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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Mattering Makes a Difference

Dana Zahorik, NACADA President

Dana Zahorik.jpgYou may have heard the quote by Carl W. Buehner, “They may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel” (Evans, 1971, p. 244).  How fitting this is for the advising profession.  Think back to the moment when you began college.  Moving away from home, finding new friends, and acclimating to a new culture were just a few of the transitions you might have encountered.  Are you able to recall what it was during those tough moments that made you feel as though you were valued or that you mattered to that particular community?  You most likely can still recall how you felt as a result of those experiences.  For me, the person that helped me feel as though I mattered and belonged was my advisor, Dr. Mark Plonsky, from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  Dr. Plonsky took the time to recognize I was a first generation college student, terribly home sick, and feeling like a little fish in a big bowl.  He assisted me in getting engaged at the college, helped me get connected on campus based on my interests, took the time to help me through my separation anxiety, and recognized I needed to adjust my study skills to be successful.  He took the time to help me feel as though I mattered to him as well as the campus community.  That particular interaction with my advisor has had a lifelong impact on me, especially as an advising professional.  Because I felt as though I mattered on that campus, I persisted and had a positive experience.

Some of you may be familiar with the Theory of Marginality and Mattering (Schlossberg 1989).  The premise behind the theory focuses on those who are experiencing transitions and whether they feel they can depend on and feel important to somebody during that transition.  Understanding these aspects can assist us as advisors to guide our actions in how we help students fit into our individual college cultures and feel as though they are an important individual within our institutions.

From an institutional standpoint, it can be a reminder to evaluate the messages we send to our students as we meet with them, see them in the halls, and follow up with them during some of the tough transition points throughout their college experience.  Using NACADA professional development opportunities can help reinforce effective ways of interacting with students in an advising capacity in order to retain students, enhance their feelings of mattering, and assist them in determining their strengths as well as their areas for growth.  Whether you are attending a state, regional, annual, or international conference; participating in summer or winter institute; engaging in a webinar; participating in e-tutorials; or simply reaching out to a fellow NACADA professional for advice, we as advisors are actively making the choice to help our students feel as though they matter and they are important individuals to our campus community by enhancing our ability to advise and support.

Whether you are a new or continuing NACADA member, it is important to this association that you feel as though your contributions make this association what it is.  Your feedback, engagement, and leadership contribution are the voice of the decisions being made.  After all, it is member contributions, in collaboration with the Executive Office, that create our outstanding professional publications; deliver our webinars; lead our association in a variety of elected, appointed, and volunteer positions; deliver our conference presentations; coordinate our global professional development activities and partnerships; and create scholarly research.  Our member engagement is at an all-time high and continues to grow as our membership grows.  As members, we need to think about how we can continue to help our fellow members feel as though they matter. 

Similar to our interactions with students as advisors, we as NACADA leaders want to ensure all members feel as though they matter within the NACADA culture.  As the Board of Directors continues their work on creating measures and benchmarks for the strategic goals, we will keep the idea of mattering in mind as we think of creative ways to utilize technology, expand and communicate the scholarship of academic advising, provide professional development opportunities, promote the role of effective advising to college and university decision makers, develop and sustain a diverse association leadership, and continually assess all facets of the association to engage members and help members feel that they matter.  This is all done while looking through the lens of diversity and inclusivity to ensure all members of the association feel as though they matter and are an important piece of keeping our association effective and responsive to member needs.

It is the goal of this association to help each and every one of our members feel that they belong in this association, let them know that their contributions are invaluable, and communicate that ultimately, they matter.  Collectively as members, we make this association what it is and continue to help this association earn its name, the Global Community for Academic Advising.

Dana Zahorik, President, 2016-2017
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Counselor/Academic Advising Council Chair/Peer Advising Co-Chair
Counseling and Advising Services
Fox Valley Technical College


Evans, R. L. (1971). Richard Evan’s quote book. Salt Lake City, UT: Publishers Press.

Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community.  In D.C. Roberts (Ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a sense of community (pp. 5–15). New Directions for Student Services, no. 48. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

From the Executive Director: NACADA Expanding Our Reach and Building New Bridges

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgUnder the leadership of President Dana Zahorik and the NACADA Board of Directors, this has been an exciting year of NACADA expanding our reach and building new bridges.  While NACADA continues to grow our membership numbers, attendance at events, and exciting professional development opportunities (such as our new eTutorials), during this year the association has also made progress through partnerships for the profession. 

Under the leadership of Teri Farr, the Professional Development Committee has done the herculean work of developing NACADA’s Academic Advising Core Competencies.  These competencies will have a major impact on the advising profession by providing a framework for professional development programs at institutions across the globe and developing effective career ladders for primary role advisors.  At the same time, a diverse task force led by Jayne Drake and Joanne Damminger has revised the NACADA Core Values.  This work can only be described in the vernacular of my UK friends as brilliant!  Both of these exciting association and professional foundations will be debuted at the upcoming annual conference in St. Louis.

In addition to all these exciting initiatives in the association, President Zahorik and the Board of Directors have been extremely supportive in reaching beyond our traditional association borders to create partnerships and build bridges that will have significant long-term impacts.  First, on the global front, we continue to reach out to our colleagues to learn from them and to build strong alliances with our associates across the world.  During this year, we have made great strides.  In April, UKAT (the United Kingdom Advising and Tutoring Group) held its second annual conference at Leeds Trinity University and was a major success.  In addition to participants from the UK, there were participants from other countries including the United States.  It is exciting that UKAT is building a strong culture of research in the field by naming a Research Committee chaired by David Grey from the University of York.  David and the committee are eager to begin a strong partnership with the NACADA Research Committee and the new NACADA Research Center at Kansas State University.  The Netherlands Academic Advising Association (LVSA) has also continued its conversations on organizing an Assessment Institute specifically for the global partnerships in Europe.

Also in April, Zayed University in Dubai, host for our 2016 International NACADA Conference, sent four of their undergraduate peer advisors and their faculty leader to visit Kansas State University and Missouri State University.  During their visit, they met with university advisors, faculty, administrators, and students. They discussed academic advising from students’ points of views and learned much about the US higher education systems.  I am thrilled to announce that Zayed University will be hosting four Kansas State University College of Education undergraduates to visit their campus in Dubai in November.  There is a strong possibility that both the College of Education Dean Debbie Mercer and I will be accompanying the students on this exciting adventure.

By the time you read this, I will have returned from what I know will be a very exciting visit to Beijing Institute of Technology to speak to approximately 150 academic advisors, faculty, and administrators on the role that academic advising plays in student success internationally.  While there, I will have the opportunity to meet with a team from across the country on their formation of a NACADA Allied Association in China.

The NACADA Board of Directors and Executive Office have additionally worked hard to build lasting partnerships with other higher education associations that will have a lasting impact on our association and the profession.  These include but are not limited to Complete College America, partnering with their 15 to Finish and Purpose First strategies; APLU (The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities), collaborating on two online tutorials for the academic advising communities; Achieving the Dream, working with their iPASS institutions on professional development opportunities; and, the Reinvention Collaborative, establishing their new network on Academic Planning and co-sponsoring an Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute in 2016 and 2017.  In addition, NACADA again partnered with Tyton Partners on the 2017 Drive to Degree Survey on Academic Advising.  This survey will be extremely important for the NACADA research agenda and possible research activities out of the NACADA Research Center at Kansas State University.

I am also pleased to announce a very powerful partnership with the John N. Gardner Institute and NACADA for the creation of an Excellence in Academic Advising program.  This program will provide institutions with the opportunity to conduct first an in-depth, yearlong institutional review and analysis of their academic advising program guided by experts in the field and then implement an action plan developed by the institution based on that analysis.  This exciting partnership will have a major impact on the quality of academic advising experiences for students at the participating institutions.  I am honored that NACADA has the opportunity to build this partnership with the world renowned John N. Gardner Institute.

As you can tell, it has been a busy but profitable year for our association.  NACADA continues to grow in supporting our membership and also in our impact across all of higher education across the globe.  Thank you for being a member of this association and driving the change that NACADA is leading for this association and the profession.

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

The Advising Relationship is at the Core of Academic Advising

Elizabeth M. Higgins, University of Southern Maine

Beth Higgins.jpgThe advising relationship plays a critical role within a college student’s experience (Crookston, 1972; Ender, 1994; Harrison, 2009).  Academic advising continues to be an activity that supports the student experience as well as student retention because of the work of advisors who keep enhancing advising practices.  The NACADA (2006) Concept of Academic Advising places academic advising squarely within the teaching and learning mission of higher education.  NACADA (2017) has identified the relational element of academic advising as one of the core competencies of the profession along with the conceptual and informational elements.  Distinct from the others, the relational element highlights the dynamics within the advising practice.  That said, saying the relationship is important is one thing, designing and supporting advising practices that help facilitate and sustain the relationship is another.  Exploring the advisor-advisee relationship begs a number of questions: Who is responsible for developing the advising relationship? How do advisors develop meaningful advising relationships with students? What are the critical components of the advising relationship? How do institutions help advisors develop the knowledge and skills to enhance and sustain their advising relationships?

Student learning is at the center of what advisors do, with the development of an effective advising relationship as the gateway to that learning experience.  According to Campbell and Nutt (2008), academic advising is a “powerful educational strategy to engage and support student learning.”  Through the educational process of advising, an advisor can guide students through meaning-making, skill identification and development, critical thinking, scaffolding of knowledge, and acquisition of transferrable skills (Lowenstein, 2009).  Academic advisors can be the transformational leaders in the learning process by focusing on the individuality of the student, assisting them in thinking independently, motivating them through inspiration, and acting as role models (Barbuto, Story, Fritz, & Schinstock, 2011).  Although the advisor may be the leader, there are two individuals within the advising relationship: both need to be engaged in order to effect a partnership. 

Relational Theory in Advising

Assessment of advising has assisted many advising programs in identifying outcomes associated with both student learning as well as advisor and advising program delivery.  Learning and programmatic outcomes identify what should be learned through the process and delivery of academic advising.  They also give the advising programs the ability to identify who is responsible for what.  However, the challenge is identifying how to build an advising relationship that is centered on teaching and learning and that works for both the student and advisor.  A dip into interpersonal relations theory provides guidance.

The interpersonal relations theory of Hildegard Peplau (1991/1952) provides clarification on the building blocks and progression of a relationship within a helping profession.  This theory highlights the importance of getting to know relational partners and their roles, creating a sense of belonging and ownership for the process, developing and achieving goals, and creating readiness for independence.   According to Peplau, there are four relational phases of the interpersonal process inherent in a professional practice: orientation, identification, exploration, resolution.  The relationship is viewed as developing over time through interactions that engage both partners, sharing knowledge, and working towards identified goals (Peplau, 1977).  A key component in promoting an engaged partnership is active dialog between the relational partners (Johnson & Morgan, 2005; Lowenstein, 2009).  There are particular relational elements that contribute to and promote an engaged advising partnership: trust, communication, and connectedness.

Trust has been found to create a bond between individuals as they work cooperatively and explore experiences (Bordin, 1979, 1983).  This concept is also highlighted in the NACADA (2006) concept statement: “the relationship between advisors and students is fundamental and is characterized by mutual respect, trust, and ethical behavior” (para. 1).  Each interaction the advising pair has is an opportunity to build the foundational element of trust. 

Institutions often promote academic advisors as individuals upon whom students can depend for accurate information, help with goal setting and attainment, educational direction, and assistance with their future aspirations.  This presumes a level of trust at the onset of the relationship that is known to take time to build (Beck, 1999).  Assisting students and advisors with early engagement can help in creating opportunities for ongoing contact that supports the development of trust between the relational pair.  The early engagement connects the two individuals together on a professional level in order for the advising pair to converse, question, listen, and share.  Listening and appropriate questioning was found to build rapport and develop trust within the advising relationship (Thornhill & Yoder, 2010).

Ongoing communication can also support student and advisor connection in order to share information, learning opportunities, and engage in dialog about the student’s goals, strengths, and interests (Young-Jones, Burt, Dixon, Hawthorne, 2013).  Broad communications sent electronically or in hardcopy to individual students or to student groups are helpful in sharing information, but not as the way to develop an interpersonal relationship; for relationship development, a more direct approach to communication is necessary.  Results of a research study exploring the experiences of 611 students showcased that conversations between the student and advisor that focus on academic life helped identify areas of support needed for student success (Young-Jones et al., 2013).  Advising conversations can also support the development of an environment where a student feels comfortable and supported to share information, ask questions, and experience self-reflection (Hughey, 2011). 

Campbell and Nutt (2008) suggest that academic advising facilitates the connection students have with the institutional community.  If academic advising acts as a connector, what creates the connection between the student and the advisor? This question is critical in understanding the interpersonal relationship found in the practice of academic advising.  Creating the connection between the student and the advisor begins with understanding the definition of relational connection. 

Brown (2010) states that “connection is when an individual feels seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement.”  Advisors are the individuals who can facilitate interactions where students can be acknowledged, listened to, and valued for who they are in the present moment without preconceived judgements.  As with any developing relationship, there is an amount of authentic sharing from both partners that must occur in order to develop a trust-filled relationship.  Sharing also creates a level of vulnerability within the partnership that can be offset by trust and communication.  The sharing and actions of both relational partners highlight the need for advising to be a relationship where individuals share responsibilities (Allen & Smith, 2008; Crockett, 1985; Frost, 1991).  These shared responsibilities and ongoing conversations promote an environment for relational growth.

How Can Institutions and Advising Programs Assist?

Beres (2010) states that the relational skills are the most challenging area in which to provide professional development.  Identifying this challenge, along with the knowledge of the critical nature of a good academic advising relationship, highlights the importance for institutions to take on this professional development responsibility.  Understanding more about the advising relationship allows advising practitioners to identify areas to strengthen the practice of advising and provide an effective and satisfying academic advising experience for students.  These opportunities must be contextual in that they are designed to match the identified needs of students and advisors at a particular institution.  Influenced by Beres (2010), the following relational topics offer advisors and advising programs a starting point to begin to design offerings that can be complemented with specific institutional needs. 

  • Creating your physical advising space
  • Making appropriate referrals
  • Using creativity during the advising session
  • How to have difficult conversations with students that are productive
  • Gaining student information through active listening and observing
  • Student goal setting
  • How to create boundaries within the advising relationship
  • Guiding students through the decision-making process
  • Understanding non-verbal cues
  • Tips on being the authentic advisor
  • What does an advising conversation look like
  • Good advising doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy
  • Advising specific student populations
    • Students with mental health issues
    • Adult students
    • Veteran students
    • At-risk students
    • High achieving students
    • Students as parents
    • Students with disabilities
    • Online students
    • Undecided students
    • Transfer student
    • Graduate students

Grappling with how best to provide professional development opportunities that support an engaged and meaningful advisor-advisee relationship is a challenge critical to continuing to improve a practice essential to student success in college.  The goal should be to support the development of an advisor–advisee relationship that is authentic, grounded in teaching and learning, and built over time through trust, communication, and connectedness.  To be effective within the relational realm, it is highly recommended that advisors and advising programs understand and embrace these relational components as primary pillars of the academic advising relationship.  

Elizabeth M. Higgins, Ed.D.
Director of Academic Advising
University of Southern Maine


Allen, J. M., & Smith, C. L. (2008). Importance of, responsibility for, and satisfaction with academic advising: A faculty perspective. Journal of College Student Development, 49(5), 397-411.

Barbuto, J. E., Jr., Story, J. S., Fritz, S. M., & Schinstock, J. L. (2011). Full range advising: Transforming the advisor-advisee experience. Journal of College Student Development, 52(6), 656-670.

Barnett, S., Roach, S., & Smith, M. (2006). Microskills: Advisor behaviors that improve communication with advisees. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 6-12.

Beck, A. (1999). Advising undecided students: Lessons from chaos theory. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 45-49.

Beres, K. (2010). Delivery systems: Workshops, lectures, panels and presentations. In J. G. Voller, M. Miller, & S. L. Neste (Eds.), Comprehensive advisor training and development: Practices that deliver. NACADA monograph series no. 21 (pp. 79-88).

Bordin, E. S. (1979). The generalizability of the psychoanalytic concept of the working alliance. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 16(3), 252-260. doi:10.1037/h0085885

Bordin, E. S. (1983). A working alliance based model of supervision. The counseling psychologist, 11(1), 35-42. doi:10.1177/0011000083111007

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Campbell, S. M., & Nutt, C. L. (2008). Academic advising in the new global century: Supporting student engagement and learning outcomes achievement. Peer Review, 10(1), 4–7.

Crockett, D. S. (1985). Academic advising. In L. Noel, R. Levitz, & D. Saluri (Eds.), Increasing student retention: Effective programs and practices for reducing the dropout rate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13(1), 12-17.

Ender, S. C. (1994). Impediments to developmental advising. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 105-107.

Frost, S. H. (1991). Fostering the critical thinking of college women through academic advising and faculty contact. Journal of College Student Development, 32(4), 359-366.

Harrison, E. (2009). What constitutes good academic advising? Nursing students' perceptions of academic advising. Journal of Nursing Education, 48(7), 361-366.

Hughey, J. K. (2011). Strategies to enhance interpersonal relations in academic advising. NACADA Journal, 31(2), 22-32.

Johnson, E. J., & Morgan, B. L. (2005). Advice on advising: Improving a comprehensive university's program. Teaching of Psychology, 32(1), 15-18.

Lowenstein, M. (2009). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 29(1), 123-131.

NACADA. (2006). NACADA concept of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Concept-of-Academic-Advising-a598.aspx  

NACADA. (2017). Academic Advising Core Competencies Model. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/Professional-Development-Committee/PDC-Advisor-Competencies.aspx

Peplau, H. E. (1991). Interpersonal relations in nursing: A conceptual frame of reference for psychodynamic nursing. New York, NY: Springer. (Original work published 1952).

Peplau, H. E. (1997). Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10, 162-167.

Thornhill, K. & Yoder, F. (2010). Teaching the soft skills necessary for building advising relationships. In J.G. Voller, M. Miller, & S. L. Neste (Eds.), Comprehensive advisor training and development: Practices that deliver. NACADA monograph series no. 21. (pp. 171-177).

Young-Jones, A. D., Burt, T. D., Dixon, S., & Hawthorne, M. J. (2013). Academic advising: does it really impact student success? Quality Assurance in Education, 21(1), 7-19.

College Affordability: The Central Role for Academic Advisors

Rory McElwee, Rowan University

Rory McElwee.jpgNACADA’s new partnership with Complete College America (Complete College America, 2017a) strongly demonstrates the centrality of academic advising to college completion and affordability. Strategies described in  the “Shared Principles for Boosting On-Time Graduation” (Complete College America, 2017b) will further bolster advisors’ success in supporting affordability and completion, from the “15 to Finish” campaign to the unique position of academic advisors to promote strategies for degree progress.  College affordability is a major social and economic issue: 70% of graduates from 4-year not-for-profit institutions owe student loan debt, an average of $28,000; furthermore, many former students who never attain a degree also accumulate significant student loan debt without access to the higher-paying jobs that would enable them to pay it off (The Institute for College Access & Success, 2015).  This article presents numerous ways advisors can boost affordability for their students, including strategies which facilitate timely degree completion and methods for serving as advocates for affordability-related programs, services, and even campus mindset.

Here college affordability is defined in the broadest sense: any costs—direct, indirect, or opportunity—that a student experiences due to or while attending college.  This includes tuition and fees, course materials, and basic living expenses including food, housing, health care and insurance, transportation, and more.  The “Beyond Financial Aid” guide and institutional self-assessment from the Lumina Foundation (Chaplot, Cooper, Johnstone, & Karandjeff, 2015) is an invaluable resource for this comprehensive view of affordability and has informed some of the strategies below.

Strategies for advisors to bolster college affordability

Maintain or accelerate time to degree.  When students do not complete degrees on time, each additional year costs not only more tuition and fees, it also reduces their lifetime income due to being out of the workforce or in lower-level jobs not requiring a degree.  Complete College America (2014) states that each additional year at a community college costs on average more than $50,000 and at a four-year public institution almost $70,000 due to direct as well as opportunity costs.  Academic advisors can support timely graduation by bolstering progress and completion:

  • Help students find the right-fit major, advising toward more flexible or open-enrollment majors if they are unlikely to succeed in their chosen field.  Williams Newman (2016) provides a helpful resource for honest advising with students whose desired major may be unrealistic.
  • Inform students of appropriate credit enrollment and benchmarks so they can assess and plan their graduation timeline realistically.  Complete College America (2011; 2014) reports that “full-time” enrollment is often considered to start at 12 credits, but students and even faculty and staff may not be cognizant that an average of 15 credits per term is required to graduate in 8 semesters, assuming a 120 credit degree.  Using language such as “15 to finish” and encouraging students to complete at least 30 credits (or one quarter) of their degree requirements each year will make them aware of their own timeline.  Certainly not all students can or should proceed through college at this pace (for example, if they have significant work or family responsibilities), but they should all be informed of the consequences to their graduation timeline, and the total cost of that timeline, if they do not
    • Summer and winter course enrollment can bolster completion.  Advisors at four-year institutions can encourage student enrollment at community colleges during the summer (with documentation ensuring transfer approval) to facilitate completion while reducing cost. 
    • Ensure that students are aware of the institution’s tuition policy to maximize the per-credit value (Complete College America, 2014).  For example, at Rowan University, students can enroll in 12-17 credits for one flat rate.  Rowan’s advisors inform students enrolled in 12 credits that they can take another course for no additional charge.
  • Increase students’ academic success by promoting on-time graduation through completion of more credits and maintenance of motivation as the students see they are achieving their goals.  Participation in advisement sessions, as part of an overall academic support structure, increases chances of success and completion (Kolenovik, Linderman, & Karp, 2013).
  • Encourage student behaviors which minimize remedial course enrollment to the extent possible within an institution’s policies.  Enrollment in remedial coursework is a significant negative predictor for retention and graduation (Complete College America, 2016).  Perhaps the student can be encouraged to study and then retake a placement test, or to use tutoring to raise the odds of completing the course on the first attempt, given that these courses can have high failure rates.
  • Ensure that students have final transcripts sent from previous institutions and all AP score reports sent as well.  Know the institution’s policies on credit by exam and other forms of prior learning assessment (PLA); can students complete CLEP (College-Level Exam Program) exams or other credit by exam options to earn credit for knowledge they acquired outside of a college classroom? This can be a very affordable way to earn credits.

Serve as students’ connector to college and campus.  New college students lack knowledge on how college works generally and on specific campuses.  Analogous to immigrants to a new land (Chaskes, 1996), new students do not have a frame of reference for navigating the systems and expectations on college campuses and need intentional enculturation and guidance.  Academic advisors can serve as cultural navigators to orient students to how college works, what they can expect to experience, and how to self-advocate within its systems (Strayhorn, 2015).  Advisors are also important for connecting students to campus offices through their relationships with key personnel in offices such as bursar, financial aid, and registrar.

  • Contact students to ensure they are aware of a hold and strategies to address it if advisors have access to information on student holds that prevent on-time registration, such as due to an outstanding health form or bill.
    • Make sure students are aware of any academic or other requirements they need to maintain eligibility for any scholarships or to stay in financial aid good standing (satisfactory academic progress or SAP).  Students may not be aware that a specific GPA is required to keep their merit scholarship or that repeatedly withdrawing from classes can affect their financial aid eligibility.  Support students through any available appeals processes for reinstatement of funding options.
  • Discuss with students how to learn about and access on-campus jobs or scholarships for continuing students.
  • Be aware that many college students experience significant food and housing insecurity; the recent increase in publicity to these issues (Broton & Goldrick-Rab, 2016) is leading to an increase in campus food banks and other resource centers for students.  Learn about any such resources on campus or in the local community, and be attuned to students who may need access to these critical services, such as students who mention they had not eaten yet that day or repeatedly miss class due to lack of reliable transportation. 

Emphasize professional preparation.  Students list the ability to get a higher paying job as a major desired outcome for attending college (Eagan, Stolzenberg, Bates, Aragon, Suchard, & Rios-Aguilar, 2015), and this can also help students to pay down any student loans they may have obtained.  Academic advisors can assist students with realizing the value of their degree through emphasizing the importance of active, intentional steps to plan their professional future through securing internships and relevant work experience, whether in a pre-professional or liberal arts program.  Advisors can encourage their students to utilize the career services office and to think through their path into the world of work, understanding how their actions during the college years will impact the success of their initial steps into employment.

Strategies for advisors to advocate for college affordability

Advocate on campus for attention to affordability issues.  Academic advisors can serve as champions and advocates for student progress issues (Nguyen, 2015).  This can include advisors sharing their observations regarding academic policy or process that may impede student progress with no clear tie to the quality of education.  Advisors can be uniquely positioned to identify obstacles and bring them to the right people’s attention by talking with their supervisor or colleagues regarding these issues and gathering best practices and conversation starters with students.  Advisors can keep decision-making others informed of their observations, such as a need for more course sections for students to get a full 15 credits of courses which apply to their intended degree.

Seek access to needed data and reports.  This may include reports addressing individual student progress within a given semester, such as which students have holds, have not registered for the subsequent term, are getting low early alert feedback from faculty, or have not yet been in for an appointment.  Other types of data reports useful to advisors include the retention and graduation rates for students in the programs they advise, any predictive analyses identifying high-risk students, and reports of the number of credits per term and year students are completing.  For example, what percentage of students in a program complete 30+ credits a year? How can advisors identify those who do not to suggest a summer course?

Raise awareness of financial literacy for students.  A simple internet search or perusal of books in online sites for “financial literacy college students” yields excellent resources.  The Lumina “Beyond Financial Aid” guide (Chaplot et al., 2015) also provides a strong argument for financial literacy for both students and employees.  Financial literacy programming for employees on college campuses is an important growing practice.  Robert Morris University created the College Affordability Academy® for faculty, staff and administrators with excellent information and educational videos (available here) created for students by the participants.  At Rowan, there have been numerous professional development sessions and open forums for both employees and students regarding financial literacy.

Talk with students about how they are financing their education, and how to make wise choices regarding borrowing.  While student loans can be essential to enable a student to pursue higher education, when students borrow more than they need, it can escalate debt quickly.  Student behaviors, such as choosing less expensive housing options or deciding among meal plans versus cooking for themselves, can have a significant impact on the cost of college beyond tuition (Chaplot et al., 2015).

In sum, NACADA’s partnership with Complete College America brings a new visibility and impetus to the central role of academic advising in college affordability.  Academic advisors are uniquely positioned in many ways to bolster affordability and thus minimize student debt, keep students enrolled, and ultimately help more students to graduate and move on to professional careers.  This is a game-changer for the students and for their families, communities, and beyond.  Academic advisors are extremely important for turning ideas about affordability into reality for individual students.

Rory McElwee
Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success
Division of Student Affairs
Rowan University


Broton, K., & Goldrick-Rab, S. (2016) The dark side of college (un)affordability: Food and housing insecurity in higher education. Change, 48, 16-25. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00091383.2016.1121081

Chaplot, P., Cooper, D., Johnstone, R., & Karandjeff, K. (2015). Beyond financial aid: How colleges can strengthen the financial stability of low-income students and improve student outcomes. Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/publications/BFA/Beyond.Financial.Aid.pdf

Chaskes, J. (1996). The first-year student as immigrant. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition8, 79-91.

Complete College America. (2011). Time is the enemy. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/docs/Time_Is_the_Enemy.pdf

Complete College America. (2014). The four-year myth: Make college more affordable. Restore the promise of graduating on time. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/4-Year-Myth.pdf

Complete College America. (2016). Corequisite remediation: Spanning the completion divide. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/spanningthedivide/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/CCA-SpanningTheDivide-ExecutiveSummary.pdf

Complete College America. (2017a). Complete College America and NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising launch effort to boost on-time completion rates, reduce student debt. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/complete-college-america-and-nacada-the-global-community-for-academic-advising-launch-effort-to-boost-on-time-completion-rates-reduce-student-debt/

Complete College America. (2017b). Shared principles for boosting on-time graduation rates. Retrieved from http://completecollege.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/15-to-Finish-Principles-for-NACADA-v.2.pdf

Eagan, K., Stolzenberg, E. B., Bates, A. K., Aragon, M. C., Suchard, M. R., & Rios-Aguilar, C. (2015). The American freshman: National norms fall 2015. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA. Retrieved from https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2710405/The-American-Freshman-National-Norms-Fall-2015.pdf

Kolenovic, Z., Linderman, D., & Karp, M. M. (2013). Improving student outcomes via comprehensive supports: Three-year outcomes from CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP).  Community College Review, 41, 271-291. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552113503709

Nguyen, F. (2015, June). Academic advising or advocacy?  Academic Advising Today, 38(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Academic-Advising-or-Advocacy.aspx

Strayhorn, T. L. (2015). Reframing academic advising for student success: From advisor to cultural navigator. NACADA Journal, 35, 56-63. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-14-199

The Institute for College Access & Success. (2015). Student debt and the class of 2014. 10th annual report of the project on student debt. http://ticas.org/sites/default/files/pub_files/classof2014.pdf

Williams Newman, D. (2016, December). Honest advising. Academic Advising Today, 39(4). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Honest-Advising.aspx

Advising Mindfully: Increasing Attention and Effectiveness

Deborah Hendricks, NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission member

Deborah Hendricks.jpgIntroducing mindfulness in academic advising has positive potential.  The practice of mindfulness requires paying close attention to the present moment.  Academic advisors spend valuable time learning new methods, improving their advising style, and implementing outreach but as a result, many advisors are experiencing increased stress and are unable to give full attention to connecting with their students.  With practice in mindfulness training, it seems reasonable that advisors could instead experience increased ability to pay attention and decreased stress.  Grimes and Renfro (2011) suggested mindfulness practice be addressed as a matter of professional development and resource to reduce burnout for academic advisors.  However, the outcomes of mindfulness training in the area of academic advising have not been studied.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation and can be defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2013, p. xxvii).  Meditation has been around for thousands of years, but secular training has evolved more recently (Hyland, Lee, & Mills, 2015).  The definition has been further characterized as both a state, where one experiences the actual moment of being fully present, and as a disposition, where it becomes part of one’s character (Brown & Ryan, 2003).  Research indicates positive outcomes in short periods of practice, even as little as one training session (Mahmood, Hopthrow, & Randsley de Moura, 2016; Ramler, Tennison, Lynch, & Murphy, 2016).  This is hopeful news for academic advisors who have limited time with their advisees.

Benefits for Advisors

Many people, including advisors, struggle with paying attention.  Strengthening the ability to pay attention is critical, as “attention is the basis for all higher cognitive and emotional abilities” (Tan, 2012).  An increase in high-tech multitasking, which includes high volume emails, instant messaging, social media, and leaping from one website to another, has affected individual’s ability to pay attention (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009).  An interesting study out of Harvard University used a smart phone app to gather data on what people were thinking about while engaged in the activities (e.g.  working, commuting, talking, and on the computer).  The study revealed that people get lost in thought or participate in day dreaming/mind wandering thoughts 46.9% of the time (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010)If this inability to pay attention occurs during advising appointments, opportunities could be lost to connect with students.  Nevertheless, it is possible to increase one’s ability to pay attention and increase effectiveness in completing tasks with the practice of mindfulness (Levy, Wobbrock, Kaszniak, & Ostergren, 2012).

The job of an advisor can be very rewarding, but many advisors have huge caseloads and feel overwhelmed.  The attitude advisors have about their job affects performance and can influence their ability to connect and be fully present during meetings (Crowder & Sears, 2017).  For academic advisors, connecting with students is part of the job and part of being effective in building relationships.  The advisor’s attitude is important as “the caring attitude of college personnel is viewed as the most potent retention force on a campus” (Noel, Levitz, & Saluri, 1985, p. 17).  Mindfulness can increase employee productivity, enhance employer/employee and client relationships, and improve job satisfaction (Schaufenbuel, 2014; Zivnuska, Kacmar, Ferguson, & Carlson, 2016).  For advisors, practicing mindfulness could have both personal and professional benefits as it can reduce stress, anxiety and burnout, improve overall well-being, increase the ability to deal with stressful situations, and increase the body’s ability to heal (Gelles, 2012; Harnett, 2014; Kang, Choi, & Ryu, 2009; Schimke, 2017; Taylor & Millear, 2016).

Impact on Students

Most students start college with enthusiasm and the hope of obtaining a degree.  However, not all students finish their academic journey and many “drop out of school because they fail to see a viable path to an end goal” (Tyton Partners, 2015, p. 8).  During these times, it is vital that advisors connect with students, as “it is the people who come face-to-face with students on a regular basis who provide the positive growth experiences” (Noel et al., 1985, p. 17).  Building relationships with students is crucial, as student retention rates can be impacted by quality relationships (Astin, 1993).  Paying attention impacts the ability to form relationships and the “connections you form when you’re fully present—and therefore fully listening—can make the difference between someone you are leading leaving an encounter feeling heard or leaving an encounter feeling disrespected” (Marturano, 2014, p. 36).  Being present in appointments and intentionally listening speaks to the student that they matter, which is important for student success (Schlossberg, 1989).

Many students are learning about mindfulness from their smart phones and watches, social media, classes, friends, and even from advisors.  Simply introducing the practice at the beginning of an advising session can be enough to spark an interest, prompting them to investigate more and possibly establish a regular practice.  Recent studies have found mindfulness increased adjustment to the university for undergraduate students (Mettler, Carsley, Joly, & Heath, 2017; Ramler et al., 2016).  Advisors instruct students on classes to take, resources to access, and other tips to succeed, but introducing mindfulness, which can help them adjust to college, increase attention, reduce test anxiety, decrease depression, and increase public speaking skills (Harnett, 2014), just makes sense.

Applying Mindfulness

Professionals in higher education want to see students achieve their academic goals as they increase their level of autonomy and self-awareness; as a result, mindfulness is impacting many educational disciplines (George, 2017).  Mindfulness, academia, and advising are starting to come together.  Recently, Grimes and Renfro (2011) introduced tangible ways for busy advisors to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives.  A Contemplative Pedagogy Community, comprised of faculty and advisors, was formed in 2016 at Bowling Green State University to explore the various mindfulness techniques professionals were incorporating into their classes.  The exercises shared in the community can be used in both the classroom and advising sessions.  

Starting can be as simple as beginning an appointment with the Focus for Fifty method, which is practicing mindfulness for 50 seconds at the beginning of each advising appointment.  The advisor can simply ask the student to focus their attention on their breathing for 50 seconds.  Another way is to have colored pencils and mindfulness coloring pages available for the student and color for 50 seconds together.  On the back of the coloring page, list resources such as websites, YouTube videos, and other tips to learn about mindfulness.  Practicing mindfulness with a student when they first arrive allows the advisor and student a moment to experience a sense of stillness and focus.  Other examples of mindfulness exercises advisors could try at the beginning of an appointment include completing a yoga pose or two or focusing attention on an object (such as a paperclip or pen), the ticking of a clock, or soft mindfulness music (free on YouTube).  Other advisors and instructors used the moment to sit quietly or listen to a guided meditation from the internet.

If mindfulness training is not offered or available on campus, advisors can access free mindfulness and meditation apps online to get started and learn the basics.  These apps can also be beneficial in providing introductory training to students.  Most students wait in a lobby before their appointment starts; posting a sign with instructions on how to download a free mindfulness app and asking the student to listen to a three-minute guided session on their headphones while they wait could be a helpful way to introduce the practice even before their appointment starts.


This year’s NACADA Region 8 Conference (April 10-12, 2017), attended by the author, was titled Moving Mountains, Maintaining Mindfulness, demonstrating the growing awareness of this practiceFour heavily-attended sessions addressing the topic provide examples of advisor interest in learning mindfulness techniques:

  • Mindfulness Preparation (Darryl Craig & Tami Goetz, Washington State University)
  • Advising Mindfully (Deborah Hendricks, Bowling Green State University)
  • Mindful Communication (Charity Atteberry & Grace Gradner, University of Montana)
  • Mindful Advising for the Anxious Health-Profession Student (Anna Brown, Olga Salinas & Kyle Ross, Washington State University)

Advisors can initiate mindfulness training on their campus by meeting with their director to discuss options such as attending a mindfulness retreat, bringing in a trained professional to lead a mindfulness team building session, or practicing as a group with a free app or guided mindfulness training programs found online.

Many find the practice of mindfulness “embarrassingly easy” (Tan, 2012); however, the dedication to ongoing practice requires commitment.  Set goals to be intentionally mindful when starting advising appointments, walking across campus, while eating, and driving home from work.  Academic advising needs to be one of the fields reaping the positive benefits of mindfulness.  With all the studies indicating positive results, advisors can introduce the practice with their students with confidence knowing that college students can benefit from university-offered mindfulness programs (Regehr, Glancy, & Pitts, 2013).  Take a deep breath, smile, and focus on the moment.

Deborah Hendricks
Academic Advisor
College of Health & Human Services
Bowling Green State University


Astin, A.W. (1993). What matter most in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, K.W., & Ryan, R.M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-848.

Crowder, R., & Sears, A. (2017). Buidling resilience in social workers: An exploratory study on the impacts of a mindfulness-based intervention.  Australian Social Work, 70(1), 17-29.

Gelles, D. (2012). The mind business. FT Magazine. Retrieved from https://next.ft.com/content/d9cb7940-ebea-11e1-985a-00144feab49a

George, J. (2017). Mindful language learning, A self-awareness project in an advanced speaking/listening class. As We Speak: The Newsletter of the Speech, Pronunciation and Listening Interest Section/TESOL. Retrieved from http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolsplis/issues/2017-01-18/2.html

Grimes, E., & Renfro, C. (2011, March). Apathy’s antidote: Using mindfulness to improve advisor performance. Academic Advising Today, 34(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Apathys-Antidote-Using-Mindfulness-to-Improve-Advisor-Performance.aspx

Harnett, C. (2014). Mindfulness comes to work. Human Resource Executive Online. Retrieved from http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534356714&ss=mindfulness+comes+to+work

Hyland, P.K., Lee, R.A., & Mills, M.J. (2015). Mindfulness at work: A new approach to improving individual and organizational performance. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 8(04), 576-602.

Kang, Y. S., Choi, S. Y., & Ryu, E. (2009). The effectiveness of a stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation on the stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by nursing students in Korea. Nurse education today, 29(5), 538-543.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1993). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness mediations in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science, 330(6006), 932. doi:10.1126/science.1192439

Levy, D. M., Wobbrock, J. O., Kaszniak, A. W., & Ostergren, M. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on multitasking in a high-stress information environment. Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2012, 45-52.

Mahmood, L., Hopthrow, T., & Randsley de Moura, G. (2016). A moment of mindfulness: Computer-mediated mindfulness practice increases state mindfulness. PloS One, 11(4), e0153923.

Marturano, J. (2014). Finding the space to lead: A practical guide to mindful leadership.  New York, New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Mettler, J., Carsley, D., Joly, M., & Heath, N. (2017). Dispositional mindfulness and adjustment to university. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 1-15.

Noel, L., Levitz, R., & Saluri, D., (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(37), 15583-15587. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903620106

Ramler, T. R., Tennison, L. R., Lynch, J., & Murphy, P. (2016). Mindfulness and the college transition: The efficacy of an adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention in fostering adjustment among first-year students. Mindfulness, 7(1), 179-188.

Regehr, C., Glancy, D., & Pitts, A. (2013). Interventions to reduce stress in university students: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 148(1), 1-11. doi://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.026

Schaufenbuel, K. (2014). Bringing mindfulness into the workplace. Retrieved from http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/~/media/Files/documents/executive-development/unc-white-paper-bringing-mindfulness-to-the-workplace_final.pdf

Schimke, D. (2017). Taking mindfulness to the streets. The Chronical of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Taking-Mindfulness-to-the/238926?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en&elqTrackId=bdf36891a61f4e678dc684f41a69901f&elq=8ebbf748ca754fedb264625ef9f4212d&elqaid=12252&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=4966

Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. In D. C. Roberts (Ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a sense of community: New directions for student services, No. 48. (pp. 5-15). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tan, C.-M. (2012). Search inside yourself: The unexpected path to achieving success, happiness (and world peace). New York, NY: HarperOne.

Taylor, N. Z., & Millear, P. M. R. (2016). The contribution of mindfulness to predicting burnout in the workplace. Personality and Individual Differences, 89, 123-128. doi://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.10.005

Tyton Partners. (2015). Driving toward a degree: The evolution of planning and advising in higher education. Retrieved from http://tytonpartners.com/library/driving-toward-a-degree-the-evolution-of-planning-and-advising-in-higher-education/

Zivnuska, S., Kacmar, K. M., Ferguson, M., & Carlson, D. S. (2016). Mindfulness at work: Resource accumulation, well-being, and attitudes. Career Development International, 21(2), 124.

Advising Against the Clock

James R. Wicks, Texas A&M International University

 James Wicks.jpgAcademic advisors face numerous challenges, one of which is providing a quality advising experience under strict time constraints.  Due to large student populations and student to advisor ratios, hectic on and off-campus events, lack of personnel, etc., advisors often find themselves trying to crunch half an hour’s worth of advising into a ten-minute session.  When facing such challenges, advisors must decide on what information to prioritize as well as the best conversational approach for students.

It is crucial for advisors to understand what students should get from an advising session.  Of course, students should get accurate information about their degree plans and institutional deadlines, but they also need to leave the session feeling that their advisor is someone who they can trust and will go above and beyond on their behalf.  Obviously, this does not mean that an advisor should be expected to ask a professor to change a grade or excuse multiple absences, but it does mean that if students have questions or need to know something, they can trust their advisor to find the answer and tell them in a reassuring way.  While there are many different ideas about what constitutes “good” or “ideal” academic advising, they all seem to converge on a process by which a partnership is formed between student and advisor (NACADA, 2017).  Partnerships are meant to facilitate critical and reflective academic, professional, and personal decisions that positively affect students, institutions, and communities.  However, every student is different and brings with them unique life experiences that impact their academic decisions.  Advising cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach and must account for all the possible internal and external pressures that affect student’s choices.  This means favoring a holistic approach for building trust and respect among students such that they actively seek mentorship and advice from advisors.

Not surprisingly, it takes time to build this kind of relationship and to make a transitioning student feel comfortable in an environment that is likely new.  It also takes time to properly understand the nuances of an individual’s life experience in order to give the most appropriate guidance.  When advisors have time, they can afford to let students be more expressive and reflective and can discuss with them some of the deeper questions about their degree plan or career goals.  However, when orientation rolls around and everyone needs to see an advisor, it can be difficult to allot that kind of time.  That said, there are things advisors can do to increase the likelihood of a partnership despite time constraints.

First, advisors need to prepare as much as possible prior to meeting with students.  They may not be able to control how long they have with each student, but they do have a degree of control over how much time they dedicate to preparing.  It is important to capture as much student information as possible prior to an advising session.  This way, advisors can identify the appropriate prescriptive information early on and dedicate more time to building a relationship during the session.

Once advising begins, advisors need to clearly communicate the limits of the session (NACADA, 2015).  Students bring with them an array of expectations, including what information they are going to get and how much time they have to ask questions.  The last thing an advisor wants is for students to have a poor advising experience because it failed to live up to their expectations, especially if it is their first advising experience.  It is important to clarify how long the session is meant to last, what information the student is supposed to get, and what the student can expect from advisors moving forward.  (For this, an advising syllabus is particularly helpful.)

Communicating the limits of a session provides a context for the student to assess the advising experience, and it allows students to focus their expectations on the moment.  The conclusion of a session is when an advisor can provide contact information and assurance that there will be many more opportunities in the future to address the student’s concerns.   

It is also important for advisors to quickly establish students as active participants in the conversation (Lowenstein, 2005); i.e. turn the session into a dialogue rather than just instructing students on what to do.  When advising sessions are short, the window for dialogue is small, so advisors need to be creative in how they engage students.  For example, prompting students to talk about their expectations and concerns for the upcoming year or semester can provide a framework for discussing important degree plan information, course schedules, campus activities, and student services.  Instead of merely telling students which courses to take and then sending them along, an advisor can suggest and revise a schedule that will either conform to or challenge their expectations.  Similarly, prompting a student to voice concerns prior to giving important information can allow an advisor to talk about how a certain schedule might affect those concerns.  This way students feel like a moderator of the meeting and can be assured that their experience is not ignored.

Additionally, advisors should discuss information in the context of academic and career goals.  For example, if a student needs to take developmental courses, an advisor should discuss how those courses will set the student up for success in future semesters and, ultimately, in a career instead of merely saying that the student cannot move forward without them.  Contextualizing prescriptive information in this way makes it more meaningful and therefore more valuable as an asset towards graduation.

Finally, advisors should keep in mind that the shorter an advising session is, the more questions a student is likely to have about what lies ahead.  Advisors need to always be aware of their conversational tone and reassure students that they are on the right path to achieving their goals.  It is a good idea for advisors to ask students near the end of a session how they feel about the information discussed, and to emphasize that they will have many opportunities in the future to address their questions.

One more consideration is when a student will not be speaking with an assigned advisor and will instead be speaking with a student mentor, admissions counselor, or with a recruiter; i.e. anyone who is taking on an advisory role.  The previous points still apply, except that students need to leave the session feeling that the institution and its administrators (rather than a single person) will go above and beyond on their behalf.  In this case, the student is not building a relationship with an individual, rather that student is learning to trust the institution and its administrative teams.  This arrangement poses unique challenges to building relationships with students; however, if an institution emphasizes quality service across administrative offices, students can be made to feel that they are in good hands.

There are understandable concerns about how practicable these recommendations are.  It might not seem reasonable to expect an advisor to lay out session limitations, gauge a student’s academic expectations and concerns, discuss and contextualize important degree plan and institutional information, all while reassuring students and making them feel like the moderator of the session in a ten to fifteen-minute window.  However, advisors should be careful not to reduce the effectiveness of an advising session to its length.  Small gestures and brief statements can still have profound impacts. Also, while ten minutes might not be enough time for students to leave with perspective on their entire academic experience, they will at least get a feeling of progress towards it—a feeling that will hopefully keep them coming back for advising.

James R. Wicks
Associate Director
Recruitment & School Relations
Texas A&M International University


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

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advisors. (2015). Advising session techniques. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-session-techniques.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advisors. (2017). Definitions of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Definitions-of-academic-advising.aspx 

Impact of Perfectionism on Students: The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

Margaret S. Hill, Lincoln University

Can perfectionism be a good thing? Traditionally, perfectionism has been viewed rather negatively as a character flaw or burdensome personality trait.  For college students, perfectionism has been seen as an obstacle in the way of students’ healthy emotional and academic adjustment.  However, recent studies have shown that the impact of perfectionism on students is a great deal more nuanced.  There is evidence that perfectionism is a multidimensional quality with both positive and negative aspects and that the healthier aspects of perfectionism can benefit students considerably (Stoeber & Otto, 2006).  In order to support student success, academic advisors should recognize the signs of both adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism in students and learn ways to encourage healthy, adaptive perfectionism while helping students with a maladaptive perfectionistic mindset to cope more constructively with challenges.

Most researchers now agree that perfectionism is multifaceted, encompassing a wide range of behaviors and attitudes.  Individuals can observe this complexity in themselves and in those around them.  Some individuals are relentless in the hard-driving pursuit of excellence, while others are more laid back.  Some people compare themselves constantly with others, while some rely on a more internal metric.  Although some are able to bounce back from major failures and setbacks with apparent ease, others are plagued with anxiety over the smallest mistakes.  As advisors, we have probably all encountered students who are too hard on themselves and others who are too carefree.  Recent studies have identified three broad groups of individuals with regard to perfectionism:

  • those who set consistently high standards for their own performance but do not dwell on past failures (adaptive perfectionists),
  • those who set high standards for themselves and are preoccupied with failure to measure up (maladaptive perfectionists), and
  • those who tend not to set high personal standards (non-perfectionists) (Mobley, Slaney, & Rice, 2005).

A growing body of research suggests that a healthy, adaptive style of perfectionism can be beneficial for college students.  Findings show that students who set consistently high self-expectations while still remaining optimistic in the face of setbacks are more likely than their non-perfectionist peers to succeed both academically and socially.  Students who are adaptive perfectionists tend to report better self-esteem, a lower incidence of anxiety, stress, and depression, and higher grades (Gnilka, Ashby, & Noble, 2012; Rice, Vergara, & Aldea, 2006).  In addition, students high in adaptive perfectionism may be less likely to procrastinate on assignments (Burnam, Komarraju, Hamel, & Nadler, 2014) and more likely to engage in active and effective problem-focused coping strategies when academic setbacks occur (Noble, Ashby, & Gnilka, 2014).

In contrast, individuals with unhealthy or maladaptive perfectionism are preoccupied with the discrepancy between their high, sometimes rigid standards and their performance.  As students, maladaptive perfectionists are too hard on themselves—tormented by a single missed point on an exam, for example, or distraught over not receiving the highest grade in a class.  These students often suffer from self-doubt and discouragement and may experience poorer socioemotional adjustment and academic achievement as a result (Rice et al., 2006).  Students with maladaptive perfectionism may be more likely to procrastinate (Burnam et al., 2014) and to rely on less-effective coping strategies such as avoidance and self-blame when faced with challenges (Gnilka et al., 2012).  Signs of maladaptive perfectionism should never be taken lightly by advisors or other higher education professionals, as it can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, negative thought patterns, and even suicidal ideation (Chang, Watkins, & Banks, 2004).

Some sub-groups of students may be especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of maladaptive perfectionism.  A pair of studies that focused on undergraduate STEM majors found that maladaptive perfectionism was related to lower course grades and chronic academic stress among female students but not among their male counterparts (Rice, Lopez, & Richardson, 2013; Rice, Ray, Davis, DeBlaere, & Ashby, 2015).  The effects of maladaptive perfectionism may also differ according to race; for example, Castro and Rice (2003) reported that maladaptive perfectionist attitudes were associated with more depressive symptoms among Asian American and white students but with lower grades among black students.

As members of the campus community who enjoy a continuous, ongoing relationship with students, academic advisors are in a unique position to encourage attitudes of positive, adaptive perfectionism in advisees.  It can be frustrating to encounter students who underperform academically not because of poor ability but because of unrealistically low self-expectations.  Some students may need gentle and tactful coaxing to “dream big,” while others may need not-so-gentle reminders to take more responsibility for their own achievement.  As advisors, we know that a consistent attitude of striving for excellence is fundamental to our students’ success—and chances are, we have students who could benefit from hearing this message more clearly and more often.

On the other hand, students who make statements that reveal pervasive defeatism, rumination, or self-doubt can be guided to develop more balanced, constructive attitudes toward failure and achievement.  Through positive reframing, for example, students can come to view academic setbacks as learning opportunities and to focus on what has been accomplished rather than obsessing over failures (Stoeber & Janssen, 2011).  Advisors might help students gain a broader and healthier perspective of academic achievement and to refrain from dwelling on every minor mistake.  Advisors can also point out the importance of stress reduction and encourage students to take time out for meditation, mindfulness, or other relaxation practices.  Students should be guided toward problem-focused, active strategies such as improved time management and critical problem-solving, rather than avoidance or self-blame, for coping with the stress of academic failure (Noble et al., 2014).  Most importantly, however, advisors must remain aware of their own limitations and recognize when it is appropriate to refer a troubled student to campus or community counseling resources (Nutt, 2015).

As a framework for working with students, appreciative advising may be an especially useful approach for addressing perfectionism.  With appreciative advising, students are encouraged to build on their own personal strengths and skills by reflecting on past successes (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008).  Students who appear too indifferent about their own achievement, for example, can be urged to recall those times in their lives when setting the bar higher actually did result in greater success.  Conversely, students with maladaptive perfectionism can be encouraged to focus less on their missteps and more on their accomplishments and to reflect on the personal strengths that made those accomplishments possible.

Can perfectionism be a good thing? Most certainly! Of course, we as advisors should keep in mind our own perfectionistic tendencies.  As we guide our students toward greater self-forgiveness, even as we urge them to strive for excellence, we need to remember the importance of self-compassion for ourselves as well.  Just as students can benefit from intentional, positive self-statements (Mehr & Adams, 2016), advisors can too.  Although academic advising can be a tough and sometimes thankless job, advisors play a vital role in the success of our students.  As we go about our daily work, we might all do well to remember the wisdom in that old adage, “Just do your best, and forget the rest!”

Margaret S. Hill, MHS
Academic Advisor & Success Coach
Lincoln University
Center for Academic Advising


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Burnam, A., Komarraju, M., Hamel, R., & Nadler, D. R. (2014). Do adaptive perfectionism and self-determined motivation reduce academic procrastination? Learning and Individual Differences, 38, 165-172.

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Chang, E. C., Watkins, A. F., & Banks, K. H. (2004). How adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism relate to positive and negative psychological functioning: Testing a stress-mediation model in black and white female college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51(1), 93-102.

Gnilka, P. B., Ashby, J. S., & Noble, C. L. (2012). Multidimensional perfectionism and anxiety: Differences among individuals with perfectionism and tests of a coping-mediation model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90, 327-436.

Mehr, K. E., & Adams, A. C. (2016). Self-compassion as a mediator of maladaptive perfectionism and depressive symptoms in college students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 30(2), 132-145.

Mobley, M., Slaney, R. B., & Rice, K. G. (2005). Cultural validity of the almost perfect scale-revised for

African American college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 629-639.

Noble, C. L., Ashby, J. S., & Gnilka, P. B. (2014). Multidimensional perfectionism, coping, and depression:

Differential prediction of depression symptoms by perfectionism type. Journal of College Counseling, 17, 80-94.

Nutt, C. L. (2015). One-to-one advising. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 251-266). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rice, K. G., Lopez, F. G., & Richardson, C. M. E. (2013). Perfectionism and performance among STEM students. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82, 124-134.

Rice, K. G., Ray, M. E., Davis, D. E., DeBlaere, C., & Ashby, J. S. (2015). Perfectionism and longitudinal patterns of stress for STEM majors: Implications for academic performance. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(4), 718-731.

Rice, K. G., Vergara, D. T., & Aldea, M. A. (2006). Cognitive-affective mediators of perfectionism and college student adjustment. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 463-473.

Stoeber, J., & Janssen, D. P. (2011). Perfectionism and coping with daily failures: Positive reframing helps achieve satisfaction at the end of the day. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 24(5), 477-497.

Stoeber, J., & Otto, K. (2006). Positive conceptions of perfectionism: Approaches, evidence, challenges.

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Navigating  Course Selection with Self-Knowledge: The Advising Puppy Takes the Bite out of Academic Planning

Lisa Jasinski and Thomas E. Jenkins, Trinity University

Thomas Jenkins, jpgLisa Jasinski.jpgAt least in the initial stages of their college careers, students need support in developing self-knowledge: they benefit from guidance in taking what they know about themselves and their values and applying that self-knowledge to academic decision-making (Astin, 1977; Brooks, 2009; Clydesdale, 2015; Felten, Gardner, Schroeder, Lambert, & Barefoot, 2016).  One way that this need expresses itself is the recurring need for undergraduates to be more thoughtful about how they select their courses and plan for their academic futures.  Self-knowledge and reflection are powerful tools to enable students to make informed decisions.  Cuba, Jennings, Lovett, and Swingle (2016) contended, “becoming liberally educated . . . is a complex and messy process involving decisions and learning from them” (p. 2).  Faculty and staff advisors can play a valuable role guiding students through the messy process and directing them to answer reflective questions.

Undergraduate Thinking Around Course Selection

Without the intervention of faculty mentors or academic advisors, undergraduate students often acquire unwise habits regarding course selection.  Faced with the scary task of creating a course schedule, students who do not know where to start often turn to their friends and ask for recommended “easy courses.”  Consistent with this desire to protect (or enhance) their GPAs, students may be fearful to stray beyond their comfort zones, sticking to familiar topics and disciplines rather than branching out. Other students fall prey to the allure of the four-day weekend or the possibility of sleeping past noon and only opt to select classes that are scheduled during these narrow windows of time.  Even the most conscientious student can become consumed with satisfying General Education requirements—these box-checking blinders have prevented many students from taking courses that align with their broader curiosities and interests.  Last, even after painstakingly devising the “perfect” schedule, many students fail to develop a back-up plan and are left shattered if/when things do not go according to plan during registration (e.g., a course is closed or canceled).

While the magnetic draw of “easy courses” may persist, faculty mentors and advisors can help undergraduates develop a mindset to strategically select courses and plan for their academic futures. Based on our experiences as advisors at Trinity University, we’ve noted that students who exhibit the following four habits and attitudes will be more likely to make informed choices about their schedules.

  1. Students balance their academic course load to suit their abilities, preferences, and other commitments.  Students do not take too many of the “same kind” of class, be it a science lab or a writing-intensive seminar.
  2. Students are savvy about the order in which they take courses to accomplish larger goals, sequencing courses in efficient and logical ways.
  3. Students recognize that college is a time to challenge oneself and think in new ways, thus achieving the larger goals of higher education.
  4. Students develop a personal system for academic planning that is thoughtful, proactive, flexible, organized, and concrete.  That is to say, successful students develop and employ a system—such as a chart or a list—to plot out the courses they need to graduate on time.

In order to help students develop these perspectives, the authors developed an exercise to guide students’ thinking and reflection about their academic goals, personal commitments, and learning style.

The Advising Puppy

“The Advising Puppy” enables academic leaders, advisors, and faculty mentors to prepare students to acquire these outcomes.  Undergraduates appreciate the playful approach of the puppy because it adds a dash of levity in what might otherwise be a tense or dull conversation.  The exercise below takes between 20–25 minutes for groups of students to complete.  The initial questions are concrete and gradually become more abstract.

Advising Puppy.jpgInstructions for facilitators.  Begin by providing each student with a hardcopy of the puppy outline (right) and a pen or pencil.  First, read the ground rules:

The goal of this exercise is to help identify personal goals, values, and academic needs.  It works best when students answer honestly and not say what think their parents, professors, or advisors want to hear (there are no right or wrong answers, here, anyway).  Complete the first part of the exercise on your own and later, you will share your thinking with another student; ultimately, however, each student gets to decide which responses to share and which to keep private.

Next, the facilitator will read each prompt listed below.  Facilitators should ask the questions and follow-up questions one set at time and instruct students to write their responses (in words or drawings) on the corresponding part of the puppy.  Allow students about one minute each before moving on to the next question.

Part I: The advising puppy.  After students have completed all sections of the puppy, go onto the group discussion to debrief.

  1. (head) When and how do you do your best work? At what time of day are you at your best? Do you like your courses to be spread apart or clustered together? What type of tasks do you prefer—papers, labs, tests, learning languages, etc.?
  2. (heart) What are your non-academic goals? Where do you want to focus your efforts and time outside of the classroom? What do these commitments look like? What kinds of activities, jobs, and hobbies take up the most time in your typical week?
  3. (front legs) What classes will help you define or work toward your major? If you already selected a major, how can you make progress on it? What does the introductory sequence of courses look like? What classes will help you determine whether or not you want to major in this discipline?
  4. (back legs) How will you deal with disappointment if you do not get the classes you want? What is your back-up strategy? How can you advocate for yourself? How would you pick an alternative?
  5. (tail) What will bring you satisfaction and happiness next/this semester?  How will you know if things are going well? What should you think about now to make sure this happens?
  6. (Doggie doo-doo—this is one that they will have to draw in themselves toward the puppy’s tail) What is a negative distraction or bad habit you want to avoid next/this semester?  What is something that has taken you off-track in the past? How can you avoid repeating these mistakes?

Part II: Reflecting, learning, and acting.  These final questions will help students reflect more deeply on their priorities.  Instruct students to jot down their thoughts around the margins of the page or the other side of the paper.  Again, facilitators should ask each question one at a time and allow about a minute for students to jot down notes before asking them to share verbally.

  • As you look at your puppy, which one of these things most important to you right now?
  • How might you resolve conflicts between your values? (i.e., The course that looks interesting, but not at the time of day when you do your best work? Should you add a class for your major if it means sacrificing a lunch break?)
  • What questions do you have? Is there something you need to learn more about—such as the requirements for your major or your work schedule—to make an informed choice about your schedule?
  • Based on the learning you did about yourself from this exercise, what are two or three things that your advisor needs to know about you that will help him/her in working with you?
  • After looking at the course catalogue, can you identify one or two courses that are offered this semester that meet your needs?

With the remaining time, the facilitator should invite students to turn to a neighbor and share one insight from the advising puppy that has helped him/her plan for your next semester in college.  

Possible modifications.  At Trinity University, a private liberal arts college, the authors found success using this exercise with both small and large groups of students.  For example, it engaged 15 person first-year seminars preparing to register for their sophomore year and 300+ first-year students during New Student Orientation.  While the exercise is designed for groups, it can be modified for individuals, especially students who come to their advising meeting unprepared, confused, or overwhelmed.  In that case, advisors should just go through the first set of questions and informally probe using the second set of questions (and eliminate the pair/share aspect).  Colleagues at other universities have said that they used the college mascot instead of a puppy.


Research and personal experience verifies that students benefit from structured exercises that promote reflection and decision-making around academic planning and course selection.  Faculty mentors and academic advisors can use the playful framework of “The Advising Puppy” to initiate deeper conversations about what students value.  This exercise is a powerful tool to reinforce the habits, skills, and behaviors that lead to student success.

Lisa Jasinski
Special Projects Coordinator, Academic Affairs & Director of the Reflections Program
Trinity University

Thomas E. Jenkins
Professor of Classical Studies & Interim Director for The Collaborative for Learning and Teaching
Trinity University


Astin, A. W. (1977). Four critical years: Effects of college on beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brooks, K. (2009). You majored in what?: Mapping your path from chaos to career. New York, NY: Viking.

Clydesdale, T. (2015). The purposeful graduate: Why colleges must talk to students about vocation. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Cuba, L., Jennings, N., Lovett, S., & Swingle, J. (2016). Practice for life: Making decisions in college. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Felten, P., Gardner, J. N., Schroeder, C. C., Lambert, L. M., & Barefoot, B. O. (2016). The undergraduate experience: Focusing institutions on what matters most. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sexual Violence: Preparing Academic Advisors to Respond and Advocate

Rebecca Hapes, Chair, NACADA Advisor Training and Development Commission

Editor’s Note: Readers who are interested in more information on this topic may want to view the recent NACADA Webinar on Understanding and Navigating Title IX as an Academic Advisor.

Rebecca Hapes.jpgIn today’s world, sexual violence, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, or economic status.  Higher education professionals strive to provide a safe environment conducive to learning and personal growth for students, but instances of this type of violence occurring at institutions of higher education happen despite those efforts.  Historical statistics vary slightly depending on the definitions utilized in data gathering, but according to the World Health Organization (2002), “nearly 1 in 4 women may experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime” (para. 3).  The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2012), part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that of undergraduate women, “19% experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college” (para. 2).  Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that an estimated 9% of victims of rape and sexual assault are male (National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, n.d.).

Within the United States, there are laws in place designed for the protection of students from “unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior that significantly interferes with a student’s access to educational opportunities” (Title IX, n.d., para. 2).  That particular law is, among other things, designed in part to foster a supportive learning environment for all students at institutions of higher education.  Additionally, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly referred to as the Clery Act, signed in 1990, requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to report statistical information about crime on their campus (Clery Center, n.d.).  This act requires ongoing reporting for institutions and likewise mandates timely warnings and emergency notifications.

Academic advisors are in a position to establish and develop strong personal relationships with students.  If student survivors of sexual violence choose to disclose, there is a possibility they will do so to their advisors with whom they have built strong relational ties. 

To be adequately prepared for a conversation of this nature, academic advisors should:

  • Know their reporting responsibilities per their institution requirements, state guidelines, and associated laws.  Does the institution for whom the academic advisor works indicate advisors as mandatory reporters?    
  • Know their reporting protocol.  It is important that academic advisors are familiar with the protocol for their institution: what information is required to be reported, (as well as how, when and to whom the information should be reported) so that follow-up, as necessary and appropriate, may take place.
  • Know their resources and appropriate referrals.  Both the campus and community surrounding the campus may be included in this resource list.  The specific names of the offices may differ, but the services provided will most likely include things such as victim/survivor advocacy, access to counseling, survivor support groups, and legal guidance or services/support.

When disclosure from a student survivor occurs, it is recommended that the academic advisor do the following:

  • Thank the student for telling them about this situation and trusting enough in the relationship to share this information. 
  • Listen to the student.  Actively listen and engage with the student in that moment.  Be fully present and mindful of the interaction.
  • Believe the student.  According to Sable, Danis, Mauzy, and Gallagher (2006), one of the three main barriers to reporting sexual assault was fear of not being believed.  Academic advisors can assuage this fear by the manner in which they initially develop relationships with students and certainly by the way in which they respond to student disclosures.
  • Advocate on behalf of the student, if and when they desire.  Provide control of the situation to the student.  The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (n.d.) reports that only 16% of rapes are reported to the police and of those who did not report to the police, 43% of them indicated they did not do so because of a belief that nothing could be done about the situation.  In many academic situations, advisors advocate for students and student success.  This is a scenario where student advocacy is critical.  Advisors should follow the preference of the student survivor, and if the student agrees to the advisor’s assistance, take the opportunity to be tremendous advocates for their student survivors.
  • Utilize supportive language that is non-judgmental in nature.  Reassure the student that what occurred is not their fault.  Avoid victim blaming comments, phrases, or lines of inquiry.  Academic advisors should provide a safe environment that is conducive to non-threatening conversation.  If student survivors are disclosing this information to advisors, it is likely this environment is already in existence, but all efforts should be made to maintain and foster such an environment.
  • Define boundaries.  It is important to clearly define the advisor role and responsibilities, including reporting, in this situation.  It is crucial that students understand what information they are disclosing will be shared, with whom, and how, so the student can maintain trust with the academic advisor. 
  • Refer to appropriate medical personnel.  Depending on the timing of the disclosure, this may include helping the survivor receive medical attention and working to preserve evidence.  This may also include the suggestion and referral to talk with someone trained to help survivors of sexual assault.  Offer to go with them if they are willing but hesitant.
  • Follow up with the student.  After the student has disclosed this information to the advisor, the recommendation is that the advisor follows up with the student in the communication mode frequently utilized at and approved by their institution.  This additional interaction will reinforce the caring relationship already established.

As mentioned previously, the historical precedent and trends of sexual violence make it also likely that those in the advising profession have personal history with sexual violence and sexual assault.  Another important consideration for those working with student survivors is their own wellbeing and self-care during and after student disclosure, both for those with and without this history of sexual violence in their past.

Self-care and wellbeing considerations for the academic advisors working with these student survivors include:

  • Give space—emotional and mental space—to yourself to individually process the disclosure and conversation afterwards.  For those with historical background of sexual violence, these conversations may be emotionally triggering.  Allow that space to reflect, process, and decompress from the conversation and emotions elicited.
  • Utilize relaxation techniques.  Simply pausing to become mindful of the manner in which one is breathing can assist in helping with relaxation.  Slow and deep breaths can actually counteract the body’s fight or flight stress response.  Additionally, certain stretching exercises can have a similar relaxing effect on your body.
  • Utilize resources as appropriate.  Academic advisors are fantastic at referring students to necessary and relevant resources.  It may, however, be necessary for advisors to take some of their own advice and utilize similarly appropriate resources, especially when there are emotionally triggering situations.  The specific names of the offices may differ, but many institutions offer services such as employee counseling and support groups of various kinds.  These types of services can assist advisors in working through and processing feelings from those emotionally challenging student interactions.
  • Understand advisor limitations.  Those within the academic advising profession tend to have helping and giving personalities.  However, it is important to understand both advisor boundaries and limitations.  While advisors may offer to support student survivors through their journey, advisors cannot take the journey for the student.  It is important to know and understand when an advisor has done all that can be done on a student’s behalf.

The laws in place to protect students have been and are helpful.  However, it will take multitudes of individuals working diligently and collectively to combat this issue.  Sexual assault prevention programs are in place on many campuses in an effort to increase awareness and engagement of college students, faculty, academic advisors, and other support personnel.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) evaluates programs for effectiveness in prevention of sexual violence perpetration and lists several programs as effective and promising for prevention of sexual violence.  Implementation of programs such as these intended to change the social norms of and beliefs surrounding sexual violence are crucial to changing this problem.

Due to the unique relationship forged between advisors and students, until the culture of sexual violence ends, academic advisors will continue to play a crucial role at the front line as confidants and advocates for student survivors.

Rebecca Hapes
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Sexual violence: Prevention strategies. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html

Clery Center. (n.d.). Summary of the Jeanne Clery act. Retrieved from http://clerycenter.org/summary-jeanne-clery-act

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2012). Sexual violence: Facts at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/SV-DataSheet-a.pdf

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. (n.d.). Sexual Assault Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.ncdsv.org/images/SexualAssaultStatistics.pdf

Sable, M. R., Danis, F., Mauzy, D. L., Gallagher, S. K. (2006). Barriers to reporting sexual assault for women and men: Perspectives of college students. Journal of American College Health. 55(3), 157-162.

The World Health Organization. (2002). Sexual violence. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/factsheets/en/sexualviolencefacts.pdf?ua=1

Title IX. (n.d.). Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from http://www.titleix.info/10-Key-Areas-of-Title-IX/Sexual-Harassment.aspx

Additional Suggested Resources:

Greendot. (n.d.). Ending violence one greet dot at a time. Retrieved from http://livethegreendot.com/

Understanding Readjustment, PTSD, and Disability with Recently Separated Veterans

Mathew Bumbalough, Indiana University

Matthew Bumbalough.jpgWith the scaling back of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans are finishing their time in service and returning to school in increasing numbers.  Returning (or going for the first time) to school after being discharged is not a new phenomenon.  Ever since the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known more commonly as the GI Bill, veterans and their families have flocked to colleges and universities to take advantage of higher education.  Veterans have always been part of the landscape of most universities, and they bring with them issues of readjustment, PTSD, and disabilities.  These veterans are ones that, more often than not, come to the university eager, ready, and wanting to succeed.  As such, it is essential that advisors understand how to engage with veterans in advising sessions and in conversations about their academic trajectories.

Being able to foster a relationship with a veteran can be easy as long as there is mutual respect on both sides of the table.  I had a colleague once tell me that because of their military training, veterans seemed to be more assertive than their peers and as a result might be abrupt in speech and manner.  However, this is not always the case, and assuming that all veterans will act this way might not be conducive to developing good conversation.  Indeed, the personalities, experiences, and backgrounds of all veterans are as varied as any student group, and there is no way to tell who they are unless there is communication first.  There will be veterans who are against war and violence as well as those who advocate for more military interventionism.  Some might be attending a university with hopes of obtaining a commission in the armed forces while others will take a path that explores languages and cultures.  Despite their differences, there are three similarities that many veterans share: readjustment, PTSD, and disability.


A recent study by Elnittsky, Blevins, Fisher, and Magruder (2017) claims that all veterans go through a period of transition to civilian life when leaving the military.  Chief among some of the issues they will face is a cultural adjustment from having been part of an organization that promotes an identity much different from that of a civilian.  The culture shock of going to a large university, for example, can be jarring as their military identity conflicts with the identity that universities promote.  This is true for all veteran populations: from those who have deployed to those that spent their entire enlistment in the continental US.  Every branch of service subjects their enlistees to a highly regimented lifestyle and enlistees adjusting as civilians find themselves without the support system that controlled everything from how they make their bed to what time they eat.  In addition, more than half may find themselves unemployed after separation (Lazier et al., 2016), leading to episodic moments of depression or uncertainty.  Some of them will jump right in to college, while others may wait for several years.  In any situation, these factors can serve to either motivate or discourage a student who is probably attending classes for the first time.  It is difficult to define what successful readjustment looks like, but knowing resources that veterans can turn to if they are struggling can alleviate some of their concerns of being a college student.


A study by Phillips et al. (2016) showed that up to 27% of veterans have some form of PTSD.  This sometimes invisible illness comes in many shapes and forms, and each veteran may or may not have coping strategies to deal with episodes.  It is important for advisors to keep this in mind as these coping strategies, good or bad, tend to increase after deployments (Sayer et al., 2010).  As most veterans will be going to colleges and universities soon after they receive their discharge, these issues may not become manifest until they are well into their first semester of study.  In this case, it is important for advisors to know which services on campus are best suited to dealing with these issues in case a student brings the issue up in an advising meeting.  That is not to say that advisors should refer every veteran to counseling services, but it is helpful to know how they can set up an appointment if students do express wanting to improve their mental health.  There are numerous studies examining PTSD in veterans, but the best thing in most advising sessions is to listen to the student and foster a connection on an interpersonal level.


In a study by Bell, Boland, Dudgeon, and Johnson (2013), they found that 38.43% of their respondents (students at the university) had a disability rating of 10% or higher, and another study showed that 87% had some form of chronic pain (Phillips et al., 2016).  This could include everything from limited mobility to PTSD, but it shows that many of the returning veterans are dealing with disability issues in one way or another.  Many of these disabilities are the results of deployments and include injuries that can negatively affect neurological functioning such as traumatic brain injury.  Advisors should then know how to refer veteran students to local VA clinics and in some cases should refer the student to disability services if the issue is causing the student to fall behind in their studies.  Finally, advisors should review the university or college’s policies on disabilities and accommodations.  Each student will have unique issues that may not be solvable, but learning how to cope and reach academic goals can help to alleviate the stress caused by disability.

Using the GI Bill

As a final note, while it is important that advisors understand readjustment, PTSD, and disability for veteran students, it is also important for advisors to know at least something about the benefits that veterans are using.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill, which the majority of veterans use, has several stipulations:

  • it provides 36 month of benefits               ;
  • is prorated based on days in which school is in session;
  • requires full-time student status to get the housing stipend;
  • caps tuition and fees at $17,500 for out of state, private, and foreign universities;
  • provides no housing stipend for distance education programs; and
  • only covers certificates from a degree-granting college or university.

The bureaucracy behind the GI Bill can be daunting, but it is important to know the basics in case there is a veteran who may try to take less than the amount of classes required for full-time status or who will not complete their degree in four years.  However, most veterans are accustomed to bureaucracy and will appreciate that advisors make an effort on their behalf.  When in doubt, referring student veterans to a veterans support office is always a good idea.

The Role of the Advisor

To successfully understand and advise recently separated veterans, advisors should make sure they are aware of their role in the meeting as well as provide the veteran with further resources in and around the campus.  Some ways an advisor can prepare for a meeting or support veterans on campus include

  • knowing the location of the campus veteran’s office,
  • knowing the location of the nearest VA Clinic or hospital,
  • knowing the warning signs of substance abuse,
  • knowing the warning signs of PTSD,
  • knowing the rules and regulations of the GI Bill,
  • ensuring that the veteran knows about university student veteran’s groups,
  • providing updated information on employment opportunities, and
  • sending updates to veterans about other support groups and networks.

Advisors are oftentimes the first stop for veterans in starting their college careers, and it is important to understand that they are not a traditional student.  Many of them will be older and some will have had experiences overseas that they are still dealing with on different psychological and physical levels.  Now that these veterans are students, they will appreciate the value of their experiences, and it will be up to the advisor to ensure that the obstacles they face are not impossible to overcome as their identity changes.

Mathew Bumbalough, PhD
Academic Advisor
Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Indiana University

References & Further Readings

Bell, G. L., Boland, E. A., Dudgeon, B., & Johnson, K. (2013). The post-9/11 GI Bill: Insights

from veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs educational benefits. Rehabilitation Research, Policy, and Education27(4), 246-260.

Elnitsky, C. A., Blevins, C. L., Fisher, M. P., & Magruder, K. (2017). Military service member and veteran

reintegration: A critical review and adapted ecological model. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry87(2), 114.

Lazier, R. L., Gawne, A. W., & Williamson, N. S. (2016). Veteran Family Reintegration: Strategic Insights to Inform Stakeholders’ Efforts. Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs2(1), 48-57.

Phillips, K. M., Clark, M. E., Gironda, R. J., McGarity, S., Kerns, R. W., Elnitsky, C. A., & Collins, R. C. (2016). Pain and psychiatric comorbidities among two groups of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 53, 413– 432.

Sayer, N. A., Noorbaloochi, S., Frazier, P., Carlson, K., Gravely, A., & Murdoch, M. (2010). Reintegration

problems and treatment interests among Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans receiving VA medical care. Psychiatric Services, 61, 589 –597.

When NOT to Parallel Plan: Advising Academically Grieving Students

Liz Freedman, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Liz Freeman.jpgEveryone grieves, yet when encountering a grieving student, academic advisors may feel helpless.  Since most advisors are not counselors, tackling grief in 30 minutes may seem overwhelming or even harmful.

Grief is not limited to the death of a loved one.  Reynolds (2004) writes that students who are not admitted to competitive programs grieve, and advisors must provide a safe space and time to do so.  The tendency is often to refer the student to career, counseling, and academic resources, and forces such as retention pressure may encourage advisors to focus on parallel planning.  However, supporting a grieving student may require advisors to defer parallel planning until the student is ready.

Grief Tools for Advising

For three years, I volunteered for Brooke’s Place for Grieving Children facilitating groups of youth and adults who are grieving the death of a loved one (Brooke’s Place, n.d.).  After advising many students who are not competitive for programs such as nursing, I realized the four Brooke’s Place facilitator tools can translate into 30-minute appointments (J. Pierce, personal communication, October 26, 2016).  Like Peer Group Facilitators, academic advisors are not typically counselors, but wish to provide support to grieving students.  The tools are meant for students who are not ready for parallel planning and can be used regardless of where the student is along their grief journey.

Tool #1: Reflective Listening (RL).  Advisors understand reflective listening, but it is essential to use this tool with no agenda, as grieving students need time and space to grieve uniquely.  Validate the student’s feelings by repeating exactly what they say; do not make assumptions about their comments, and learn to be comfortable with silence.  For example, here is a conversation between a student who is not competitive for nursing and their advisor:

Student: I don’t think I’ll get into nursing.  I have no idea what I’ll do.

Advisor: You are not sure if you are competitive for nursing, and if you aren’t admitted you don’t have a parallel plan.  Is that right? (RL)

Student: Yes.  If I don’t get in, I’ll start over and graduate late.

Advisor: Choosing a parallel plan concerns you because you may not graduate by the date you had planned, which is important to you.  (RL)

Student: Yes.  I need to graduate on time because my scholarship will run out after four years.

Advisor: So graduation, your scholarship, and nursing all sound like things that are stressful right now.  I wonder if there is anything else that is concerning you? (RL, IW)

Student: No . . . getting into nursing is the main thing.

Advisor: That sounds like a lot.  I’m here to help you navigate these concerns and deal with the most pressing one, which it sounds like is nursing.  Should we start with that?

Student: Sounds good.

Tool #2: “I Wonder” Questions (IW).  When using this tool, the advisor poses open-ended questions to the student to allow time for reflection and to gage where the student is in their grieving process.  This language is non-threatening and lets the student decide if and how they want to respond.  The advisor should also continue to do reflective listening.  To continue the previous conversation:

Advisor: I wonder how it would feel if you weren’t admitted? (IW)

Student: I guess I’d feel like I failed.

Advisor: You would feel like you had failed if you were not admitted.  (RL)

Student: Yeah.

Advisor: I wonder if you’ve ever considered other careers? (IW)

Student: Not really . . . I’ve always wanted to be a nurse.

Advisor: You’ve always imagined becoming a nurse.  I wonder why that is? (RL, IW)

Student: I don’t know.

Advisor: I wonder what would happen if you explored other careers? What would it feel like to think about choosing a new major? (IW)

Student: I don’t know . . . I’ve never thought about choosing another major.

Advisor: If we could find another major you are excited about and you could graduate on time, I wonder if you would be interested in exploring that option? (IW)

Student: I don’t think there is anything I will like as much, but I guess I would consider it.

Tool #3: Metalevel Communication (MC).  Advisors can be transparent about competitiveness while balancing reality with positive encouragement.  Remember, if the advisor is telling a student they are not competitive, they may not be mentally prepared to immediately begin parallel planning.  Furthermore, when possible, share statistics from their program, use GPA calculators, and suggest online resources for the student to reference later.  Be clear about what the advisor can and cannot do, and connect to outside resources as needed.  To demonstrate, below is a continuation of the conversation:

Advisor: I wonder if you are ready to talk about parallel plans? (IW)

Student: Honestly, I don’t know.

Advisor: It sounds like you need some time to adjust to possibly changing your major, and I want to respect that.  However, I also want to help you prepare for fall classes and for making a plan that will allow you to graduate on time.  With that in mind, I wonder what would need to happen for you to be ready to talk about other majors? (MC)

Student: I’m not sure.  Maybe if I knew for sure I was not getting into nursing I could choose something different.

Advisor: So right now you feel like you may not be competitive, but until you know for sure it would be hard to consider other options. (RL)

Student: Yeah.

Advisor: That makes sense.  You should hear back from nursing sometime in December. How would you feel about setting up a time to meet after you find out?

Student: That would be good.

Advisor: Then let’s schedule an appointment when we can talk about other options.  However, if you decide that you’re ready to parallel plan before then, would you let me know? (MC)

Student: Yeah.

Advisor: Good.  When you are ready I’ll tell you about resources like online career assessments, career advisors, other students who have changed their majors, ways to get involved on campus, and other healthcare careers.  Does that sound like a plan? (MC)

Student: Yes, that sounds good.

Advisor: Great. In the meantime, I wonder what else is on your mind? (IW)

The advisor does not ignore parallel planning, but does not force it since the student said they are not ready.  Introducing the idea of a parallel plan may be enough to allow the student to feel some discomfort, ultimately leading to self-discovery and personal growth (Shaffer & Zalewski, 2011).

Tool #4: Rule Breaks (RB).  The final tool at the advisor’s disposal is to employ “rule breaks” when the advisor or student are not safe.  Advisors should follow protocol set by their campuses, including referring to counseling services or contacting campus police if needed.  It is important to establish relationships with counseling staff and practice their preferred referral process.  Conversations when “rule breaks” are needed can take many shapes, but below is one example of this tool:

Student: Um . . . nothing else is really going on.

Advisor: I hope this is ok, but I want to tell you some of the things I have observed during our appointment.  You seem very tired and like you aren’t able to focus very well on our conversation.  Do you notice that, too? (MC)

Student: Well, I am not really sleeping well right now.

Advisor: I wonder why that is? (IW)

Student: I’ve been really stressed about all of this, and since I am so tired it’s hard to get up and go to class.

Advisor: So the fact that you are unable to sleep has been affecting your performance in classes.  (RL)

Student: Yeah.

Advisor: I wonder if you have ever considered meeting with one of our mental health counselors? (IW, RB)

Student: No . . . I have never thought about that.

Advisor: A counselor can meet with you individually like this meeting, but they can talk to you about what you can do outside of class in order to be more successful academically.  For example, if you are having trouble sleeping, they may be able to give you some ideas as to why that may be happening and how you can fix that.  A deeper conversation like that is not something I am equipped to do, but I would love to give you the phone number for their office so that you can make an appointment with someone who can.  Would you be open to that? (MC, RB)

Student: Yeah, I guess I would.

Advisor: I really care about your wellbeing and think they could be really helpful, but ultimately it is up to you if you want to make an appointment.  Would it be alright with you if I emailed you next week to see how you are doing? (MC)

Student: Yeah, that would be fine with me.

Advisor: Ok, I’ll do that.


One challenge is that college structures are not always conducive for students to take time to parallel plan.  For many programs, students must apply to a competitive program in their first or second semester, and if not admitted they risk delaying graduation.  Therefore, in addition to using these tools, advisors should be proactive about parallel planning by introducing it as early as new student orientation and by creating a culture where parallel plans are normalized.

Liz Freedman
Student Success Advisor
Health and Life Sciences Advising Center
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis


Brooke's Place for Grieving Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brookesplace.org/

Reynolds, M. M. (2004). Now what? Some thoughts on advising students in selective majors from a faculty member with no training as a counselor. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-students-for-selective-majors.aspx  

Shaffer, L. S., & Zalewski, J. M. (2011). “It’s what I have always wanted to do.” Advising the foreclosure student. NACADA Journal, 31(2), 73.

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From Probation to Dean's List: Serving Underdog Students

Katerine Rodriguez Pais, University of Connecticut

Katerine Rodriguez Pais.jpgOver the years, I have worked with numerous student populations ranging from adult learners to immigrant students, first-generation students, student-athletes, exploratory students, STEM students, and honors students.  As much as I enjoy mentoring high achieving students and being awed and humbled by their achievements, I continue to be amazed by working with what I call my “underdog students.”  My most challenging and rewarding cases have been working with students at risk such as students on probation and students who have been dismissed and are readmitted.  Over the years, I have learned various best practices and strategies for serving these student populations.

At my previous institution, UAlbany, I started my first position as an academic advisor.  Over the five years I was there, I recall a particular student; I will call him Robert.  Robert had reached out to me before being readmitted into the university.  He had taken some time off and was ready to return.  As many advisors who have worked with students on probation or readmitted students know, it is very challenging to work with these students.  Will they succeed? Will they get dismissed? Will they graduate? Will they learn from their past mistakes? Will they listen to us mere advisors? How can we as advisors best support these students?

Robert met with me several times, and he ended up on the Dean’s List.  After working with students like him, I came to love working with underdog students even more.  Before this position, I had worked with countless underprepared students at a community college.  I worked at Palm Beach State College where one segment of the student population were students who were recent immigrants learning English/reading skills and trying to succeed in college at the same time.  I worked with students who needed to take prep classes and college skills classes to prepare them for college level work.  I had witnessed countless students do well despite the odds and achieve immense goals in the face of adversity.  I knew they could do it, because you see, I also graduated from this community college.  I knew that some students are underdogs but they can succeed with the right mentoring, study skills, and iron will.  I had been one of these students who succeeded despite the odds and now I was given the opportunity to serve other underdog students.  But this story is not about me, it is about them.

When I started my new position at UConn five years ago, I also was given the opportunity of working with probation students.  When I work with probation students, I mention to them that success is possible and I tell them the story of my old advisee at UAlbany: my student who went from being on probation to the Dean’s List.  I work with them to figure out new learning strategies/study skills and help them figure out what worked and did not work in the past.  I refer them to campus resources ranging from tutoring, the Academic Achievement Center, The Center for Student with Disabilities, or the Counseling Center, etc.  

Using a Multifunctional Team Approach to Serve Students on Probation  

When working with at-risk students, advisors must take a multifunctional team approach.  As advisors, we often cannot serve all the needs of each student, especially if we have large caseloads.  I learned this valuable lesson working at the Renfrew Center, a residential eating disorder treatment facility.  I acted as liaison between the multidisciplinary treatment team, patients, parents, and schools.  I have applied what I learned in this setting to advising students in crisis.  Students on probation often need help that is beyond our scope of expertise as advisors.  For instance, it is vital to remind students that we are not trained therapists.  After referring students to counseling, it helps students address underlining issues so that they can get healthier and get back on track academically.

Finally, it is also important to refer students to various campus resources.  At UConn, probation students are required to meet with an “academic recovery advisor” and fill out an “Academic Recovery and Engagement Plan.”  Students also get an opportunity to follow-up with their departmental advisor. Students can sign up for a mentoring program on campus called UConn Connects that pairs up students with a peer or staff mentor.  In my experience, students who use multiple resources are often the ones who establish a good plan for future academic success. Costopoulous (2016) shares that when working with students at risk, advisors should “coordinate a response from various student services” (p. 4) to help students come up with a plan for academic success, but they cannot blame themselves if students do not decide to help themselves.  In summary, advisors need to take a multifunctional team approach when working with students at academic risk.    

Helping Students Consider Options and Envision Success

When I am working with probation students, we talk about consequences and options.  We talk about preparing for the worst and hoping for the best outcome.  We discuss various options such as whether it is in the best interest of the student to take time off to take care of their health.  After working at the Renfrew Center, I witnessed countless bright students who were on the brink of death from their eating disorder.  Some of these patients even managed to get excellent grades despite being critically ill, yet many of these young patients needed to get medical and mental health intervention to regain their overall health and continue with their studies.  Once they were in recovery, they were in a better place to return to school and continue pursuing other life goals.  When working with students who are subject to dismissal, it is vital to discuss whether students should take time off and what their plan will be if they are dismissed.  Often times, students need to take time off to address various underlying issues that are preventing them from obtaining academic success.  When taking time off, students should consider the following questions: Will they continue counseling? Will they take some classes elsewhere to improve their grades? Will they look for a job to acquire experience and transferable skills? Should they consider transferring to another institution?          

While I discuss consequences and options with probation students, I also encourage them to envision an outcome of success.  Higgins (2003) calls this a “plan for success” and states that advisors and students must create a partnership where students “identify what needs to change and implement the plan” (p. 1).  I encourage students to see me every two weeks and set up a semester-long plan.  I help them figure out what study skills they can improve.  Most importantly, as advisors, we can teach at-risk students to develop problem-solving skills (Miller & Murray, 2005) and to determine what campus resources they need to take advantage of in order to implement their academic success plan.

Conclusion: Sharing our Stories with Students on Probation

Last semester one of my advisees came into my office.  With a caseload of over 500 students, sometimes I do not get the time to thoroughly review a student’s advising notes before a student unexpectedly drops by my office.  What jumped out at me was her transcript.  During her first semester, she was on probation, but each semester, her GPA had drastically improved.  She had even made the Dean’s List!  When she came into my office, I told her how proud I was of her.  She told me that she remembered what I had told her during her first semester and she wanted to show me that she could do it too—that she could go from probation to Dean’s List.

Incredibly, I had another student recently reach out to me to ask for a recommendation letter.  During this student’s first year, she had experienced major mental health issues to the point that she had emailed me expressing thoughts of self-harm.  Although I was a new advisor, I had received training on working with suicidal students.  With the help of the university’s care team, the police were contacted and the student was able to get in contact with her parents.  The student’s grades suffered as her personal and health issues continued and she was dismissed.  She kept in touch with me as we followed the steps listed above.  She took time off to address her health by seeing a therapist and taking classes elsewhere. When she was readmitted, she decided to change her major as she found a better fit.  She also ended up on the Dean’s List and has been accepted into a graduate program.    

And in that moment, I knew that some students do take our humble advice, and many underdog students do succeed despite the odds.  It is moments like this that I savor and use to remind me of why I’m an advisor.  Their story is my story after all.   

Katerine Rodriguez Pais
Academic Advisor
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Biology Advising Center
University of Connecticut


Costopoulos, A. (2016, December 04). Guiding When It's a Matter of Life or Death. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/article/Guiding-When-It-s-a-Matter/238565 

Higgins, E. M. (2003). Advising students on probation. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/118/article.aspx

Miller, M. A. & Murray, C. (2005). Advising academically underprepared students. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from 

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Enhancing the Advising Profession through Internships

Editor's Note: Learn about NACADA's Internship Connection Service

Regan Baker, Kimmy Brake, and Kathy Davis, Missouri State University

Regan, Kathy, Kimmy.jpgMany higher education professionals are expected to have specific competencies and skills when they begin working with students, but are only able to gain these skills after beginning their career (Brown & Ward, 2007).  When advisors are asked about what rewards are most valuable, “seventy-four percent of respondents consider support for professional development activities of most value to them” (Drake, 2008, p. 404).  Advising, which often has no standardized training for new employees, has a unique need for additional training.  

How can advisors more effectively train incoming professionals as they enter the field?  At Missouri State University (MSU), the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) program has partnered with the Academic Advisement Center to create a system of educational internships for graduate students interested in academic advising.  The following article outlines the internship structure at MSU and discusses experiences from the perspectives of the internship supervisor and interns from the past year.

Preparing for an Internship

Before hosting an intern, there are factors to consider.  One concern includes the available physical space, which ideally includes a computer and a work station.  Another factor is determining which candidates to select.  At MSU, the internship program is typically linked to the SAHE program, and selection is done on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Structuring the internship before it begins is vital to its success.  First, supervisors and students should establish a manageable schedule that includes key times for learning (for instance, during staff meeting or high traffic times).  At MSU, this is typically only between six to eight hours per week.  The most helpful step to creating a learning environment is setting clear learning goals and selecting activities aligned with those goals.  Below is an example of one of five goals used during an MSU internship that follows the ABCD assessment method (Penn State, 2014).

Audience: Kimmy (intern)

Behavior: Understand the importance of professional associations and how they impact professional positions

Condition: Read and discuss NACADA publications, determine office involvement in associations during interviews with advisors, participate in training sessions, and create and implement presentations at MACADA and NACADA

Degree: Have experience presenting at regional and annual conferences, ability to articulate goals and missions of MACADA & NACADA, and training as a Master Advisor

How supervisor will assess: Supervisor will look for the ability to explain the role and responsibilities of student affairs professional associations, engagement in service to the associations, and articulation of plans to incorporate emerging values

Both the supervisor and intern should be realistic about what can be accomplished in just one semester and ensure that all tasks will be educational.  While planning, consider activities that make the intern feel involved (staff meetings, major events, trainings, or social events) and the needs of the office.  Due to the shorter length of internships and liability concerns, the MSU internship program does not allow interns to advise, which is a question that may need to be considered individually. 

It is easiest to have some activities that recur with each internship and other activities, including possibly a larger learning experience, that are specific to the student.  Below are examples of each type of learning experience with activities that have been successful in the MSU Academic Advisement Center. 

Recurring Activities

  • Interviewing advisors in the office or across campus
  • Observing advising sessions (with written student permission)
  • Writing advising notes
  • Attending advisor trainings
  • Reading selected advising literature

Individual Projects

  • Co-teaching a student success course
  • Planning an “Ask an Advisor” program in residence halls
  • Assisting with larger events such as a majors fair
  • Writing a manual on advising a specific demographic of students
  • Creating promotional materials for advising

During the Internship

As part of the learning experience, it is important for the student to have opportunities to reflect on and track learning.  Because the MSU internship program is connected to a master’s program, this is accomplished through classroom requirements, but these could also be implemented into the internship. 

Journal: Accounts of what the student experienced during the week, what they observed about the office and themselves, what conclusions they have drawn from these experiences, and what actions they need to take based on those conclusions.  

Individual Meetings: Opportunities for interns to feedback from a direct supervisor.  It has been helpful at MSU to meet at least every other week for an hour.  These scheduled meetings allow for the supervisor to answer questions, discuss the work of the intern, and review learning goals. 

Midterm/Final:  A review of the learning goals midway through the experience to determine how the second half of the internship may be adjusted to accomplish the learning goals.  This experience may be repeated in a final interview to give the supervisor and intern an opportunity to reflect on the experience and establish any future goals.

Personal Reflections

Kathy (Supervisor): Eight years ago I was approached by the director of the SAHE program and asked to supervise a student intern.  I was hesitant at first: it is a considerable commitment of time to help graduate students develop learning goals, choose educationally sound projects, and process their experiences.  However, what I did not know was how personally rewarding it would be to develop relationships with emerging professionals and how the interns would bring a fresh perspective, current research, and new technology into my professional life. 

Part of my role has been to help interns decide whether a career in academic advising is right for them by giving them a realistic view of the field.  For the interns who do get excited about becoming academic advisors, I have the great privilege of being part of their entry into a profession that I love.  Some of my past interns still call when they have professional challenges.  I have watched them present at state and annual conferences, read their NACADA Journal articles, and helped them polish up their resumes to apply for advancements.  My relationships with my interns have reenergized me, reminded me of what a privilege it is to work in this field, and brought me opportunities for great pride.  I am convinced they have enriched my career at least as much as I have enriched theirs.

Kimmy (Intern): As someone who learns best from practice, I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to intern in the Academic Advisement Center with Kathy.  Being in the office, at conferences, and engaged in the literature helped me learn so much about the the field of advising, best practices and techniques, and what it would really be like to be an advisor.  Not only did my internship provide a significant amount of learning and professional development, but it also confirmed that I would greatly enjoy a career as an academic advisor before having to fully invest myself in the career.  I also think opportunities like internships can really bring a lot of passion into an office; an eager new professional met with one pouring out their knowledge of the field can create mutual motivation that I felt with Kathy and other advisors in the office.

Regan (Intern): As part of a Student Affairs program, I think an advising internship can be a segue into a profession that otherwise may not have a clear starting point.  Being a part of an advising office not only gave me the chance to experience elements that you would expect, like understanding the daily responsibilities of an advisor and different advising styles, but has fostered relationships in the advising office that have encouraged me to participate in a number of other opportunities.  Kathy has continued to be a mentor to me after my experience, encouraging me to work on my advising certification through Kansas State University, partnering with Kimmy and me in completing two professional presentations, and finally partnering with us on this article: a learning opportunity that has continued throughout my master’s experience.


Professional development continues to be a key component for advisors, but where does one start their journey in academic advising? Internships create an opportunity for new professionals to begin their development early, as well as a chance for experienced professionals to give back to a collaborative and supportive field.  At Missouri State University, we have found that a connection between academic advising and graduate programs can open doors to students who may have an interest in the field.  We encourage advisors to consider how their offices could be a resource for training and professional development as a collective effort to contribute to the field of academic advising.

Regan Baker
Graduate Assistant, Co-Curricular Programs
Missouri State University

Kimmy Brake
Graduate Assistant, Career Center
Missouri State University

Kathy Davis
Director, Academic Advisement Center
Missouri State University


Brown, T. E., & Ward, L. (2007). Preparing service providers to foster student success. In G. L. Kramer (Ed.), Fostering student success in the campus community. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.) (pp. 396-412). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Penn State. (2014). Writing objectives. Retrieved from http://archive.tlt.psu.edu/learningdesign/objectives/writing.html

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Student Leader Perspective on Academic Advising

Jessica Van Ranken and Trenton Kennedy, Kansas State University

Kennedy & Van Ranken.jpgGreetings, NACADA community, and thank you for allowing us the opportunity to share our experience and student perspective with NACADA and academic advising.  Please allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Jessica Van Ranken and Trenton Kennedy, student body president and vice president at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  In our role at Kansas State, we represent the student body to the university community and administration and work on their behalf to solve problems related to student life and student success.  At Kansas State, our student government partakes in university governance in a shared manner between university support staff and faculty senate.  Most will tell you that student leadership have a particularly significant place at the table, working collaboratively with administration on complex issues affecting students and the system in general.  We have spent our term in office working on issues like sexual assault policy, diversity and inclusion, mental wellness, political advocacy, and student success.  Our work has spanned the academy and we have tried to navigate the political battlegrounds of higher education to shape university policy and action in a way that put students in a place to most often be the benefactor when complex, intricate decisions were made.

One priority of ours since day one has been academic advising.  We were first introduced to academic advising when Steven Dandaneau (K-State’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and fierce advocate for NACADA) came before our student-led tuition and fees strategies committee requesting a fee to fund a centralized academic advising position as well as integrated software to implement university wide.  Although the fee was not approved, as a student committee we engaged in conversations about academic advising and our specific approach at K-State, where there is great variation across the institution in the amounts of professional and faculty advising, types of software systems, advisor to student ratios, and student satisfaction levels.  It was through these conversations that we understood our deeply rooted decentralized methodology towards academic advising here at K-State.  

These realizations led us to think of ways in which we as student representatives and our (student) Academic Affairs Director could become advocates for academic advising and work to improve student satisfaction and consistency.  NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt suggested the two of us attend the NACADA Annual Conference in Atlanta.  We were excited and very mystified—what actually goes on at NACADA and how long can we talk about academic advising?  Dr. Dandaneau and Dr. Nutt briefed us before we went, and our thoughts after those briefings brought about excitement to attend and be most likely the only student leaders present, but also anxiety to represent what Dr. Dandaneau and Dr. Nutt call the “mothership” of academic advising: Kansas State University!

Our first and most notable NACADA impression was the outright friendliness and welcoming attitude exhibited by literally all of the attendees.  Even coming from a school that prides itself on being a “Family,” we were blown away by everyone’s kindness and generosity.  We talked about it and concluded, what exactly were we expecting?  This attitude and warm welcome speaks to the work that academic advisors do every day, serving on front lines with students facilitating the most important and crucial conversations that some will ever have.  The attitude and personality of NACADA attendees speaks to the profession they chose.

One of our first and most notable NACADA experiences was the chance to meet and talk with Kathleen Shea Smith, the Associate Provost for Academic Advising at the University of Oklahoma.  Dr. Shea Smith helped us understand academic advising in the context of higher education, not just specifically to our institution, but to all of higher education.  We learned of progress and change, and specifically how she was able to move the needle at different institutions.  This was important context to have as we prepared to learn and grow for two days all in relation to advising and student success.

Our NACADA experience was one of learning and growth.  We dove into presentations and conversations about student success, retention and matriculation, the use of data, early intervention, advising administration, case management, and much more.  NACADA helped us to understand exactly what academic advising is and the foundations from which the profession is built.  However, most notable to us was the personality and demeanor of those around us—those who dedicate their lives to ensuring students in higher education are getting the things they need to be successful academically, emotionally, physically, and financially.  NACADA instilled in us a sense of loyalty to such a noble profession.

The conference came and went and we spent time chewing on the huge amount of things that we learned, information we received, and perspective we gained.  We began engaging in conversations with each other on how we could take what NACADA gave us and set forward a vision for what would best fit K-State and its students.  It has been in those conversations that we believe we are able to capture maybe not exactly how academic advising could or should look at an institution, but themes or strategies in which academic advising can best serve students and fit most efficiently in the structure of a university.

In the structure and administration of academic advising, we understand the fine line that must be walked in terms of the centralization of academic advising.  We understand that a decentralized approach gives units the autonomy to tailor-fit advising to their student and staff needs.  However, like at Kansas State, this decentralized approach may lead to a massive lack of consistency in advising approaches and student satisfaction.  Additionally, a decentralized approach creates advisor-to-student ratios that are different across the board.  We believe the ratio is one of the most important factors in advising and having a consistent standard at the institution creates a better structure for students.

A concept that we grasped during our time at the NACADA Annual Conference was the idea of holistic advising.  Holistic advising is advising that addresses the whole student and connects them with the resources they need, both for academics and for other resources campus wide.  In our minds, this advising makes the most sense because academic advisors ought to be able to connect students to financial resources as well as things like tutoring, counseling, health and wellness, among the many things offered to students. Holistic advising can only be done though with an established relationship where hard conversations, about topics such as financial aid, are made comfortable.  Ultimately, we believe that this is done through low ratios and a connectedness to campus on behalf of the advisor.  We believe there is room for collaboration, especially between financial aid services and academic advising, as we know this is a primary reason that colleges and universities, specifically K-State, are not retaining students.

In closing, we believe that academic advising is one of the most powerful tools for ensuring student success and retention.  At Kansas State, our nation’s first land grant institution, we owe it to our students not just to admit them and to bring them here, but to ensure their success for the years they spend at our institution.  Academic advising has been and ought to continue to be a driving force of this aspirational success.  We believe that conversations and decisions regarding academic advising must be made with students at the table.  While we are grateful to have been the only student leaders in attendance at the NACADA Annual Conference, we believe that to ensure the continued foundational success of advising, students must consistently have a place at the table.  Because they are the ultimate consumer, decisions should be made with them at the forefront.

Jessica Van Ranken
Student Body President
Kansas State University

Trenton Kennedy
Student Body Vice President
Kansas State University

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How Focusing for One Week Can Lead to Major Changes: A Review of the NACADA Summer Institute

Sarah Howe, Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute scholarship recipient

Sarah Howe,.jpgI was sitting in the audience of a keynote speaker at a mini advising institute, a collaboration between Kansas State University and NACADA, wondering if a graduate degree in student development was even what I wanted; maybe I would rather be a teacher in K–12.  “Advising is teaching” said the speaker, Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director, and it was almost as if he was speaking to me.  Nutt continued explaining all the ways advising is not course enrollment, but teaching and developing students.  It was that day that I realized advising was my path.  I added a graduate certificate in academic advising to my Master’s program, quit my full-time job in study abroad, and went to work as a graduate research assistant for NACADA. 

Years later, I found my niche as an academic advisor and began attending NACADA annual and state advising conferences.  The conferences inspired me and exposed me to all the things advising could be.  I wanted to take my position as sole advisor in my department and create an advising program, but I needed more help.  With the support of my department and university, I applied for and received one of the Wesley R. Habley Scholarships to the 2016 NACADA Summer Institute.  Not only was this institute a powerful professional development experience for me, but it was a turning point in the student experience in my department.

Unlike a conference, where one attends to take in all the information and then return to campus to apply it, the institute requires analyzing the program’s needs first and attending with an action plan.  Initially, I felt like I was in over my head; what was I doing, a first-year advisor, making an action plan for a whole department?  The department needed an advising program, not just an academic advisor, but I felt unequipped to make such a change.  I submitted a draft action plan to my workgroup leaders that consisted of fragmented ideas, far too many of them.

During the opening session, the group was polled about how long they had been advisors, and I suddenly felt like a fraud.  Judging by the show of hands, there were probably no more than five of us who were first-year advisors.  All these advisors, with all this experience and knowledge to contribute, and then me, now feeling like I was only there to listen.  Once we moved into our small work groups and spent time talking about professional backgrounds and ideas for our action plans, I became more confident.  It does not take years of experience to identify a need and have the ambition to fix it; I had been selling myself short.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be, surrounded by a wealth of knowledge and ideas to help me develop my vision.

The week was filled with sessions by the advising “big wigs” like Charlie Nutt, George Steele, Jennifer Joslin, and my work group leaders, Karen Sullivan-Vance and Nancy Roadruck, among others.  Between our work group meetings, I attended conference sessions about development and assessment of learning outcomes, advisor evaluation and leadership, research in advising, and advisor training and development.  All these sessions directly applied to my action plan goals and allowed me to enhance and focus these goals.

Work groups were a place to brainstorm and work with each other on our ideas and objectives.  We came from different types of schools and programs, but we could provide inspiration to each other and, most importantly, support.  Every advisor at this institute was there to make their advising program better in some way.  My work group included two advisors from different international universities; one of these advisors was creating an advising program from scratch.  This was a remarkable opportunity for the rest of us to reflect on advising practices from the bottom up.  I believe that one of the biggest advantages to the NACADA Summer Institute is the opportunity to devote dedicated time to working on a project among peers.  At home, we get interrupted for a million reasons or must wait for feedback by email.  When at the summer institute, that is it – a full focus on the project at hand!

My action plan for the institute, through the help of my new colleagues and friends, was to replace faculty advising with professional advising for my department and establish a faculty mentoring program in its place.  This proposal was submitted to the department head upon my return to campus.  Without the summer institute, I do not believe I could have submitted such a sound proposal that included implementation steps in such a short time.  My action plan was approved by my department and was then implemented in October 2016.  In November 2016, the Dean’s office granted permission to hire a second full-time advisor to begin in January 2017.  The last step of my implementation plan of creating advising programs should be in place by summer 2017.

I opened by saying that this was a turning point for our student experience, and it was no exaggeration.  Since the implementation of my action plan, I have received an incredible amount of feedback from my students (current caseload of 450) on how happy they are to have professional advising with faculty mentorship opportunities.  Because I am the only advisor, I can meet with students individually and in newly developed, optional, group advising sessions and ensure that all students in our department are receiving the same message.  It has also allowed me to start tracking at-risk students and providing interventions when possible.  This is something that I plan to increase and formalize once we have a second advisor in place.  Each fall our university requires an advising survey be completed before students can enroll for spring.  Advisors receive the survey results in April, and I look forward to seeing the data collected about the change in advising within our department.

The NACADA Summer Institute is an incredible experience for any advisor, new or seasoned, from any type of institution.  I could never say enough about how much the program benefitted me, my department, and my institution.  The program feels comparable to getting an advanced degree in advising in one very intense, powerful, gratifying week.  I would encourage all advisors to attend and all institutions to find the money to send their advisors!

Sarah Howe
Academic Advisor
Journalism & Mass Communications
Kansas State University


Posted in: 2017 June 40:2


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