ourselves from the realm of weakness by elevating it instead to an art form.  Dwelling only on either negative or positive aspects of procrastination may lead to missed opportunities for realistically engaging with its impact on work performance.

For all these reasons, and because of the complexity of procrastination, it may help students to see it as both art and science, as a practice that can neither be embraced nor resolved with a simple or rigid approach.  Rather, addressing procrastination (or harnessing the benefits of this “art”) requires awareness of its root causes in each individual case, as well as a toolkit of solutions ready to be employed by a thoughtful problem-solver.  I find it helps to encourage students to envision the work to be done as a game in which one must get from one side of a checkerboard to the other—but unlike checkers, no move is illegal or irrational as long as the player understands why this move matters, at this moment, for attaining the goal.  As much as the player may want to move in a straight line from one side to the other, self-awareness may dictate that an artful “sideways” move—a reward of a Netflix session after two hours of writing, a walk to a coffee shop without a Calculus book in hand—may be more useful for winning the game than insisting on moving only forward, as the rules of science may suggest.  A sideways approach seems to work best when moves take place frequently and thoughtfully.  When students tell me that they are behind but intend to catch up by “staying in the library all weekend” (as if the “art” of procrastinating while thinking about a project will now be magically replaced by the “science” of getting it done efficiently), I tend to suspect that their progress will stall.  Insisting that one “should” or “must” move only forward to complete a task may indicate a shying away from addressing what has led to this “all or nothing” moment.   Frequent alterations between rest and study seem more effective at creating the kinds of sideways steps that lead to eventual forward movement.

Offering students time-honored tricks for getting work done may not help them as much as advising them to consider why they procrastinate, not just why they should not.  Whether in school, at the workplace, or for home life, students may best be served by complex approaches to thinking about their time.  College offers a more structured studio (for the artists) and laboratory (for the scientists) than afforded by the workplace or home life for reflecting on these questions and trying new practices.  Some of our students may pursue careers measured by adherence to strict deadlines, but many of them hope to advance professionally not only by their efficiency but also their ability to create and accomplish their own priorities, agendas, and timelines.  Without the regimen of a course syllabus, procrastination can lead to problems beyond all-nighters and late work, perhaps becoming instead a slow-growing sense of aimlessness and frustration.  Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business (2016), acknowledges that when he tried to apply efficiency techniques from business to his role as a parent, thoughtful strategies proved more useful than simplistic formulae.  “‘Productivity’ means different things to different people,” Duhigg concludes an essay about these efforts, “but at its core, it’s about thinking a little more deeply about the choices we make every day” (2016, para. 12).

Students’ lifelong journeys as empowered learners can benefit from grappling realistically with procrastination in college.  When students see procrastination as an ongoing force to which they can take many, and sometimes sideways, approaches to addressing in their academic lives, they learn to be more self-aware and better prepared for the never-ending, always immersing “to do list” that lies beyond the world of the college classroom.  More than just a mediocre compromise between harnessing procrastination through artfulness and overcoming its temptations through science, a sideways approach grants students a realistic and inspiring sense of their potential for continuing to attain goals.

Maureen Reed
College Advisor and Faculty Liaison
College Advising Center
Lewis & Clark College
[email protected]


Duhigg, C. (2016, March 10).  How asking 5 questions allowed me to eat dinner with my kids. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/10/how-asking-5-questions-allowed-me-to-eat-dinner-with-my-kids/?_r=0

Duhigg, C. (2016). Smarter faster better: The secrets of productivity in life and business.  New York, NY: Random House.

Partnoy, F. (2012). Wait: The art and science of delay.  New York, NY: Public Affairs.

Passmore, J. (2015, June). Getting things done. Academic Advising Today, 38(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Getting-Things-Done.aspx

Perry, J. (1996, February 23). How to procrastinate and still get things done. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/How-to-ProcrastinateStill/93959

Perry, J. (2012). The art of procrastination: A guide to effective dawdling, lollygagging, and postponing. New York, NY: Workman.

Tice, D. M. & DeWall, C. N. (2007). Procrastination.  In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social psychology (pp. 706-707). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412956253.n420

Wheeler, A. (2012, June). From inaction to action: Recognizing the language of procrastination. Academic Advising Today, 35(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-Inaction-to-Action-Recognizing-the-Language-of-Procrastination.aspx

Re-envisioning Parental Involvement in Higher Education: Shifting the Paradigm of the Helicopter Parent

Alyssa Kapaona and Mari Ono, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

Kapaona & Ono.jpgIt is no secret that parental involvement in higher education has increased in recent years.  College administrators working in the 21st century note the shift of working with parents from being a sporadic event to a daily occurrence (Levine & Dean, 2012; Shoup, Gonyea & Kuh, 2009).  In the 2011 Student Affairs Survey, 90% of four-year institutions stated they have experienced an increase in parental involvement on campus since 2001 (Levine & Dean, 2012).  Although much has been reported on the rise of parental involvement in higher education within the past fifteen years, little has been written on articulating the educational system’s role in this evolution.  

Parental involvement in higher education simply refers to a parent(s) presence in their child’s academic career (Bradley-Geist & Olson-Buchanan, 2013).  However, in the new millennium, this relationship became a point of contention between families and college administration.  Much of the literature since the late 1990s has focused on identifying the characteristics of an overinvolved, intrusive parent (Shoup et al., 2009).  Disparaging labels such as helicopter parent, snowplow parent, bulldozer parent, etc. (Levine & Dean, 2012; Peluchette, Kovanic, & Partridge, 2013) have helped to perpetuate the view that parents are an aberrant annoyance to educators and college administrators (Kohn, 2014).  Despite these popular diatribes in the literature, more studies have found that students feel supported when their parents are involved in their college education (Levine & Dean, 2012; Lipka, 2007; Shoup et al., 2009; Smith, 2012) and that parents and families are an extremely important support network for current students (Shoup et al., 2009).

In this article, we will examine some key factors that have created the emergence of the helicopter parent and how post-secondary educators need to better strategize to improve and utilize their relationships with highly involved families.

The Causes of Increased Parental Involvement 

Advisors should begin with developing a broader understanding of why and how family dynamics have changed within post-secondary institutions.  While there are many reasons throughout the literature, there are some overlying systemic realities as to why this type of parent came into being: the soaring costs of college tuition, sociocultural considerations, and the parent/school relationships fostered through primary and secondary education (Fingerman et al., 2012; Levine & Dean, 2012; Shoup et al., 2009).  

Tuition hikes have surpassed national inflation rates and household income, which puts pressure on parents of students to help with the financial burden that comes with a college education.  With the 2008 recession, federal financial aid has been negatively impacted in the way of diminishing aid dollars and restrictive time limitations to complete degree (Zumeta & Hunt, 2012).  The amount of parents taking out loans to help their children fund their college education has increased dramatically (Fingerman et al., 2012; Zumeta & Hunt, 2012), and this growing financial obligation creates a culture of consumerism on campus. Parents feel more inclined to get involved with various issues (housing, advising, instruction, etc.) as they are investing so much into their child’s education and want to be satisfied with their investment (Levine & Dean, 2012).   

Millennials are also recognized for being the most ethnically diverse generation in American history (Howe & Strauss, 2007).  When working with parents and families of students, advisors need to be cognizant of student’s diverse sociocultural backgrounds and how family involvement can be valued differently in determining educational choices.  For example, interdependence versus independence is a common cultural variance that can significantly impact decision-making and educational preferences (McCarron & Inkelas, 2006; Perna, 2000).  Likewise, a family’s socioeconomic status, educational background, and level of acculturation to Western norms also significantly shape student educational aspirations and degree choices (Kim & Schneider, 2005; Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, & Perna, 2008).

One of the more compelling and underlying reasons for high parental involvement is the institutional culture that urges more intensive participation of families with their children’s lives and activities (Howe & Strauss, 2007; Shoup et al, 2009).  Parents are expected to be active in their child’s education from preschool through grades K-12 (Shoup et al., 2009) and can be pressured socially if they are not present at school functions and activities (Kohn, 2014).  Educational literature is proliferated with strategies to increase parental involvement in K-12 settings (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995; Plevyak, 2002; NSBA, 2011) as a means to achieve student success.  However, this training ground for high participatory contributions of the family takes a dramatic shift once the student leaves secondary education.  These same students are now labeled “adult learners” and expected to make independent decisions and actions regarding their educational choices (Evans & Forney, 2010).  In fact, federal policies regarding a student’s privacy are now a barrier to parents who were once given all-access to their child’s educational experience (Shoup et al., 2009).  Families are hardly prepared emotionally or cognitively for this brusque transition, and may continue to assume high participation with university administration, faculty, and staff (Levine & Dean, 2012).  Likewise, few academies are institutionally prepared to re-coach families to shift into a new relational paradigm with the educational system and their student.

Strategies for Advisors

There are many methods an advisor can use to partner with parents and families of students (Menezes, 2005).  Below is a list of some suggestions to get started.

To create positive change within the institution, it is often wise for advisors to reflect on their own personal practice.  Advisors can continue to educate themselves regarding parent and family involvement in higher education.  A booklet that has been helpful in practice is “Academic Advising in the First Year of College: A Guide for Families” (Gordon, Levison, & Kirkner, 2014).  Another approach is to evaluate the service offered at one’s advising office.  Is the office parent-friendly?  Is the staff trained to partner with parents versus turning parents away?  Is there a parent tab on the department website?  Are there advising methods being utilized that include parents and families in the conversation?  A little effort can go a long way.  Even remembering to smile and be patient can make the difference in how an advisor perceives parental involvement and how the students and families of students feel supported.

A suggested way advisors could expand on this and do more at a campus level would be to partner with other offices on campus that work with parents and families of students.  Talk to them about their methods in working with parents and families of students; what has been successful for them?  Have they had any challenges?  As an example, advisors at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa (UHM) have partnered with the Housing Office and New Student Orientation (NSO) to reach out to parents and families of students to create a more inclusive culture.   In the UHM NSO Week of Welcome program, advisors assist in normalizing the adjustment challenges for new students and their families. They address common concerns and provide more clarity to the role of academic advising in student success; educate and provide appropriate family strategies and resources to assist in student engagement and educational decision-making, etc.

To further partner with others, advisors could look at contacting comparable and/or best practice campuses (campuses who have successful parent and family programs, websites, outreach strategies) to see how they are working with parents and families of students.  Advisors can also network within NACADA to connect with other advisors from different institutions on their work with parents and families of students.  Through these conversations, advisors could learn what works for other campuses and reflect on what might be implemented on their home campus.  Another idea is to start working with parents and families at the source.  Advisors could begin to build or strengthen relationships with secondary education institutions and prepare parents and families earlier for the changes that occur when their child enters the academy.   


Feeling support could arguably be the biggest benefit of parent involvement in higher education (Levine & Dean, 2012; Lipka, 2007; Shoup et al., 2009; Smith, 2012).  Perception of support is a factor directly linked to higher graduation and retention rates among college students (Lipka, 2007; Shoup et al., 2009; Smith, 2012), which are significant indicators of an institution’s success (Lipka, 2007; Shoup et al., 2009).  Studies have also shown that students whose parents are involved in their higher education report an overall increase in their level of engagement and self-reported gains (Bradley-Geist  & Olson-Buchanan, 2013; Shoup et al., 2009), and students who have close ties with their family have increased support with their college careers and are ultimately more successful (Lipka, 2007).  Given this information, academic advisors should partner with parents and families of students instead of putting up walls (Gordon, Levison, & Kirkner, 2014).

As student affairs practitioners, it is critical to have an expanded understanding regarding the emergence of highly participatory families in higher education.  There are valid explanations for why parents are flummoxed by the change of culture once their student has entered college, explanations in part created by the educational system itself.  It behooves all those committed to student success to find more inclusive and creative ways to leverage the strengths of family support in cooperative ways. (Levine & Dean, 2012; Peluchette et al., 2013; Shoup et al., 2009).

Alyssa Kapaona
Academic Advisor
Manoa Advising Center
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
[email protected]

Mari Ono
Director of Student Services
Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work
University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
[email protected]


Bradley-Geist, J., & Olson-Buchanan, J. (2013). Helicopter parents: An examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students. Education Training, 56(4), 314-328.

Evans, N. J., & Forney, D. S. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fingerman, K., Cheng, Y., Zarit, S., Furstenberg, F., Wesselmann, E., & Birditt, K. (2012). Helicopter parents and landing pad kids: Intense parental support of grown children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 880-896.

Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Sandler, H. M. (1995). Parental involvement in children's education: Why does it make a difference? Teachers College Record, 97(2), 310-331.

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2007). Millennials go to college: Strategies for a new generation on campus: Recruiting and admissions, campus life, and the classroom (2nd ed.). Great Falls, VA: LifeCourse Associates.

Kim, D. H., & Schneider, B. (2005). Social capital in action: Alignment of parental support in adolescents' transition to postsecondary education. Social Forces, 84(2), 1181-1206.

Kohn, A. (2014). The myth of the spoiled child: Challenging the conventional wisdom about children and parenting. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press.

Levine, A., & Dean, D. (2012). Generation on a tightrope: A portrait of today's college student (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lipka, S. (2007). Helicopter parents help students, survey finds. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(11), A1, A32.

McCarron, G. P., & Inkelas, K. K. (2006). The gap between educational aspirations and first-generation college students and the role of parental involvement. Journal of College Student Development, 47(5), 534-549.

Menezes, M. D. (2005). Advisors and parents: Together building stronger advising relationships. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/ArticleType/articleView/articleId/114/article.aspx

Peluchette, J., Kovanic, N., & Partridge, D. (2013). Helicopter parents hovering in the workplace: What should HR managers do? Business Horizons, 56(5), 601-609.

Perna, L. W. (2000). Differences in the decision to attend college among African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(2), 117.

Rowan-Kenyon, H. T., Bell, A. D., & Perna, L. W. (2008). Contextual influences on parental involvement in college going: Variations by socioeconomic class. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 564-586.

Shoup, R., Gonyea, R., & Kuh, G. (2009). Helicopter parents: Examining the impact of highly involved parents on student engagement and educational outcomes. Paper presented at the 49th Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research.

Smith, L. (2012). Supporting parents in supporting their students: Why including first generation families in the process is important. The Mentor. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2012/01/supporting-parents/

Zumeta, W. M., & Hunt, J. B. (2012). Financing American higher education in the era of globalization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

A Trail Map for the First Year and Beyond

Sarah Kyllo, Oregon State University

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: . . . So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough (Carroll, 1865/2006, p. 75). 

Sarah Kyllo.jpgAs Lewis Carroll wrote in his famous book, Alice in Wonderland, it is possible to arrive somewhere even if a person isn’t quite sure where they want to go, even if it might not be the easiest or best route.  As an advisor for first-year students, a big part of my job is to help students figure out where they want their journey to take them, not only during their first year of college but throughout their lives.  A map is usually a great thing to reference before heading out on a path or trip.  Developing a roadmap for the first year of college is a tool many universities have created as a visual representation of the important transitions, milestones, experiences, knowledge, and skills that students are expected to gain during year one.  The hope is that this roadmap will guide students throughout their college careers so they are prepared when they move on to the next transition.  As I worked last summer on redesigning my college’s roadmap for the first-year students, I began to think of all the milestones that cannot always be plotted out for students on a simple sheet of paper. 

As universities outline the essential learning outcomes for students and begin to place an increasing importance on high-impact experiences, advisors can help incorporate these bigger picture ideas into achievable and realistic goals for a student’s first year of college.  Employers are increasingly looking for employees who are innovative, creative, capable of solving problems (individually and on a team), and strong communicators (Hart Research Associates, 2013).  Many of these skills are learned in a classroom but are also being learned in experiences such as study abroad, internships, service learning, living learning communities, and undergraduate research (Kuh, 2008).  Advisors have the unique challenge of trying to guide students to seek out these opportunities as well as help students understand why these experiences are meaningful to their lives, both now and in the future. 

When I set off to go hiking, I often get to the trailhead and start my trek by first consulting the trail map, first searching for that star that says, “You are here.”  I then look to see how hard it will be to get to the place I want to go: how many miles it is, how high the elevation is, and how many switchbacks and obstacles I will discover.  As an academic advisor, I can see many comparisons for students.  They have to first identify what it really means to be “here,” in college, in a classroom, in a community, and in a larger context of a global world.  They are challenged to begin to understand and question, maybe for the first time, epistemology, what it means to know and how to justify their beliefs and determine their values.  For some, the challenges to get to the end goal prove to be too difficult or maybe just not enjoyable, and they may take a path they didn’t even know existed when they started. 

Motivational interviewing, reflective conversations, and goal setting are skills advisors can use in order to help students’ persist in their pursuit of meaning or purpose even if the student has to find a new trail or path.  The roadmap can then become a tool for during advising appointments to visually show what it might look like to find a fork in the road, reach a roadblock, or have to turn around and re-do a class.  Roadblocks may look like failure to students who have never truly failed before.  Advisors can lead discussions about what it means to have the non-cognitive trait of “grit,” how to learn from mistakes and push beyond them.  According to Angela Duckworth (2015), “Gritty individuals are especially motivated to seek happiness through focused engagement (e.g., the state of flow) and a sense of meaning or purpose, but less motivated than others to pursue happiness through pleasure” (para. 11).  Feelings of mattering and engagement are not identifiable on a map, but are invaluable pieces of the transformative education colleges are hoping to provide students with.  Advisors can prompt reflection through intrusive advising, by asking students to talk about how they have changed, how they see themselves changing, and how they view their education, their community, and the world. 

It is easy in our technology driven world to no longer even read a map and instead rely on cell phones or GPS to guide us.  Students often have a similar experience; they have often been guided by parents or by what they think society expects them to do and have never had to really be the person to guide their own experience.  They often come to advising appointments expecting that same experience, for advisors to lay out the map and tell them exactly how to get to the goal of graduation.  Instead, the role of the advisor is to provide the student with the correct tools to complete their degree and challenge them to explore opportunities.  The goal is to help the student learn how to navigate and be the leader of their own lives and future. 

When students are only focused on the end goal of a graduation or a specific career, it can be difficult to ‘sell’ students on the idea of exploring learning and self-development outside of class and what is required.  Since each student is different, what is meaningful to one student may not be meaningful to another and advisors might need to take different approaches.  For example, in conversations with students, advisors can share stories of other students who may have had unique experiences that led to internships or jobs (such as a study abroad experience).  Social media, such as Twitter or Instagram, could be used to inspire students to challenge themselves to do research or service learning.  The advisor can be a guide to a student’s path and goals, but the student, in the end, has to decide their own geography.  All of the experiences that are offered mean nothing if the student decides not to engage in them. 

Engaging in the experience, however, is only part of the map.  Experiences without reflection are often only an accumulation of events and memories.  They are only highly meaningful or life-changing if students reflect, change, or alter their behavior or world view.  For example, if a student comes back from their first summer internship or a study abroad program and simply goes back into their everyday life, the experience may not truly be a “high-impact” experience.  Advisors can guide students to look back on their experience and help students develop a new roadmap based on their new worldview.  The student who studied abroad may want to add a minor or volunteer; the student who had an internship may want to teach the skills they learned to other students in a campus organization. 

The path students choose to take will have highlights and difficulties, and each student will have a different journey.  Some may get to the goal only to realize there are bigger more challenging mountains to climb.  Advisors can encourage students to enjoy all of the twists, challenges, and to take time to look back, reflect, and continue to move toward the next summit. 

Sarah Kyllo
Academic Advisor
College of Engineering
Office of Student Services
Oregon State University
[email protected]


Carroll, L. (2006). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland & through the looking-glass. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. (Original work published 1865).

Duckworth, A. (2015).  Research statement.  Retrieved from https://sites.sas.upenn.edu/duckworth/pages/research-statement 

Hart Research Associates. (2013). It takes more than a major: Employer priorities for college learning and student success. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/leap/public-opinion-research

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter.  Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges & Universities.

S-PASS: Using Hand-off Communication Strategies for Academic Advising 

Amy L. Carmack, Bay Path University
Heather J. Carmack, James Madison University

Amu Carmack.jpgAmy: It began with an empty folder.  A senior was being transferred to my department and I was his newly assigned advisor.  As the student sat in my office, I asked him to tell me a little more about himself.  With a sigh, he asked, “Didn’t you get my folder?”  Looking at this young man—a student struggling to finish his degree and find his place in his new major—I couldn’t tell him that all I had was an empty folder.  All I had received from his previous department, a place where he had spent the past three years, was his name on a folder with nothing inside.  Instead, I said, “I’d like to hear about you from you.”

Heather Carmack.jpgHeather: It began with an empty folder.  I walked into the faculty mailbox room and found several empty advisee folders in my mailbox.  One of our faculty members had just transferred to an administrative position outside the department, and her advisees were being reassigned.  She thought she was being helpful by putting her student files in our mailboxes.  The problem was that her files were either empty or contained a half-completed General Education worksheet.  As I carried the empty files to my office, I realized I would have to start from scratch in determining the students’ progress toward degree completion.

Thus began the quest to bridge the way students and their information are handed off between departments and advisors.

The Importance of Transitions in Academic Advising

One of the reasons for dissatisfaction may be in the transition and hand-off process of students between faculty and departmental advisors.  Depending on the academic advising structure on a given campus, students may begin their collegiate experience in an academic advisement center and be paired with a faculty member in their declared department in their junior or senior years.  Some institutions position students within departments, with faculty advisors, at the start of their freshman year in an effort to foster collaboration with students, faculty, and departments.  Habley (2003, 2004) found that faculty can be responsible for 75% to 90% of academic advising for a student during their time in higher education, and “research has shown a clear relationship between student interaction with faculty advisors and retention” (King & Kerr, 2005, p. 320).

However, as students change majors multiple times during their academic tenure and change advisors or have multiple advisors within an institution, the shuffle of students and their files may cause havoc on their academic progress, their connection to the institution, and overall satisfaction.  While we know there is no advising model that works for all students and institutions, there are some communication strategies advisors can employ to ensure a shared mental model about students, student issues, and good advising processes.  One proven method is hand-off communication.

Crew Resource Management and Hand-off Communication

Crew resource management (CRM) was created by the Department of the Navy and was co-opted by both the airline industry and healthcare.  CRM focuses on communication, collaborative decision-making, teamwork, leadership, and interpersonal relationships (Hohenhaus, Powell, & Hohenhaus, 2006).  One of the strategies employed in CRM is SBAR hand-off (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation), which creates a shared mental model for communication interactions (Haig, Sutton, & Whittington, 2006).  A proven communication strategy, SBAR provides a framework for clear and concise communication while using a consistent format between team members (Carmack, 2006; Carroll, 2006; Dunn et al., 2007; Falzetta, Carmack, Robinson, Murphy, & Dunn 2007).  Amato et al. (2008) found that SBAR communication is good in situations that see rapid turnover, increased volume, an increased need for efficiency, a focus on satisfaction, and accelerated throughput—all of which exist in academic advising and higher education.  More important, SBAR communication can foster collaboration and teamwork (Beckett & Kipnis, 2009), which is necessary for the future of academic advising between faculty and advisors.

S-PASS: The Advising Hand-off Tool

Inspired by SBAR, S-PASS addresses a need to improve the transfer of students and their information between advisors, departments, and majors.  S-PASS utilizes a student-centered communication approach and while the tool is standardized, the information about students is not.  The tool can be modified to fit any advisor’s needs, work for both electronic and hard copy record systems, and facilitates the accurate and complete transfer of student information.  It allows advisors to work together to provide a strong service to students and can ensure that pertinent information does not fall through the cracks as the student joins and acclimates to a new major and department.

S-PASS is comprised of five communicative elements: Student identification, Purpose of transfer, Assessment of student, Situational background, and Support.

Student Identification.  The first element, student identification, includes basic academic information about the student that any advisor or department should know, including the student’s name, what major they are transferring from and where they are transferring to, the catalog year, and any minors, certifications, or concentrations the student is pursuing.  We also recommend including the classification of the student (i.e., freshman, sophomore, etc.) and his or her academic standing at time of transfer (i.e., good standing, academic warning, etc.).  While unassuming in nature, this information can help a new advisor start to develop a working plan of degree completion.

Purpose of Transfer.  The second element of S-PASS answers the looming question of why the student is transferring.  This is key information that can, and often does, get lost in the shuffle.  Is the student transferring because they do not have the requisite GPA for their initial major?  Have they decided to pursue a specific career, like medicine, and understand that a biology major can help them learn more relevant skills than history?  Has the student actually spoken with anyone about the transfer?  Finally, has an audit been prepared for the student in an effort to show what the transfer would mean for their overall academic plan?  The information in this element will help form a mental model of what is needed to assist the student in a successful transition.

Assessment.  The third element allows advisors to share professional assessments of students and their needs.  Advisors share brief synopses of their advising interactions, the outcomes of those interactions, and what follow-up, if any, is required.  In this section, the advisor can provide professional assessment on what impacts this transfer might have on a student’s development.  It is also an opportunity for advisors to share identified strengths and areas for improvement.

Situational Background.  The situation background element focuses on student-identified short and long term goals.  While these goals may change throughout their tenure at an institution, it is important information to share as it can assist an advisor in helping a student stay on track.  Moreover, this element identifies some additional background demographics that can foster student development and any at-risk, early alert strategies.

Support.  The final element addresses one of the most significant, but overlooked, factors in student success: support.  Through targeted conversations, advisors can help students identify their support systems, what is missing in those systems, and what is important to them in those systems.  It is also an opportunity to help students identify organizations, student activities, and events on campus to explore in order to help bolster those support systems.


Advisors have always been change agents within the higher education systems.  Creating tools, such as S-PASS, addresses the larger connection to NACADA core values, professional development, and partnerships between academic and student affairs because it answers a larger student development question: how can we as advisors improve our practice in order to improve the student experience?  It is by constantly asking these questions and not settling for empty folders that advisors will help students and institutions continue to thrive.

Amy L. Carmack, M.A., M.S.
Eastern Massachusetts Campus
Bay Path University
[email protected]

Heather J. Carmack, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Communication Studies
James Madison University
[email protected]


Amato-Vealey, E. J., Barba, M. P., & Vealey, R. J. (2008). Hand-off communication: A requisite for perioperative patient safety. AORN, 88(5), 763-774.

Beckett, C. D., & Kipnis, G. (2009). Collaborative communication: Integrating SBAR to improve quality/patient safety outcomes. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 31(5), 19-28.

Carmack, A. (2006, September/October). Communication matters: Part II – Provider-to-provider communication. Topics in Patient Safety, 6(5), 3.

Carroll, T. L. (2006). SBAR and nurse-physician communication: Pilot testing an education intervention. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 30(3), 295-299.

Dunn, E., Mills, P., Neily, J., Crittenden, M., Carmack, A., & Bagian, J. (2007, June). Medical Team Training: Applying crew resource management in the Veterans Health Administration. Joint Commission on Quality and Safety, 33(6), 317-325.

Falzetta, L., Carmack, A., Robinson, L., Murphy, J., & Dunn, E. (2007, September/October). Improving communication in healthcare. Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare, 4(5), 18-20.

Habley, W. R. (2003). Faculty advising: Practice and promise. In G. L. Kramer (Ed.), Faculty advising examined: Enhancing the potential of college faculty as advisors (pp. 23-39). Boston, MA: Anker.

Habley, W. R. (Ed.). (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey (Monograph No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Haig, K. M., Sutton, S., & Whittington, J. (2006). SBAR: A shared mental model for improving communication between clinicians. Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, 32(3), 167-175.

Hohenhaus, S., Powell, S., & Hohenhaus, J. T. (2006). Enhancing patient safety during hand-offs. American Journal of Nursing, 106(8), 72A-72C.

King, M., & Kerr, T. (2005). Academic advising. In M. L. Upcraft, J. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college (pp. 320-338). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Vantage Point banner.jpgIntentional Programming and Advising for Veteran Students 

John Rans, Drexel University

John Rans.jpgFrom 2000 to 2012, nearly one million veterans and military service members obtained educational benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  As of last year, veteran undergraduates comprise approximately 4% of the national student body, and this enrollment is expected to grow as service men and women return home from Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming years ("Veterans and College," 2014).  An increase this large of veteran students transitioning to campus has not been seen since World War II (Whiteman, Barry, Mroczek & MacDermid Wadsworth, 2013).  Mirroring national trends, the number of veteran students and veteran dependents has become more apparent within advisee caseloads.  My experience working with and advising adult learners has been helpful in assisting student service members because they are not typical first-year freshman.  They come to our university with rich life experiences, some being unique to the military.  These students often bring great leadership skills that can benefit any campus community. 

As a result of growth in the number of veteran students, my institution, Drexel University, has increased programming and practitioner training in working with this particular population over the past few years to ensure these students are being adequately served.  This past year, Drexel created the Military Transition Program (MTP), which is meant for students not accepted directly into their program of choice.  This program enables these students two terms, in alignment with Yellow Ribbon standards, to achieve the necessary academic requirements to matriculate into their degree program of choice.  While student veterans typically have an idea about which specific major they want to pursue, personal and academic issues may arise.  These issues widely range from realizing the pursuit of the originally intended major is not a great fit to coping with mental health issues.  Over the past year, my unit has increasingly worked with veteran advisees, and this article is meant to share experiences working with this population and some successes of the MTP in hopes that it will resound and assist other advisors.  The following are some of the personal lessons I have learned regarding this uniquely resilient population.

There is no standard veteran student.  Like civilian students, veteran students possess a vast array of backgrounds, identities, and experiences.  This diversity has significant value to add to the campus climate.  Radford and Wun (2009) illustrate this with demographic statistics from a national study on the profile of military service members and veterans completed by the National Center for Educational Statistics.  With respect to the diversity of age, 15% of military undergraduates are 19-23, 31% are 24-29, 28% are 30-39, and 25% are 40 or older.  Regardless of background, every student should be treated and advised as an individual, especially in regards to their academic abilities.  These students also require individualized care.  I intentionally reach out during important times through the term to foster our relationship while noting their progress in transitioning to university culture, major selection, and overall academic success. 

Academia can be lonely.  Just as any life change warrants some type of transition, coming to college, particularly while being new to civilian life, can take some adjustment.  Many students come from regimented schedules and lives to the ever changing world of higher education.  In addition, the change from being part of a team of comrades to spending hours studying alone can be quite difficult.  I vividly remember having one veteran advisee explain to me that he was unsure where appropriate places to eat lunch were since he was accustomed to having one designated area.  This loss of friends, structure, and identity is coupled with learning to navigate a new social system that “has no clear chain of command, and is filled with many students and faculty who can’t even imagine the student veterans’ experiences” (Lighthall, 2012).  This all adds to an experience that can be alienating without support services and compassionate practitioners.   

Advising proactively.  Military culture typically offers clear instruction and direction, which opposes the laissez faire atmosphere of a college campus.  Utilizing strategic interventions with these students is often needed to ensure they stay engaged with the campus.  Morse and Molina (2015) express the importance of intentionally connecting veterans to campus resources, “The U.S. Department of Education’s Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study data show that many student veterans (44 percent) report never meeting with faculty or an academic advisor outside of class—networks that help build positive connections to campus support systems” (p. 22).  In the MTP, a one credit transition course is offered to bring veteran students together, help them determine their academic goals, and ensure that students know where resources are on campus.  Academic advisors, faculty, and other stakeholders visit the students during this course to offer support in their transition to college life. 

Defeating Stereotypes.  The reintegration experience for every student veteran can be different, yet one experience often noted is a disconnect in life experience between traditional students and veteran students.  These life experiences can often lead to stereotypes that keep veterans from feeling fully welcomed and engaged with the institution.  A great deal of these stereotypes range from political beliefs and ideology to mental health issues.  In an article on student veterans reintegrating into campus life, one veteran student from the University of Texas shared that he believed “veterans are often portrayed as broken people who struggle in civilian life” (Ayala & Strain, 2014, para. 23).  I have heard several advisees share that their peers will ask inappropriate questions about their time in service or that faculty members suffer from a lack of understanding when they are part of the larger class discussions, which is the result of a lack of education about this population.  As a result, our Office of Veteran Student Services created a pamphlet aimed at educating the larger community on this growing student population. 

Point of Contact.  Last, as academic advisors, we are expected to know the plethora of resources offered on our campuses.  These relationships are very critical for this population.  Over the past year, I have established collaborative partnerships with other colleagues on campus who also work with veterans so I have a support network when a situation arises that I do not know how to handle.  Having points of contact across campus has been very helpful;  here are some of the areas I commonly collaborate with to best serve student veterans: admissions, financial aid, counseling services, disability services, tutoring or academic coaching, faculty, and advisors or directors from other programs.  Having this arsenal of contacts has been invaluable as I learn more about student vets and learn new programs that these students are interested in matriculating into.     

The comradery I have experienced with my veteran advisees has been very inspiring and reminded me of the power of teamwork and collaboration, which is easy to forget yet vital to the future of higher education.  It is important that institutions challenge themselves as to how their campuses are dealing with military student populations.  The MTP is only in its first year, and on the advising side, I have learned a great deal about this population.  On an individual note, I have heard powerful personal stories from these students that will stay with me for life.  Seeing the first few cohorts of this program has taught me the importance of intentional programming designed with specific student populations in mind.  The utilization of this program in conjunction with proactive advising has been very effective thus far.  I am eager to continue to work with this population and see the related programming, as well as my knowledge and skills, continue to develop.     

John Rans
Senior Academic Advisor
Goodwin College of Professional Studies
Drexel University
[email protected]


Ayala, C., & Strain, Z. (2013, November 24). Student veterans face challenges when reintegrating into campus life. The Daily Texan. Retrieved from http://www.dailytexanonline.com/news/2013/11/24/student-veterans-face-challenges-when-reintegrating-into-campus-life

Lighthall, A. (2012). Ten things you should know about today’s student veteran. The NEA Higher Education Journal, 80-89. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/53407.htm

Morse, A., & Molina, D. (2015). Military-Connected undergraduates: Exploring differences between National Guard, Reserve, Active Duty, and Veterans in higher education. Washington, DC: American Council on Education and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/Military-Connected-Undergraduates.pdf

Radford, W. W. & Wun, J. (April, 2009). A profile of military Service Members and Veterans enrolled in postsecondary education in 2007-2008. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Whiteman, S. D., Barry, A. E., Mroczek, D. K., & MacDermid Wadsworth, S. (2013). The development and implications of peer emotional support for student service members/veterans and civilian college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology60(2), 265-278. doi: 10.1037/a0031650

Veterans and college. (2014).  Retrieved from National Conference of State Legislatures website: http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/veterans-and-college.aspx

Suggestions for Starting a Departmental Faculty Mentoring Program: Benefits, Barriers, and Advisors’ Role

Leisa McCormick and Yung-Hwa Anna Chow, Washington State University

Anna Chow and Leisa McCormick.jpgThe relationship between faculty and students is an important one.  Research has shown that when there is a lack of connection between the student and his/her professors, the student often feels disengaged, disconnected, and unmotivated.  In contrast, evidence suggests that those “students who are mentored are better at problem solving, decision making, goal setting, making an effective transition to college and, overall, they are happier with their education experience” (Long, Fish, Kuhn, & Sowders, 2010, para. 7).  Additionally, research has shown that retention rates have increased when there is a greater connection between students and faculty.  However, in many institutions the relationship between students and faculty has been increasingly limited to the classroom.  The lack of mentoring in our current institutions demonstrates that academic advisors have a critical role in facilitating a productive mentoring relationship between students and faculty.

Holba (2012) shares that definitions of mentoring vary in the fields of the humanities, sciences, and professional degrees and disciplines.  Mentoring can be formal or informal, one-on-one or in a group setting, and the length of time in a mentoring partnership also varies.  In addition, mentoring also occurs with specific student populations, such as women, minorities, first generation, and “at risk” students.  These inconsistencies can be confusing for freshman students that are still learning to navigate the university.  For universities that are seeking ways to improve their retention of first and second year students, eliminating confusion is critical to helping students feel a part of the system and not outside of it.  Advisors can serve as a solution to this issue. 

To address current limitations on faculty advising, this article provides examples of mentoring, examines some of the issues that hinder faculty mentoring, and provides suggestions for how advisors can promote the faculty/student relationship.

Issues Preventing Faculty Mentoring

Campbell and Campbell’s (1997) study shows that if a student can meet regularly with a faculty mentor, the student will be more engaged and confident.  This often translates to having better grades, higher retention rates, and more students graduating in fewer semesters.  The study further emphasized that the “greatest programmatic impact on GPA [occurred] in the first semester” (p. 733).  With all of these positive outcomes, we need to ask: why aren’t more universities requiring faculty mentoring? 

Long, Fish, Kuhn, and Sowders (2010) discuss the challenges of university-wide mentoring, noting that undergraduate mentoring is difficult because there is little incentive for the faculty member to pursue a mentoring relationship.  Tenure track faculty have significant responsibilities such as teaching, research, and service to the university that impact their tenure and promotion process.  Beyond the intrinsic reward that faculty receive from working with one another on a more personal basis, mentoring does not lead to promotion.  Universities often have no mechanisms in place that formally recognize and reward faculty mentoring.   

Implementing a university-wide mentoring program is quite complicated.  Consistency across departments is almost impossible to achieve.  Most departments exist fairly independently of each other, so systems for assigning mentors can differ dramatically from department to department, making a standardized university-wide policy on advising difficult to implement. 

Suggestions for Promoting a Faculty/Student Mentoring Relationship

Advisors play a critical role in the faculty/student relationship.  Below are various suggestions that advisors can implement within their own departments to initiate or further strengthen an existing mentoring program.

Approaches to Identifying the Right Faculty Mentor.  One fairly simple approach to pairing students with the correct faculty member is to have the students self-select a faculty member. This approach appeals to those students that are fairly committed to seeking a relationship with their teacher, but it doesn’t work as well for those students that lack the self- confidence to make a connection with their teacher and then take the additional step to pursue a relationship with her/him.  Self-selection has a downside as students frequently are drawn to similar faculty members.  Without some administrative approach that can equally distribute the mentor workload, certain faculty members can find themselves with a number of mentees while their less approachable colleagues have none. 

One possible solution is for advisors to guide students to an appropriate mentor by asking some exploring questions.  Schwartz (2008) suggests asking questions regarding the academic disciplines they plan to pursue, the role they anticipate their mentor having in their lives, and how their temperament may affect their ability to receive criticism.  With the help of an advisor who is familiar with faculty members of a department, pairing students with the right mentor can lead to a successful and productive partnership. 

Educating Students about Advising and Mentoring.  Krush and Winn (2010) made several suggestions on how faculty and advisors can collaborate on the faculty/student mentoring relationship.  One suggestion is for faculty and advisors to become actively involved in first-year introductory courses.  Departments that offer first-year introductory courses have a platform to educate incoming students about academic advising and faculty mentoring.  Not only can students learn about their major curriculum, advising, and strategies for academic success, introductory courses can also teach students about professional development, career options, and the role of faculty mentoring.  Faculty members who are teaching first year classes can offer guest-lectures in these introductory courses to share their personal journey, research, and discuss their mentoring goals. 

Departments that do not offer introductory courses can take advantage of creating an advising syllabus that supports and facilitates faculty mentoring.  The advising syllabus should educate students about departmental missions, learning outcomes, university resources, major requirements, and outline the student’s and the advisor’s responsibilities in this partnership.  Faculty mentoring becomes another important part of the syllabus that advisors can review with students.  Information such as the goal of faculty mentoring, each faculty’s research background, and their experiences and highlights with previous student mentees should be included and discussed with incoming students.  Advisors can facilitate the student-faculty relationship by helping their student select a faculty mentor then connecting both parties with an email introduction or simply walking the student to the faculty member’s office for a face-to-face introduction.  Taking this extra step to formally connect students with their faculty mentor will help students feel less intimidated about approaching a faculty member. 

Assisting Faculty and Students in Making Mentoring Productive.  Duberstein (2009) suggests that advisors can facilitate the faculty-student relationship by encouraging students to talk to their professors.  This first meeting is more meaningful if advisors help the student prepare for this conversation: “Not only should students be encouraged to ask faculty for general scholastic advice, but they also should learn how faculty became invested in their particular field of expertise.  These conversations can also be helpful to students who believe they have solidified their academic interests, as role modeling, references, and research opportunities can arise from these relationships” (Duberstein, 2009, para. 6).  Advisors can also prepare a list of suggested questions for the student to ask her/his faculty mentor to initiate a productive relationship.  Questions such as “What advice do you have for a student who’s seeking a career in this field? How did you become interested in your field? What aspects of this field do you find most rewarding? How should I study to best prepare for classes? How might your research impact everyday life?” (UC Riverside, n.d., para. 5). 

To create more beneficial mentorships between students and faculty, advisors can communicate with faculty mentors and be aware of opportunities for students.  Advisors can attend departmental meetings to provide advising updates such as students’ plans toward graduation, upcoming university deadlines, or new resources that faculty can utilize when working with students.  Advisors can also learn about departmental opportunities such as faculty-led study abroad programs, undergraduate research, independent studies, and teaching or research assistantships that will connect students to faculty mentoring.  Open communication and collaboration about student success will highlight the efforts that advisors and faculty are all making toward the common goal of student success.


Despite having so many definitions and various methods and forms of mentoring, research suggests that when mentorship does occur between faculty and students, the “mentoring relationships are personal and reciprocal” (Crisp and Cruz, 2009, p. 528).  Advisors play a critical role in talking to students about the importance of faculty mentoring, identifying the right mentor, and working with faculty mentors to foster a productive relationship.  With the mutual goals of student success and retention, faculty, advisors, and other stakeholders must work together to provide the best educational experiences for all students. 

Leisa McCormick
Academic Coordinator
Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences
Washington State University
[email protected]

Yung-Hwa Anna Chow
Assistant Director
General Studies and Advising Center
College of Arts and Sciences
Washington State University
[email protected]


Campbell, T. A., & Campbell, D. E. (1997). Faculty/student mentor program: Effects on academic performance and retention. Research in Higher Education, 38(6), 727-742. doi:10.1023/A:1024911904627

Crisp, G. & Cruz, I. (2009). Mentoring college students: A critical review of the literature between 1990 and 2007. Research in Higher Education, 50(6), 525-545. doi: 10.1007/s11162-009-9130-2

Duberstein, A. (2009, March). Building student-faculty relationships. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Building-Student-Faculty-Relationships.aspx

Holba, A. M. (2012, November). From advising to mentoring: Shifting the metaphor. The Mentor. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2012/11/advising-to-mentoring-shifting-metaphor/

Krush, J. M. & Winn, S. (2010, December). Professional advisors and faculty advisors: A shared goal of student success. Academic Advising Today, 33(4).  Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Professional-Advisors-and-Faculty-Advisors-A-Shared-Goal-of-Student-Success.aspx

Long, E. C. J., Fish, J., Kuhn, L. & Sowders, J. (2010). Mentoring undergraduates: Professors strategically guiding the next generation of professionals. Michigan Family Review, 14(1), Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/mfr/4919087.0014.104/--mentoring-undergraduates-professors-strategically-guiding?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Schwartz, M. (2008, December). Matching mentors for high achieving students.  Academic Advising Today, 31(4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Matching-Mentors-for-High-Achieving-Students.aspx

UC Riverside. (n.d.). Bourns College of Engineering Faculty Mentoring Program. Retrieved from http://student.engr.ucr.edu/people/facultymentors.html


Advising Strategies for Graduate Student Degree Progression 

Jennifer Bloom, Florida Atlantic University
Helen Mulhern Halasz, University of South Carolina
Rebecca Hapes, Texas A&M University

Jennifer Bloom.jpgThe Council of Graduate Schools reported a small but steady increase in total graduate student enrollment from 2003 to 2013 (Allum, 2014), sustaining the need for faculty and professional staff advisors to effectively advise graduate students. Graduate program faculty and staff advisors are an integral part of student success at the master’s and doctoral levels.  Research about graduate student advisors indicates students have clarity about desirable and undesirable advisor characteristics (Bloom, Cuevas, Hall, & Evans, 2007).  In addition, research has found that advisor behavior influences student satisfaction (Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2007).  While much of the recent research has explored student perceptions about graduate advisors, Rebecca Hapes.jpginquiry about factors influencing degree progression and completion is lacking.  The purpose of this article is to provide graduate student advisors with three specific strategies for positively influencing graduate students’ progress towards graduation: setting clear expectations, having periodic progress meetings with students, and serving as advocates for students.

Clear Expectations

Helen Mulhern Halasz.jpgThere are a variety of ways in which expectations can be communicated to graduate students to help clarify roles and responsibilities.  Student handbooks delineating academic policies and procedures are often disseminated at the college level and serve as a complementary resource to institutional resources.  At the academic program level, graduate programs can and should outline programmatic and professional expectations during their new graduate student orientations.  A comprehensive orientation enables students to begin their graduate programs with a clear understanding of the program and faculty expectations. 

Additionally, going through a mutual expectations exercise gives students the opportunity to break into small groups of 2-3 to brainstorm what their expectations are for the program, program director, academic advisor, and each other.  After sharing with the rest of the group at Orientation, the results should be compiled and distributed to all attendees. Similarly, graduate program directors and advisors need to clearly share their expectations for students on an ongoing basis.  Both student and administrative expectations can be documented and shared with all participants either digitally or during a follow-up in-person meeting to ensure that the information was accurately captured.

Regular Progress Meetings with Students

Meeting with students once a semester or on an annual basis to discuss academic progress and research milestones is a key way to track student progress and to identify problems and issues early in the process.  These meetings can be hosted by the student’s graduate advisor, program coordinator, academic advisor, or thesis/dissertation committee.  The purpose of the meeting is to allow students an opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments, challenges, and goals for the upcoming term.  It is a good idea to document topics covered in the meeting and to share minutes of the meeting with all attendees for tracking purposes and future reflection.  

Many graduate programs require students to submit an annual report detailing academic progress and experiential education opportunities. A helpful tool for students to document and plan their annual research and related professional activities is an IDP - Individual Development Plan (Fuhrmann, Hobin, Lindstaedt, & Clifford, 2015). The IDP, developed by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and used by graduate students who receive funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is available at https://myidp.sciencecareers.org/.  The IDP also provides structure for students and advisors to discuss career aspirations and strategies to achieve student goals. The University of Wisconsin also has a helpful IDP template available at http://grad.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2014/08/UWIDP.pdf.  For disciplines other than science, program directors and academic advisors can adapt the Individual Development Plan to highlight priorities specific to their graduate degree programs. 

Advisors as Student Advocates

Sometimes graduate students do not feel that they have a safe place to share their concerns about their progress, program, instructors, and/or advisors.  Therefore, programs may want to establish a safe place for students to get advice on how to advocate for themselves with their graduate advisor and to share resources and strategies to deal with issues that arise.

Graduate students may be considered by many as non-traditional students, adult learners, and individuals embarking on their professional journey.  For these reasons, it is easy to forget that graduate students may be reluctant to share their concerns.  Academic advisors need to be available to assist students as they consider their options for handling difficult situations.  Many conflicts between graduate students and faculty are rooted in unclear communication, so it is important for academic advisors to be skilled in coaching graduate students on when and how to approach instructors and committee members in a constructive manner.

Graduate student advisors play an important role in the academic lives of graduate students. Three strategies for enhancing the experiences of graduate students have been described: setting clear expectations, meeting with students, and serving as student advocates.  Employing these three strategies will help graduate students make the most of their graduate school experience and facilitate  progress toward completion of their graduate degrees.

Jennifer Bloom, Ed.D.
Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Higher Education Leadership Master’s Degree Program
Department of Educational Leadership & Research Methodology
Florida Atlantic University
[email protected]

Helen Mulhern Halasz, Ph.D.
Academic Advisor & Student Services Coordinator
Graduate Programs, College of Nursing
University of South Carolina
[email protected]

Rebecca Hapes, M.S.
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University
[email protected]


Allum, J. (2014). Graduate enrollment and degrees: 2003 to 2013. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools.

Bloom, J. L., Cuevas, A. E. P., Hall, J. W., & Evans, C. V. (2007). Graduate students’ perceptions of outstanding graduate advisor characteristics. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 28-35. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-27.2.28

Fuhrmann, C. N., Hobin, J. A., Lindstaedt, B., & Clifford, P. S. (2015, Sept 14).  My IDP- Individual development plan. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/

Zhao, C. M., Golde, C. M. & McCormick, A. C. (2007). More than a signature: How advisor choice and advisor behaviour affect doctoral student satisfaction. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(3), 263-281.

Examining REEI Networks: How REEI is Creating Community for its Graduate Students 

Emily Liverman, Indiana University Bloomington

Emily Liverman.jpgIt is an accepted concept that student engagement and their sense of belonging to a campus or departmental community is a factor in student success, as measured by metrics like graduation rates, time-to-graduation, and satisfaction with the program.  However, as Pontius and Harper (2006) point out, it is a concept that has been rigorously studied and implemented almost exclusively at the undergraduate level.  Graduate students have not received the same emphasis on engagement and community during their college experience.  Golde (2000) points out that for doctoral students, the academic department rather than the campus as a whole is the relevant community wherein engagement matters.  Kern-Bowen and Gardner (2010) also note that engagement improves graduate student retention rates and future alumni relationships.

In 2013, the Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at Indiana University Bloomington (IU) took steps to intentionally create a sense of community and increase the opportunities for graduate student engagement.  As an academic program, REEI offers a Master of Arts degree as well as undergraduate and PhD minors.  The MA is a highly flexible and customizable interdisciplinary area studies degree and is offered alongside eight additional dual degree plans with professional schools.  It attracts a wide variety of students: from those who are attending straight out of their undergraduate institution, to those who are returning to school with professional experience, to those who are being sent by their employer to obtain this specialized degree.  The average incoming class is eight to ten students, so there is an average of 20–30 students on campus, actively taking classes, in any given semester.

The customizable degree plan includes only two, 3-credit hour classes that are required: an introductory Pro-Seminar (taken in a student’s first fall semester in the program) and a Capstone Colloquium (taken in a student’s final spring semester in the program).  This means that even REEI students who enter the program together have a maximum of two guaranteed curricular touchpoints where they can connect with their peers, share research, and network with each other.  

REEI has a number of students pursuing dual degree programs, which extend their time to degree and mean that these students take their Capstone Colloquium after the peers with whom they entered the program have graduated. Because of this, it is entirely possible that some students will not see the same REEI colleagues in more than one class during their career at IU. This reality can leave students feeling disconnected from REEI, from each other, and from REEI’s and IU’s resources.  At the end of the Spring 2013 semester, a new student approached the director with these concerns on behalf of her incoming class.  This lead to an evaluation of what REEI was doing and could be doing to engage students.

REEI already had a fulltime, professional academic advisor/assistant director for student services (AD) who handled student services, as well as academic and career advising.  REEI also had several targeted listservs available for graduate students and would freely utilize them to advertise calls for papers, funding opportunities, events, and other items of interest.  At that time, REEI had recently implemented a system to collect announcements relevant to Masters-level students and distribute them in a daily email called “REEI Daily Announcements.”

In direct response to the students’ concerns, REEI worked to implement and improve best practices, like encouraging student-faculty contact (Chickering & Gamson, 1987) and providing meaningful connections and orientations beyond the unit (Pontius & Harper, 2006) through a peer and faculty mentor system and a new event series.  For the mentor systems, over the summer the AD paired incoming students with current students and faculty based on their respective disciplinary and geographic interests.  The mentors would email or meet with the incoming student to introduce themselves and the unit.  The peer mentors could speak to student-specific issues and answer questions candidly while the faculty mentors gave the faculty-perspectives on issues, as well as offering the incoming students an ‘automatic’ faculty friend.  Both of these mentor relationships helped to support students and communicate expectations to them clearly, through a variety of means.

The expectation for mentors is that they will interact with the incoming students in their first semester at IU.  Beyond that, it is up to the now-second-semester students to maintain the relationships or not.  Even if the assigned faculty or peer mentor is not the best fit for a first-year student, this program grants first-year students the initial connection and permission to interact with more advanced students and with faculty as colleagues.  This is a valuable step for graduate students as they begin their academic and professional careers.

The new event series is REEI Networks!, which has a target audience of area-studies Master-level students.  REEI uses this series to give students several touchpoints during the semester where they can come together with their peers to relate academic, funding, and career opportunities.  Each event features an informal networking and lunch/breakfast period followed by a presentation and finishes with an opportunity for questions and additional networking.

Since one of the areas of concern was that students felt disconnected from REEI’s and IU’s resources, REEI Networks! works to highlight these opportunities by inviting student speakers to share their experiences, calling on other units to present their offerings, and inviting alumni to speak about their time at IU and their career arc.  Sessions have included summer opportunities and funding, an interview workshop with the Career Development Center, a funding workshop with the GradGrants Center, alumni speakers, and an MA essay preparation session.

Overall, REEI Networks! can be called a success, measured by the favorable evaluations that students have completed of the program, anecdotal evidence, and student connections made.  Students share when a session has been particularly enjoyable or helpful: in the most recent Capstone Colloquium, students who had attended the “Crash Course: Prepping your MA Essay” session spoke at length about how helpful it had been.  There are also examples of two students, who entered at different times and had no opportunity for course overlap, meeting at an event and making a new connection.  By far, the events students are most likely to attend and report as being the most useful are ones where current students and alumni speak about their experiences at the university, in their career, and in the field.

The events that students are least likely to attend and report as being the least useful are ones without specific titles or where the information is too general.  For example, one session was titled “Counseling and Psychological Services” and the presenter was going to speak about topics like adjusting to graduate school and imposter syndrome.  No one showed up.  This reflects that graduate students have to be utilitarian in their choice of activities due to the various claims on their time (Kern-Bowen & Gardner, 2010).  They simply were not going to attend an event that was not explicitly useful to them.  After working with the speaker to adjust naming and advertising, it was rebranded as “Starting the semester off right,” and attendance grew.  Student feedback still reflected that this topic was not popular due to its perceived lack of connection to the area.

REEI’s small student population; dedicated staff members, including a fulltime academic advisor/assistant director for student services; actively affiliated faculty; and a rich set of campus resources are all contributing factors to REEI Networks!’s success at enhancing engagement and creating community amongst its graduate students.  During the Spring 2015 semester, a larger percentage of students taking REEI’s capstone class successfully defended their MA essay and graduated on-time than had the previous two years.  This correlates with the creation and use of REEI Networks! for engagement and community building and to the “Crash course: Prepping your MA essay” session.

As research points out, student engagement and retention rates, as well as positive alumni relationships, correlate (Kern-Bowen & Gardner, 2010).  By offering graduate students multiple touchpoints and venues of connection, their rates of engagement, retention, and successful graduation are likely to increase (Manning, Kinzie, & Schuh, 2006).  While REEI Networks! and the mentor program are still works-in-progress, aiming to adjust to student need, they are useful models for graduate student engagement and community building.  Together, offering complementary strategies to keep graduate students both engaged and informed, they are examples of what units and departments can do to help support and involve their graduate students.

Emily Liverman
Academic Advisor/Assistant Director for Student Services
Russian and East European Institute
Indiana University Bloomington
[email protected]


Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7). 3-7.

Golde, C. M. (2000). Should I stay or should I go? Student descriptions of the doctoral attrition process. The Review of Higher Education 23(2). 199-227. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/review_of_higher_education/v023/23.2golde.html

Kern-Bowen, J., & Gardner, R. (2010). Creating campus community for graduate students through programs, services, and facilities. The Bulletin, 78(2). Retrieved from https://www.acui.org/Publications/The_Bulletin/2010/2010-03/12132/ 

Manning, K., Kinzie, J., & Schuh, J. (2006). One size does not fit all. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pontius, J. L., & Harper, S. R. (2006). Principles for good practice in graduate and professional student engagement.  New Directions for Student Services, 115, 47-58. Retrieved from http://www.abdn.ac.uk/cref/uploads/files/CRSEG%20026%20Pontius.Harper%20Graduate%20Engagement.pdf

NACADA Summer Institute: Growth Thinking, Motivating Self and Students through Advising 

Allison Morgan, 2015 Wesley R Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

Allison Morgan.jpgNot long after starting my professional career in academic advising, I learned of the NACADA Summer Institute in Colorado Springs, and I was excited at the opportunity for professional development and networking with inspirational leaders in the industry.  My educational background is in business and organizational leadership, so the opportunity to learn specifically about the advising field was a great way to expand my knowledge and job skills.  I was grateful to learn that I was selected as a scholarship recipient for the NACADA Summer Institute, which I attended in 2015.  This article summarizes the highlights of my experience, and I hope it inspires others to participate in NACADA events.

The Summer Institute offered several topical sessions designed to teach new strategies for student advising.  I was most inspired by the topical session Proactive Strategies for Working with Probationary Students, presented by NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt.  The presentation brought to light the idea of redesigning our thinking to what we as the college/university could do differently to better assist students with academic difficulties, rather than thinking what the student needs to do differently.  In essence, this means adopting a “growth” mindset as opposed to the traditional “fixed” mindset.  The goal is to not view the situation as a problem related to the student, but instead to look at what the university or college is doing to impact these students.  Are we providing the right resources and in a manner that is helping or hindering?  Advising needs to be intentional: teach students how to seek out support, make decisions effectively to direct them toward the right activities, and maneuver within the higher education setting.  In order to retain students, colleges and universities need to analyze the student experience and educational activities, including programming that focuses on probationary or academic warning students.  One size does not fit all, and probationary programs need to meet the needs of the students.

The Summer Institute also offered structured work group sessions with small groups, organized by our home institution type and size.  The work groups reemphasized the information presented in the workshops and topical sessions by providing real-world scenarios and opportunities for information sharing, which was extremely helpful.  Within our small groups, we reviewed and analyzed the information presented each day and how this information could be applied to our own college/university goals.  I had the honor of working with NACADA Associate Director Jennifer Joslin as my small group leader, and with her assistance I was able to utilize the various concepts brought forth in the conference and reevaluate our institutional goals for probationary students.  Again, rather than assisting students with a “fixed” mindset, I identified ways to promote a “growth” mindset, by designing and implementing a study group that allows students to share information and experiences and brainstorm as a group to form ideas to help them overcome their challenges .  The study group focused largely on identifying student’s learning preference (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) and using those preferences to study effectively.  

Not only was the Institute helpful in providing learning and networking opportunities, I found it extremely inspirational.  Working in advising can be tough—especially when dealing with students who are struggling.  Sometimes it’s good to hit the “refresh” button to motivate continued progress in one’s own professional career.  The energy of the conference began the first day we all stepped foot inside and continued until the day we left.  The buzz of excitement in the day’s activities could be heard echoing down the hallways.  All of the attendees I interacted with seemed excited, passionate, and motivated to learn more from experts in the field.  We were there to learn how we as advisors and administrators could make an impact on students and our home universities.  Each day we had the opportunity to network and bounce ideas off others in similar positions, which added to the overall experience.  As a newer advisor, the opportunity to be surrounded by leaders and learn from the best was an incredible opportunity.  After leaving the Summer Institute, I returned home with more ideas than I knew what to do with in ways to assist students.  As I sat in seminars and workshops, I kept a running notebook of ideas to bring back to campus, including retention events, opportunities for student to get to know their advisors better and build a stronger relationship, advisor training and assessment, and best practices to assist those with academic difficulties.  The ideas all focused on new opportunities to strengthen the incredibly important role we play in student’s lives, including: hosting registration events that allow students to register and enjoy dinner with their advisor; scheduling bi-weekly meetings with students who are struggling academically (via phone or in person); and having advisors attend classes to discuss the role of the advisor and how the advisor can be a resource to students.  These activities strengthen the advisor-student relationship and promote growth thinking amongst students.

The weeklong experience is something I will never forget, and I am honored to be one of the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship recipients.  Had I not been a scholarship recipient, I would not have been able to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Budgets can be a hindrance for many in higher education to pursue professional development opportunities; the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship afforded me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of best practices and the most successful ways to connect with students.  I walked away from the conference feeling charged and motivated to consider improvements to my institutional action plan and develop new ideas and goals to assist students.  Thank you NACADA for the amazing experience!

Allison Morgan
Advising Specialist
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
Department of Movement Sciences
College of Education
University of Idaho
[email protected]


Posted in: 2016 June 39:2


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