From the President: Conversation on NACADA as a Global Community for Academic Advising
Amy Sannes, NACADA President
The President’s column in Academic Advising Today has been committed to updating the membership on the Town Hall topic areas that were discussed at the 2017 Annual Conference in October. This edition will focus on the topic of NACADA’s Global Initiatives.
Becoming a global community seems like a reasonably easy goal and definitely a valuable goal for NACADA. At the Town Hall meeting in St. Louis, the discussion on Global Initiatives certainly supported NACADA’s efforts to continue to move toward a global community, but also highlighted several questions from the membership. The questions raised during this meeting centered on a lack of knowledge of why have we moved to a global community and how can we be more effective as a global community for academic advising. In February there was a Virtual Town Hall meeting focused on Global Initiatives that addressed many of the questions raised at the in-person Annual Town Hall meeting and NACADA membership is encouraged to view the webinar.
The Association has made amazing strides at connecting externally with global partners; however, it is important that membership also focus on internally supporting the association to include a global viewpoint in the work we do. Reviewing NACADA’s Vision and Mission, it is clear that the membership has charged the Association with promoting student success through effective academic advising on a global level. The Board of Directors has been very supportive of Global Initiatives and has supported and encouraged Charlie Nutt, the NACADA Executive Director, to develop global partnerships and help lead the way as NACADA became the Global Community for Academic Advising. In 2012, the Board voted to include a global focus in NACADA’s strategic goals.
When asked why this is important to the Association, Nutt responded:
As the world becomes “smaller” due to increased use of technology in all areas, higher education institutions across the globe are more closely aligned than ever before. This is especially true as the issue of increased student completion and graduation is an issue being faced by institutions in all countries. Therefore, it is essential that NACADA be an association where the global advising community can come together in various venues to discuss the issues of the impact of quality academic advising on student success, can learn from each other and the work that is being done at institutions in all countries, and ultimately can begin to conduct global research on academic advising that will enhance our profession and will clearly promote quality academic advising for all students in all institutions across the world. (C. Nutt, personal communication, April 30, 2018)
NADADA membership is approaching 14,000 members of which 360 are Canadian and 161 are from other institutions outside of North America. Our membership represents 35 countries. NACADA is poised to take on the role of supporting student success on a global level and has a history of global involvement.
Canadian advisors have been an important component of the NACADA membership since the beginning. NACADA’s first conference in Vermont in 1977 had Canadian members in attendance, so technically NACADA had a global influence on a small scale from the start. It was not until 2006 that NACADA really started branching outside of North America. Nutt was invited to provide a keynote address to the tutors at the United Kingdom regional tutoring conference. For those of you wondering why NACADA would be presenting at a tutoring conference—well, advising in the UK is actually referred to as tutoring! Nutt realized almost immediately that this group, on another continent, had the same concerns in supporting student success as North American advisors.
From this point on, NACADA became immersed in developing a global community for academic advising. There was a name change from NACADA: National Academic Advising Association to NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA now refers to the yearly National Conference as the yearly Annual Conference to reflect the global community. Since 2013, NACADA has offered a yearly International Conference that has further exposed the North American membership to a more global concept and has also connected the resources and expertise of NACADA to many advisors from across the globe. In 2013, the Board of Directors established the Global Initiatives Committee which “assists with the recruitment, retention, and support of international academic advising professionals through developing and implementing strategies and activities” (NACADA, n.d.-a, para. 1).
The NACADA website states:
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising continues to make powerful connections globally on behalf of the field of academic advising. Through outreach to our colleagues all over the world, academic advising professionals across the globe are able to build global networks to support the work that continues to advance the field of advising and strengthen student success. (NACADA, n.d.-b, para. 1)
An example of NACADA making powerful connections globally on behalf of the field of academic advising is the recent conference at Beijing University of Technology. Being recognized as a leader in academic advising, NACADA was invited to send a delegation from four different countries to share advising in the various countries and how their work impacts student success. David Lochtie, from the UK, summarizes the importance of this work “It is always heartening to learn from good practice across the globe and we hope that the continuation of this across the global NACADA network will aid us to become ever more globally aware and focused.”
On May 28, 2018 Charlie Nutt, Executive Director of NACADA; David Lochtie, from the United Kingdom; Yvonne Halden, from Canada; Oscar van den Wijngaard, from the Netherlands; and Amy Sannes, President of NACADA, presented at the Annual Conference of Academic Advising Research Branch of Beijing Association of Higher Education and the International Academic Advising Forum.
The morning sessions consisted of presentations about academic advising systems from four Chinese institutions: Fudan University, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Henan University of Science and Technology, and Beijing Normal University. During the afternoon session the NACADA delegation presented on academic advising in their respective countries.
Oscar van den Wijngaard, from Maastricht University, discussed education in the Netherlands and how historical trends have facilitated the shift from traditional ‘study advising’ to more and different forms of advising and the need for more professional development for the new advising profession. As Oscar reflected on the conference he shared: "Despite the many similarities when it comes to advising, what I realized once more while listening to the presentations of our Chinese colleagues is that there is not one single definition for academic advising—nor do we really need one to have meaningful conversations and exchanges. The balance between common ground and unfamiliar territory is inspiring and leads to truly new discoveries and insights. Exploring and engaging with different advising practices teaches us as much about others, as about ourselves."
Yvonne Halden (pictured, right), from the University of Manitoba, shared Canada’s unique relationship with NACADA from the beginning of the Association. She also discussed the different advising structures that exist in three different Canadian institutions. Yvonne also commented on the day’s presentations: “The presentations truly showed that advising in China, Canada, Netherlands, UK, and the US have the same focus on supporting student success. Even within in our own countries individuality and cultural of advising there is that common thread. Meeting fellow advisors and the leadership within China clearly, from my perspective, demonstrates the strong commitment to train and enhance their skills as a priority. They were gracious hosts and new advising relationships have been established.”
David Lochtie, from the University of Derby, presented on the values, challenges, impact, and limitations of academic advising/personal tutoring in the UK, including treating students as partners in their learning. David shared his impressions from the conference: “Despite clear cultural differences between China, the US, UK, Canada, and Netherlands what stood out to me were several key issues that were common to each. Chinese colleagues spoke about the differing levels of language ability among rural students when compared to those schooled in cities—a specific issue I had not faced in the UK. However, they also spoke about increasing student numbers, student mental health challenges, increased diversity (and diversity of need) among those students, and a need for greater professionalization of the advising role to meet these issues—all equally relevant across our global community.”
It was definitely encouraging to see a greater shift and focus to more of a developmental approach to advising in all of the countries represented and to recognize the staffing implications of such a shift. This all leads to the increased need for training and support for primary role advisors and faculty advisors. David went on to state, “I learned that the Chinese colleagues who presented were greater advocates of developmental advising styles than I may have thought they would be given the historically elevated stature of teachers over their students in the Chinese system.”
As President of NACADA, I am so proud of this group of professionals and the way they not only represented their countries and NACADA but how they represented our profession. Our Chinese colleagues learned a great deal from us but I too learned a great deal from them and from the opportunity to interact with Oscar, David, Yvonne, and Charlie on a Global Stage. We may have different historical and cultural influences but it was clear to me that our shared focus as academic advisors is on student success. It is amazing that communication and cultural barriers are no longer issues when there is a common focus.
Charlie Nutt (pictured, right), Executive Director of NACADA, discussed the professionalization of academic advising, the complexities facing higher education today and the importance of advisors to be at the table when decisions relating to advising and student success are discussed. Charlie sums up our experience “It was a huge honor to travel to Beijing with such dedicated professionals and NACADA members as Amy, Yvonne, David, and Oscar. I am so proud of the high regard this team received from the over 300 participants from over 60 institutions across China. They demonstrated clearly the role that NACADA plays globally in the academic advising community as well as the great work being done by MAP in Manitoba, LVSA in the Netherlands, and UKAT in the UK!”
As an Association, NACADA still wrestles with how to respond to the larger global community when a majority of members are from the United States. With every opportunity NACADA has to reach out to non-US institutions, the Association has gained further understanding of how the Association can continue to support academic advising and student success in our global community.
Amy Sannes, President, 2017-2018
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Director, Academic Services Natural Sciences
Arizona State University
NACADA. (n.d.-a). Global initiatives committee. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/Global-Initiatives-Committee.aspx
From the Executive Director: NACADA Board of Directors Approves an Inclusion/Engagement Study of the Association's Climate
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
Spring, as always in academia, is a busy but exciting time of year for all of us. In addition to our own busy schedules with our advisees—encouraging and supporting them as they end the academic year and congratulating them as they reach their undergraduate goals and graduate proudly from our institutions—it is always an exciting time for NACADA with our 10 outstanding Region Conferences held across North America.
Spring 2018 was another great season of NACADA Regional Conferences. From Little Rock, AR in February to Charleston, SC in May and all points across the country, more than 4,500 attended, presented, and participated broadly in the excellent Region Conferences. Thank you to our Region Chairs, the Region Conference Chairs and their conference committees of volunteers, Diane Matteson and Dayna McNary and the entire Executive Office staff who support the conferences, and the NACADA Board of Directors members for all their hard work supporting these outstanding professional development opportunities for our profession.
As my very first taste of NACADA was at a Region IV Conference in 1992 in Birmingham, AL, I know how important these conferences are to our profession, our members, and our students across higher education. That first NACADA Region Conference was not only a learning opportunity for the team of eight faculty advisors from (then) Brunswick College, it was also the start of significant and exciting changes in academic advising on our campus. The information we learned and the connections we made at that very first NACADA conference were an eye-opening experience for all of us. The conferences are important professional development opportunities where we reconnect with friends and colleagues and where very new advising professionals, as we at Brunswick College were in 1992, get their first taste of our academic advising profession and responsibilities and, of course, of the true magic of the impact NACADA has on us all and our students.
It has also been a busy Spring for the association as the NACADA Board of Directors and Council, under the outstanding leadership and guidance of President Amy Sannes and Vice President Karen Archambault, have continued their hard work and focus on the association’s strategic goals and the future of the association. I am very excited that this year President Sannes and Vice President Archambault and their fellow Board and Council members have given great attention and importance to the strategic goals that focus on diversity, inclusion, and engagement of our and our leadership. Under their leadership, a great deal of discussion and thought have focused on whether our association’s culture and climate truly uphold the association’s Diversity Statement for our members and the profession as whole. Working in tandem with a work group representing the Inclusion and Engagement Committee, the Research Committee, the Global Initiatives Committee, the Board and the Council, the Board of Directors has spent time and energy on serious reflection and discussions of our association’s culture and climate.
In May 2018, the Board of Directors approved the hiring of a consultant with expertise in non-profit associations and experience in conducting comprehensive climate studies to assist the Board of Directors and the Executive Office in gathering the data and evidence needed to look openly and honestly at all aspects of the association in regard to how our members’ NACADA experiences truly reflect our Diversity Statement. We will also carefully study how open and welcoming the association’s culture and climate are to inclusion and engagement of members, leaders, and professionals from under-represented populations in higher education and in NACADA. A review of experts in the field is being done presently with a goal of starting the study this summer and having some initial evidence and data for our leadership and membership to review and using in planning at our leadership meetings that are held in conjunction with the NACADA Annual Conference in Phoenix Sept 30-Oct 3.
As NACADA stresses the importance of institutions using evidence-based decision-making to reframe and enhance the academic advising experiences of our students, it is very exciting that President Sannes, Vice President Archambault, and the full Board of Directors are deeply committed to ensuring NACADA is carefully using this same evidence-based decision-making process as we look at this very integral part of our association’s future: the inclusion and engagement of all our members in our association. This is an historic step that the Board of Directors has taken as the association has always stressed diversity, inclusion, and engagement but has not always had clear and accurate evidence on which to base decision-making for our association initiatives and programs. I want to personally applaud the Board and Council for their work and for making this decision to gather important evidence for the future.
Watch for more information on this process as it will be important for all members of the association to be as actively involved as they would like in this review and study of our association and the utilization of the evidence gathered to make decisions for the future. This is just another example of how NACADA leadership and the association in general is constantly analyzing the best way we can meet the needs of the profession and our members. It is only through the continued dedication of strong leaders and members across all segments of our association that NACADA will be the premier higher education association for student success and academic advising as our vision states.
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Using Collaboration Theory to Address the "How" of Relational Core Competencies
James R. Wicks, Middle Tennessee State University
The newly developed Academic Advising Core Competencies Model (NACADA, 2017) identifies three foundational elements of advising: conceptual, informational, and relational. The Conceptual element deals with concepts, like advising history and theory, that advisors should be familiar with to better provide quality advising. The Informational component deals with institutional knowledge, including degree programs and institutional mission and vision, as well as knowledge about technologies which can improve the effects of academic advising. The Relational component, however, is a bit more difficult to pin down.
The Relational component deals with interpersonal skills that increase the likelihood that an advisor will be able to form a trusting and collaborative relationship with a student. Core competencies in this area include the ability to articulate a personal philosophy of advising; promote student understanding of institutional curriculum; facilitate problem solving, effective planning, and decision-making; and engage in advising assessment and development. Other competencies in the Relational component, like creating rapport and building advising relationships, communicating in an inclusive manner, and planning and conducting successful advising interactions, create a challenge for advising administrators and those in charge of advisor training.
Indeed, the questions that advising administrators and training developers ask about relational core competencies are not whether advisors should build rapport, communicate inclusively, or conduct successful advising interactions; rather, the questions they ask are about how advisors can do this. (The full Core Competencies Guide along with NACADA’s supplemental core competencies webpage are fantastic resources to help answer these types of questions.) The purpose of this essay is to present some theory-informed practical recommendations for advisors to help address the “how” of some of the more elusive relational core competencies.
Collaboration theory lends itself particularly well to practical solutions for building student rapport, communicating inclusively, and conducting successful advising interactions. According to the theory, individuals develop a shared conception of something in order to solve a problem or achieve a goal (Lai, 2011). Mercer’s 1996 contributions to collaboration theory are especially helpful in that they stress the importance of “interactions producing elaborated explanations,” which “enable students to learn the principles underlying practical procedures and strategies” (Lai, 2011, p. 17). In other words, interactions that generate more elaborative opportunities afford students better clarity and understanding and produce a greater likelihood of learning. Likewise, they provide greater opportunities for advisors to learn about student experiences, which is key to the more dispositional elements of building a partnership (empathy, care, relatability, trust, etc.).
With this perspective in mind, one way to think about how advisors can build rapport, communicate inclusively, and have successful advising interactions is by facilitating elaborative opportunities during advising sessions. Facilitating elaborative opportunities can include prompting students to speak about certain experiences, asking open-ended questions, and engaging with the student in role-playing activities. Below are some specific questions and prompts for advisors to consider which promote elaborative opportunities during advising sessions.
Questions and Prompts
During an advising session, advisors should consider whether they are adequately prompting conversation. Before doling out prescriptive information or talking about student resources, advisors should consider the following questions and statements:
- Tell me how you are feeling about the semester.
- How do your current grades reflect what you expected?
- How does your college experience so far reflect what you expected?
- What do you expect to get from this advising session?
How the student answers these prompts can create a framework for the advising session and for subsequent discussion. Other questions to consider as the advising session continues are:
- What are some concerns that you have about next semester?
- Describe an ideal semester for you and how you can make (or have made) that a reality.
- What role do you see for your advisor in an ideal semester?
More generally, advisors should practice using open-ended questions and prompts with their students. Elaborative opportunities are better facilitated when students can reflect on the prompt and give detailed answers as opposed to replying with a simple yes or no. To help advisors develop this habit, advising administrators and trainers can organize workshops where advisors practice with one another, addressing each other in ways that promote rather than discourage conversation. For advisors who may find it difficult to manage conversations, frequent practice may be necessary to identify communicative breakdowns and re-form better habits for future interactions.
Additionally, many students come to advising appointments less prepared than they should; i.e. they have not done their own research to learn what they must do to accomplish their own academic goals. Navigating elaborative opportunities for this student can be volatile, as their lack of preparedness opens the door to advisor reprimand. In this case, advisors should consider role playing activities in which they invite the student to explain what they would do if put in the advisor’s position; what they would say to an ill-prepared student and what would be an effective way to promote accountability so that the student is better prepared in the future. By doing this, the advisor can be made aware of what the student would respond to and can rule out conversational styles that might cause the student to withdraw from the session.
The benefit of elaborative opportunities can be understood after reflecting on relevant literature and research. For example, Crenshaw’s (2016) work on the urgency of intersectionality compels advisors to consider frames, or cognitive schemas, and their effects on how they respond to student experiences. Her work suggests that unless advisors are exposed to the experiences of others, they do not have adequate frames with which to include them in advising policy and procedure (nor are advisors likely to develop them otherwise). Being competent at inclusive communication, therefore, requires interacting with students such that advisors can be exposed to their diversity of experience. This way, advisors can incorporate those student experiences into the necessary frames to provide quality advising.
Additionally, as advisor caseloads become increasingly diverse, the spectrum of what it takes to achieve successful advising expands. The one-style-for-all approach becomes less and less valuable with each passing academic term. What remains consistent, however, is the idea that students need to be learning and engaged during their advising sessions as opposed to just being passive receivers of information (Crookston, 1972; Lowenstein, 2005). By promoting elaborative opportunities, advisors dramatically increase the chances that a student will have an engaging experience in which learning occurs.
The importance of having theory-informed practical strategies is that advising administrators and training developers can focus on procedural solutions rather than dispositional ones. In an ideal world, every advisor can competently navigate the relational aspects of advising such that a trusting partnership is formed with each student. However, due to diversifying advisor caseloads, achieving the ideal is increasingly challenging. It is not enough to simply demand that advisors adopt certain dispositions towards students, like practicing empathy or being more reassuring, without providing practical and transformational resources (which I have admittedly done before). Moving forward, it is crucial that advising administrators focus on the practical tools and procedures that can promote the dispositional qualities best suited for Relational core competencies among their team members.
James R. Wicks
College of Basic and Applied Sciences
Middle Tennessee State University
Crenshaw, K. (2016, October). Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality
Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13(1), 12-17.
Lai, E. R. (2011). Collaboration: A literature review. Pearson: New York, NY. Retrieved from http://images.pearsonassessments.com/images/tmrs/collaboration-review.pdf
Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73. Retrieved from http://www.nacadajournal.org/doi/pdf/10.12930/0271-9517-25.2.65
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx
Common Factors: Cultivating the Relational Component of Advising
Mehvash Ali, American University of Sharjah
Academic advising is a vast field with many different theories of advising, each with its own unique set of principles and theory-based interventions. There is significant empirical support for various academic advising theories and approaches such as developmental advising or proactive advising, etc. Most major academic advising theories do stress the importance of the advising relationship. In advising, the quality of the relationship between advisor and student is at the heart of most interventions. Without a solid relationship, none of the specific intervention techniques or tools applied would have the intended effect. The shared focus of various advising theories on factors that foster the advisor-student relationship is very similar to the common factors theory in psychology.
Common Factors Model
The common factors model is derived from the research carried out in the field of psychotherapy. This model contends that the core of the success observed in treatment has to do with certain factors that are common to many different psychological treatment approaches. Therefore, it is not necessarily the specific interventions based on a particular theory of psychology, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Psychodynamic Therapy, that forms the core of success, but rather the shared factors that are common to most interventions. Success in treatment is the function of therapeutic actions that are typical of many different types of psychological interventions rather than the function of any specific intervention technique devoid of the associated common factors.
This idea was first proposed by Rosenzweig (1936) and has been researched in various forms since then. Goldfried, Pachankis, and Bell (2005) have provided a concise outline of the history of research undertaken on common factors and how this model took shape over the years. The magnitude of the impact that common factors have in a therapeutic relationship can be significant. Wampold (2001) reported that 70% of the benefits of psychotherapy were due to the common factors compared to only 8% due to unique interventions derived from a particular psychological theory (the remaining were undefined). Not all research supports common factors so strongly. The 2002 meta-analyses by Lambert and Barley showed that common factors account for 30% of the benefits of treatment outcomes. While this is significantly lower than the results by Wampold (2001), it is still in support of an impressive contribution by common factors to the overall variance in treatment outcomes.
Sol Garfield in his book Psychotherapy: An Eclectic-Integrative Approach (1995) begins to identify some factors that are common to several different types of therapeutic orientations. Garfield proposes that it is these commonalities among the therapies that are the real mechanism of changes observed as a result of therapeutic interventions. Such common factors identified by Garfield include the strength of the therapeutic alliance, reinforcement, emotional expression, expectancy, etc. These factors have also been supported by research presented by Norcross and Goldfried (2005).
According to Laska, Gurman, and Wampold (2013), the common factors that are necessary for change include attachment between therapist and client, a confidential setting, a theory-based and culturally appropriate explanation for emotional distress, and adaptive interventions that are aimed at helping the client grow and change. They stress the relational aspect of therapy and contend that it is factors such as empathy, goal consensus/collaboration, therapeutic alliance, and positive regard that lead to positive gains in therapy (when combined with traditional empirically supported treatments).
It should be noted that while the common factors approach stresses the importance of the therapeutic alliance for positive treatment outcomes, it does not advocate that a therapeutic alliance by itself is adequate for positive outcomes. The common factors approach emphasizes the process by which the unique/specific interventions are applied and the importance of a strong relationship between therapist and client in order for those unique interventions to be most effective. Lambert (2005) stresses that common factors are “central to nearly all psychological interventions in practice” (p. 856) and that they serve as mediators of the variance observed in treatment outcomes.
Application to Academic Advising
Similar to psychotherapy, academic advising is also a relational process focused on fostering change and growth. Both are processes designed to support the individual in attaining their goals. Given that common factors such as alliance and partnership, empathy and genuine positive regard, and affirmation of experiences can contribute significantly to the gains made in a psychotherapeutic interaction, it would be valuable for academic advisors to pay attention to these factors in their interactions with students. In psychotherapy, the process (how, when, where, and why) of the communication between the therapist and the client is often seen as more valuable than the specific content (what) of the interactions. Psychologists place a great deal of emphasis on the process of their interactions with the client. The process by which unique advising interventions are applied can be bolstered by focusing on common factors. The common factors approach and associated emphasis on the process of interaction reinforces the importance of the relational component of a therapeutic relationship. The relational aspect is equally important in academic advising as seen by its inclusion in the NACADA Core Competencies Model (NACADA, 2017).
As noted in the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Guide, advisors must understand the history, theory, strategies, and outcomes for academic advising in addition to the institution-specific mission, policies, graduation requirements, population needs, and available resources in order to serve as effective advisors (Farr & Cunningham, 2017). These form the first two areas of understanding, knowledge, and skills that are required of academic advisors. The third core component of advisor competencies is the relational aspect. NACADA core competencies have given equal weight to the importance of the Relational component of academic advising and the Conceptual and Informational components. It is this Relational component of academic advising that can benefit from the common factors research in the field of psychology.
The field of academic advising can greatly benefit from reviewing the research already done in the field of psychology on ways to enhance empathy, the value of collaborating with the student to agree on goals for advising, maximizing the therapeutic alliance, and maintaining positive regard in an advising relationship. Advisors may benefit from learning how to use body language, speech pattern (tone, tempo, and volume), mirroring, and matching techniques in advising sessions to build rapport even with the most challenging of students. Advisors can draw from consumer psychology to learn the best way of utilizing office space and personal appearance to bolster the therapeutic alliance and impact student behaviors. Learning how seating and chair positioning can be used to create or reduce the power differential can be valuable in advising. Self-disclosure can also be very powerful in building rapport with students, but it can be misused. Whenever advisors use self-disclosure (whether that is with pictures in the office, personal attire, or verbal disclosure), it should be very intentionally used for the benefit of the student. Inopportune self-disclosure can come across as preachy or minimize the student’s experience. There is a wealth of information in the field of psychology that advisors may find useful in enhancing the relational aspect of their work with students.
While academic advising is very different from psychotherapy and advisors should not be diagnosing or treating any mental health conditions, there are shared aspects between the fields, such as supporting the individual through their transformative experience and facilitating the attainment of personal goals. It is in these shared aspects that the field of advising may benefit from the research done in the field of psychology. One such area of research in psychology is the common factors model. Common factors make significant contributions to the variance in psychotherapy outcomes and potentially also in advising relationships. This is not to say that the specific interventions advisors do with students do not have much of an impact. Advisors certainly need expertise in the Conceptual and Informational components of academic advising. It simply means that the process of applying those unique or specific strategies advisors employ with their students has to incorporate these common factors. The process of the application of the content of specific interventions is highly important. Most of the common factors are related to the Relational component of the advising core competencies such as building rapport and inclusive communication. It would be valuable for academic advisors to further explore the implications of common factors research and their applicability to the field of academic advising.
Mehvash Ali, Ph.D.
Academic Support Center
American University of Sharjah
Farr, T., & Cunningham, L. (Eds.). (2017). Academic advising core competencies guide. Manhattan, KS: NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.
Garfield, S. L. (1995). Psychotherapy: An eclectic-integrative approach (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Wiley.
Goldfried, M. R., Pachankis, J. E., & Bell, A. C. (2005). A history of psychotherapy integration. In J. Norcross & M. Goldfried (Eds), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 24–60). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lambert, M. J. (2005). Early response in psychotherapy: Further evidence for the importance of common factors rather than ‘placebo effect’. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(7), 855-869.
Lambert, M. J., & Barley, D. E. (2002). Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome. In J. C. Norcross (Ed.), Psychotherapy Relationships That Work: Therapist Contributions and Responsiveness to Patients (pp. 17–32). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Laska, K. M., Gurman, A. S., & Wampold, B. E. (2014). Expanding the lens of evidence-based practice in psychotherapy: A common factors perspective. Psychotherapy, 51(4), 467–481.
Norcross, J., & Goldfried, M. (2005). Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx
Rosenzweig, S. (1936). Some implicit common factors in diverse methods in psychotherapy. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 6, 412-415.
Wampold, B. E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: Models, methods, and findings. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Academic Advising Career Ladder Development Based on NACADA Core Competencies
Ashley Thomas and Bradford Cunningham, Kansas State University
With the evolution of the higher education landscape, the profession of academic advising continues to gain increasing recognition (Cuseo, 2003; Tinto, n.d.). As these changes occur, the development and implementation of structured paths for professional development and career advancement are becoming progressively more important (Troia, 2006, Kapel & Shepherd, 2004). While there is an abundance of literature regarding the benefits of having a career ladder in place, the existence of a professional academic advising career on college and university campuses is still rare (Taylor, 2011). Kansas State University (K-State) is one institution that lacks a formal career ladder structure for Primary Role Advisors (PRAs). In an effort to identify essential skills and characteristics as well as provide guidance to advisors seeking advancement, the advising community at K-State developed a career ladder framework based on the recently released NACADA Core Competencies of Academic Advising (NACADA, 2017). While this framework is under consideration at K-State, it is important to clarify that it is not the current structure. This article seeks to share the proposed framework as well as provide explanation so that others may use it as a guide as they see fit with their individual institution.
Through collaboration with key stakeholders, the academic advising community at K-State initiated a grassroots effort to develop a framework proposal that was specific enough to identify essential skills and knowledge while also being broad enough to accommodate the diverse advising unit models across the institution. The goal of the career ladder proposal is to provide guidance to university administrators and unit leaders when evaluating the performance of an individual advisor while providing consistency for both evaluation and hiring practices. The proposed structure includes example behaviors, skills, and abilities considered appropriate for each tier. This document is not intended to be an absolute checklist guaranteeing promotion, rather a set of behaviors that could indicate to a supervisor that an advisor is prepared to advance in his/her career. The initial draft included only three tiers to mirror the career progression of faculty at K-State. However, after consideration from stakeholders, the four-tier approach was adopted. The early tiers reflect a basic level of knowledge and skill set while the later tiers should reflect clear indications of advancement.
Proposed Framework and Connection to Core Competencies
In 2017, NACADA released a framework to recognize the key skills, knowledge, and behaviors important for academic advising. The NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Guide states that the purpose of the model is “to identify the broad range of understanding, knowledge, and skills that support academic advising, to guide professional development,” and to “promote the contributions of academic advising to student development, progress, and success” (Farr & Cunningham, 2017, pp. 3–4). The Core Competencies Model organizes essential characteristics into three different areas: conceptual, informational, and relational. It is only fitting that this framework be utilized to build a career ladder for PRAs to assist both individuals and institutional administrations in identifying a path of career progression.
The purpose of the Conceptual component is to develop knowledge of the history, core values, and theories relevant to academic advising (Farr & Cunningham, 2017). Additionally, strategies and approaches are refined and advising outcomes are identified as the advisor continues to advance. The proposed career ladder framework identifies the progression of knowledge through the four tiers.
Each of the six points presented as part of the Conceptual component describe knowledge areas specifically related to the practice of advising. These points provide the necessary foundation to effective academic advising regardless of institution. As parts of a career ladder, each point offers general behaviors that exhibit development of a deeper understanding of the roots of advising. These behaviors will differ between individual advising units and so must be considered in context. Lengthy discussion and careful consideration of each point in context of performance expectations for advisors at K-State led to descriptions that administrators can use for promotion evaluation. Examples can be found in the Career Ladder Companion Document.
The Informational component focuses on institution-specific information, local resources available to support the student, as well as larger legal issues that must be mastered to effectively advise. While it can be daunting even for experienced advisors that are changing institutions or even departments within the same institution, it offers advisors the opportunity to specialize in different areas as they are advancing through the tiers of the career ladder. While some level of mastery in all the areas needs to be demonstrated to advise students, it would be natural for advisors to find areas in this component where they may become particularly knowledgeable about and then become a resource for other advisors. Examples may include FERPA, specific academic support programs, academic requirements, institution admission procedures, etc.
In developing the tiers for this component, it was evident that development moves from a concrete, fact-focused orientation to a larger collaborative and network-focused skillset. Expectations for newer advisors would be limited to the basic knowledge required to present accurate information to students. Behaviors indicating a greater connection with, as well as contributions to, the larger advising and campus community would suggest an advisor is ready to progress through the tiers.
This final component, the Relational component, represents the ability to communicate effectively and to employ the knowledge gained in the other two components to connect with the student in a meaningful way. The content areas in this component assist the advisor in planning and conducting successful interactions tailored to the unique needs of each student. The ability to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that is conducive to open conversation between advisor and student requires careful planning and development of trust over time.
Assessment of this area could be done via various methods. At K-State, the students complete a survey every year that asks for student feedback about their advising experience. Comparing answers from year to year can provide clear evidence of progress as students report increasing satisfaction with their experience. Specific questions related to inclusion, rapport, relationships, goal-setting, etc. can all be part of the survey and thus used to provide feedback to the advisor as they continue to develop their skills in this area.
The development of the career ladder and the descriptions included in this article involved extensive communication between advisors, administrators, and members of a multi-unit, university-wide committee before final approval and submission for consideration. It was critical to first identify trusted and respected individuals representing the many different models of advising at the institution and to then provide them a space to freely discuss the differences between academic units. Additionally, key stakeholders across the institution such as the Student Governing Association, University Advising Committee, and Faculty Senate were engaged to gain institution-wide support.
While it is understood that the framework developed by the K-State advising community could be enhanced, other institutions may be able to utilize the framework as a starting point to develop their own career ladders for academic advisors.
Ashley A. Thomas, M.S.
College of Business Administration
Kansas State University
Bradford Cunningham, M.S.
College of Business Administration
Kansas State University
Cuseo, J. (2003). Academic advisement and student retention: Empirical connections & cystemic interventions. Retrieved from http://www.uwc.edu/sites/uwc.edu/files/imce-uploads/employees/academic-resources/esfy/_files/academic_advisement_and_student_retention.pdf
Farr, T. & Cunningham, L. (Eds.). (2017). Academic advising core competencies guide. Manhattan, KS: NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.
Kapel, C., & Shepherd, C. (2004). Career ladders create common language for defining jobs. Canadian HR Reporter - The National Journal of Human Resource Management. Retrieved from http://www.kapelandassociates.com/career_ladders.pdf
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx
Taylor, M. A. (2011). Professional advisor credentials, career ladders, and salaries. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Professional-Advisor-Credentials-Career-Ladders-and-Salaries.aspx
Tinto, V. (n.d.) Taking student retention seriously. Retrieved from https://www.umes.edu/assets/0/232/3812/4104/4110/bd28b4ae-e1cc-4575-9b37-535d2d2be5f1.pdf
Troia, J. A. (2006, March 1). Aligning career ladders and the company vision [Comments and Opinion]. Nature Biotechnology, 24, 363–364. doi:10.1038/nbt0306-363
So This Is Why I'm Exhausted: Emotional Labor Explained
Amber N. Sechelski and Chelsea V. Story, Sam Houston State University
Several researchers have agreed that academic advisors’ formation of genuine and caring relationships with college students can lead to more effective advising interactions (Allen, Smith, & Muehleck, 2014; Barbuto, Story, Fritz, & Schinstock, 2011; Ellis, 2014; Paul & Fitzpatrick, 2015; Vianden & Barlow, 2015), but little attention has been paid to the emotional labor that advisors might undertake in forming such relationships. Hochschild (2012), who coined the term in 1983, defined such labor as the work of managing one’s emotions in a way that will produce a particular attitude or outlook in others; performance of emotional labor can include repressing emotions that are genuinely felt, as well as expressing faked (in surface acting) or conjured (in deep acting) emotions congruent with organizational expectations. For instance, an academic advisor who assists students in academic jeopardy might have to suppress frustration with students who refuse to take advantage of academic resources and instead either display concern (while feeling frustration) or produce concern (through concerted effort to evoke the feeling).
Emotional labor can result in positive outcomes for organizations (Meier, Mastracci, & Wilson, 2006), in part because such laboring represents “a way of promoting a sense of choice while gaining compliance” (Sass, 2000, p. 351). However, emotional labor might not be recognized as worthy of monetary reward (Bhave & Glomb, 2009), an issue Hochschild (2012) documented. With regard to the field of academic advising, the emotional labor inherent in implementing researchers’ suggestions—such as to promote advising as an ongoing teaching and learning process (Allen et al., 2014) or to develop servant leader behaviors (e.g., putting students’ needs first; Paul & Fitzpatrick, 2015)—often goes unacknowledged, which is consistent with Hochschild’s (2012) description of such labor as “a dimension of work that is seldom recognized, rarely honored, and almost never taken into account by employers as a source of on-the-job stress” (p. 153).
Performing Emotional Labor
Organizations Outside of Higher Education. A review of the literature pertaining to organizations outside of higher education revealed that surface acting is particularly problematic. Surface acting was associated with emotional exhaustion on the part of its performers (Bayram, Aytac, & Dursun, 2012; Erickson & Ritter, 2001; Goodwin, Groth, & Frenkel, 2011; Karatepe, 2011; Kenworthy, Fay, Frame, & Petree, 2014; Wagner, Barnes, & Scott, 2014; Zhan, Wang, & Shi, 2016), perhaps because customers tended to react negatively to responses that seemed designed to manipulate their emotions (Little, Kluemper, Nelson, & Ward, 2013; Zhan et al., 2016). Researchers who studied surface acting also discovered that its performance led to depersonalization of employees (Bayram et al., 2012) and customers (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002) and that surface acting was related both to employees’ increased degree of intent to leave their organizations (Cho & Song, 2017; Shanock et al., 2013) and increased instances of leaving (Goodwin et al., 2011). The performance of surface acting was also associated with a decreased sense of work accomplishment (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002) and decreased job satisfaction (Adil, Kamal, & Atta, 2013), as well as with myriad effects on home life. Some employees carried the habit of expressing emotions not genuinely felt home (Sanz-Vergel, Rodríguez-Muñoz, Bakker, & Demerouti, 2012), and surface acting performed at home was linked to a decreased affect toward family life (Yanchus, Eby, Lance, & Drollinger, 2010). The performance of surface acting was also related to conflict at home, as well as to insomnia (Wagner et al., 2014).
The effects individuals experienced as a result of surface acting were worsened by pre-existing psychological strain (van Gelderen, Heuven, van Veldhoven, Zeelenberg, & Croon, 2007), as well as either worsened or mitigated by personality traits (Diefendorff, Croyle, & Gosserand, 2005; Kruml & Geddes, 2000; Wharton, 1993) and personal beliefs (Pugh, Groth, & Hennig-Thurau, 2011). The performance of surface acting and its effects tended to decrease with employees’ work experience (Hur, Moon, & Han, 2014), perhaps because older workers are typically more skilled at controlling emotion (Cho, Rutherford, & Park, 2013; Kruml & Geddes, 2000). The performance of surface acting and its effects also tended to decrease if employees perceived a high level of organizational support (Karatepe, 2011; Mishra, 2014) or organizational trust (Cho & Song, 2017) or if they possessed a strong ability to recognize emotion (Bechtoldt, Rohrmann, De Pater, & Beersma, 2011).
The review of the literature pertaining to organizations outside of higher education revealed that deep acting is less problematic than surface acting and might even be beneficial in some cases. Deep acting was not as closely related to emotional exhaustion, perhaps because customers tended to react positively to such emotional displays (Zhan et al., 2016), and the performance of deep acting increased employees’ sense of work accomplishment (Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002). However, deep acting was related to lower levels of work engagement in the presence of low emotion recognition (Bechtoldt et al., 2011) and to the highest levels of burnout and lowest levels of job satisfaction when performed in tandem with surface acting (Cheung & Lun, 2015).
Faculty in Higher Education. Regarding literature specific to higher education, faculty performance of emotional labor was perceived as positive for institutional outcomes but often went unrewarded (Constanti & Gibbs, 2004). Faculty without tenure engaged in more emotional labor with students than tenured faculty, a circumstance that decreased for males upon earning tenure (Tunguz, 2016). Younger and less experienced instructors engaged in more emotional labor than older and more experienced instructors (Berry & Cassidy, 2013), and faculty in female-dominated disciplines engaged in more emotional labor than faculty in male-dominated disciplines (Bagilhole & Goode, 1998). Faculty who became administrators also continued to engage in emotional labor (Gonzales & Rincones, 2013).
Concerning the types of emotional labor performed by faculty, they engaged in deep acting more than surface acting (Ozturk, Bahcecik, Ozcelik, & Kemer, 2015; Zhang & Zhu, 2008) or authenticity (Zhang & Zhu, 2008). Related, faculty engaged in deep acting more within their own culture (Menon & Narayanan, 2015). Similar to the findings of researchers who studied emotional labor within other organizations, researchers who focused their efforts within higher education discovered that surface acting increased burnout and decreased job satisfaction (Zhang & Zhu, 2008), as well as decreased teaching effectiveness (Gaan, 2012). Conversely, deep acting decreased burnout and increased job satisfaction (Zhang & Zhu, 2008). Interestingly, researchers who studied the performance of emotional labor in higher education noted that faculty might be in danger of losing their authentic selves during the tenure period, which might result in decreased intrinsic motivation (Lechuga, 2012). Researchers also determined that the display of authentic emotions might be more important predictors of job affect than faked or conjured emotions (Mahoney, Buboltz, Buckner, & Doverspike, 2011).
Academic Advisors in Higher Education. Researchers who mentioned specifically the emotional labor undertaken by academic advisors were scant to nonexistent; however, a group of paralegals in one emotional labor study indicated the following:
Factors that contributed to their assessment of their interaction with clients as stressful, and therefore required emotional labor, typically centered on three recurring themes: the emotional states of the clients with whom they dealt; the demanding behavior of the clients that stemmed, in large part, from their lack of understanding of legal procedures; and their own roles as gatekeepers or what one male paralegal referred to as “the first line of defense.” (Lively, 2002, p. 207)
Advisors will more than likely recognize an eerie similarity between the assertions of these paralegals, made approximately fifteen years ago, and assertions they themselves might make about their own roles today: Advisors are often the first line of defense for students who need assistance navigating higher education procedures, students who are frustrated by a system that they do not understand.
Implications for Academic Advisors
Overall, the literature suggested that emotional exhaustion could be a prevalent threat to those working in the field of advising, which begs the following question: How can job burnout be avoided when the fundamentals of the job seem to necessitate frequent and intense emotional labor?
Despite the fact that emotional labor is often deeply embedded in advisors’ relationships with students, it quite simply does not have to be. Emotional labor is not a widespread job requirement in advising positions, but merely an assumed implication for best practice. Therefore, raising awareness of emotional labor as a key component of job burnout among advisors might be the first step to reducing its performance within the profession, especially because the extent to which an advisor emotionally labors is a choice.
It is imperative that advisors remember that there is no reward for organizational commitment and/or service to an institution at the expense of an individual’s care for him or herself; moreover, self-negating choices made in the name of a student and/or the institution are decisions that are lost on high-impact practice for supporting student success. Professional wellness among advisors is foundational to providing optimum support to students, which means advisors must guard against emotional exhaustion as it is the antithesis of wellness. One means of guarding against burnout is through the protection of one’s schedule. Although the demands on an advisor’s time are high, scheduling breaks throughout the day to eat, step away from the office, or engage in any activity that serves to restore the energy that is being depleted by the performance of job duties can make the difference between feeling exhausted at the day’s end or not. In the same way that advisors recommend that students take breaks regularly while reading a textbook to maximize alertness and retention of the material, so too should an advisor schedule breaks throughout the work day to enhance his or her performance on the job and overall wellbeing.
In addition to prioritizing self-care, practicing mindfulness of emotional labor can enable the minimization of laboring in ways that lead to emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, prioritizing authenticity during student interactions can aid in the prevention of alternating between surface and deep acting. Ultimately, developing an internal process for the regulation of emotional labor could serve as an emotional exhaustion cushion if not prevent the condition of burnout altogether. Advisors who manage to center their decision-making on the promotion of health and wellness (e.g., prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet, creating an exercise routine, and developing healthy sleep habits) can perhaps thwart some of the effects of the emotional labor that is so ingrained in advising practice because it shifts the focus from managing the student’s emotions for a desired outcome to managing one’s own for the purpose of improving stamina and student service. Further research on the effects of emotional labor in the field of advising is needed, which will hopefully yield a cultural shift in higher education over time that promotes the recognition of and compensation for emotional labor in positions of student support service. Perhaps if advisors deepen their comprehension of subject matter relating to emotional labor, new meaning will be given to work that might otherwise be developing a sense of inconsequentiality.
Amber N. Sechelski
Former Assistant Director of Academic Support Programs
Student Advising and Mentoring Center
Sam Houston State University
Chelsea V. Story
Senior Academic Advisor
Student Advising and Mentoring Center
Sam Houston State University
Adil, A., Kamal, A., & Atta, M. (2013). Mediating role of emotions at work in relation to display rule demands, emotional labor, and job satisfaction. Journal of Behavioural Sciences, 23(3), 35-52. Retrieved from http://pu.edu.pk/home/journal/24
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Bechtoldt, M. N., Rohrmann, S., De Pater, I. E., & Beersma, B. (2011). The primacy of perceiving: Emotion recognition buffers negative effects of emotional labor. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 1087-1094. doi:10.1037/a0023683
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Cho, Y. J., & Song, H. J. (2017). Determinants of turnover intention of social workers: Effects of emotional labor and organizational trust. Public Personnel Management, 46, 41-65. doi:10.1177/0091026017696395
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Ellis, K. C. (2014). Academic advising experiences of first-year undecided students: A qualitative study. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 42-50. doi:10.12930/NACADA-13-001
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Karatepe, O. M. (2011). Do job resources moderate the effect of emotional dissonance on burnout? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 23, 44-65. doi:10.1108/09596111111101661
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Advancing the Advisor's Toolkit: Improv Skills for Student Success
Melissa L. Johnson, University of Florida
Kyle W. Ross, Washington State University
In the world of improvisational (improv) comedy, advancing is the process of moving a scene forward. In the world of academic advising where student success is a central narrative, it is imperative that advisors help students advance their own scene. Using terminology common to improv comedy, advisors can better understand how to support their students without causing information overload, blocking ideas offered by students, and taking over the scene from the students. If advisors want students to be successful, they must find ways to collaboratively help students explore and heighten their ideas, provide offers in the form of suggestions and resources, and raise the stakes through challenge and support when appropriate.
Understanding Basic Improv Terminology (adapted from The IMPROV Page [n.d.])
The following improv terms are helpful in the context of advising, as they can relate to specific actions of the advisor and student during their conversations:
- Point of concentration: the purpose of the scene
- Narrative: the story told by a scene
- Offer: an action which advances the scene
- Offer from space: an action that appears to come from nowhere
- Accepting: embracing the offers made by others in order to advance the scene
- Advancing: the process of moving the scene forward
- Explore and heighten: taking an idea to see where it leads
- Raising the stakes: adding consequences in order to advance the scene
- Wimping: failing to act on an offer that has been accepted
- Information overload: introducing too much information into the scene
- Driving: taking over a scene and not letting others participate
- Blocking: rejecting information or ideas offered by another performer
Framing Improv Within Advising
Common improv terms and techniques can help frame the opening and development of an advising appointment. The student and advisor each have an objective for the appointment, or a point of concentration that drives the scene they want to create. Sometimes these objectives are very similar, such as both wanting to discuss a student’s choice in major/career, while at other times the objectives can be dramatically different. The narrative of the advising appointment develops from the point of concentration and should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This scene advances through a series of offers by the advisor and student. Advisors should accept the student offers rather than driving the scene themselves. Driving can happen when advisors have limited time with students and want to resolve the initial point of concentration quickly, thereby ending the scene.
When an offer is made by a student, the advisor has several options in response. The advisor can accept the offer, embracing it in order to advance the scene. They can do so through open-ended questions, reflections of feeling and thought, or other active listening techniques (Barnett, Roach, & Smith, 2006). The advisor can raise the stakes by introducing greater consequences for the student to consider. For example, if a student is not motivated to improve their current grades, raising the stakes can help the student see consequences of their decision beyond just academic failure and dismissal. The advisor can also choose to explore and heighten, taking the student’s offer and seeing where it leads, exploring its natural consequences while simultaneously raising the stakes.
There are a few techniques advisors should avoid within an appointment. Wimping is the decision to accept an offer but fail to act on it. Advisors might hear several significant issues the student would like to discuss in the appointment but choose to only focus on one of those offers. Blocking occurs when the advisor decides to act on none of the student offers and opts to drive their own agenda instead. Last, information overload can overwhelm the student. Overload can happen when the advisor tries to accomplish too much within an appointment, providing every resource the student could ever need in college while also reviewing curriculum and discussing the student’s career plans.
Understanding improv techniques can be especially useful when a student makes an offer from space. These offers may be shocking or surprising as they seem to come from out of nowhere. An offer from space could be very relevant to the narrative of student success, but the advisor does not see it coming. The advisor has to process this new offer immediately and work to advance the scene in a positive way. For example, a student may see an advisor to discuss their major, but in the middle of the scene offers seemingly unrelated information about their roommate, family members, or extracurricular involvement.
The traditional improv rule of “Yes, and . . .” dictates that when an offer is made, the other actor frames the next statement in such a way to complement that offer, whether it be a general statement of acceptance, or a statement to explore and heighten. Regardless of response, the actor must accept the offer—blocking, wimping, and driving are not allowed. Playing an improv game around the rule of “Yes, and . . . ” in training is an excellent way for advisors to adapt to these offers from space.
In the “Yes, and . . .” activity (adapted from The IMPROV Page [n.d.]), participants should form pairs and select a focus for their scene. Participant A initiates the dialogue and makes an offer. Participant B accepts the offer and advances the scene (“yes, and . . .”), avoiding blocking, wimping, and driving. At the natural conclusion to the scene, participants should switch roles and start over.
As an example:
Participant A (role playing as an advisee): “I know it may sound weird, but I’m really interested in physics and anthropology and also creative writing. I was hoping you could help me make an academic plan to incorporate all of those.”
Participant B (role playing as the advisor): “Of course!” (yes, and . . .) “Let’s talk more about how these interests fit together . . .”
Other Uses of Improv Within Higher Education
These improv techniques can not only be used to prepare for the various unknown scenarios advisors face with their students in advising, but also to help students build confidence in facilitating their own interactions with others. Discussing academic decisions with family members, networking and interviewing for campus leadership opportunities, and advocating for themselves in and out of the classroom are all scenarios in which students could benefit from practice improv exercises. Improv games have been used in the University of Florida Honors Program’s first-year experience courses to help students feel more comfortable thinking on the spot in conversations. By learning to advance a scene with their partners, students developed skills they could utilize in interviews and networking events.
Improv comedy also has been used to help communicate research outcomes to various audiences (Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, n.d.; Lantz-Gefroh, 2015), to teach professional skills for industry (NACE, 2016; Rocco & Whalen, 2014; Ruoff, 2015), and to help advance student identity and leadership development (Rosch & Kusel, 2010; Stewart, 2016). An activity connected to improv, role play, has been used extensively in counseling to help prepare clients when dealing with potentially stressful scenarios in their lives (Crowe, 2014) as well as in academic advisor training and development (Duslak & McGill, 2014).
Improv comedy is already linked to several positive outcomes in various higher education settings and situations, and the benefits are clear for academic advising as well. By incorporating these basic principles from improv into practice, advisors can advance their own professional development toolkit. These improv terms and techniques provide an alternative perspective to framing an advising conversation, particularly allowing for advisors to check when they are blocking, wimping, driving, and providing too much information. Improv activities during training can help advisors better prepare for their students’ offers from space, as well as support students through a “yes, and . . .” mentality.
Melissa L. Johnson
University of Florida
Kyle W. Ross
College of Nursing
Washington State University
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.aldacenter.org
Barnett, S., Roach, S., & Smith, M. (2006). Microskills: Advisor behaviors that improve communication with advisees. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 6-12.
Crowe, A. (2014). Teaching psychotherapy skills with a semester-long role play. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 24(3), 258-262.
Duslak, M. P., & McGill, C. M. (2014). Stepping out of the workshop: The case for experiential learning in advisor training and development. NACADA Clearinghouse Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Stepping-out-of-the-workshop-The-case-for-experiential-learning-in-advisor-training-and-development.aspx
Lantz-Gefroh, V. (2015). How to tell an engaging story of scientific discovery. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/how-to-tell-an-engaging-story-of-scientific-discovery/
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (2016). Using improv comedy skills to handle difficult job-search situations. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/s02242016/handling-difficult-job-search.aspx
Rocco, R. A., & Whalen, D. J. (2014). Teaching Yes, And . . . improv in sales classes: Enhancing student adaptive selling skills, sales performance, and teaching evaluations. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(2), 197-208. doi:10.1177/0273475314537278
Rosch, D. M., & Kusel, M. L. (2010). What do we mean when we talk about “leadership?” About Campus, 15(5), 29-32. doi:10.1002/abc.20040
Ruoff, J. (2015). Do liberal arts students learn how to collaborate? The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/do-liberal-arts-students-learn-how-to-collaborate-47994
Stewart, C. (2016). Effects of improv comedy on college students. Retrieved from http://ir.library.illinoisstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1601&context=etd
The IMPROV Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.improvcomedy.org/
Advising a Clear Pathway to High-Impact Practices with Faculty Partners
Jill Putman and Sara Rathburn, Colorado State University
With the rising costs of higher education, students and families are increasingly concerned about the value of a college degree. Institutions of higher learning are responding by prioritizing access to high-impact practices that promote student success, and advising professionals are uniquely positioned to connect students to these experiences. However, it is faculty members that frequently facilitate the high-impact experiences within students’ academic disciplines. As a result, it is essential for advising professionals to utilize their expertise in education and student development to design clear pathways for entry into high-impact opportunities while simultaneously partnering with faculty members who can offer expertise in a student’s chosen major and career field.
High-impact practices promote deep learning, facilitate student engagement, and are correlated with retention of students across backgrounds (Kuh, 2008). Examples of high-impact practices identified by AAC&U (2007) include first-year seminars, writing-intensive courses, learning communities, service-learning, and senior/capstone experiences. Undergraduate research has been characterized as a high-impact practice because it relies on faculty interaction outside the classroom, requires a significant time investment from students, and has been shown to have positive impacts on students’ overall personal and academic development, in turn leading to increased academic performance and retention (AAC&U, 2007; Kuh, 2008). Undergraduate research projects, particularly in field-based disciplines such as geosciences, enable students to evaluate their learning outside of the classroom and to apply their learning in an unfamiliar environment. The experience of testing knowledge in different settings and preparing students to enter the workforce is distinctive to a high-impact learning experience and facilitates deep learning (Kuh, 2008).
Undergraduate research also provides opportunities for students to enter into mentoring relationships with faculty members and graduate students, which have been shown to have positive outcomes for all participants involved. A multidisciplinary meta-analysis examining research on the effects of mentoring conducted from 1985 to 2006 found that “mentoring is significantly related to favorable behavior, attitudinal, health-related, interpersonal, motivational, and career outcomes” (Eby, Allen, Evans, Ng, & DuBois, 2008, p. 260). Moreover, mentoring has been shown to have positive effects on students long after they complete their undergraduate experience. A Gallup-Purdue (2014) index report found that graduates who reported having a professor who cared about them and made them excited about learning were twice as likely to be engaged in their work compared to their peers who did not report these relationships. Additionally, graduates with mentor connections who felt supported during college were nearly three times as likely to be thriving in areas of well-being compared to those who felt unsupported and six times more likely to have a positive emotional connection to their alma mater (Gallup-Purdue, 2014). These long-term, positive effects of the mentoring relationship have significant implications for the engagement, satisfaction, and success of students and their post-graduate relationship with their institution.
Faculty members are skilled at finding research opportunities and developing discipline-specific learning experiences for students but may not have the time or resources to recruit and select undergraduate research assistants. Academic advisors are generally well-connected to students and aware of their interests but may lack knowledge of research sites and the scope of projects. In January 2015, our Geoscience advising professional at Colorado State University developed a free, online application through Google Forms where students could indicate interest in co-curricular experiences, including undergraduate research, within the Geosciences Department. The online application was promoted to students through email, social media channels, individual meetings, and classroom announcements. The database provided a clear pathway for students to indicate interest in participating in discipline-related opportunities and was designed to encourage students from underrepresented populations (first-generation, racial/ethnic minorities) who may lack knowledge of and comfort with university systems to connect directly with high-impact practices. This system also provided a learning opportunity for students to go through an application process and practice professional skills.
Once the database of applicants was established, faculty members were given access so they could easily search for students interested in research opportunities. As a result of the database implementation, a local research project led by a faculty member saw a ten-fold increase in undergraduate student involvement over two years compared to the previous 12 years at the site. In addition, there was a 30% increase in the participation of first-generation and racial/ethnic minority students in the project during that time (Rathburn & Putman, in press ).
Encouraging student involvement in high-impact practices through strategic partnerships between advisors and faculty benefits all parties involved. Currently, 78% of the students who have applied for a position in our department have been matched with a co-curricular experience. Although the initial goal of the database was to connect more students to opportunities, ultimately a more collaborative relationship between the faculty members and academic advisor was cultivated. As a result of having a greater pool of students accessible, faculty members developed new research projects and consulted with the advisor on a frequent basis regarding student progress. The culture of our department reflects an equitable partnership and mutual respect between faculty and the advisor, which has led to opportunities for more proactive interventions for students struggling in classes or experiencing personal challenges, innovative curriculum developments, and new department student success-oriented events.
Advisors who are interested in advising for high-impact practices and developing deeper faculty partnerships should consider the following:
- How do you actively advise students to engage in high-impact practices? Do you have a plan to integrate high-impact practice advising into your interactions with students? If not, consider ways that you can intentionally discuss these opportunities with students during advising meetings.
- How do students access high-impact practices? Is there a clear process by which students can become engaged in high-impact practices on your campus or in your department? If the answer is no, consider ways that you can design systems that will be transparent and accessible for all students to participate in these experiences or advocate for policy changes within your department or on your campus.
- How do you communicate the availability of high-impact practices to your students? Do you have a communication plan in place that informs students of the opportunities available? Evaluate the effectiveness of your current communication channels and the characteristics of students who are responding to your outreach efforts.
- How do you continually educate yourself on the opportunities that are available to students? Advisors can learn more about undergraduate research projects by observing class sessions, shadowing faculty members on research experiences, meeting with faculty members regularly for research updates, or attending research presentations to become more aware of available opportunities.
In an era of accountability for students and higher education institutions, it is critical for advisors to consider creative strategies to cultivate meaningful partnerships with faculty colleagues while maintaining a focus on student success, engagement, retention, and graduation. Advisors have a responsibility to provide students with academic guidance but to also collaborate with faculty to promote engagement in high-impact practices that provide the holistic and deep learning opportunities that characterize transformational education.
Academic Success Coordinator
Department of Geosciences
Colorado State University
Department of Geosciences
Colorado State University
Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). (2007). College learning for the new global century: A report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America's Promise. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/GlobalCentury_final.pdf
Eby, L. T., Allen, T. D., Evans, S. C., Ng, T., & DuBois, D. (2008). Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(2), 254–267. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2007.04.005
Gallup-Purdue. (2014). Great jobs great lives. Retrieved from https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/galluppurdueindex-report-2014.pdf
Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Rathburn, S., & Putman, J. (In press). Local research hub catalyzes student learning opportunities. Manuscript submitted for publication.
We Are Friends: A Canadian Indigenous Peer Mentor Program's Journey from Vision to Reality
Carla Marie Loewen, University of Manitoba
In 2009, University 1 (U1), a direct entry admission option into the University of Manitoba (UM), launched a peer mentor program for Indigenous students. At the time, there were few direct entry options for students, which meant the U1 academic advising team served approximately 6000 new students each year. Out of those 6000 students, more than 500 self-declared as Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit), which was about 8.25% of the U1 population. Prior to 2009, there was no Indigenous-specific programming offered in U1. When an Indigenous academic advisor was hired in 2005, they were given the opportunity to envision what a peer mentor program for Indigenous students could look like.
After a few years of dreaming, discussion, idea bouncing, and collaboration with the Aboriginal Student Centre, Promoting Aboriginal Community Together (PACT) was launched. This program matches new Indigenous students with upper-level students that provide academic support, social support, and ongoing advice. The program also offers all members with activities that enhance their post-secondary experience. The initial vision for PACT won an Innovation Award in 2008 from the National Aboriginal Student Services Association (NASSA), who provided a $750 monetary award as a startup budget. Since then, the program has moved to the Indigenous Student Centre, been renamed as the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program, and staff have researched whether participation in PACT helped members persist in their academic goals and/or whether peer mentoring as a student engagement strategy affected their sense of belonging to the university (Loewen, 2016).
As the developer and facilitator of the program, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to view firsthand the positive impact it has made. The notion of peer mentoring for Indigenous students has captured all aspects of my life, and I am truly passionate about the role I share in developing a thriving and positive student community where students do not have to feel like just a student number, but a member of a student community.
Neechiwaken is a Cree term that means “friend,” and the idea that program members would become friends became an integral component of the program’s vision statement early on. Since 2009, numerous friendships have been created, have grown, and have lasted throughout the students’ shared time on campus. As the program facilitator, I have had the pleasure to observe students begin their first year of university and been able to monitor their progress until graduation. Program members have gone on to be social workers, nurses, doctors, government workers, teachers, graduate students, community workers, and much more. The research reflected below shares why peer mentor programs for Indigenous/Native American students are important, and much of the research also relates the benefits of peer mentoring to other underrepresented student populations. The following sections relate the findings from the Loewen (2016) research based on PACT.
Benefits of Peer Mentoring
The Loewen (2016) study illustrates that Indigenous students who take part in a peer mentoring relationship have a better chance of successfully integrating into a post-secondary institution, because they are given the opportunity to meet with other Indigenous students they can relate to on a regular basis. This was demonstrated by research participants who saw peer mentoring as a way to make friends and get academic guidance. Having a mentor available to talk to about challenges, have as a friend, and socialize with gives new students a better chance at persisting, because they can feel like a part of their student community. Tinto (2010) supports this by explaining, “making friends and knowing people is important in gaining a sense of belonging” (p. 64), which is attributed to persistence.
Sense of belonging was consistently seen as important to the students interviewed for the study and can be connected to Astin’s (1984) theory of student development. For example, Astin proposed that a highly involved student is someone who studies a lot, spends time on campus, gets involved with student groups and interacts with professors. Astin (1999) also argued that students more willingly get involved if they identify with their environment. In Loewen’s (2016) research, this was supported by research participants who frequently mentioned how the peer support they got from one another helped them feel connected, which gave them a sense of familiarity on campus and provided a sense of belonging to the UM.
Astin (1999) also proposed that to achieve maximum student involvement, student personnel workers should take the opportunity to stimulate students to get more involved in student organizations, to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, and to interact with new peer groups. Based on the benefits that participants related in their responses about peer mentoring, administrators, post-secondary educators, advisors, and student life offices should develop student programming for Indigenous students that helps them connect with their institutional environment (Loewen, 2016).
In addition, being able to identify with other Indigenous students on a regular basis is what emerged as the most important peer mentoring aspect to participants. PACT helped participants feel less alone and see that they were not the only ones to experience challenges or face worries. By joining PACT, participants were able to make new friends, find a common identity in one another, and make connections with students with similar interests or backgrounds. From the challenges participants experienced during their studies, the Loewen (2016) research shows that Indigenous students can benefit from programming that provides social connections and that peer mentoring is a feasible way to do this. Peer mentoring literature that highlighted social connections supports this conclusion. For example, Dennis, Phinney, and Chuateco (2005) explained, “Peer relationships are important in a number of outcomes among college students, such as sense of social identity, social adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment, and goal commitment” (p. 226).
In general, Loewen’s (2016) results suggest that peer mentor programs are effective at engaging Indigenous students in their academic journeys. Working closely with students as an advisor and as a program facilitator over the past 10 years, I have observed that students who get involved on campus earlier on tend to be more successful in their transition to university life. Because of the importance of getting involved on the success of students, I always tell students that attending university is not just about studying; it is also about becoming part of a community and part of their institution. And, by joining a supportive community when starting at the University of Manitoba, they will feel like they matter, because they most certainly do.
Implications of Research Findings
Dominant themes in the Loewen (2016) study showed that an Indigenous peer mentoring program can have a positive effect on persistence because it gives Indigenous students the opportunity to spend time with other Indigenous students, which in turn helps them feel more connected to the university as a whole. Therefore, institutions should consider implementing similar programs like Neechiwaken into their student engagement programming.
Another main theme was that Indigenous students see family and peer support as a critical aspect of being successful (Loewen, 2016), so institutions and programs should consider giving students the opportunity for family to visit the campus and be part of the university experience. This could include having family game nights, invitations to attend campus events, or invitations to cultural activities being offered on campus. This would allow the student to share their academic life with their families to instill a sense a pride amongst family members, give students the opportunity to show what they are doing, and in turn, give family members some assurance that their child’s academic goals are worthwhile. Family support was deemed an important aspect of persistence by Thompson, Johnson-Jennings, and Nitzarim (2013) who said that it “has consistently been documented to relate to a variety of educational outcomes, including adjustment to college, persistence, and well-being” (p. 220).
Peer mentoring programs should also include interactions with Indigenous staff for role modeling and should incorporate traditional knowledge with the use of Elders and participation in cultural activities. Rawana, Sieukaran, Nguyen, and Pitawanakwat (2015) called for the inclusion of cultural activities, because in their research about Canadian peer mentoring programs, it was found that “the majority of Aboriginal peer mentorship programs did not contain specific cultural activities or traditions” (p. 18). Therefore, opportunities for cultural learning should be included in Indigenous student peer mentor programming or otherwise.
Programming should be purposeful and have clear outcomes for why a program is being offered. Institutions should do more to promote Indigenous student peer relationships whether through peer mentoring, learning communities, or student council involvement (as examples) as peer relationships were consistently found to benefit students (Loewen, 2016). With this in mind, institutions should seek to create programming that does more than just get Indigenous students together. One example of intentional programming includes transition programs that increase the involvement of Indigenous first-year students as a way to help students persist from one year to another. This is in line with Berger and Milem (1999) who found that “early peer involvement appears to strengthen perceptions of institutional and social support and ultimately persistence” (p. 658).
Last, institutions have the responsibility of making all students feel like they belong. Johnson, Soldner, Leonard, and Alvarez (2007) state that “rather than expecting students to bear sole responsibility for success through their integration into existing institutional structures, sense of belonging illustrates the interplay between the individual and the institution” (p. 526). This means it is up to the institution to support student success; it should not be left to the student to have the sole responsibility of being successful and making meaning out of being a university student. And guiding and supporting someone who you want to see succeed, well, that is what friendship is all about. That is what Neechiwaken is all about. Miigwech.
Carla Marie Loewen
Indigenous Student Centre
University of Manitoba
Carla Loewen (Cree) is a student advisor at the Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Manitoba where she runs a transition and peer mentor program as part of her advising portfolio. She was the 2017 recipient of the Region 6 Tribal College Advisor Grant.
Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308.
Astin, A. W. (1999). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40, 518-529.
Berger, J. B., & Milem, J. F. (1999). The role of student involvement and perceptions of integration in a causal model of student persistence. Research in Higher Education, 40(6), 641-664.
Johnson, D. R., Soldner, M., Leonard, J. B., & Alvarez, P. (2007). Examining sense of belonging among first-year undergraduates from different racial/ethnic groups. Journal of College Student Development, 48(5), 525-542. doi:0.1353/csd.2007.0054
Dennis, J., Phinney, J., & Chuateco, L. (2005). The role of motivation, parental support, and peer support in the academic success of ethnic minority first-generation college students. Journal of College Student Development, 46(3), 223-236. doi:10.1353/csd.2005.002
Loewen, C. M. (2016). Neechiwaken - Peer mentoring: Supporting aboriginal students in academic community (Unpublished master's thesis). University of Manitoba, Canada. Retrieved from https://mspace.lib.umanitoba.ca/handle/1993/31244
Rawana, J. S., Sieukaran, D. D., Nguyen, H. T., & Pitawanakwat, R. (2015). Development and evaluation of a peer mentorship program for aboriginal university students. Canadian Journal of Education, 38(2), 1-34. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.uml.idm.oclc.org/docview/1697674959?accountid=14569
Thompson, M., Johnson-Jennings, M., & Nitzarim, R. (2013). Native American undergraduate students' persistence intentions: A psychosociocultural perspective. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19(2), 218-228. doi:10.1037/a0031546
Tinto, V. (2010). From theory to action: Exploring the institutional conditions for student retention. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 25, pp. 51-89). New York, NY: Springer.
Lessons Learned on Mandatory Advising: It's All in the Way You Say It
Megumi I. Makino-Kanehiro, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Brett McFarlane’s recent (2017) Academic Advising Today article, “Mandatory Advising, Yes or No?,” outlines research and rationale that support the use of mandatory advising but emphasizes the idea that using mandatory advising on one’s campus is a complex question that does not allow a simple answer. The Mānoa Advising Center (MAC) was established in Fall 2008, and our first directive as academic advisors was to enforce mandatory advising for our students. When we started with three advisors and 4,500 students, there was no way we could offer mandatory advising to everyone. As a result, we started off with a more realistic goal—requiring that all incoming freshmen come in for mandatory advising for their first four semesters, enforcing the requirement through registration holds. Over the past 10 years in MAC, we have made a number of very small but significant changes in the way that we offer mandatory advising—namely in format and tone—that have had a big impact in helping us to more efficiently and proactively assist our students.
Why Mandatory Advising?
I did not start off with strong feelings for or against mandatory advising. Over time, I have experienced first-hand, in student appointments, how vital mandatory advising can be for certain students.
I did not know what to think. She had retaken pre-med track chemistry and biology four times, flunking each time and withdrawing from multiple courses each semester. Experience has taught me that nine out of ten students with this type of record have external issues impacting their studies. She seemed to do well in the non-science courses, so I wondered whether the science courses were too difficult for her. She had missed her registration time and waited until the end of the first week of school to get her mandatory advising hold resolved, so I suspected that she may be one of those students who insists that medical school is the only path for them.
Her story broke my heart.
As expected, she stated that family issues had impacted her studies. I asked her if the issues had been resolved, and she replied, “Well, she passed away yesterday, so yes, I guess they have been resolved.” I found out that she had been taking care of her grandmother who had been hospitalized, then needed 24/7 care, which fell to her since her single mother worked three jobs in order to provide for the family. Due to this vicious cycle, she was also forced to work full time. She explained that she loved science, and she tried her best every semester thinking she could do it, but sheer exhaustion would prevent her from attending class, and she would gradually fall behind and end up failing.
She seemed very guarded when the appointment started, but I asked her about her goals and as the appointment went on, she opened up, visibly relaxed, and even smiled. When I explained that there were options, such as leave of absence, she was surprised. She took ownership, stating that she knew she should come in but explained that once she had started doing badly, she was scared to make an appointment. She said that the only reason she had come in was that she had a registration hold on her record. I explained that in Fall 2017, MAC was finally able to reach its goal of instituting mandatory advising with registration holds for all of our students.
Lesson learned: I went home, feeling devastated at her lost opportunity. At the same time, it also reaffirmed that we are doing the right thing by requiring students—through registration holds—to come in to talk to us. Each campus is different, but clearly, enforcing mandatory advising was the mechanism by which this student was able to connect with us.
Which Format of Communication Works Best?
I have heard a lot of discussion about email versus text. Students do not like us to invade their texts (plus, some are charged and others need to sign a release), but they get tons of email and do not tend to read any of them. I have also heard of the slang “TL; DR” (too long; didn’t read) that points to the necessity of keeping things brief. One day, in watching the peer advisors in my office glance at their emails and texts during a break, I hit on an idea—why can’t we use text-like emails?
Lesson learned: I asked the advisor who coordinates mandatory advising for MAC if we could shorten our messages to just the bare essential information. Also, could we make the email subject line sound like a Macy’s or Starbucks ad, pejoratively called click bait (Pre-sale exclusive: order now!)? We came up with subject lines that would hopefully encourage them to open their email, such as “Be an Early Bird—Complete Mandatory Advising Now.” Anecdotally, we have found this format to be more effective, and we try to stick to one screen of information with a link to further details.
Why is Tone Important?
As advisors we care, but do students know that? Appreciative Advising (n.d.) focuses on the importance of utilizing the first phase of interactions with students, Disarm, by encouraging advisors to “make a positive first impression with the student, build rapport, and create a safe, welcoming space” (para. 4). It can be argued that an advisor’s message to a student starts with the first email contact with that student. In MAC, I tend to soften wording to emphasize that, while we expect students to take responsibility of their academic journey, we will support them and provide them with all of their options. Advisors are not adversaries, but rather guides to help them explore.
As MAC advisors, we work with many students whose GPA is below 2.0. We require these students to do assignments and then come in to see an advisor. In a previous versions of the assignments, we provided information on academic actions, taught the student about campus resources, had the student articulate their goals, and helped the student think through some of the strategies they may need to raise their GPA. I felt as though the assignments were not positive enough.
A colleague had passed along a New York Times Magazine article, “Who Gets to Graduate.” This article featured a number of students that demonstrated higher achievement outcomes linked to positive messaging. Inspired by this article, I asked to add a positive statement (or affirmation) and a short required response at the beginning of each assignment.
Lesson learned: We received feedback (both positive and negative) that let us know that students were actually reading these positive statements. Students often commented that they felt supported and encouraged. It could be that they were simply writing what they thought we wanted to hear, but I would like to think that they may have taken a bit of what they wrote to heart and perhaps it encouraged them to come in to see us earlier.
However, it was the negative comments that were more instructive. The negative responses came from a handful of students who had different situations—they had flunked their freshman year courses, then transferred to another institution and had begun anew with the strong grades to prove it. Unfortunately, when they ultimately returned to our institution, their low GPA at our campus remained on their record. These students were indignant – they certainly did not want a generic email about how we believed in their potential. They felt that our affirmations did not apply to them; they were already doing well and they did not understand why they needed mandatory advising since they had already figured everything out at their previous institution. I met with these students and realized that they were operating from a sense of self-directed frustration and shame. I further realized that they actually may need to come in the most so that we can welcome them back, reassure them, and provide them with the additional resources that would help them to continue doing well at our institution. Based on their feedback, we were able to identify these students and send them a different message, specifically tailored to them, to let them know that they are not cookie-cutter students to us.
These are all small changes, yet they may have a huge impact on students’ perspectives of advising and willingness to receive advising.
Megumi I. Makino-Kanehiro, PhD
Mānoa Advising Center
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Appreciative Advising. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appreciativeadvising.net/
McFarlane, B. (2017, December). Mandatory advising, yes or no? Academic Advising Today, 40(4). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Mandatory-Advising-Yes-or-No.aspx
Tough, P. (2014, May 18). Who gets to graduate? The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/magazine/who-gets-to-graduate.html
Academic Advisors as First-Year Experience Instructors
Kyle Ellis and Mariana Rangel, The University of Mississippi
Are academic advisors on campus utilized to their full potential? Quality academic advising is undoubtedly an integral component of institutions’ retention and persistence efforts (Ensign, 2010; Nutt, 2003; Tinto, 1987). Academic advisors promote student development through providing readily accessible information and guidance to students and by helping them feel stimulated and challenged as they work toward meeting their academic goals (Anderson, 1997; Tinto, 1999; Anderson, 1997). In addition, academic advising grants students the opportunity to have consistent, individual contact with a “concerned representative of the institution” (Habley, 1994 [as cited in Advising and Retention Quotes, n.d.]).
Academic advisors can also help students develop in other ways outside of a traditional advising appointment. One way is through teaching a first-year experience course. First-year experience (FYE) seminars, known to help increase student retention (Jaijairam, 2016), help new students transition to their institutions by addressing topics such as effective study skills, time management, getting involved on campus, and others. As of 2014, 80 percent of colleges and universities offered some type of first-year seminar, demonstrating the popularity of this initiative (Jaijairam, 2016).
Lance (2009) identified academic advisors as ideal instructors for FYE courses because of their knowledge of policies, procedures, and resources on their campuses. In addition, academic advisors can utilize FYE courses to teach students about a variety of topics such as “academic opportunities and resources, how to develop an understanding of academic inquiry, taking responsibility for and making good choices about relationships and social networks” and others (Lance, 2009, para. 4).
To highlight the impact academic advisors can have on students when given the opportunity to serve as instructors of FYE courses, eight full-time, primary-role academic advisors at the University of Mississippi were interviewed. Each of the advisors interviewed teach an FYE course. Advisors were asked a series of questions that focused on Tinto's (2016) work regarding student motivation to persist. The advisors who participated consisted of four males and four females with advising experience ranging from one to 12 years. For the purpose of these interviews, three courses designed for first-year students were included under the FYE course umbrella:
- EDHE 101 (Academic Skills for College): Mandatory for freshmen on academic probation
- EDHE 105 (Freshman Year Experience): Optional for new freshmen during their first semester
- EDLD 201 (Career Decision Making): Optional for new freshmen who are undeclared in their major during the spring semester
Tinto’s Essential Motivation Elements for Students to Persist
Vincent Tinto (2016) noted three essential elements that can impact students’ motivation to persist at an institution. These elements include: self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and perceived value of the curriculum. All three of these components can be identified in academic advising sessions, but what about in FYE courses taught by an academic advisor?
Self-Efficacy. Academic advisors are excellent university professionals to help students develop self-efficacy. Of the eight advisors interviewed, all were able to identify strategies to help students in their FYE courses develop self-efficacy. Appreciative advising (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008) is an advising method that focuses on positive experiences for students. Some of the advisors noted how appreciative advising could be utilized with first-year students in FYE courses. One advisor stated, “Using appreciative advising can help students develop self-efficacy. Offering words of encouragement and focusing on successes, both in and out of the classroom, can go a long way with new freshmen.”
Another tool that advisors mentioned, which can be implemented in both advising sessions and FYE courses, is goal setting. Helping students develop short- and long-term goals and acknowledging when milestones are met will assist in the development of self-efficacy. An advisor with one semester of FYE teaching experience has quickly learned the value of goal setting, “I think making students practice goal setting and following up with them in the classroom was not only great for their self-efficacy, but also for myself in seeing them grow as college students.”
Other methods advisors have used in FYE courses include: helping students answer their own questions, having students create personal mission statements, developing a class lesson on self-efficacy, and addressing personal responsibility throughout the semester.
Sense of Belonging. It is not uncommon for students to leave an institution of higher learning in good academic standing. At the University of Mississippi (UM), students do not persist for a variety of reasons (Ellis, 2016). One frequent reason was that students never found their sense of belonging on campus. Academic advisors at UM are required to meet with their advisees at least once per semester. During these meetings, the advisor and student may discuss experiences outside the classroom with the advisor making recommendations and referrals as needed. Many of these conversations help students find their place on campus. Therefore, by having academic advisors teach FYE courses, these experienced professionals can use their knowledge and skills to help 20–25 additional freshmen establish a sense of belonging.
Several of the advisors interviewed were quick to point out their ability to help students find clubs, organizations, and events that aligned with the students' interests. Other instructors at the institution, both FYE and core curriculum, may not have the institutional and community knowledge to offer such support. Every advisor acknowledged they had a class lesson on getting involved on campus. An advisor with 20 semesters of FYE teaching experience recognized that some opportunities to get his students involved outside the classroom were "encouraged, while others were required." A different advisor discussed the enjoyment of "helping new students learn about different clubs and organizations and having the ability to follow up with them throughout the semester."
An essential component that advisors capitalize on is their ability to relate to the student. Three of the eight advisors interviewed stressed the importance of sharing their own stories regarding finding their place with FYE students. One seasoned advisor explained, "I am happy to share my experiences with my FYE classes. I did not meet my best friends until the end of my freshman year. Reassuring them that it takes time to find their place is very important."
Other strategies given by the advisors included: feeling secure in one's major, addressing barriers that may affect belonging, and helping students connect with their peers who may also be struggling to find their place.
Perceived Value of the Curriculum. It can be difficult for some new freshmen to understand the value of the curriculum, especially while taking general education classes. Academic advisors strive to have meaningful conversations with these students about required courses during one-on-one advising meetings. With advisors having experience in these types of conversations, it is natural for them to support Tinto's notion regarding value of the curriculum while they teach FYE courses.
The advisors interviewed shared numerous examples of how they help students in their FYE courses value the curriculum. Relating current classes to future goals for individual students was the most common example cited. One advisor discussed an assigned FYE career project. Students are required to complete informational interviews for the project, which allows them to learn about needed job skills (e.g. writing, communication, etc.) that may not be extensively addressed in their major coursework. Frequently, freshmen ask how a specific general education course will benefit them in their major. The advisors address this in advising sessions when students are looking at the curriculum and planning upcoming schedules. Therefore, it is understandable for advisors to be effective in answering these inquiries in FYE courses. Furthermore, if the advisor does a good job of explaining the purpose of general education requirements early in the FYE course, these types of questions may never arise from students during an academic advising meeting.
Other ideas shared by advisors regarding helping students find value in the curriculum included justifying class choices with personal examples, spending more time on related chapters in the FYE textbook, emphasizing the importance of foundational knowledge, and fostering the development of critical thinking skills.
Recommendations for Practice
As demonstrated by previous research and through interviews conducted at the University of Mississippi, academic advisors possess the knowledge and skills to be effective first-year experience instructors. Institutions looking to develop, increase, or improve their FYE teaching efforts should not only consider hiring academic advisors as instructors, but also utilizing their knowledge and expertise as they develop training programs for new instructors. Additionally, it is important to allow research and theory, such as Tinto’s work, to guide classroom content and discussion. Tinto’s (2016) elements are helpful in understanding how self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and a perceived value of the curriculum can significantly help increase student persistence when addressed effectively in academic advising and advisors teaching FYE courses.
Director, Center for Student Success & First-Year Experience
Instructional Assistant Professor of Higher Education
The University of Mississippi
Academic Advisor & Instructor
Center for Student Success & First-Year Experience
The University of Mississippi
Advising and Retention Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-and-Retention-Quotes.aspx
Anderson, E. (1997). Academic advising for student success and retention. Iowa City, IA: Noel-Levitz.
Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.
Ellis, K. C. (2016). It takes a campus: 15 initiatives to improve retention. Oxford, MS: Nautilus Publishing.
Ensign, R. L. (2010). Fast gainers: 4 ways that colleges have raised graduation rates. The
Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/4-Ways-to-Raise-Graduation/125613
Jaijairam, P. (2016). First-year seminar (FYS) – The advantages that this course offers. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(2), 15-23. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1092432.pdf
Lance, A. (2009). Advising is teaching: Advisors take it to the classroom. Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Advising-IS-Teaching-Advisors-Take-it-to-the-Classroom.aspx
Nutt, C. (2003). Academic advising and student retention and persistence. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-and-Student-Retention-article.aspx
Tinto, V. (1987). Increasing student retention. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Tinto, V. (1999). Taking retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college. NACADA Journal, 19(2), 9.
Tinto, V. (2016, September 26). How to improve student persistence and completion. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/09/26/how-improve-student-persistence-and-completion-essay
"I Failed Out of College; Let Me Help You"
Luke Faust, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Editor’s Note: The author wishes this article to serve as a “thank you” to his advisor, a long-time NACADA member who regularly reads this publication. Without her, he says, he would not have this story to share.
There are not many experiences in life that are linear in their occurrence. Becoming a professional advisor is no different. In 2003, after the most enjoyable nine months of my life, a letter arrived from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. After a year-and-a-half-long party, the experience was threatened with the word dismissed. It was official, I had failed out of college.
After the fallout at home, it was decided that I would write an appeal and beg for one last chance. I wanted to continue having fun more than studying, but I surely did not want to be a college dunce. Another problem was that I was chasing an engineering degree that I did not want. The dean of the college was not easy to talk to, but I had no other option. By happenstance, that same semester break, the institution worked on a very hands-on probation program called the SPURS program to kick students like me back into shape (figuratively of course). Going back to college was the goal, but I had no way of guessing where I would end up.
I worked at being a student, and perhaps more importantly for a first-generation college student, I learned to play the game of college. My advisor became my rock, my sounding board, my helping hand, my kick in the butt that I needed from time to time, but she was ready to fight for me. Grades started coming up and I started to understand what it took to be a college student. Once the possibility of getting a college degree started to look like a reality, it was time to decide what I was going to do with it.
“What do you want to do?” she would ask weekly. My response became a silent stare at the wall. Finally, fed up and sick of the questioning, I said, “I want to do what you do,” not even sure if I meant it. As I thought about it in the weeks to come, it started to make sense. Wait just a minute, I was far from sure enough in my abilities to think I could finish the first degree required and now I may have just asked for a second, maybe a third?
As the rest of my undergraduate experience continued, I started volunteering in that office to work with other students who were in a situation I was all too familiar with. I would report back to my advisor and work with her to help these students rebound. As the end of my undergraduate career came to a close, I became worried about the future with nothing but a degree in writing. I asked my advisor, “What’s next?” Her response was even more worrisome, “graduate school.”
“Where did you go?” I asked, hoping it was somewhere that would even accept me. “West Virginia University.” I did not know much about this school, but I did know it was a place I would likely get way too distracted. I figured it would be a good challenge and went for it. I chose the degree path of Secondary Education English so I could get some classroom time before hopefully one day becoming a college advisor and possibly professor.
Graduate school went by fast; I stayed out of trouble and remained focused. Throughout, I stayed in contact with my advisor from my undergraduate degree. At the end, I had to student teach. This was the most educational part of the experience. What I learned after student teaching in 7th and 11th grade classrooms was that this was something I did not want to do. At the age of 24, my master’s degree in hand, I now had two degrees and a load of debt for a job I did not want. That was acceptable because it was just a stepping stone to get me into higher education, or so I thought.
If student teaching was not enough, interviewing for three k-12 jobs proved this was not where I belonged or where I wanted to be. The first summer after graduate school was coming to a close and I was unemployed and pretty depressed. Then the phone rang. It was my advisor from Pitt. “It is a long shot, but you should interview.” I hung up the phone and began prepping for an interview at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I knew I did not have much of a shot, but this was the only thing I wanted to do, the reason I went to school for so long.
Right before the interview started, I had a thought. If I had to work with struggling students, I had already done a really good job working with one of the toughest students ever, myself. This thinking came out in my answers and before long it was a frank conversation about how many bad decisions I had made and what I learned from every one. The interview went well, but I was definitely under experienced. Two days later, the phone rang, and I was hired as a grant-funded, full-time, temporary (nine-month) advisor and faculty member.
My advisor from my undergraduate degree had moved jobs and was crucial in setting up the interview. Years after working together, she shared an email she had boldly sent to her boss requesting that they interview me. Turns out I was not the only one thinking I was a long shot, as the email highlighted my nontraditional path in academia, my lack of experience, and much more. By the time I saw this email, I had three years in my career as an advisor and realized more advisors have nontraditional paths than not. The traditional path might as well be nontraditional!
I worked on those yearly renewed contracts for years, in the very same department as my undergraduate advisor. My advisor and I were colleagues, and now she is my professional advisor. She never stopped working to advise me. After two years as a temp, she helped me decide that it was time to pursue a doctorate degree. Coaching me through that was probably more work for her than what was required of me. She never abandoned me. She put my success and growth in front of her own career. After six years, I was promoted to Assistant Professor within an FYE program with a strong advising component.
This past spring, I defended a dissertation and completed my Doctorate of Education. As I think back to some of the most important events in my educational career, the accolades of being a young academic, the degrees and such; none of them compare to the memory of the letter from the Dean telling me my academic career was ending. I have worked with and advised thousands of students in the past decade and while it is challenging, I still remember the most valuable part of my experience was that my advisor never gave up on me. Not only did that experience change my life, it also allowed me the opportunity to change the lives of others.
Department of Developmental Studies
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Developing a Low-Cost Program for High-Achieving First-Year Students
Rebekah Chojnacki and Emmanuel Garcia, Advising High Achieving Students Community members
High-achieving students come with great potential, but also great need for assistance, even though that may seem counter intuitive. Academic advisors may face a broad range of students on a daily basis, and it may become all too tempting to focus on the students who seem to need the most help—the students struggling with balancing their academic career and in danger of academic probation. However, high-achieving students have challenges of their own, such as dealing with perfectionism (Parker & Adkins, 1995) and lack of guidance and support for lofty goals (Reynolds, 2017).
As academic advisors who have high-achieving personalities ourselves, we noticed an ongoing trend at our institution of students who were making good GPAs, but not getting as actively involved in their education as they could, such as by joining McNair Scholars or the Honors College. These students were missing opportunities available to them, and the university was missing having more students engaged in high-impact activities. Noticing this helped us realized that all of the programming from our unit for first-year students was geared toward students who were not doing well in their classes. Programming and outreach was available for upper-classmen high-achievers, but there was a gap in reaching out to high academic performers in their first two semesters. As advisors for high achieving student populations, we created a program that was designed to be a bridge for first-year, high-achieving students to connect them to resources that were already available on campus. We called this program University College Scholars, the name deriving from our unit for first-year students.
Learning Theory is critical to our program because it is founded upon active learning and always pushing for that extra nugget of knowledge (Reynolds, 2017). According to the literature, perfectionism can be as constructive as it is destructive (Dickinson & Dickinson, 2015; Speirs Neumeister, 2004; Parker & Adkins, 1995). However, in the University College Scholars program, we concentrate on the positive side of the phenomenon and help students see that it can be used in their favor to perform better. Learning theory principles include focusing on active learning, teaching students how to consider changing their own perspectives, and focusing on motivation for learning, not just learning to check a box (Reynolds, 2017).
The University College Scholars program is explicitly aimed at making sure those high-achievers or almost high-achievers are not overlooked by the giant machine that a university can be. As Dougherty (2007) indicates, there is an atmosphere of assumption toward high-achieving students that they will transition to college with no problem because “they will figure it out.” By shifting the focus for high-achieving first-year students through promoting interaction instead of just transaction, the experience for these students can be transformative (Reynolds, 2017).
Development and Implementation
The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) began a program to attract local high-achieving high school seniors to campus by offering the opportunity for early admission and enrollment (Garcia & Chojnacki, 2016). Beyond providing these benefits, the program offered an opportunity for a special promotion of resources and ideas to assist high-achieving students, which UTA administrators called Admitted Students Day. We created a video simulating a high-achieving student going to an academic advising appointment, with the goal in mind that high-achieving students could see an example of a student being proactive and planning for their entire college experience, not just picking classes. In the video, the example student was directed to resources on our campus, such as McNair Scholars and the Honors College. The students who attended successfully received the video, but the advising office wanted to do more afterward.
As advisors, we decided to take an active approach and create a program for incoming high achieving, first-year students to provide them with information about resources available to high-achieving students and explain the benefits of getting involved early in high-impact activities, such as undergraduate research. This program also created a community for high-achieving students to find peers with similar goals and aspirations. To meet the needs of students, the best fit was a workshop series, since this allowed us to reach students after the start of the school year in a non-threatening and personalized way.
We pulled the list of incoming freshman and filtered for students who met the entrance requirements for the Honors College at UTA, so students who scored at least a 27 on the ACT and an SAT score of 1270 (Prospective students: Apply to the Honors College, n.d.). Outreach began in late September to allow staff and students' calendars to slow down and routines to settle. Additionally, we created a Facebook page and were able to reach some students via social media (Chojnacki & Garcia, 2017). Advisors in the University College Scholars program created a curriculum for the monthly workshops based on the resources available on campus for high-achieving students, including McNair Scholars, Honors College, and the Center for Service Learning, and the athletic department’s life skills coordinator. Each organization was asked to give a 20–30 minute presentation followed by half an hour of question and answers. For the Honors College and McNair Scholars office, this was an opportunity to recruit for their programs. Feedback from students collected via paper surveys helped improve The University College Scholars’ workshops and provided data to present at local, regional, and national conferences for program advisors.
In our second year of the program, advisors and administrators successfully added upper-classmen student mentors to our program who serve as guides and provide valuable insight to workshop discussions. The first-year students have gravitated toward the student mentors for advice and perspective on what to anticipate during their upcoming college years. In the program, we now have participation from more departments across campus and are training other advisors to assist with the program.
Before University College Scholars was created, first-year students at UTA who were high-achievers did not have programming specifically designed to get them involved and engaged in high-impact activities. As advisors of high-achieving students, we found and filled a gap in the service to this student population. During the first year of the University College Scholars program, we served 51 students, averaging 15–20 students per session. Student feedback included discussion from students on the helpfulness of the topics, excitement for the chance to explore new ideas, and the snowball effect of getting information from our sessions that students were able to implement and build on in their own time. Now that we have successfully implemented and maintained this program, we hope that this can serve as an inspiration and a guide to administrators and academic advisors at other higher education institutions who may be interested in low-cost, highly efficient programming that can be implemented to meet the needs of their specific student populations.
Our advice for academic advisors at other institutions would be to find out what gaps exist at your own institution and look for creative ways of filling the gap. For help with ideas, you can collaborate with other likeminded advisors through NACADA. If you work with high-achieving students, please visit the Slack group for the NACADA Advising High-Achieving Students Community. This group actively discusses issues and ideas for working with this population.
Rebekah Chojnacki, M.A.,
Academic Advisor, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
The University of Texas at Arlington
Emmanuel Garcia, PhD
Academic Advisor, University Advising Center
The University of Texas at Arlington
Chojnacki, R., & Garcia, E. (2017, December 1). UTA University College Scholars. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UTA-University-College-Scholars-700644583422309/
Dickinson, M. J., & Dickinson, D. A. G. (2015). Practically perfect in every way: Can reframing perfectionism for high-achieving undergraduates impact academic resilience? Studies in Higher Education, 40(10), 1889-1903.
Dougherty, S. B. (2007). Academic advising for high-achieving college students. Higher Education in Review, 4, 63-82.
Garcia, E., & Chojnacki, R. (2016, June 1). Admitted students day [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://nacada.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/admitted-students-day/
Parker, W. D., & Adkins, K. K. (1995). The incidence of perfectionism in honors and regular college students. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 7(1), 303-309.
Prospective students: Apply to the Honors College. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.uta.edu/honors/prospective/apply/index.php
Reynolds, M. M. (2017, December 1). An advisor's half dozen: Principles for incorporating learning theory into our advising practices. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Learning-theory-in-academic-advising.aspx
Speirs Neumeister, K. L. (2004). Understanding the relationship between perfectionism and achievement motivation in gifted college students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 48(3), 219-231.
Using Career Competencies to Help the Undecided Decide
Tara Vasold Fischer, Dickinson College
Christopher Nelson, Arkansas State University-Newport
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) (n.d.) defines career readiness as the identification and demonstration of competencies that prepare college graduates for successful transition into the workplace. Whether a student is attending a community college, a private liberal arts college, or anything in between, the inclusion of career competency or soft skill development into conversations with undecided students is important because it sets students up to apply, transfer, and integrate various aspects of their experiences. Some students may feel overwhelmed with different choices or pressured to make an outcome-based decision about their intended major. Including career competencies into discussions about choice of area of study provides a tangible way for students to see how what they want to learn can be applied to real world problems in ways that produce results, meaning that discussions about soft skill development can help undecided students decide.
Our conversation, a conversation between two advisors interested in career competencies, began at the NACADA Summer Institute, after a session on advising undeclared students. Although there are different institutional approaches to these early conversations, we quickly realized that, as advisors, we could shape positive change within higher education by helping students identify what they want to learn—and why—and how they will use that knowledge. So that got us thinking: ensuring that college students are prepared for career readiness is an important issue within higher education, the labor market, and society as a whole. As we talked, we realized that regardless of institution type or area of student focus, the questions we ask and the connection back to the identification and development of those skills early on means that we are intentionally teaching students to put it all together so that they are ready to tackle the world.
Below, Christopher Nelson (Arkansas State University Newport) and Tara Fischer (Dickinson), advisors at two vastly different institutions, discuss the ways they guide students through the process of exploration, declaration, and application using the inclusion of career competencies and soft skills as a guide in advising conversations.
An Introduction to Our Institutions
Arkansas State University-Newport (ASUN) is an open-enrollment community college focused primarily on career development through trade skill training. ASUN gained standalone recognition from the Arkansas State University system in 2001. Its mission is to provide an accessible, affordable, quality education that transforms the lives of students, enriches communities, and strengthens the regional economy. The student body of just over 2,800 is primarily from Arkansas and surrounding border counties in Tennessee and Mississippi.
Dickinson is a selective, private liberal-arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1783, its mission is to offer students a useful education in the arts and sciences that will prepare them for lives as engaged citizens and leaders. Dickinson students (2,370 currently enrolled) hail from 44 U.S. states and 46 foreign countries.
The impact of big questions on advising: What do you want to learn and why? How will you use it?
Arkansas State University-Newport: Those questions have a great impact on our students’ direction, and the conversation is vital to ensuring student success. From the first contact with a student, ASUN advisors try to identify the program or degree track that fits the student's interests, career goals, and life situation. Our initial conversations with students are nearly always focused on the declarations of a specific degree track. In many cases, student program decisions or major declarations are made after just a few minutes of discussion. ASUN is a two-year and technically focused college, and we cannot allow students to be undecided. Our undecided students are steered toward our broad Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree plan, which allows them, and the university-bound students, to continue their education while not losing time or wasting money taking courses they do not need. Arkansas’s funding model is based on student completion, making it paramount that we use answers to “What do you want to learn and why? How will you use it?” to form the basis of the most important conversation students may have in regard to their college and career goals. Understanding the long-term goals allows us to focus on the development of the technical skills and the soft skills needed to be successful in the field.
Dickinson: Beginning in the recruitment process, students are challenged to think about alignment between their personal and professional aspirations. At Dickinson, we encourage students to begin reflecting on their experiences and goals before engaging with online resources and advisors available to help them make decisions. Students must declare their major by the end of their sophomore year and the credits needed within that major make up only about one-third of the total courses needed for graduation, so while a luxury, the timeline is rational. From an advising perspective, we encourage students to sort themselves into one of three categories: I know exactly what I want to study; I’m considering 2–4 fields of study; and I want to spend my first semester exploring as widely as possible. Approximately one-third of the entering class fall into each category. “What do you want to learn and why?” and “Where and how will you use it?” are key components of the liberal arts experience. Exploring, but with focus, is key to an intentional and integrative experience.
How does soft skill development and identification factor into the decision process for undecided students?
Arkansas State University-Newport: Soft skill development begins at first contact with a student. Everything advisors do with and for our students sets an example of what we expect from them and helps us guide them into fields of study. Through my initial discussions with a student, I try to help them find the type of work that fits their current strengths. I then try to model soft skills that I find particularly beneficial to students’ specific skill development:
- Shake hands every time you meet with a student, look them in the eyes and listen intently when they talk.
- Do not work on the computer or answer the phone while with a student, unless required for a student’s specific advising session.
- Take a moment to let them talk about their interests or something other than classroom work or college business.
- If possible, do not sit across a desk during advising conversations.
- Voice professional expectations of the student, though not in a way that seems like a lecture.
- Look for teachable moments, but try not to expound upon them more than is needed or they will lose their impact.
By practicing each of the ideas above, I have found that soft skill development works well when modeled and when the purpose is understood.
Dickinson: By beginning to teach students about career competencies from day one—or sometimes even prior to enrollment—and then revisiting the topic intentionally during their time at the college, students recognize that those competencies exist, are valuable in their decision-making process, and begin to identify where and how they will continue to build on those skills through their curricular and co-curricular experiences. Through individual and group advising, advisors at Dickinson ask students to draw parallels between competencies and their personal and professional experiences. While not all students may have direct experience with all core competencies, many will take the opportunity to explore new opportunities to develop soft skills with which they may be less familiar—in or outside of their chosen field of study.
Expanding reach and encouraging application: How are soft skills developed within the student body as a whole to prepare students for unscripted problems and opportunities?
Arkansas State University-Newport: We take a cross-curricular approach for our general education and transfer-minded students. Their soft skills development is passive, not measured in terms of learning outcomes or specific objectives. In all of our courses at ASUN, we strive to integrate our Institutional Learning Outcomes: Communication, Reasoning, and Responsibility. All students should build a strong foundation in those areas. However, our skilled trades programs have a more structured approach guided by advisory committees made up of professionals from the program field. These advisory committees guide our curriculum development and ensure our programs remain on the leading edge of industry need. On their recommendation, ASUN created a course titled Workplace Essentials to coach, model, and build needed soft skills. Students learn interpersonal and effective communication, conflict resolution, oral communication, resume and cover letter writing, interview skills, professional deportment, team building, and leadership. Every skilled trade student must successfully complete Workplace Essentials in order to complete their chosen program. The skills taught are essential for our students not only in seeking and securing employment in their chosen field, but in building the foundations that create lasting careers and professional relationships
Dickinson: We have connected career competencies in a flexible but intentional way to a four-year integrative experience, the Dickinson Four. This year by year program provides scaffolding to support students in making meaning of their experiences in and outside of the classroom and breaks the process of reflection and exploration into smaller, less overwhelming steps. Although deceivingly simple, the Dickinson Four initiative asks students a series of questions, that, when paired with a variety of intentionally designed signature programs—in conjunction with the breadth and depth of the liberal arts curriculum and more than 100 student-run clubs and organizations—gives students the opportunity to navigate their college experience with confidence.
- The first-year experience is focused on helping students make Dickinson their own and the leading question is “who”. Who do I want to be? Who do I need to connect with to help me navigate the transition process?
- Sophomore year is about discovering what matters. While focusing on the question of “what”, students are given opportunities to continue exploration while balancing plans for the future with an appreciation for their current experiences and opportunities.
- Whether on or off campus, junior year is all about deepening your focus. Through study abroad, internships, research, or opportunities for the cultivation of further co-curricular engagement, students are challenged to focus on “how”.
- The senior year offers students the chance to expand their story by putting it all together and preparing to articulate the value of the experience they had- and the skills gained along the way. “Where” will you use your knowledge next?
Throughout each year program designers have intentionally embedded competencies into programmatic learning goals and assessment.
Encouraging students to see how the choices they make contribute to a larger narrative about their experiences and the value of the education they are receiving—and then asking them to practice telling their stories—is key. Whether they are headed immediately into the workforce, going to graduate school, or pursuing other noble endeavors, they need to be able to tell their stories. Understanding and articulating the choices that were made and why provides a natural framing for the college experience.
As educators and advisors, we have a responsibility to our students to ask questions that evoke provocative and useful reflection. Including tangible, outcome-based skill development into initial conversations helps serve our students, institutions, professions, and society most fully. By encouraging students to identify and articulate how their past, current, and future experiences fit together, advisors equip students to be active and engaged participants in determining their majors and eventually finding their way into satisfying personal and professional futures.
Tara Vasold Fischer
Associate Dean of Academic Advising & College Dean
Office of Academic Advising
Senior Instructor of Career Readiness
Applied Science Division
Arkansas State University-Newport
National Association of Colleges and Employers. (n.d.). Career readiness defined. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/career-readiness-defined/
From Alabama to Wisconsin: One Advisor's Summer Institute Experience
Rachel Mars, Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
In July 2017, I attended the weeklong NACADA Summer Institute in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This opportunity afforded a great deal of knowledge to an advisor who has only been in the world of advising for a little under three years. I serve students at a small, private, 4-year, faith-based institution in Birmingham, Alabama named Samford University, where I am an advisor in the business school and oversee our first-year and business minor populations.
My journey to the institute began in the spring semester when I was looking into the professional development opportunities on the NACADA website and saw the glowing testimonials of previous attendees. It was also appealing that this institute was occurring outside of our peak advising season and aimed at advisors from all levels of experience. After discovering this opportunity, I was registering for the institute, applying for the scholarship offered, and eventually having the honor to receive it as well.
Once at the institute, I found the schedule to be well organized and consistent with the intensity the NACADA communications described. The days of the institute began with a nutritious and conversational breakfast, and then advisors sat in a general assembly session to learn foundational advising principles together. Following these sessions, attendees broke out into assigned work groups, comprised of colleagues from similar institutions and led by seasoned institute faculty who have many years of advising experience. In these groups, attendees worked on actions plans for the specific goals of their institution, and what was very helpful was that each day we took a different part of the action plan to discuss as a group and then work on individually. After lunch, attendees could participate in several different topical sessions or a longer workshop followed by social activities and personal work time in the evening. One such social activity was touring the Green Bay Packers stadium, which was very interesting due to the amount of history shared by our guides and the tradition of cheering in the stadium, a tradition in which we participated. This structure was conducive to not only achieving goals, but also creating strong connections with fellow institute members while enjoying each other’s company.
The amount of knowledge of advising as a whole one receives is vast and unique at the institute. The foundational sessions were hugely beneficial for me as I was able to learn the why behind advising, the how of what advisors do, as well as identify what elements I could already see in my advising culture and what I could improve. The topical session I gleaned the most from was one about the advising syllabus, a tool I had never heard of before this institute. Through the wisdom of the faculty presenting on this topic and discussions with other session participants, I was able to create my own syllabus upon returning home to Alabama and used it successfully in our fall 2017 advising season as I handed every first-year advisee a copy during individual meetings. Another session that had an impact on me was the workshop on diverse student populations. The in-depth discussion and exercises in this gathering were eye opening and helped bring awareness about how I can serve the diverse populations in our student body at Samford.
In the breakout groups, the major benefit I found was the discussion, full of friendship as well commiseration on similar struggles as we were all from private, faith-based institutions. Practically, I was able to hone in on what I needed to do first through the guidance of the faculty, which mainly focused on how to create a syllabus, and how to implement an idea I had learned about at the first NACADA conference I had attended in October 2016. The idea was an event called Registration Refresh in which the advising staff at the University of Louisville had collaborated with residence life employees at their institution to engage their students in the halls by being physically present and presenting them with help and information for registration. This idea had yet to come to fruition at my institution, but with the start of fall semester around the corner, I returned from the institute ready to collaborate and was able to work in partnership with our Residence Life department at Samford. I am thankful to have been able to help over a third of the first-year class in the different residence halls get ready to register for courses and answer questions. This supplemental event to student advising appointments was a huge success based upon attendance and the quality of conversations advisors had with students in the three sessions we did. These results are also part of the action plan created at the institute, as part of the action plan is to set a timeline to accomplish these goals.
Other than creating and implementing the action plan and attending sessions, my greatest joy from the institute is the relationships formed with colleagues from across North America. The pleasure of meeting fellow advisors from locally within Wisconsin, or from Canada, Las Vegas, or even my home state of Alabama was immense, and the bonds I made with the fellow advisors or supervisors of advisors is deep—verified by our continued conversations through the semester following the institute. One of my faculty members, Elizabeth Jones, stated it well with the phrase, “We’re your tribe.” This institute created my advising “tribe” and I am forever grateful because not only are these individuals professional contacts, but I consider them as friends and shoulders to lean on in the seasons of advising.
To close, I would encourage those on the fence of attending a Summer Institute, to step out and do it. Especially if you are a new advisor, or just new to NACADA. This institute not only educated me, but it also reawakened a passion for serving my students and connected me to numerous resources I had not known of before. Overall, the care with which this institute is organized just shows the value that NACADA places on not only the information they are sharing, but on the attendees themselves. From Alabama to Wisconsin, I will highly recommend this experience to anyone who will listen and hope others might experience the same authentic growth I did via the Summer Institute.
Office of Academic Programs
Brock School of Business at Samford University
Taking a Group to the Summer Institute
Advisors at Central Carolina Community College
Is there a secret sauce to advising? Maybe not, but perhaps one secret to advising well is having an appreciation of the different experiences and needs of the students we serve as advisors as well as the faculty and staff who serve our students. Our college, Central Carolina Community College (CCCC), is spread across a large three-county geographical area in the piedmont area of North Carolina. Much of our service area is rural and consists of small towns and farms. The northern region of our service area, however, is impacted by the nearby urban areas and is adjacent to three national universities (the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and Duke University) and the state capital, Raleigh. To the south, our main campus borders Cumberland County, home of Fort Bragg, an Army installation that employs more than 50,000 military personnel. In addition to a primary campus in each county, CCCC also maintains 20 satellite centers that provide career training. Along with these more traditional programs, we also have an in-house college credit earning program at the high schools in each county and an educational program at a local medium security prison that serves male inmates.
All of these local influences have contributed to the unique culture found on each of the three county-specific campuses and the types of educational programs chosen to best meet each county’s needs. Serving students at so many diverse locations presents several challenges. For example, creating consistent advising messages and approaches that could be applied college-wide require very careful analysis and consideration of the unique features of each campus. Connecting with colleagues located at other campuses is infrequent; individuals teaching the same course content often only cross paths at departmental meetings and the college-wide gatherings that occur at the beginning and end of each semester. We thought that a good way to tackle these challenges would be to have a diverse group of individuals from across our college attend the NACADA Summer Institute and work as a team on advising initiatives that had arisen from our strategic planning and Quality Enhancement Plan processes.
Why Advising and Why NACADA
Our Dean of Arts, Sciences & Advising, Scott Byington, embraces the importance of excellent advising. His influence is evident in that our CCCC college-wide Strategic and Quality Enhancement Plans include academic advising goals. Scott had previously attended a NACADA Summer Institute. In the spring of 2017, he also attended the three-day NACADA Assessment Institute along with six faculty members he had invited. The accompanying faculty represented different programs from the three primary campuses. The Assessment Institute experience was positive and resulted in several initiatives that were further developed after returning to CCCC.
Building on the initial successes of the Assessment Institute, Dean Byington initiated another NACADA learning experience for a new group of faculty members. The Summer Institute, being much longer, provided an even more intense opportunity to develop our advising plan. As with the earlier Assessment Institute, the goal of the group composition for the Summer Institute was to maximize the “representation from different campuses and divisions of the college” (S. Byington, personal communication, February 5, 2018). The Summer Institute participants included instructors representing Cosmetology, Early Childhood Education, Engineering Technology, and several University Transfer disciplines. All of the participants served as advisors, in addition to work as instructors, lead instructors, department chairs, or as a division dean.
Because of the size and structure of our college, many of us had never worked together before and in many cases, had never met before the Summer Institute. The opportunity to attend Summer Institute allowed us to create professional relationships across the college that may never have formed otherwise. These relationships were quickly established beginning with our initial contact at the departure area of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Armed with a draft of our advising mission, advising syllabus, advising student learning outcomes, advising pilot probable strategies, and checklists for advising, we arrived at the Summer Institute ready to tackle some important questions about our advising processes.
Structure of the Institute
The organization of each day followed a similar format, including foundation sessions with all attendees, a variety of topical sessions that each participant could choose from, and a series of focused work groups. The structure of the Summer Institute provided many opportunities to learn fundamental aspects of advising, application of theory, and time to work with participants from other institutions. The informational background also facilitated our being able to quickly form a cohesive team during our small workgroup sessions. In these sessions, participants had time to listen to each other and “see advising from the perspective of different departments on campus” (J. Brown, personal communication, February 6, 2018). As colleagues, we quickly recognized that the awareness and appreciation of these perspectives would “in turn help us foster greater buy-in when we implement those changes to the college-wide advising program” (K. Meadows, personal communication, February 6, 2018).
Three days into the institute, participants began consultation sessions. Along with two groups from two other colleges, our group from CCCC worked with a very knowledgeable and charismatic consultant, Jermaine Pipkins. Jermaine led us through activities, provided thoughtful feedback on each groups’ action plan, and, when we needed energizing, provided a little Michael Jackson music to rock out to. Following our consultation with Jermaine, our Central Carolina group continued our action plan work in a sheltered area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. By this point in the institute, our efforts with the action plan no longer felt like work. The perspectives we had built on during the institute sessions had laid the groundwork for productive dialogue. Many in our group felt it was useful to learn about an idea or practice and then discuss it among the team to see how we could possibility incorporate that into our advising paradigm.
Only one member of the team had attended a Summer Institute previously but had done so as an individual. He found that “the team experience was richer, fuller, and more productive” (S. Byington, personal communication, February 5, 2018) because as a college team we could process, explore, and collaborate on ideas that were fresh on our minds. When we met as a group with one of the summer institute faculty to consult on our work project, it was great to both contribute and listen from a variety of perspectives.
Benefits of Attending
The physical location and scheduling of the Summer Institute provided an optimal setting for our work. Although this could have been accomplished by simply meeting off campus, we feel like the distance allowed us to truly disconnect from our ongoing work and life responsibilities. Without these competing responsibilities, participants were much more able to focus on defining excellent advising and building a working model for our college.
The scheduling of the institute during the summer also made attending much easier as our varied work responsibilities at Central Carolina are more flexible during this time. The location, where we were able to see, hear, and smell the Atlantic Ocean contributed to feelings of calm for all of the members of our group. During the institute, we frequently found ourselves relocating outside to work, reflect, or simply walk the beach with coworkers. “For me, in particular, being able to get away from the traditional setting in my office was a very efficient move, as we have an open-door policy at our college and I find both students and other faculty/staff in my office pretty regularly. This makes it difficult to spend extended amounts of uninterrupted time working on a particular project” (C. Boahn, personal communication, February 7, 2018).
Time spent outside of the institute’s scheduled hours also provided a platform for those relationships to bloom. In fact, two of our team members, who had never met before the departing flight, finished up the institute by going on the SlingShot ride together. As we dined as a whole group or in smaller groups and participated in activities together, we were able to gain some insight on how advising operates in other areas of the college and get out of our “advising rut” (J. Brown, personal communication, February 6, 2018).
So, why should you consider bringing a team to a future summer institute? You may have some ambitious advising projects and bringing a team would allow you the opportunity to discuss and make plans for how to accomplish your goals. Perhaps you need to create more unity and a sense of purpose across an office or division at your institution? The Summer Institute does afford you opportunities to bond, laugh, and step outside traditional roles while you accomplish your advising goals. We also found that the ability to truly work as a college team allowed us to produce something better than we have been able to individually or in a college setting.
Constance Boahn, Department Chair, Engineering and Information Technologies, email@example.com
Ginger Harris Bartholomew, Department Chair, Early Childhood, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Brown, Biology Instructor, Math and Sciences, email@example.com
Teresa Butler, Cosmetology Instructor, Barbering, Cosmetology, & Esthetics, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Byington, Dean, Arts, Sciences, & Advising, email@example.com
Becky Finken, English Instructor, Humanities, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Meadows, Chemistry Instructor/QEP Coordinator, Math and Sciences, email@example.com
Holly Schofield, Psychology Instructor, Social Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org