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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Take Time to Reflect

Karen Archambault, NACADA President

Karen Archambault.jpgI am writing this to you on the day of our first of three commencement celebrations. I mention this because this is, for many of us, the most wonderful time of the year. It is the time when we get to see our students’ success on display; we see all the work we’ve done reach fruition. We see awards ceremonies, program celebrations, culminating presentations, and so on. In the past few weeks, my institution has hosted multiple programs all focused on our students’ completion and with every one, I smile, I take pride in all that our students have accomplished, and I am thankful for all the ways that my team has been privileged to participate in the process of bringing each and every student from their first interest in our institution to their graduation day.   

As we move through this process—though most graduations for this year will be done by the time you read this—I encourage you to take some time to reflect. Reflect on the achievements of the students you’ll see walk across the stage and on the exceptional work you did to help them get there. Some of them will say thank you with cards and gifts—the hashtag #soulmoney that Kathleen Shea Smith (University of Oklahoma Norman) mentioned in her keynote speech at annual conference a few years ago comes to mind. Others will thank you by increasing your workload—sending you their friends and siblings, the students desperately in need of “someone like you” to support them. Another group will forget that you helped them; they’ll think of you and your support, but they’ll get caught up in the joy of graduation and their victory in being “done” and just hope that you know that you mattered. 

I encourage you to revel in the success; remember all these students who know that you’ve supported them, and remember, too, the ones who think they did it on their own because they never see the way you and your colleagues fight for them behind the scenes. They’ll never see the meetings where you put yourself on the line for a change, or the way you argued for a change in curriculum or policy because it would support your incoming transfer students or your students coming from impoverished backgrounds. They will never know how they were in your minds—maybe not by name, but by their shared stories—and how you worked to help smooth their path.

In this most celebratory of times for our graduates, I encourage you to also celebrate for yourself. Not because you “survived” another year, but because you, as an advisor, an advising administrator, an advising activist, fought for the best for your students. This association exists and grows not because of students but for their benefit; we learn, we connect, we advocate because we know that our students’ success is dependent upon us. 

Karen Archambault, President, 2018-2019
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Vice President, Enrollment Management & Student Success
Rowan College at Burlington County
[email protected]

From the Executive Director: Finding Your Path to Member Involvement in NACADA and Our Profession

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgAs we wind down a season of 10 highly successful NACADA region meetings and move into our NACADA Summer Institutes and then our Annual Conference in Louisville, it is exciting to see NACADA continue to grow in size and impact in higher education globally as well as to see how the importance of academic advising on our campuses is being more highly regarded.  NACADA’s growth and the important role of academic advising in higher education is directly impacted by the involvement of each of you in our association and our profession.

Whether you are new to academic advising and a new member of NACADA or an experienced academic advisor and an experienced member of NACADA, your involvement in our association and our profession is needed, desired, and essential to our field and your growth in the profession. However, we know as our association grows in size, it may be more difficult and intimidating to find your path to involvement. Just like our first-year students or our graduating students, it is important to understand clearly what is the best path for you personally to involvement in NACADA. That is the first step which is recognizing that everyone’s path may be different and may be determined by the individual’s own goals, institution, or role at the institution.  I began my NACADA career and involvement at the region level by connecting with my home region of Region 4 back in 1992.  It was the obvious place for me as connecting with the academic advising community in my own state of Georgia and the other states in Region 4, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama (now includes Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) was important to me personally. As a relatively new faculty advisor charged with “improving the quality of academic advising,” I clearly had a directive that drove my immediate involvement in NACADA and the profession.

The second step I encourage members and academic advisors to take is to explore the NACADA website fully to understand the variety of ways to get involved and to gain the quality professional development you personally may need. Once again, just like with our students at our institutions, it is important to have explored all the opportunities that are available to you as a NACADA member. That may include NACADA events and publication information and opportunities as well as finding the Region, Academic Advising Community or Committee or Advisory Board which you think would be of benefit to you at this time. It is important to understand that your involvement may change and should grow as you learn more about NACADA and the academic advising profession.

And the third step is to meet and connect with new colleagues at your very first opportunity – whether that be at a NACADA event or on your own campus.  While NACADA is a large association, I strongly believe that it is an easy one in which to connect with new colleagues and friends. We are all connected to the field of academic advising and student success in some way, and who could be more understanding of the importance of that personal connection for success in any endeavor than all of us? Share your business cards quickly and then follow up with a note or an email to those new colleagues and friends with whom you have connected. You will find that everyone in NACADA is as excited about your involvement and success as you are about your students.

I strongly encourage all of you to take part in our next free NACADA Virtual Town Hall Friday, June 14 --  Finding Your NACADA Major: Taking Your Next Steps in the Organization. The presenters and panelists will outline for you their own personal experience and additional ways to find your path in NACADA and the profession.

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

The Eight Crises of College Students: Advising with Erikson Across a Student's Academic Lifespan

Allison Ewing-Cooper and Kami Merrifield, University of Arizona

Kami Merrifield.jpgAllison Ewing-Cooper.jpgHow might college students change as they traverse the path from freshmen to seniors? One framework for understanding college students’ development is Erikson’s psychosocial theory. Erik Erikson (1902–1994) is one of the most influential theorists in psychology and human development. His theory of psychosocial development postulates that humans encounter eight major conflicts (or crises) in developmental stages across their lifespan. These conflicts center on the individual’s perception of themselves and the world in which they live (especially their relationships with other people). If the conflict is resolved, the person develops a positive strength; if the conflict is not resolved, problems may persist throughout their lifetime. The eight conflicts of Erikson’s theory are: trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame/doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. identity confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and ego integrity vs. despair (Crain, 2005).  

While Erikson's theory encompasses the entire lifespan (from infancy to old age), his eight conflicts can be readily applied to an undergraduate college student's lifespan, offering a unique paradigm through which to view the student-university relationship. Advisors, particularly, play a critical role in helping students overcome each conflict/crisis and ultimately achieve ego integrity (success upon graduation) versus despair (never graduating). 

Trust Versus Mistrust

The first conflict in the "infancy" of college is trust vs. mistrust. Will a student come to trust their university? Is their university generally consistent, predictable, and reliable? Advisors, as one of a student's first contacts with the university, help establish this sense of reliability. Advisors generate trust by answering student emails with timely and accurate information. Higher education is complicated and often hard to navigate, but advisors offer safe places for students to ask questions and receive predictable, consistent information. If a student is able to resolve this conflict and learn to trust the university, they develop hope (of graduation). If not, they grow to mistrust the university, often asking multiple people the same question, needing constant reassurance, or not seeking help when needed.    

Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt

Just as toddlers learn to explore and try new things in their environments, college students are mastering a new phase of autonomy in their lives. For many traditional-aged college students, university is their first time away from their parents, living on their own. Advisors can help students foster independence by providing appropriate scaffolding, teaching them how to ask critical questions, and guiding them through novel processes (e.g., registering for classes, talking to professors, seeking internships). If students successfully navigate this conflict, they develop the core strength of will; if not, they become shameful or doubtful of their own efficacy. 

Initiative Versus Guilt

Advisors help students gain initiative by encouraging proactivity. Advisors model proactivity by reaching out to students before problems arise. Proactive Advising (Varney, 2013) invites students to take action and seek out help with well-timed touch points, including early in the semester, the middle of the term, registration time, and between semesters. One of the goals of Proactive Advising is to encourage students to take responsibility for their education and feel comfortable asking their advisor (and other university personnel) for assistance. Initiative helps students develop the strength of purpose. 

Industry Versus Inferiority

This stage in Erikson’s theory encompasses elementary school, where children begin to receive meaningful feedback on their strengths and weaknesses and start to compare themselves to others. Advisors help college students with similar crises by encouraging the development of a growth mindset and using Strengths-Based Advising. Instead of focusing on students’ deficits, advisors should emphasize what students do well (Schreiner, 2013). Thus, advisors help students build doable plans and learn to apply their strengths to current and future challenges. Advisors should look for students who struggle with inferiority, including imposter syndrome or constant negative comparisons to others (e.g., a student thinking that everyone else is smarter than them). By using a Strengths-Based approach, advisors help students develop industry and the core strength of competency.        

Identity Versus Identity Confusion

Traditional-aged students come to college as adolescents, figuring out who they are and where they fit in. One main identifying factor for students is their major; students frequently hear the question, “what is your major?” Advisors play a critical role in helping students explore different major options. Students who have achieved identity are confident in their choice of major and feel like they are in the right place.

James Marcia (1980) expanded on Erikson’s identity crisis to develop four identity statuses: diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and achievement. Students in identity diffusion have not explored nor committed to any identity; they are undecided and uninterested. Advisors may need to do deliberate activities, such as quizzes or assessments (like StrengthsFinder) to elicit exploration from these students. Students in identity foreclosure have made a commitment without a crisis (i.e., adequate exploration). For example, an advisor encounters a student who has wanted to be a doctor since she was ten and has never thought about any other options. These students can be particularly difficult to work with if they find themselves failing anatomy for the second time. Advisors play the crucial role of helping students build alternative plans, do meaningful exploration, and find success. Students in identity moratorium are very familiar to advisors of undecided students. These students are experiencing identity crises and have not made any commitments. However, since they are actively exploring, they are generally open to advisors’ recommendations of strengths assessments, open-ended questions, or general education courses. Students reach identity achievement only after they have adequately explored multiple options and committed to one; then they achieve fidelity, the core strength of this crisis.             

Intimacy Versus Isolation

Feeling connected and supported by a university are critical factors for retention (Tinto, 2004). Advisors help students connect to their schools by getting to know their students and recommending appropriate involvement activities that match students’ interests and goals. Since advisors see students more frequently than most other university personnel, they can check in to see if students have joined clubs or attended campus events. Feeling like the university cares for students is critical for success (Heisserer & Parette, 2002). Advisors show that their institution cares through approaches such as Appreciative Advising (Bloom, Huston, & He, 2008). By creating a safe space (the disarm stage of Appreciative Advising) and learning about students (discover and dream), advisors help students feel supported and understood. The design and deliver stage helps students put their plans into action and checking in with students (don’t settle) ensures students do not become isolated and achieve the core strength of love. Hopefully, students grow to love the experiences they have during their time at the university and feel connected to the institution and people. 

Generativity Versus Stagnation

Just as middle-aged adults focus on giving back to future generations, college students are motivated to give back to their university. Advisors assist students in finding opportunities for leadership and mentorship, including officer positions in student organizations, tutoring, and serving as preceptors.  Another key component of this stage is productivity; students need to feel they are contributing members of their university. The core strength of this stage is care; advisors can help students care about their university and their legacy as they move on to the next stages of their lives.    

Ego Integrity Versus Despair

When graduating, students achieve ego integrity: they reflect on college with hope and pride. At degree checkout, advisors can promote ego integrity by asking students to reflect on their accomplishments and successes. This task is particularly critical if students have overcome challenges (e.g., probation), changed their majors, or traveled circuitous paths to graduation. One crucial key to ego integrity is graduating. If students leave without degrees, it is easy for them to view their college experience with despair. Advisors play an instrumental role in retention and therefore help with ego integrity in all they do. The core strength of this stage is wisdom.

By applying Erikson’s psychosocial theory to advising, advisors view what they do in a different light. Advisors can identify ways to facilitate student growth towards independence, understand students’ behaviors in a way that can evoke empathy, and put into context students’ experiences and understand how these experiences may influence current behaviors. Every day, advisors help students overcome these eight crises and ultimately achieve success in school. 

Allison Ewing-Cooper
Assistant Director of Academic Advising
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Arizona
[email protected]

Kami Merrifield
Senior Academic Advisor II
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Arizona
[email protected]


Bloom, J. L., Huston, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes. 

Crain, W. (2005). Theories of development: Concepts and applications (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Heisserer, D. L., & Parette, P. (2002). Advising at-risk students in colleges and university settings. College Student Journal, 36(1), 69–84.    

Marcia, J. E. (1980). Identity in adolescence. In J. Adelson (Ed.), Handbook of adolescent psychology (pp.159-187). New York, NY: Wiley. 

Schreiner, L. (2013). Strengths-based advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 105–120). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Tinto, V. (2004). Student retention and graduation: Facing the truth, living with the consequences. The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED519709.pdf

Varney, J. (2013). Proactive advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 137–154). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

How Advisors and Institutions Can Use Storytelling as a Renewable Resource

Eileen Snyder, Georgia Southern University
Leana Zona, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Leana Zona.jpgEileen Snyder.jpgStorytelling is Normalizing

Our students want to tell us who they are and why returning to college is important. As academic advisors, we can relate to the many nuances of a life lived in pursuit of something that until now has been a journey delayed. We listen to stories that highlight the vulnerabilities and shortcomings that our students choose to share. It is their emotional unpacking. It is how they interpret their world. Advisors have a responsibility to respond with compassion and truth. Buchanan (2013) tells us that “a story is a journey whose beginning and end you can see” (para. 10). For many of our students, it is an arduous journey of self-discovery predicated on competing demands in their personal and professional life. Stories have a powerful role to “clarify, mollify, unite, inspire, and stir to arms” (Buchannan, 2013). Ultimately, our students’ stories become a powerful resource in which the momentum gained is fueled by the desire for achievement.

Most advisors think of a resource as something that is external: typical things such as tutoring, counseling, and a variety of workshops designed to meet the needs of our students on some level. But as we can learn from scholars such as Hagen (2018), storytelling is an internal resource that is just as powerful, a resource which can be summoned to define the parameters of a student’s needs beyond the basic navigational tools. Storytelling is a resource that is never depleted, and it goes deeper and personalizes the experience in such a way that the student feels in control of the challenges and changes to, in hope, normalize their journey.

Storytelling is Developmental

Storytelling is a developmental process for our students. It most closely resembles the theory of self-authorship, which “emphasizes the development of an individual’s capacity to balance critical evaluations of information, personal beliefs and values, and relationships with others when setting goals and taking action” (Schulenberg, 2013, p. 121). Self-authorship promotes self-awareness very much like the narrative function of storytelling, in which the student helps us understand their worldview by articulating how they successfully navigate the challenges and obstacles that until now prevented them from achieving their higher education goals.

In practice, Appreciative Advising is one example of an approach that encompasses an environment to allow storytelling to occur. Six phases are used to identify the lifecycle of advising and can be summarized as the “intentional collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potentials” (Appreciative Advising, n.d.). Storytelling moments occur both in the Disarm phase, where students and advisors are building rapport in a safe and welcome space, as well as in the Dream phase, where the advisor inquiries about the dreams, values, and futuristic goals of students. Further, advisors have an opportunity to resurface those conversations in the Deliver phase, where “the student delivers on the plan created during the Design phase and the adviser is available to encourage and support students” (Appreciative Advising, n.d). The Deliver phase also encompasses a foundation for self-authoring. As Baxter Magolda (2009) conjured, students who display self-authorship are “able to critically analyze and evaluate information and expectations from external sources, compare perspectives with their internally generated beliefs, cope with ambiguity and choose wise courses of actions” (p. 2).

Advising environments allow for this internal reflection, critical analyzing, and decision making. Therefore, the academic advisor must be complicit in providing the opportunity and environment for storytelling to occur and encourage our institutions to do the same. In fact, Hagen’s (2018) The Power of Story: Narrative Theory in Academic Advising confirms that story should be a fundamental piece of advisor education. Hagen’s work lists four outcomes of narratological theory, including awareness of the power of story, awareness of the need to adopt a stance of reverence toward story, awareness of the importance of the quest for meaning, and awareness of the need to remain skeptical of being dominated by method (p. 115). Hagen demands that advisors be taught narratological theory not as a nod to retention: “the rewards are not fact, predictability, and control, but well-being, meaning and beauty” (Hagen, 2018, p. 125).

Storytelling is Persistence

Universities like to capture student stories, and they are well positioned to facilitate storytelling first as a recruitment tool and then as a function of persistence. Students' stories are posted on university websites and published in alumni newsletters. In practice, storytelling and student personas can be a method of recruitment and relational marketing strategies to encourage students to explore degree program offerings and the institution. East, Jackson, O'Brien, and Peters (2010) suggest that “the relating of personal stories to interested listeners in an affirming and accepting environment can provide the foundation for the development of resilience” (p. 23).

Ingrained in resilience could be the potential of storytelling to impact student persistence for advisors and advising centers as well. Storytelling as a method of persistence can be used in one or two ways: using student stories to motivate other students with similar perceived experiences to move forward in their educational journey or used by advisors with the storytellers to encourage self-authorship. Lindgren and McDanie (2012) discuss the experience of storytelling online and identify that an interactive storytelling experience is characterized by the ability to share personalized interactive experiences with narrative and agency. Agency in storytelling encompasses the ability of shaping student learning through motivation. As Lindgren and McDanie (2012) further theorize, “People are more driven to achieve the agendas they set for themselves. Feelings of agency will often lead people to work harder and to persevere when confronted with challenges” (pp. 344–355).


Advisors can promote an environment of storytelling in each meeting with advisees. Open-ended questions allow for the conversation to begin; however, advisors like to take it a step further. We listen, digest, and relay their stories. We ask them how we can aid in being an advocate for them and internalize their stories in order to further their persistence. And last, we consider developing student stories for recruitment by posting them on our center’s web page or working with a marketing team to use them on a larger scale. 

Here are some suggestions for recruiting and sharing student personas with the campus and external community:

Curate: Use a web-based tool such as Campus Labs or Google Forms to create a survey for interested students to use to submit their story and identities. Before creating, consider questions such as: What is your major? What inspired you to be here? Why this major? What student identifiers describe you (first-generation, veteran, non-traditional, etc.)? Ensure you include a disclosure form that is in accordance with your university policy.  If you are not fond of web-based tools, consider using social media, one-on-one conversations, or group meetings with students to listen to their story and guide them in writing that narrative. One example of how to do this may be found on the Georgia Southern University website.

Write: Review the story submission and craft how it will be displayed. For example, one could create a colorful PDF with the text and add in transitional phrasing and sentences. Or, if your institution has a website supported spotlight feature, consider working with your staff to re-work your website to include personas as spotlights, such as in the Student Success and Empowerment Initiative at the University of Utah.

Share: Share the story with the student for their review.

Brand: Collaborate on campus with your Career Center or Marketing Team to curate a personalized headshot photoshoot for each student to include on their story. Similar styling of photos can assist in making the page more appealing and relatable at first glance.

Promote: After the story is crafted and approved, share the story with the student and promote it through your website, newsletter, or on a larger campus scale.

Reference: Finally, reference these stories with prospective students and continue to connect with the students who shared their stories to reference their own motivational experiences to push them along a path to persistence.

Eileen Snyder
Academic Advisor
College of Science and Mathematics
Georgia Southern University
[email protected]

Leana Zona
Senior Program Manager
Office of Distance Education
UNC Charlotte
[email protected]


Appreciative advising (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appreciativeadvising.net/

Buchanan, L. (2013, October). Both simple and true: The secrets of effective storytelling. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/magazine/201310/leigh-buchanan/the-moth-storytelling-secrets.html

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2009). Promoting self-authorship to promote liberal education. Journal of College and Character, 10(3). DOI: 10.2202/1940-1639.1079

East, L., Jackson, D., O'Brien, L., & Peters, K. (2010). Storytelling: An approach that can help to develop resilience. Nurse Researcher, 17(3), 17–25. Retrieved from http://www.uws.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/132715/Storytelling.pdf

Hagen, P. L. (2018). The power of story: Narrative theory in academic advising. J. Givans Voller (Ed.). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Lindgren, R., & McDanie, R. (2012). Transforming online learning through narrative and student agency. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(4), 344–355.

Schulenberg, J. K. (2013). Academic advising informed by self-authorship theory. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (1st ed., pp. 121– 137). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

The Sunken Place: Using the Public Achievement Model to Empower Marginalized Students

Dene Roseburr-Olotu, University of Central Oklahoma

Dene Roseburr-Olotu.jpgWhat is the Sunken Place? In Get Out, a critically acclaimed 2017 psychological thriller, the Sunken Place is a paralytic state of consciousness achieved through hypnosis (McKittrick, Blum, Hamm, & Peele, 2017). According to Jordan Peele, the writer and director of the film, “[The Sunken Place] means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us” (Peele, 2017). Although the basis of the Sunken Place is socially constructed to revolve around racial disparities, the reality of the concept applies to students in higher education as well—particularly those who identify as first generation, low-income, or minority.

In higher education, the Sunken Place means that students find themselves trapped in a relative state of existence where their voice is silenced and they experience a perpetual sense of helplessness. Specifically, an academic advisor may see the concept of the Sunken Place manifest with their students who are unable to pursue a major of interest due to parental influence. For many first generation, low-income, and minority students, financial shortcomings, familial obligations, and the realities of imposter syndrome often constitute the basis of their Sunken Place, creating a barrier on their path to achievement.

One way in which an academic advisor can empower students who find themselves in the Sunken Place is by employing the six stages of the Public Achievement model. This model was created by Dr. Harry Boyte in 1990 with the purpose of developing students into change agents (Harry Boyte, n.d.). Although the core concepts of the Public Achievement model are not new—it is built on the principles of coaching—at the very foundation of this model is the idea of creating an atmosphere for student ownership and student empowerment. Public Achievement provides a framework in which students are encouraged to create processes to become problem-solvers (Hildreth, 2000). By incorporating the ideals of the Public Achievement model into one’s personal philosophy, an advisor can help a student as they work to overcome their personal Sunken Place.

Exploration and Discovery

The first stage of the Public Achievement model is arguably the most important. During the Exploration and Discovery stage, advisors assist students in identifying and establishing their self-interest (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). The advisor’s primary function throughout this stage is to help the student establish their goal and identify their motivation. Ultimately, the advisor encourages the student to answer two questions concisely: 1) What do you want? and 2) Why are you here?

Additionally, the advisor helps the student identify and recognize the skills and knowledge that they already possess that can help them achieve their goal. By facilitating a student’s self-evaluation, an advisor guides the overall process, ensuring that the student develops a positive sense of self-worth early within the overall process.

In practice, it is important for the student to not only verbalize their self-interest, but to keep record of it as well. The student’s ability to successfully surmount their personal Sunken Place is predicated on the ability of the student to revisit and remember their answer to the “What do you want?” question posed during this stage.

Issue Development

The second stage of the Public Achievement model is characterized by gathering specific information regarding the self-interest(s) identified during the Exploration and Discovery stage (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). In particular, advisors should help students uncover potential obstacles or issues that may prevent them from achieving their goal. The Issue Development stage, as with all stages of the Public Achievement model, requires the student to assess the reality of their situation. The advisor’s role is simply to create an environment in which the student feels empowered to thoroughly examine challenges they may face. An advisor should ask questions like, “How can you get to your goal?” and “What may stop you from achieving it?”

As with the Exploration stage, it is important that the student write down and keep record of the issues they identify. Advisors should encourage students to make an inclusive and thorough list of obstacles that include not only outward challenges, but inward challenges as well. Advisors should encourage their students to perform truthful self-evaluations of any personal characteristics that may hinder the student from achieving their goal.

Problem Research

In the Problem Research stage, the student must explore the facts behind each issue identified (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). The advisor must help the student deep-dive into each issue, urging them to discern which issues are true and actual or simply perceived.

Advisors should ask questions such as “Why does this particular issue exist?” and “When might this issue arise to hinder you from achieving your goal?” An advisor can help the student overcome or mitigate feelings of anxiety by pushing the student further in their assessment of the issue by asking questions such as “Who might be able to help you address this issue?” or “What resources do you have available that can help?”

During this stage, the advisor must help the student understand the background of the issue and identify ways to overcome that issue when it arises. By encouraging the student to recognize resources available to overcome an obstacle instead of simply zeroing in on that particular issue, advisors can ignite a student’s sense of autonomy. The student’s ability to recognize the power they possess and their self-sufficiency is a key aspect of the Public Achievement model and the cornerstone of creating a change agent.

Project Development (Designing an Action Plan)

The Project Development phase is where the student constructs a viable plan for addressing any issues or challenges identified during the Issue Development stage (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). More specifically, the student moves beyond brainstorming and begins planning realistic solutions to their issues.

The advisor plays a critical role by ensuring that the student constructs an authentic and viable action plan (Hildreth, 1998). The advisor can assist the student in establishing timelines and breaking down complex solutions into smaller, more manageable steps. In practice, it is important that the advisor insist that the student write down their detailed action plan in tandem with their identified self-interest. This can help reinforce the student’s ownership of the process while being mindful of the steps they need to take to achieve their overall goal.

Implement Action Plan

In the Implement Action Plan stage, the student simply works their plan (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). Advisors should encourage the student to establish accountability measures by asking, “How will you make sure you work your plan?” Additionally, an advisor may let the student know that they should feel empowered to adjust their plan as needed should an unexpected issue arise. 

Reflection and Celebration

The last step, Reflection and Celebration, requires the student to evaluate the success of their action plan (The six stages of Public Achievement, n.d.). Advisors should urge the student to answer the following questions, “What went well?” and “What will you do differently next time?” Most importantly, advisors should encourage the student to identify and celebrate at least three positive outcomes.


The Sunken Place for many students is very real and often robs them of their sense of agency, leaving them paralyzed and seemingly helpless (Moses, 2017). However, by utilizing the Public Achievement model, advisors can positively influence these marginalized students by empowering them to ultimately advocate for themselves and as Dr. Boyte (2018) states, help students “transform victimhood into agency.” (pp. 1–2)

Dene Roseburr-Olotu
Assistant Director
Diversity Retention
University of Central Oklahoma
[email protected]


Boyte, H. (2018). Awakening democracy through public work: Pedagogies of empowerment. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Harry Boyte. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://archive.hhh.umn.edu/people/hboyte/

Hildreth, R. W. (1998). Building worlds, transforming lives, making history: A guide to Public Achievement [Program Guide]. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota.

Hildreth, R. W. (2000). Theorizing citizenship and evaluating public achievement. PS: Political Science and Politics, 33, 627–633.

McKittrick, S. (Producer), Blum, J. (Producer), Hamm Jr., E. (Producer), & Peele, J. (Director/Producer). (2017). Get out [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.

Moses, J. (2017, March 9). ‘Get out’: What Black America knows about the sunken place [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/get-out-what-black-america-knows-about-the-sunken_us_58c199f8e4b0c3276fb7824a

Peele, J. [@JordanPeele]. (2017, March 16). The Sunken Place means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/JordanPeele/status/842589407521595393

The six stages of public achievement. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://inside.augsburg.edu/publicachievement/teachers/six-stages-intro/


Safe Conversations as a Relational Tool to Augment Academic Advising

Curtis Hill, Eastfield College

Curtis Hill.jpgSafe Conversations is an educational program that focuses on dialogue promoting a new way of talking and listening to one another. When applied appropriately, connection and safety occur, which promotes respectful and healthy relationships. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt (2016) stated, “talking is the most dangerous thing people can do and listening the most infrequent” (p.5).  Anna Mitchell McLeod (2008) discussed using dialogue to improve academic advising and postulated that it was much more than a conversation. She referenced the work of Deborah Flick (1998), who defined dialogue as “intentionally seeking to understand by listening deeply, inquiring and advocating in order to uncover meanings, revealing assumptions...and walking in another person’s shoes” (p. 32).

Safe Conversations, by definition, is a relational technology that creates safety in all conversations, in all ecosystems, and facilitates a sense of connecting (Hendrix & Hunt, 2016). NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt (2000) described an ideal academic advising relationship as supportive and interactive between students (or advisees) and advisors. Since academic advising was identified as a helping relationship, listening empathically and focusing on meaning is a crucial part of the process (Carlstrom, 2005). Habley’s (1987) framework drew attention to the importance of communication skills and interpersonal approaches such as listening and rapport-building to influence advisor-advisee interactions. Understanding these skills is essential to establishing strong and positive advising relationships.  

In 2017, NACADA’s Professional Development Committee developed the Academic Advising Core Competencies Model (NACADA, 2017). This model identified foundational principles which serve as a guide for effective advisor training programs. The theoretical underpinnings of this model promulgate these content areas: (a) Conceptual Component, (b) Informational Component, and (c) Relational Component. In this model, advisors must demonstrate competency in each content area, which collectively facilitates guiding students through the advising process. There are a variety of advising strategies and/or theories used to empower this process (i.e. Appreciative Advising, Prescriptive Advising, etc.). According to Crookson (1994), developmental advising gave more attention to the relationship itself—advisee-advisor—resulting in varying degrees of learning by both parties. Although there are various strategies or approaches to advising, how advisors develop competencies in the Relational Component area is paramount.

While informational knowledge and conceptual understanding are necessary, alone they are insufficient to thoroughly provide quality academic advising services (Habley, 1987). The Relational Component serves as a crucible for enabling academic advisors to convey concepts for effectively integrating the other two components in an advisee-advisor relationship. There were several skills highlighted by the Academic Advising Core Competencies Model (NACADA, 2017) which are specific to the Relational Component. This model asserts that advisors must demonstrate the ability to “create rapport and build academic advising relationships.” Another skill described is the ability tocommunicate in an inclusive and respectful manner” (NACADA, 2017), which is invoked through the Safe Conversations dialogue.

Using Safe Conversations Micro Relationship Skills

A Safe Conversations dialogue consists of multiple micro competencies in the form of sentence stems. This relational paradigm of connecting in the “space between” is built on multiple relational skills, which include but are not limited to:

  • Honoring Boundaries by making an appointment: “Is now a good time to talk about…
  • Speaker Responsibility: Using “I” language, such as “I think…” or “I feel…
  • Accuracy Check before responding: “Did I get that…
  • Expressing Gratitude: “Thanks for sharing” and “Thanks for listening.”

These relational skills, when properly integrated through dialogue, have the capability to achieve powerful results.

Safe Conversations dialogue is a dyadic process in which respectful speaking and listening replaces all forms of negativity—shaming, blaming, criticizing or put downs—with mutual respect and cohesiveness. It is a relational technology which uses structured dialogue to create a safe space between two people. Drs. Hendrix and Hunt re-introduced through this educational program the skills of mirroring, validating, and empathizing, which are heavily ingrained within the clinical setting. These skills are essential and must be mastered by counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other licensed helping professionals. Unlike the conventional understanding of relationships between two people, in the Safe Conversations dialogical process a relationship is two people plus the space between them. The conceptual framework of this relational technology advocates forming responsible, non-judgmental talking and accurate, non-judgmental listening that creates a “space between” where both parties feel safe and experience connectedness (Hendrix & Hunt, 2016). Flick (1998) claimed that although engaging in dialogue requires one to suspend their own thoughts and focus on understanding those of the other person, it does not mean they have to give up their own beliefs and agree with the other person. Therefore, the application of this educational program (i.e. Safe Conversations) inherently supports the Relational Component of academic advising. 

Why Do We Need Safe Conversations?

Haley (2017) made a case for quality advising by emphasizing the importance of communication—listening, interviewing, rapport building, self-disclosure—in which the emotional intelligence of the advisor becomes a factor. She stressed that emotional intelligence may mediate the relational component of advising. Safe Conversations dialogue invokes these outcomes using micro relationship skills and values for producing healthy conversations. According to Bloom, Hutson, and He (2008), in the disarm phase of Appreciative Advising, it is essential to make a positive impression with the student, build rapport, and create a safe, welcoming space. What happens in the context of an advising session has broader implications, and use of Safe Conversations relational skills can aid advisors in strengthening this process (i.e. relational competencies). The ongoing challenge for many college students, personal communication or lack thereof, continues to serve as a barrier today. Turkle (2015) stated that We are being silenced by our technologies—in a way—'cured of talking.’ These silences have led to a crisis of empathy that has diminished us at home, at work, and in public life” (p. 9).

Unfortunately, it is the lack of connection that perpetuates many of the communication issues that emerge in all relationships. There is a remedy for this seemingly manufactured crisis of connection that serves as a challenge even within the advisor-advisee relationship. When advisors learn how to talk without judgment and listen without reacting, conversations become safe, which should be the norm for a healthy advisee-advisor relationship. The Safe Conversations educational program is a resource which promotes four of the seven core competencies that undergird the Relational Component area for academic advising: (1) Create rapport and build academic advising relationships; (2) Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner; (3) Plan and conduct successful advising interactions; and (4) Facilitate problem solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting. Several themes have emerged which support the relational component of advising that attest to the need for this new relational science or Safe Conversations educational program.

Safe Conversations Dialogue in Academic Advising

Safe Conversations is based on research conducted by Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt, who studied relationships with couples over 30 years (Hendrix & Hunt, 2017). The competencies and concepts that materialized from their research may be referred to as a relational technology which is adaptive to academic advising. The major tenets used in Safe Conversations dialogue with couples is organically transferable to a dyadic advisee-advisor relationship. The foundational tools for Safe Conversations dialogue are mirroring, validating, and empathizing. These relational skills are predominantly utilized in clinical settings. Through this educational program these skills were repurposed using formal sentence stems. For example, the sentence stem, “Let me see if I’ve got it.  You said…” is used as a precursor to mirror what was previously stated.  And it is followed by “Did I get it?” which is an accuracy check.  Then the sentence stem, “Is there more about that?” is used to show curiosity, encouraging the speaker to share, which is another precursor before talking.  A validating sentence stem is “I get what you are saying and that makes sense to me.  And what makes sense is…”  Accuracy checks, expressing validation, expressing curiosity, and mirroring are all Safe Conversations competencies that help promote connection. Conceptually Safe Conversations is not a communication tool, but a connecting process that feeds the exchange of energy (space between) and information. Since advising is grounded in the advisee-advisor relationship, utilizing this transformational process to strengthen the Relational Component of academic advising would bring added value to our practice. Safe Conversations is focused on having a dialogue that promotes emotional safety through a structured process (i.e. sentence stems) which allows the student to feel safe talking, thus promoting connection. 

As previously mentioned, the core relational skills that drive the Safe Conversations educational program are manifested using sentence stems through mirroring, validating, and empathizing. In the learning stage, it is a guided process, but as elements of the process become more concrete, they can be comfortably infused into any academic advising model. In this dialogue, respectful speaking and listening replace negativity with mutual respect and cohesiveness.  When this relational technology is fully utilized, advisors will begin talking without polarization, and curiosity replaces judgement. This is primarily accomplished by honoring boundaries and using “I” language which are micro relationship skills and part of the Safe Conversations competency scale. Also, the negativity commonly demonstrated in the form of shaming, blaming, criticizing, or showing contempt is minimized, if not eliminated, in this process (Hendrix & Hunt, 2017). The applicability of this relational technology can be paired with any academic advising methodology, which is a simple tool that advising professionals can easily integrate and apply in their work with students.

Advisors use a variety of advising strategies to work with students whether it is done formally or informally. What if we became more purposeful in our dialogue with one another—respectful speaking and respectful listening? Imagine the impact if advisors were more intentional with their dialogue, and how this specificity would enhance an advisees’ ability to capture and better process information. 

Curtis Hill
Adjunct Faculty
Social Science Division
Eastfield College
[email protected]


Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution! Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

Carlstrom, A. (2005, December). Preparing for multicultural advising relationships. Academic Advising Today, 28(4) Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Preparing-for-Multicultural-Advising-Relationships.aspx

Crookson, B. B. (1994).  A developmental view of academic advising:  Theoretical contents and functionals applications.  NACADA Journal, 14 (2), 17-24.

Flick, D. L. (1998). From debate to dialogue: Using the understanding process to transform our conversations. Boulder, CO: Orchid Publications.

Habley, W. R. (1987).  Academic Advising Conference:  Outline and Notes.  The ACT National Center for the Advancement of Educational Practices.  Iowa City, IA:  ACT.  Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/Clearinghouse/advisingissues/documents/AcademicAdvisingConferenceOutlineandNotes.pdf

Haley, L. (2016, March). The role of emotional intelligence in quality academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 39(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Role-of-Emotional-Intelligence-in-Quality-Academic-Advising.aspx

Hendrix, H., & Hunt, L. (2017). The space between: The point of connection. Franklin, TN: Clovercroft Publishing.

Hendrix, H., & Hunt, H. L. (2016). Safe conversations Thriving Relationships [manual]. Dallas, TX: Safe Conversations The Point of Connection. 

Mitchell McLeod, A. (2008, September). More than a conversation: Using aspects of dialogue to improve academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 31(3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/More-Than-a-Conversation-Using-Aspects-of-Dialogue-to-Improve-Academic-Advising.aspx

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  

Nutt, C. (2000). One-to-one advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & Associates (Eds.) Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 220–227). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Supporting and Retaining New Academic Advisors

Kelsie Poe, Iowa State University
Rafael R. Almanzar, Texas A&M University

Rafael Almanzar.jpgKelsie Poe.jpgNACADA identifies new academic advisors as those who have been in the profession fewer than three years (Folsom, 2015, p. 3). Unlike most professions, there is no direct blueprint toward becoming an academic advisor. Advisors come from different lived experiences, educational fields, and professional backgrounds. Advisors can enter the profession directly from college, come from unrelated professions, and have a degree in any subject area. Considering the multitude of paths coming into the field, it is essential to work with new advisors to support them through their transition into the advising field and retain them for the future of the field.

Academic advising is an instrumental piece of a student’s success in higher education, and supporting and retaining new advisors gives students the best educational experience possible, while also providing a positive learning experience for new professionals. As in any profession, starting can be exciting and scary at the same time, and it can be overwhelming for an individual to learn their new role and responsibilities. It is important for institutions and advising supervisors to train their incoming advisors to provide a smoother transition into the profession and to ensure advisors stay in the field. Below are strategies for new advisors and supervisors to support new advising professionals.

Developing a Professional Identity

According to Justyna (2014), “advisors should ask themselves who or what they want to be and do, and create an intentional plan to get there.” Developing a professional identity will not only bring satisfaction into the profession, it will improve advisor retention. To help develop a professional identity, new advisors should take time to reflect on their purpose. This reflection can take the form of an advising philosophy statement. Advising philosophies serve many purposes and can aid new advisors as they reflect on their purpose and find their niche in the profession. Once advisors have identified their niche, they should work on developing that calling and building their identity around it. For example, if an advisor is interested in supporting first generation college students, that advisor can help brand themselves by contributing to the research and developing best advising practices towards first generation college students as well as volunteering at first generation programs and connecting with others interested in first generation topics. The advisor can enhance their professional identity by conducting research, presenting at NACADA conferences, or publishing for NACADA. Developing a professional identity will not only bring personal and professional satisfaction, it will also improve retention of new advisors.

Institutional Trainings

For academic advisors to be effective, it is important that they be given on-the-job training in their new positions, no matter what their background. New advisors should receive training from their units, either by their supervisor or a colleague. Advisors should also look at their institutions, particularly the human resources department, to discover if there are new staff workshops and to learn about the policies, procedures, and campus climate of the institution. If advisors are in an institution that has an advising organization, they should check with that organization to see if they offer new advisor orientation programs. Other campus organizations can be another resource in the training of new advisors, either in addition to existing programs or to supplement if no formal training program exists. These training programs should always be focused on the professional identity of the advisor and helping move forward the mission of the advising philosophy. For instance, attending workshops from the student counseling center or disability services to learn about the resources offered to students could support an advisor’s goal of being knowledgeable about health issues on campus. These workshops and trainings can give new advisors a chance to meet others on campus, as well as learn more about the institution and climate.

Utilizing NACADA Core Competencies

New advisors should have more than just information training on institutional policies and procedures as a part of their training and development. To be well rounded and fully developed advisors, supervisors should support development plans that mirror the NACADA core competencies (NACADA, 2017). Core competencies focus on conceptual, informational, and relational components. New advisors should be guided by experienced advisors to determine what areas of the core competencies they need to develop. For example, advisors starting in their first career may have more questions relating to conceptual ideas behind advising and how to start conversations with students, whereas someone coming from a student affairs background into advising might know how to have the conversation but need more information about policies and procedures. Supervisors should be tasked with helping new advisors identify areas where they are lacking or want to build more skills and connect them with the appropriate opportunities. Core competencies should be reviewed on a continuous basis, with new advisors self-reflecting to find pieces where they need more information or want to grow their brand and supervisors assisting in filling holes a new advisor might not notice.

Networking & Professional Development

As advisors enter the field, finding connections outside of the immediate workspace through professional development lends to learning and growth in the position. Many advisors will access professional development through organizations like NACADA that support advisor development. These organizations offer a breadth of knowledge and connections. Attending conferences can offer new ideas and forms of training, and supervisors should be supportive of these opportunities if they fit with a new advisor’s professional identity goals and needed competencies. At times, there may be financial or logistical barriers to a new advisor being involved in a large-scale professional organization or conference. If funding is a challenge, new advisors can look into funding opportunities, such as the scholarships offered by NACADA. Additionally, advisors can attend local conferences in their state for professional development which may be more cost effective than national conferences. Advisors should investigate if there are funding opportunities from their department or at the college and university level. Many professional development opportunities can be found online through webinars or journals, including options for on-campus professional development (Buckley, 2016). Professional development should always be focused on the identity an advisor is trying to make, giving a better sense of direction and offering more resources to targeted professional development opportunities. It is beneficial for supervisors to help new advisors choose the best professional development for them, given their circumstances, to guide them along the best path.

Mentoring Opportunities

New advisors may benefit from mentoring programs as a form of professional development. Mentoring can offer new advisors a space as mentees to reflect on their experiences and process how their career is moving forward (Knippelmeyer & Torraco, 2007). Mentoring can fill in voids for core competencies that new advisors may be missing. For example, a mentor may have more experience in how to create successful advising interactions because they have fine-tuned their process for years. A new advisor can use that information for when they feel unsure of their response to a specific situation and lean on the experience of a mentor to help distinguish the best course of action. Mentoring can also lead to partnerships in professional development or positions in the future. An advisor looking to become an expert in an area of advising may shadow someone who already has a wealth of knowledge around that topic. Pairs may submit proposals for conferences, writing materials, or review job applications to use the knowledge of the mentor and develop the mentee. Getting to know another advisor, especially one who may have similar interests or goals, can benefit both mentors and mentees.

Mentoring opportunities are available through different professional organizations. NACADA’s Emerging Leaders Program is an example, as well as ACPA’s GROW program. These programs help advisors network with peers outside of their institution to gain more insight into best practices, advising approaches, and special interests. These programs are also helpful if there are few advisors on an individual’s campus that may be able to serve as mentors. Many NACADA regions also provide mentorship opportunities, as well as programs through departments and institutions at individual schools. If new advisors do not participate in a formal mentorship program such as those outlined above, there are many informal mentorship opportunities available. Options such as writing groups, Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups, or book clubs can connect new advisors with others who may have similar goals and interests. These opportunities are often free or low cost and fit into a busy schedule. They are more accommodating for many and should not be discounted for the lack of face-to-face relationships or codified structure.

Advising administrators and supervisors will hopefully take these ideas and implement them for new advisors. By creating comprehensive training programs, encouraging staff to participate in professional development programs, and guiding new advisors toward a cohesive professional identity, supervisors can ensure that new advisors will be successful in their career and feel more comfortable in the field. As these methods become more common in institutions and departments across the advising field, new professionals should begin to feel more comfortable, more supported, and more able to contribute to the knowledge and skills that students need from their academic advisor.

Kelsie Poe
Academic Advisor II
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
Iowa State University
[email protected]

Rafael R. Almanzar
Senior Academic Advisor I
Biochemistry & Biophysics
Texas A&M University
[email protected]


Buckley, J. S. (2016, March). Making professional development accessible and impactful for new academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 39(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Making-Professional-Development-Accessible-and-Impactful-for-New-Academic-Advisors.aspx

Folsom, P. (2015). Mastering the art of advising: Getting started. In P. Folsom, F. L. Yoder, & J. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 3–18). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Justyna, E. (2014, March). Developing a professional identity. Academic Advising Today, 37(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Developing-a-Professional-Identity.aspx

Knippelmeyer, S., & Torraco, R. (2007). Mentoring as a developmental tool for higher education. Paper presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development International Research Conference, Indianapolis, IN.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCo mpetencies.aspx


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Career Advising: A Call for Universal Integration and Curriculum

Billie Streufert, Advising Community on Career Advising Member

Billie Streufert.jpgIn what will likely be a landmark publication, George Steele and Eric White (2019) articulated that advising is not a service and called university presidents to invite input from advisors as they strategically lead their institutions. As advisors serve as campus consultants, the NACADA Advising Community on Career Advising encourages advisors to share the words of Virginia Gordon (2006), who wrote, “Perhaps some day the term career advising will disappear when it becomes so ingrained in the academic advising process that its separate designation is no longer necessary” (p. 12).

Other pioneers, such as Habley (1983), O’Banion (1994), and Hughey and Hughey (2009) shared Gordon’s (2006) belief that career and academic planning occur concurrently. In its pillar documents, NACADA affirmed its importance, emphasizing that advisors teach decision-making and empower students to reach their full potential (NACADA 2006, 2017a, 2017b).

Sadly, however, this vision is not a reality. In the 2018 benchmarking survey from the National Association of Colleges & Employers (Koc, Koncz, Eismann, Salvadge, & Longenberger, 2018), 86.6% of respondents reported that they provided career exploration services. Only 19.3%, integrated this with academic advising, leading the authors to conclude that “academic advising was among the least commonly offered services among respondents” (p. 7).

The authors go on to report that this disintegration is a trend, which is especially problematic given the current landscape of higher education. While students routinely report that the primary reason they attend college is to get a better job (Higher Education Research Institute, 2017), few start with the end in mind. Many arrive in career foreclosure or engaged in a truncated career search (Gottfredson, 2005; Marcia, 1966). This is exacerbated by under-resourced school counselors that do not have the capacity to facilitate effective career exploration during high school or prepare students to declare a major as they leave for college (Dann-Messier, Wu, & Greenburg, 2014).

Despite these deficiencies, many will not receive the career advising curriculum they need to master this endeavor. Advising is not mandatory on a third of campuses (NACADA, 2011). Only half of all graduates use career resources while they are enrolled in college (Auter, 2018; Center for Postsecondary Research, 2018b). In many instances, students prefer to contact friends or family (Gallup, 2017c; Vertsberger & Gati, 2015).

If students do connect with advisors, many may not receive career information. In a Gallup (2017a) survey, 39% of respondents reported that their advisors helped them explore majors and only 28% reported that their advisors provided beneficial assistance regarding post-graduation career options. Similarly, only 37% of first-year respondents to the National Survey of Student Engagement reported engaging often in conversations with faculty members about their careers (Center for Postsecondary Research, 2018a). Nearly one in three advisors may not have career planning included in their job description (NACADA, 2011).

Consequently, students’ needs may not be met. Of the second-year students attending four-year institutions who responded to a Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2015a) survey, two thirds wanted help weighing the pros and cons of their career choice. In a follow-up survey administered mid-academic year (Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2015b), a third of these respondents reported unmet needs and continued to have questions about the advantages and disadvantages of their chosen occupation. No wonder a third of college graduates who responded to a Gallup (2017b) survey expressed regret about their chosen college major.

Continuous Career Advising Throughout the Academy

The lack of career advising diminishes students’ degree completion and ability to adapt to a rapidly changing labor market as they launch their careers (Klepfer & Hull, 2012; Savickas et al., 2009). It is time for advisors to mobilize and realize Gordon’s vision. If advisors are to engage students better in career advising curriculum, they must weave it into all advising. All academic advisors need to be knowledgeable about vocational decision making, careers popular to the academic programs they advise, and indicators of career distress (Gordon, 2005). This weaves career exploration into the ethos of the institution. The profession needs to stop waiting for students to opt-in to career advising, especially because the students who need it most are the least likely to seek it out (Harrington & Orosz, 2018).

Cross-campus integration or collaboration creates a “college-to-career community” (Chan & Derry, 2013, p. 2) that is a force multiplier. Ongoing career exploration needs to occur throughout the academy, including advising. It can be embedded into first-year seminars, career classes, capstone courses, sophomore retreats, residence hall outreach, and student athlete meetings (Nelson & McCalla-Wriggins, 2009).

This integration honors the complexity of career decision making and planning. It is over-simplistic to think that a single advising session is adequate. Career exploration is a process, not an event (Super, 1953). Advisors need to transcend the test-and-tell model and engage students in ongoing exploration and experiential learning throughout their college experience (Krumboltz, 2009).

Coupling the personalized curriculum available through advising with this supplemental continuous curriculum throughout campus meets students’ needs and avoids delays in service. Students also arrive to their advising sessions prepared and with greater prior knowledge given the career curriculum they encountered elsewhere on campus (Harrington & Orosz, 2018).

Yes, this integration is difficult, but it is possible. Strong communication channels and a clear understanding of roles are necessary. Responsibilities can be divided based on the complexity of students’ concerns and their capacity to engage in exploration (Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2004). Advisors will also need to focus on career advising competencies and elevate continuous training as a strategic priority (Mahoney, 2009). Only half of institutions offer comprehensive professional development (NACADA, 2011). This can be delivered through lunch-and-learns, manuals, or viewing NACADA webinars together. Assessment of learning outcomes and scholarship will also drive continuous improvement. NACADA’s advising community on career advising will lead this charge.

Integrated Career Advising in Practice

At Augustana University, advisors observed significant benefits of a college-to-career community. For example, Augustana recently embedded advising curriculum in the fall and spring semester of the First-Year Seminars. Students were required to attend a Majors & Minors Fair, create a plan of study, connect with organizations that offer experiential learning, and hear from alumni in their chosen field. They also engaged in monthly written reflection on their vocational choices and transition to college. This resulted in a 2.1 percentage point increase in retention from the time it was piloted to fully implemented. The institution also observed valuable student learning outcomes. For example, 94% could name at least two specific experiential learning endeavors they included in their plan of study. Another 91% reported reflecting on the ways they were going to live out Augustana’s institutional motto of service in their vocation.

In conclusion, it is time for career advising to simply be referred to as advising. It is imperative that it be included in all advisors’ job descriptions and integrated in the educational activities throughout the academy. When designed and implemented properly, universal career exploration curriculum reaches the very students who need it most and teaches students to adapt to a rapidly changing labor market. NACADA’s career advising community invites advisors to join NACADA in this advocacy. University presidents need advisors’ input (Steele & White, 2019). Students are relying on the profession. It is time to create a culture of continuous career exploration and confirmation—because like advising, it is not a service or an optional endeavor. It is an essential component of students’ education.

Billie Streufert
Executive Director, Student Success Center
Augustana University
[email protected]


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Hughey, K. F., & Hughey, J. K. (2009). Foundations of career advising. In K. F. Hughey, D. Burton Nelson, J. K. Damminger, & B. McCalla-Wriggins (Eds.), The handbook of career advising (pp. 1–18). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Klepfer, K., & Hull, J. (2012). High school rigor and good advice: Setting students up to succeed. Center for Public Education (National School Boards Association). Retrieved from https://iei.nd.edu/assets/84273/high_school_rigor_and_good_advice_setting_up_students_to_succeed_full_report.pdf

Koc, E. W., Koncz, A. J., Eismann, L., Salvadge, A., & Longenberger, A. (2018, April). Career services benchmarking survey. Bethlehem, PA: National Association of Colleges & Employers.

Krumboltz, J. D. (2009). The happenstance learning theory. Journal of Career Assessment, 17, 135–154. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072708328861

Mahoney, E. (2009). Career advising competencies. In K. F. Hughey, D. Burton Nelson, J. K. Damminger, & B. McCalla-Wriggins (Eds.), The handbook of career advising (pp. 48–67). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3(5), 551–558. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0023281

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2006). NACADA concept of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/Concept.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2011). 2011 NACADA national survey. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/2011-NACADA-National-Survey.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017a). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017b). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

Nelson. D. B., & McCalla-Wriggins, B. (2009). Integrated career and academic advising programs. In K. F. Hughey, D. Burton Nelson, J. K. Damminger, & B. McCalla-Wriggins (Eds.), The handbook of career advising (pp. 200–216). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

O'Banion, T. (1994).  An academic advising model. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 10-16. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-14.2.10

Ruffalo Noel Levitz. (2015a). Attitudes of second-year college students: That influence college completion. Retrieved from http://learn.ruffalonl.com/rs/395-EOG-977/images/2015_Attitudes_of_Second_Year_Students.pdf

Ruffalo Noel Levitz. (2015b). 2015 student retention and college completion practices benchmark report: For two-year and four-year institutions. Retrieved from http://learn.ruffalonl.com/rs/395-EOG-977/images/2015RetentionPracticesBenchmarkReport.pdf

Sampson, J. P., Jr., Reardon, R. C., Peterson, G. W., & Lenz, J. G. (2004). Career counseling & services: A cognitive information processing approach. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalde, J. P., Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., Van Vianen, A. E. M. (2009). Life designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(3), 239–250. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2009.04.004

Steele, G. & White, E. R. (2019). Leadership in higher education: Insights from academic advisors. The Mentor: Innovative Scholarship on Academic Advising, 21(2019), 1–10.

Super, D. E. (1953). A theory of vocational development. American Psychologist, 8(5), 185–190.

Vertsberger, D., & Gati, I. (2015). The effectiveness of sources of support in career decision-making: A two-year follow-up. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 89, 151–161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2015.06.004


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Learning from their Stories: The Development of a Comprehensive Support Program for Academically at Risk Students

John Burdick, Tony Chiaravelotti, and Alice Martin, New York University

Editor’s Note: Find more on this topic—and this team’s contribution—in the recently published NACADA Pocket Guide, Advising Students on Academic Probation, 2nd edition.

Martin, Burdick & Chiaravelotti.jpgNew York University’s (NYU) institutional commitments to student success include lofty new goals for retention and six-year graduation rates. As part of these goals, NYU is interested in what David Kalsbeek calls “the institutional promise” (Kalsbeek, 2013). Kalsbeek defines the institutional promise as the notion that students expect their college to deliver a particular kind of educational and social experience. Student attrition, to an extent, is a function of unmet student expectations. However, this promise must function as a two-way street. Just as we expect our students to fulfill the promise they made to the institution by working hard toward graduation, we as an institution must strive to fulfill the promise we make to every student upon admission. Our promise is that we will help all admitted students, regardless of the difficulties they face academically or personally, reach graduation and develop into mature, intellectually curious and capable adults.

Compared to the overall institutional six-year graduation rate of 84%, the six-year graduation rate of students on academic probation in the College of Arts and Science (CAS) was significantly lower and a number of students facing academic difficulty remained on academic probation for multiple semesters. To address this repeat population and consider how we could better fulfill our institutional promise to these academically at-risk students, the Academic Support Team within NYU CAS developed the Back on Track Program (BoT), a comprehensive academic support program that attempts to increase student resilience and retention for first-time probation students who have accrued fewer than 64 credits (typically first-year and second-year students). Our goal in telling the narrative of BoT’s development is to identify concrete tools that could be adopted in whole or part elsewhere with a variety of populations and budgets.

Inter-Departmental Partnerships. Our first step, in order to consolidate cost and manpower, was to develop a partnership with the University Learning Center, our on-campus tutoring center. Together, we identified four key areas where probation students struggle academically: goal setting/motivation, time management, study strategies, and career/interest exploration. We developed specific academic skills workshops to address these areas of concern and encouraged our BoT students to attend. Nevertheless, we remain aware that there is a large range of non-academic factors that contribute to academic difficulty (long commutes, financial responsibilities, mental health concerns, etc.). This fall, we began offering optional sessions with counselors from our Health and Wellness Center. These sessions address general anxiety as well as help students incorporate more mindfulness into their everyday routine. Furthermore, they help connect students to long-term counseling services for more continuous engagement.

Consistent Communications and Compliance. Probation students are incentivized not to voluntarily submit to additional instructional opportunities because (a) they feel they should focus on their mandatory coursework to raise their GPA and (b) there is a stigma around probation that encourages them to avoid programming associated with the term. For this reason, we found it necessary to make BoT mandatory. To increase compliance, we use the completion of the BoT program as a factor in whether and when students’ registration blocks are lifted to allow pre-registration for the next semester. We also believe that consistent communication helps to increase compliance within this population. We send out a weekly newsletter to remind students of upcoming deadlines, promote useful campus resources, answer frequently asked questions, and provide them with concrete tips for motivation, relaxation, and work habits. Rather than make official overtures from university officials, we deliver the message in the form of positive, supportive encouragement, situated in a newsletter filled with resources.

Multi-Platform Engagement. There are logistical challenges to getting BoT students to attend the ULC’s workshops. To allow students to complete these workshops on their own schedule, we worked with our institution’s Office of Educational Technology to develop online workbooks, called modules, which provide students with digital versions of the academic skills workshops. We found interactivity and gamification to be the most successful methods to transmit this knowledge in a condensed period of time. Gamification can be described as “a series of design principles, processes and systems used to influence, engage and motivate individuals” (Hsin-Yuan Huang & Soman, 2013, p. 6). It has been shown to increase motivation and engagement, particularly on online platforms where there is not an in-person presence to reassert attention and participation (Hsin-Yuan Huang & Soman, 2013). Future modules will utilize the aesthetic design of programs like DuoLingo to engage students using progress bars, unlocked achievements, and interactive interfaces.

We still felt it was important to incorporate group, in-person meetings as these sessions (1) help students put the content of their modules into context, (2) provide students with a support network of peers, and (3) destigmatize probation, particularly at a high-achieving institution. We now require two in-person sessions (an orientation and a mid-semester workshop) and three online modules (Goal Setting/Motivation, Time Management, and Study Strategies).

Narrative Learning. We have found narrative learning to be instrumental in helping our students put their situations into a larger context and develop a growth mindset. Our mid-semester workshop focuses on this narrative approach with an activity in which we provide students with a few case studies of fictional students. In these scenarios, we include many of the challenges we see in our own population. We ask the students to act as advisors to identify conflicts and solutions. Students are much more likely to voluntarily and publicly reflect on their own experiences if they feel they are speaking about another student. We are also recording videos in which previous BoT students reflect on their own narratives to help lead this session in the future. Narratives are particularly useful to this population as they help students see obstacles as useful challenges instead of setbacks. Narratives also work to de-stigmatize and motivate the population.

Non-Punitive/Support Programming. BoT has always been based on shifting probation away from the concept of blame or failure and toward a more productive process of feedback and response. Our programming encourages students to replace the idea of “can’t” with “not yet.” Countless studies on probation populations and retention (Andujo Hanger, Goldenson, & Weinberg, 2011; Salinitri, 2005; Thayer, 2000; Tinto, 2000; Walters, 2004) support the idea that “assuming irresponsibility or ineptness on the part of the student . . . evokes feelings of guilt and shame” and does not result in long-term change (Andujo Hanger et al., 2011, p. 210). Thus, our program is most effective when it enhances an atmosphere of caring and support, rather than punishment or disappointment.

In our orientation, we ask students to assess their own goals and motivators: What are they personally proud of? What do they want people to remember most about them? This type of self-reflection re-orients the idea of probation from being an institutionalized, impersonal punishment, to being an opportunity for personal outreach and growth. On a more granular level, we also focus on the concept of positive self-talk. Much of the punitive nature of probation comes from our verbiage around it. Students are “put” on probation, removing their agency in the process. Often these students are referred to, at least internally, as “difficult” students. Just as we expect students to re-orient their self-talk, we should re-orient our own vocabulary about probation by remembering that probation is a warning to the institution, as well as the student.

Because the current incarnation of BoT has only been in place for one year, our quantitative data is not yet conclusive. Nevertheless, we have seen high levels of compliance and satisfaction so far with 86.7% of students attending the orientation, 92.9% of students attending the workshop, and 98.2% of students finding the program at least somewhat helpful. Orientation surveys reported 90% of students being at least somewhat comfortable being in a group of other students to discuss probation and academic difficulty. We have also seen positive qualitative feedback. One student said, “I liked talking to other students in the same boat as I am,” and another student described the atmosphere as “inviting and with a lack of judgment.” Similarly, in feedback on the mid-semester workshop, one student said, “this program was helpful because it helped me not feel isolated,” while another explained that, “it was comforting to be put in a setting where I didn’t have to fear being judged for sitting here.”

Overall, this kind of feedback has led us to believe that BoT is most successful in destigmatizing academic difficulty, creating a warm, welcoming and safe space, and engaging students in a connected network of holistic support. Given these outcomes, we want to emphasize that the promise of an institution is not just to help students graduate in 4–6 years and find a job, but to assist them in developing as confident, independent thinkers, who believe they can overcome adversity and tackle any challenges they may face post-graduation.

John Burdick
Associate Director of Academic Support
NYU College of Arts & Science
[email protected]

Anthony Chiaravelotti
Academic Advisor
NYU College of Arts & Science Advising Center
[email protected]

Alice Martin
Academic Advisor
NYU College of Arts & Science Advising Center
[email protected]


Andujo Hanger, M., Goldenson, J., Weinberg, M. (2011). The bounce back retention program: One-year follow-up study. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 13(2), 205–227.

Hsin-Yuan Huang, W., & Soman, D. (2013). A practitioner’s guide to: Gamification of education. Research Report Series: Behavioural Economics in Action. Toronto, Canada: Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

Kalsbeek, D. (2013). Reframing retention strategy for institutional improvement: New directions for higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Salinitri, G. (2005). The effects of formal mentoring on the retention rates for first-year, low achieving students. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l'education, 28(4), 853–873.

Thayer, P. B. (2000). Retention of students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds. Opportunity Outlook. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED446633.pdf

Tinto, V. (2000). Linking learning and leaving: Exploring the role of the college classroom in student departure. In M. J. Braxton (Ed.), Reworking the student departure puzzle (pp. 81–84). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Walters, E. (2004). Enhancing student learning and retention through the merger of the academic and student affairs unit: The Olivet Plan. Journal of College Student Retention, 5(1), 23–26.

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Advising Student Who Struggle Due To Traumatic Events

Cindy Firestein, Simmons University

Cindy Firestein.jpgOccasionally, students enter their advising session with personal baggage to share with their advisor that detours the conversation away from the normal advising issues such as major selection or building their spring schedule. Tara Sagor, who is the Director of Training and Trauma at the Justice Resource Institute in Boston, MA, recently facilitated a training titled “Building Resilience with Psychological First Aid and Self Care” (Sagor, personal communication, September 24, 2018). The Justice Resource Institute strives to serve the needs of underserved individuals, families, and communities with compassion and dignity (Justice Resource Institute, n.d.).  

Tara Sagor’s training is beneficial to the work academic advisors do to support students. The following section pulls from Sagor’s presentation and other resources in a digestible way that is designed to support advisors in helping students who could benefit from psychological first aid techniques and practice ways to implement self-care. It incorporates resources which can be added to an advisor’s tool-kit when striving to help a student overcome a traumatically challenging situation before making a referral to another support resource on or off campus.

Psychological first aid comes from disaster mental health counseling. Disaster mental health is widely recognized as an essential component of comprehensive disaster response (Dailey & LaFauci Schutt, 2018). It allows responders/supporters to understand the effect of a traumatic event on an individual while providing in the moment support to survivors such as individuals who survived the deadly category four Hurricane Maria in 2017 that made landfall in Puerto Rico and resulted in approximately 2,975 excess deaths (Newkirk, 2018). This technique can also be used when speaking with a student confiding in their advisor the traumatic information that they were date raped over the weekend.

Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions in which:

  • the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed, or
  • the individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity
    (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 60).

This is a topic advisors should strive to be aware of because of the rapport they develop with students early on in the student’s academic career. Advisors maybe the first line of support for students and need to understand how to notice the telltale signs of a student in distress. Knowing how to approach a student during a session or around campus to help them obtain the necessary support they need to feel safe at that moment is very important when practicing psychological first aid and advocating for a student to exercise self-care.

In her training, Tara Sagor mentions several reasons why this topic needs to be talked about:

  • All individuals are surrounded by trauma and either directly or indirectly impacted by exposure, which significantly changes the needs of students in the classroom.
  • As advisors, we need to understand how stress/trauma impacts our students so we can explain it to them in a language they can understand, normalize their responses, and help them feel safe.
  • As experiences of trauma ourselves, we also need to understand what is happening in our own bodies so we can recognize signs of vicarious trauma/burnout.

There are many different situations that can be traumatic for a student or any individual such as: 

  • the loss of a loved one,
  • an accident,
  • self-harm,
  • racial harassment,
  • gender-based discrimination,
  • a natural disaster,
  • bullying,
  • rape and/or domestic abuse,
  • financial situations,
  • international/global crimes, and
  • disease.

Advisors work with traumatized students. There is no way to know when a student will break down and open up during an advising session. Neurophysiology is a big part of understanding psychological first aid. When someone suffers a traumatic event, their frontal lobe ceases to function correctly. The student may be unable to make a simple decision and have an emotional breakdown during the advising session. For example, when an advisor asks the student a question about which science course they want to take next spring, it could trigger the student to burst into tears and begin sharing about their traumatic event during the advising session. Experiencing a traumatic event affects learning as well as development for individuals.  

Students affected by a traumatic event will not mentally or emotionally recover in the same way. Some may have shattered assumptions. For instance, a friendly and outgoing student who was recently date raped may be less interested in dating, choose to avoid going out, or may come across as emotionally withdrawn. This student’s awareness of danger is now heighted. This student’s original reality of going on a date has been shattered by this experience, and now their new reality is forever altered.

When an individual supports a traumatized student by utilizing psychological first aid, they are working to help the student feel safe and comfortable in the moment. This will help the student feel less threatened, cope with the situation, and begin to feel safer. If an advisor is meeting with a student in their office, they can ensure the student they are in a safe space. However, an individual should never make a promise that they cannot guarantee. Even if the student is currently safe in the office, they cannot remain in the office forever. Observe the student’s physical and emotional state before offering to walk the student to their next class or to another support resource on campus that can continue to help the student overcome their traumatic event.

As advisors, it is important to be knowledgeable of the resources our institutions provide to students.  Simmons University in Boston, MA offers students many support resources they can turn to for help when faced with a traumatic event. Some of these resources include the Counseling Center, RAD (rape, aggression, and defense) training, Disability Resources, Campus Police, a Health Center, Violence Prevention and Educational Outreach, as well as Student Life. These resources offer one-on-one support for students. To help your team become familiar with campus resources, consider inviting a representative from different campus support resources to a staff meeting to provide an overview of their services for students.

When practicing psychological first aid, it is important to note that it is not the advisor’s responsibility to get the full story of the traumatic event. At that moment, it is the advisor’s responsibility to be the support person in that student’s life, to help the student get to a mental and emotional place where they feel safe and comfortable. Asking if there is anything we can get them like a glass of water, box of tissues, or a blanket or checking to see if there is anyone we can call that will help comfort them such as a roommate or close friend they trust can make students more comfortable. Giving them realistic options is helpful. Asking the student an open-ended question such as, “What can I do to help you feel more comfortable?” may create more difficulties if we are unable to provide the student with what they requested.

To support a student who has recently experienced a traumatic event, their safety and comfort should be our top priority.  By using psychological first aid’s eight core action steps (About PFA, 2018) advisors can ensure the student is supported and their initial stress is reduced while helping the student develop a sense of safety.    

  • Contact and Engagement
  • Safety and Comfort
  • Stabilization (if needed)
  • Information Gathering
  • Practical Assistance
  • Connecting with Social Supports
  • Information on Coping
  • Lineage with Collaborative Services

If a student comes across with too much stress-related energy, an advisor can help them to calm themselves down by recommended breathing exercises. There are many apps that focus on helping individuals with breathing exercises. By purposefully changing the way a student breathes, the student can change the way they feel and how their body reacts to what is going on around them. Using breathing exercises sends a signal to the body’s nervous system, the part of the body that manages heart rate and stress response, which says that things are okay. In turn, the physical effects of anxiety—racing heartbeat, shallow breathing, sweaty palms—are reduced, and the mind calms down (Munoz, 2017).

Other methods can be to help distract the person by asking them simple questions to focus on something else. Offer to remove them from the situation to bring them to a safer location such as an office or the counseling center. As mentioned earlier, ask if there is a friend or roommate you can call as an added support person.

Always remember when practicing psychological first aid, it is about helping the student feel safe and secure in the moment after they have experienced a traumatizing event or after disclosing a traumatizing event to their advisor. The advising session needs to go on the back burner to focus on the student’s safety, wellbeing, and mental health. Self-care is ongoing. Practicing breathing exercises is an easy-to-use method that can help someone relax and feel grounded. Individuals can also try other ways that work best for them such as taking a warm bath, coloring, volunteering, listening to music, pleasure reading, or exercising. Having a trustworthy support person to speak with such as a family member, best-friend, or counselor should also be encouraged.

For more information on psychological first aid, utilize these resources:

Cindy Firestein, M.Ed., GCDF
Director of Undergraduate Advising
Simmons University
[email protected]


About PFA. (2018, March 29). Retrieved from https://www.nctsn.org/treatments-and-practices/psychological-first-aid-and-skills-for-psychological-recovery/about-pfa

Dailey, S. F., & LaFauci Schutt, J. M. (2018, January). Disaster mental health: Ethical issues for counselors. Disaster Mental Health Counseling,16–18. Retrieved from ct.counseling.org

Justice Resource Institute. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://jri.org/

Munoz, K. (2017, March 31). 5 breathing exercises to reduce stress & improve sleep. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/breathing-exercises/

Newkirk, V. R., II. (2018, August 29). A year after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico finally knows how many people died. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/08/puerto-rico-death-toll-hurricane-maria/568822/

Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist. New York, NY: Norton.

Sagor, T. (2018). Building resilience with psychological first aid and self-care. Boston, MA: Justice Resources Institute. Workshop, personal communication.

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Building Awareness through the Hierarchy of Academic Advising Responsibilities

Roberta Rea and Sara Webb, Oakland University

Sara Webb,jpgRoberta Rea.jpgIn the large and complex nature of higher education, academic advisors are pulled in many directions. Academic advisors hold critical knowledge about the campus, its culture, and its rules. They are also positioned to be a constant support that students have through their entire undergraduate experience (Habley, 1994). Therefore, when it comes to getting information and services to students, institutions of higher education rely on academic advisors. In addition to helping students plan, understand, and make meaning of their best path to graduation, academic advisors consistently contribute to student success beyond the advising appointment. The wide array of activities required of academic advisors directly benefits both students and the institution as a whole. It is vital for academic advisors to clearly communicate the variety of advising-related responsibilities in a way that is easily understood to all constituents across campus.

Various stakeholders understand academic advising responsibilities differently, depending on their need and perspective. Students perceive academic advisors as people who can help them determine what classes they need to take. Faculty perceive academic advisors as people who help with students’ out-of-class aspects of college. Campus colleagues perceive academic advisors as people who connect students to services in their departments. While these perceptions are largely accurate, they do not paint a complete picture of the numerous functions of a successful academic advising program.

Rea & Webb graphic.jpgIn order to build awareness at Oakland University, academic advisors developed a visual graphic called the hierarchy of advising responsibilities. The visual graphic is based on Abraham Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s model is a useful visual because there is a common understanding of the premise of Maslow’s work. The graphic represents academic advising functions at Oakland University and is similar to Maslow’s pyramid, showing five responsibilities that are related to each other and arranged in order of priority. Working from the foundation, the responsibilities are serving current students, academic record keeping, responding to institutional priorities, proactive outreach, and improving advising impact. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy, academic advisors have a desire to achieve or maintain each of these responsibilities. Additionally, as one responsibility is adequately satisfied, the next higher function becomes the focus of attention. When academic advisors are asked to redirect energies out of order, it may be at the cost of pursuing other responsibilities in the hierarchy.

Overview of the Five Basic Responsibilities of Academic Advising Programs at Oakland University

The foundational goal of the academic advising hierarchy is to serve current students. This goal is the most visible and easily understood role of an academic advisor. The Council for Advancement of Standards explains the mission of academic advising includes, “assisting students as they define, plan, and achieve their educational goals” (2015, para. 1). Advisors assist students in these endeavors by holding academic advising appointments, responding to student emails and phone calls, and being available for drop-in advising. During peak-times such as the first week of the semester or registration, serving current students dominates the vast majority of advising energy and focus. Once this responsibility is reasonably attended to, time and energy can be dedicated to the other functions.

Academic record keeping is a less glamorous and visible duty of academic advising. However, satisfying this responsibility is of the utmost importance to the students and institution. At Oakland University, academic record keeping includes sending transfer courses to faculty for review, processing change of major forms, facilitating petitions of exception, auditing records for major standing and graduation requirements, checking for athletic eligibility, completing veterans’ verification, and documenting student interactions. Processing and maintaining accurate academic records is an ever-present goal that requires attention on a daily, weekly, and semesterly basis. 

The frequency of the third level, responding to institutional priorities and changes, can depend on the culture of an institution, changes in leadership, and accreditation requirements. Over the last few years, Oakland University has undergone a change from three-digit to four-digit course numbers and from a numeric to an alphabetical grading scale. Additionally, Degree Works auditing software has launched and student financial services enacted class cancellation for non-paying students. As institution-wide changes emerge, academic advisors are often called to the table to assist with responsibilities such as correcting university documents and websites, communicating changes to students, re-training advising staff, and updating advising processes to accommodate the changes. Institutional changes are often unpredictable and can require significant time and resources from advising.

Proactive outreach, the fourth responsibility, has recently become a priority for many institutions. Proactive outreach includes identifying target populations (such as undecided students or students on probation), developing measurable outcomes for the populations, and designing outreach strategies that help students successfully complete desired outcomes. Software companies like MapWorks, SSC Campus, and Starfish have helped institutions predict the success of individual students and seek proactive solutions to improving retention, progression, and graduation. Oakland University academic advisors are quickly moving to a proactive, advisor-initiated approach instead of a student-initiated model. This change in philosophy has created more opportunity for collaboration with other student service areas and focused our attention on identifying struggling students before it is too late to help them.

Improving advising impact, the final level, is often the most challenging to tackle on a regular basis. Tasks such as strategic planning, assessment, research, and professional development help to improve advising impact. These tasks require commitment to reflection, discussion, and planning in order to be well executed. Prioritizing time for improving academic advising is most effective when all other responsibilities are fairly well satisfied. Strong leadership, adequate staff resources, and a campus-wide understanding of academic advising contribute to the ability to focus on improvements. Arguably, improving advising impact should be a high priority for all academic advisors as it is their duty to continue to shape the profession and determine ways to better serve students on their campuses.

Practical Uses for the Academic Advising Hierarchy of Responsibilities 

The hierarchy of advising responsibilities was created at Oakland University as a visual representation to build awareness about academic advising activities for university leadership. Academic advisors are consistently asked to tackle many small and large tasks, often at a moment’s notice, without any regard to, or understanding of, competing demands. Often, academic advisors feel pulled in opposite directions trying to meet the needs of students and administrators. Competing priorities lead to frustration, confusion, and a lack of common direction. The use of this tool helps to demonstrate these challenges in a constructive way, showcasing the core responsibilities of advising. The hierarchy has opened the doors for meaningful dialogue about what is needed to achieve the ideal state of advising, including staff sizes, space allocation, and technology needs.

Utilization of the hierarchy can be beneficial with various stakeholders. With students, it can paint a picture that advising is broader than student appointments and can draw attention to academic advising as a profession. With faculty, the hierarchy can be used to showcase the broader range of advising activities and encourage appropriate referrals for students. With campus colleagues, it can bring clarity to the responsibilities of academic advisors which can lead to stronger collaboration. With university leadership, the hierarchy brings light to the never-ending shift in academic advising—from paperwork to student support to executing university goals. It is also a valuable tool for academic advisors as they prioritize their own work, highlighting how they each contribute to the larger picture. Students, faculty, colleagues, and academic advisors all benefit from the vivid picture of advising responsibilities displayed in the hierarchy.

Each institution is unique, having different priorities, resources, demographics, and leadership.  Academic advisors are encouraged to adapt the hierarchy for effective use on their own campuses. While developing the hierarchy, academic advisors should think critically about advising core functions, ongoing responsibilities, and factors that motivate academic advisors to push higher and farther each day. Weaving these ideas into a hierarchy can help bring awareness to academic advising goals and priorities on any campus, which in turn, can help educate the campus community on how valuable the profession is to the success of students.

Roberta Rea
Director of Advising
School of Education and Human Services
Oakland University
[email protected]

Sara Webb
Senior Director
First Year Advising Center
Oakland University
[email protected]


Council for the Advancement of Standards. (2015). CAS standards for academic advising programs (9th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Habley, W. R. (1994). Key concepts in academic advising. In the Summer institute on academic advising session guide (p. 10). Manhattan, KS: NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

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Advising Reform as Transformation

Steve Quinn, Olympic College

Steve Quinn.jpgLast fall I was part of a team sent by my college to a conference to kick off a redesign of our system of academic advising. As we begin our work, I am reminded of my experience remodeling a house my wife and I were living in soon after we were married and our son was born. In such a context, redesign has entirely to do with problem-solving and prioritization on a budget. We cannot close the doors while we get it right; there is no blank slate from which to begin. Redesign is an activity both creative and constrained, doomed to fail if it does not embrace equally the ideal and the real. These are not poles between which a middle course is to be charted; they are the two anchors of a string stretched between them, both of which must be built into our instrument if it is to be played.

As a young couple raising a family, we needed the house to be a living space, a place we could continue to bathe and do dishes even during the remodel. We also needed it to inspire us and give us peace of mind, to be a place where we could imagine the light from the westering sun filling the kids’ rooms once the new windows were installed.

At the college, we need to be student-ready, able to meet our students where they are and adapt our systems to their lives. We also need to help students feel inspired, to see themselves as part of a world-ready community of learners, to imagine how new light can transform old spaces.

As a couple—or a college—on a budget, the question will arise: can we afford to be both idealistic and realistic? Perhaps the better question is, can we afford not to? During our remodel, my wife and I could not afford to choose between having a functioning bathroom and a functioning dream. In academic advising, an exclusively student-centered system fosters student-centered students, while an approach focusing exclusively on empowering imagination will systematically disadvantage those not privileged with pre-built foundations of personal power and imagination. We cannot afford to select or favor one over the other. As designers, we must take a step back. The redesign is not of a function or a space; what we are redesigning is a home, not just a house. Our focus must include the dynamic interaction that helps to define the community—or the family—of which it is a part.

As we shift our field of vision, the real customers of the community college are seen to be the communities it serves, its mission to enrich these communities by building the educational capacity and capital of their citizens. This interactive approach reveals student success as a balance of confidence and humility, built and tested only as students become participants in and contributors to a goal bigger than their own. Accordingly, the equity of our systems and communities will fully be realized only when the responsibility for equity is shared by all and its measure is not how our students are treated but how they have learned to treat others as partners in our mission. All of these become possible if we reframe our advising redesign, expanding our scaffold to encompass the work of the entire college, and describing that work in ways that are simultaneously reality-based and imaginative, responsive and inspiring.

The idea behind a community of practice is that there is more than an idea behind it: there is real work being done. New members are brought into a community of practice through a process akin to apprenticeship. The welfare of these apprentices and their full integration into the community is not a debate between taking care of them and empowering them. We need to do both; their success is of practical necessity, essential to the survival of the community. In the community college community of practice, students as successful, confident practitioners are mission-critical.

This vision will help us reframe our outcomes. Instead of choosing between targets describing throughput on one hand or personal growth on the other, community outcomes describe and invite participation in the work of the community. Student-apprentices in our community college community of practice will be able to:

  • identify (and identify with) a community that will be served by their education;
  • engage in self- and community-based assessments and the development of goals that express shared measures of success;
  • identify resources that can help them and other community members achieve these goals.

The work of the community of practice cannot be inward-facing; the practice of the community cannot be only to foster the success of its apprentices. Apprentice success must be measured, and our intended outcomes assessed, at least in part, by the successful integration of students into the community as contributors to its larger work. Therefore, student success will be measured by the extent to which a student’s participation in the work of the college helps its communities thrive.

Taking these outcomes and this assessment as starting points for our redesign, how are the activities of advising practice—the look and feel of our system of academic advising—thereby transformed?

First, the story of the advisee is stood on its head. The traditional narrative begins with an individual, who then uses community resources to further individual goals. The redesign flips this upside-down, using the community as both source and destination, with the individual as the resource for community transformation. The boldest statements of this flip might be in the area known as effective altruism, but it pivots on what essentially is a restatement of JFK’s inauguration challenge: Seek not your passion and how the community can feed it; rather, identify community needs and how your education can work to address them.

Second, the redesign turns the vision of student success inside out. Instead of students as customers or products separate from the college’s inner workings and the offices where those successes are engineered, we must acknowledge students as internal partners and their success as a structural necessity. At the same time, we must surrender, at least in part, the making and measure of that success to forces outside the institution. To use the parlance of my grandfather, instead of making students beholden to the college, we must see the college, including students, as beholden to the community. This has the side-effect of transforming the ways we value and support the success of more than our students; the effective orientation and development of all employees cannot be secondary pursuits in a community of practice.

As if upside-down and inside-out were not enough, the redesign also reverses the direction of the advising conversation back-to-front. For years we have talked about the merits of backward design, but this conversation all too easily is sidetracked by chatter about placement and onboarding and starting places and prior skills. Using the work of the community college in its communities, both local and global, as our beginning frees us to build and advise backward from there. With the end in mind, advising finally can become advising toward, as we know it should be, rather than advising away from. As part of a community of practice, advisors, with their students, can respond to reality with imagination.

The remodel of a house is so much more than a coat of paint; advising redesign is a transformation. The best part is that to transform requires no more work or expense than a piecemeal retrofit of bargain-priced best practices . . . only vision. To balance the budget requires us here, as elsewhere, to take the longer and broader view: what can the community, as a place where we both work and dream, not afford to have fail or be without, and how does the work we are doing and the dreams we are keeping help meet these needs?

Steve Quinn
Academic Advising Faculty
Olympic College
[email protected]


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Approaches for Advising and Supporting Black Queer and Gender Nonconforming Students

Maximillian Matthews, Chattahoochee Technical College

Maximillian Matthews.jpgAs a transfer student at Elon University, I only met with my academic advisor when I needed an approval for something. Being a black queer young man, I was already accustomed to not having safe spaces. The interactions with my academic advisor indicated nothing would change during my time at Elon. While she may not have been culturally insensitive or could have even had a rainbow flag on her office door indicating LGBTQ+ allyship, spaces specifically designed for someone with my identity intersections were unheard of. Elon went out of its way to make black students welcome with our Multicultural Center, now the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education. The university even had a LGBTQ+ student organization at the time, but I still did not believe there was someone on campus to confide in about my experiences.

The experiences I had at Elon reaffirmed my ideas on the non-existence of safe spaces available to me as a black queer young man. Taking classes as a freshman at North Carolina A&T State University the year before, I received the same messages and felt invisible in navigating college on my own. Although I graduated from Elon with a solid GPA and went on to graduate school, this does not mean my invisibility could not have been avoided. Academic advisors cannot forget about black queer and gender non-conforming (BQGN) students who may feel similar invisibility.

While there is lack of research on the experiences of BQGN students, current research on black gay male college students primarily focuses on how they tackle challenges regarding lack of support, being a double minority at PWIs, and their personal and psychological struggles (Means, 2014). Patton and Simmons’ (2008) research on the experiences of black lesbian students at an HBCU found these students encountered numerous challenges including feeling their identities were in conflict and not being accepted due to their sexuality. Existing research suggests higher levels of gender nonconformity increase the likelihood of adversity across both peer and family domains (Martin-Storey & August, 2016)

William A. Smith comprised the term “racial battle fatigue” in his research on how microaggressions affects black students at PWIs. The RBF framework explains the physiological, psychological, and behavioral burdens imposed on racially marginalized and stigmatized groups and the amount of energy expended while coping with and fighting against systemic racism (Smith, Mustaffa, Jones, Curry, & Allen, 2016). These systems are found in higher education as black students must navigate institutions that favor whiteness (Chesler, Lewis, & Crowfoot, 2005). Such experiences are not only what BQGN students carry when we advise them, but also to their classes.

Rather than serving as institutions of learning and scholarship, colleges and universities can be places of antagonism for black students. There have been increasing reports of black students experiencing racial trauma from their universities. Professors using racial epithets, white students calling the police on their black peers using common areas, university employees calling the police on black students attempting to use the library, and nooses appearing on campus after a black student body president getting elected are only a few of the numerous cases seen in recent years. When blackness, queerness, and nonconformity intersect, the burdens can be more profound as many studies have shown a connection between queerness and discrimination, harassment, and victimization on U.S. college campuses (Rankin, 2003; Rankin, Blumenfeld, Weber, & Frazer 2010; Yost & Gilmore, 2011). Academic advisors cannot underestimate how these incidents impact the lives and academics of BQGN students. To best serve these students, there are methods that can be utilized.

Partner with the LGBTQ+ resource center on campus, if applicable. LGBTQ+ resource centers collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to develop programs and increase awareness on LGBTQ+ student issues. They usually host workshops and activities, oversee LGBTQ+ student organizations, and manage LGBTQ+ resource materials. There is a wealth of information that advisors can learn from working with their LGBTQ+ resource centers. Reach out and set up a meeting with the center staff, schedule a tour of the center, inquire about potential collaborations, and/or attend their sponsored events.

Explore and utilize the resources offered by Campus Pride. Campus Pride is a non-profit organization that serves LGBTQ students, campus organizations, and allies in leadership development, support programs, and services to create safer and more inclusive LGBTQ friendly institutions (Campus Pride, n.d.). They provide several resources in the areas of leadership, organization, event planning, activism, and advocacy for queer and transgender students of color. Campus Pride also runs an Advisor Academy for professional staff and faculty members seeking to increase LGBTQ inclusivity and safety on their campuses.

Practice nurtured advising. Glenn, Wider, and Williams (2008) describe nurtured advising as a specialized form of advising that simulates a concerned family member. They argue the nurturing advisor is a caring adult who shows they have the student’s best interest at heart by communicating expectations and extending the core values of advising into teachable moments. As BQGN students are in need of safe spaces, the presence of a nurturing advisor can provide security and a sense of belonging to their institution.

Learn about the various facets of the BQGN community. Although far more research is needed on BQGN college students, advisors can still educate themselves on this population. Thanks to platforms such as Black Youth Project, Native Son Now, and Out Magazine, more BQGN stories are being told. With BQGN authors including Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Janet Mock, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, James Baldwin, Essex Hemphill, Clay Cane, and Darnell L. Moore to name a few, there are various books available for those who are interested in the BQGN experience. There is no better way to learn about the BQGN community than from our own perspectives.

BQGN students will notice when advisors are invested in their lives. Advisors should strive for these students to feel empowered and equipped after using their services. This can be verified through utilizing assessments where students can give feedback on the work advisors do. Through being intentional with BQGN students, advisors can ease concerns and make a notable difference. The success of BQGN students is certainly worth the effort.

Maximillian Matthews
Academic Advisor
Chattahoochee Technical College
[email protected]


Campus Pride. (n.d.). Mission, vision & values. Retrieved from https://www.campuspride.org/about/mission/  

Chesler, M. A., Lewis, A., & Crowfoot, J. (2005). Challenging racism in higher education: Promoting justice. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.

Glenn, P. W., Wider, F., & Williams, I. L. (2008, March). Nurtured advising: An essential approach to advising students at historically black college and universities. Academic Advising Today, 31(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Nurtured-Advising-An-Essential-Approach-to-Advising-Students-at-Historically-Black-College-and-Universities.aspx

Martin-Storey, A., & August, E. G. (2016). Harassment due to gender nonconformity mediates the association between sexual minority identity and depressive symptoms. Journal of Sex Research, 53(1), 85–97.

Means, D. R. (2014). Demonized no more: The spiritual journeys and spaces of black gay male college students at predominantly white institutions (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Proquest LLC. (1554337409). Available at https://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/bitstream/handle/1840.16/9263/etd.pdf?sequence=1

Patton, L. D., & Simmons, S. L. (2008). Exploring Complexities of Multiple Identities of Lesbians in a Black College Environment. Negro Educational Review, 59(3), 197–215. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Rankin, S. (2003). Campus climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The Diversity Factor, 12(1), 18–23.

Rankin, S., Blumenfeld, W., Weber, G., & Frazer, S. (2010). State of higher education for LGBT people.  Charlotte, NC: Campus Pride.

Smith, W. A., Mustaffa, J. B., Jones, C. M., Curry, T. J., & Allen, W. R. (2016). You make me wanna holler and throw up both my hands!: Campus culture, black misandric microaggressions, and racial battle fatigue. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (QSE), 29(9), 1189–1209.

Yost, M., & Gilmore, S. (2011). Assessing LGBTQ campus climate and creating change. Journal of Homosexuality, 58(9), 1330–1354.

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Paternalism in Academic Advising: A Student Perspective

Sean McGimpsey, Kansas State University

Sean McGimpsey.jpgA paternalistic act is one in which an individual or institution interferes with another individual, without that individual’s consent, under the justification that such an act is for the affected individual’s own good. Within the framework of academic advising, an advisor can influence their advisee in a manner that would be characterized as paternalistic directly, indirectly, or through omission of relevant information. This article will first offer a conceptual analysis of paternalism and then an ethical analysis of its place within academic advising. 

Defining Paternalism

Defining paternalism requires a delicate approach. A helpful definition will outline the possibility of when paternalism is permissible and will also preferably include conditions that are not themselves normatively evaluative. Gerald Dworkin (2002), writing for The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, suggests the following conditions “as an analysis of X acts paternalistically towards Y by doing (omitting) Z.” 

I. Z (or its omission) interferes with the liberty or autonomy of Y. 

II. X does so without the consent of Y. 

III. X does so only because X believes Z will improve the welfare of Y (where this includes preventing [their] welfare from diminishing), or in some way promote the interests, values, or good of Y. 

This set of conditions can be used to determine whether an action is paternalistic. It should be noted that for an act to be characterized as paternalistic, it must satisfy all three of the conditions. If one of the conditions is not met, the act in question cannot be characterized as paternalistic.  

Ethical Evaluation of Paternalism

It would be impossible to list every iteration of a paternalistic act; however, there are three reasonably common classifications of actions to review in an ethical evaluation: direct interference, approval requirements, and deceptive and/or coercive advocacy.  

Direct Interference. Direct interference is the easiest to recognize and most straightforward of paternalistic actions. An advisor directly interferes with an advisee’s autonomy by either intentionally or unintentionally deciding on a course of action for the advisee without their consent. For example, suppose that an advisor, Liz, is meeting with her advisee, Susan. Susan does not want to take a specific class for her upcoming semester and explicitly communicates that desire. Liz decides that taking the class is more beneficial for Susan than not taking the class. And despite Susan’s wishes, Liz enrolls Susan in the class.  

The interaction between Liz and Susan, though overly simplified, provides a useful example by which to utilize the evaluative set of conditions. Each of the three conditions is clearly met, and the action is easily identifiable. Please be aware that not all instances of direct interference are as immediately recognizable, and rarely are they as straightforward—functionally and ethically—as the given situation would imply. 

Most academic advising programs already work to prevent the occurrence of direct interference, in that they will often not allow advisors to make decisions on behalf of their advisee. Additionally, most common individual advising approaches are structured to avoid paternalism as they tend to encourage advisor-student cooperation.  

Approval Requirements. The second form of paternalism in academic advising lies in requiring students to seek the approval of an advisor before engaging in various activities. Universities may impose such approval requirements for changing majors, enrolling in courses, and even withdrawing from an institution entirely. This manifestation of paternalism differs from direct interference in that approval requirements are widespread and generally considered an acceptable practice.  

Approval requirements are generally implemented in one of two ways, as a mandate made by the overarching academic institution or as an individual requirement from the advisor. Both methods not only limit the autonomy of an advisee, but also noticeably impact the advisee’s perception of their autonomy. Despite the good intentions which lie behind the imposition of approval requirements, e.g. that of fostering cooperation between the advisor and advisee, the result may be to the contrary (Crookston, 1994).  

It bears mention that there are several compelling arguments in support of approval requirements, primarily in opt-in scenarios that might be otherwise avoided by a withholding of advisor approval. Those that endorse approval requirements would contend that they allow some degree of autonomy for students, while still ensuring that the advisor can offer the relevant input for critical decisions required of their advisee.  

Regarding opt-in arguments, recollect that according to condition II of the definition of paternalism, an advisor’s act is paternalistic only if done without the student’s consent. It might then be argued that when an institution makes the expectation of approval requirements clear, the student’s continued presence at the institution constitutes tacit consent. It may also be the prerogative of the institution to decide that the benefits gained from approval requirements take precedence over the cost in student autonomy they impose. Consequently, any evaluation of approval requirements is inherently more complex than direct interference. 

Deceptive and/or Coercive Advocacy. The third—and arguably most subtle—form of paternalism in advising is deceptive or coercive advocacy on the part of the advisor. This can best be described as an advisor limiting the autonomy of the advisee through selective, exclusive, or biased advocacy, either implicitly or explicitly. As it would seem, this variant of paternalism is extremely hard to recognize or prevent, as it is generally tied to individual mannerisms of advisors.  

As an example, Phil is an advisor in his institution’s College of Education. His advisee, Eric, expresses a dissatisfaction with his current courses and a desire to study a science-related field. Phil helpfully informs Eric about a degree track designed for science-oriented educators. Eric seems receptive and they work together to plan for Eric to take the necessary classes in the following semester. In this example, whether Phil was aware of the implications behind his actions, his bias for the College of Education limited the selection of advocacy that he presented to Eric. Eric might be better suited to a biology, chemistry, or kinesiology major.  

The difficulty in recognizing deceptive or coercive advocacy, is both its nature of piggy-backing onto the implicit bias of an advisor and its expansive nature. There are many decisions that could be directed by an advisor’s preferences, obligations they might have to their institution, or simply convenience. It seems almost an impossibility to remove the entirety of any bias in advocacy while the role of advisors is still occupied by individuals instead of programmed algorithms, and even those are subject to the programmer’s bias.  

There are a number of authors that would argue that some degree of bias is a necessary component of both an advisor’s duties and their normal function as a human being. These authors would contend that the role of an advisor is one of applied bias, where the advisor evaluates the relevant student’s aims and weighs those against the available options. These judgements are not necessarily morally problematic; however, they do open the possibility for a judgment to fail the student’s best interest. Advisors should take this possibility for negatively impactful bias into consideration when making relevant judgements. 

Justification of Paternalism

Paternalistic acts, at their core, are intrinsically made for the benefit of the individuals whose autonomy is being violated. While some in the academic and philosophic communities place a negative connotation on paternalism, while championing autonomy, paternalism does have its place in our world. It should also be acknowledged that an action is comprised of both the intent and the result of said action. Therefore, merely having noble intentions does not counter any negative ramification of an action.  

A helpful perspective might be to view paternalism as a spectrum, with an action being evaluated between the ethical duties of doing what is best for an advisee and respecting their autonomy. Ross (2002) describes these duties, inter alia, as prima facie duties—duties an individual is obligated to fulfill unless a more compelling moral duty arises. While useful in a general sense, the scope of Ross’ described duties is perhaps too broad to apply to the particular field of advising.  

Fortunately, literature surrounding the ethical concerns of advising provides a perspective from which to view the clash of these duties. Marc Lowenstein (2008) notes that ethical dilemmas similar to paternalism are not an uncommon occurrence for an advisor. However, while dilemmas of this nature may occur with some degree of frequency, there are few arguments that can truly illuminate which duty supersedes the other in these circumstances. Often the advisor will have to act with some sense of ethical intuition. Therefore, it might be more important for an advisor to be aware of the distinctions in duties to then make more informed decisions about individual and institutional advising practices. 

Sean McGimpsey
Undergraduate Student
College of Business Administration
Kansas State University
[email protected]


Crookston, B. B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 5-9. doi:10.12930/0271-9517-14.2.5 

Dworkin, G. (2002), Paternalism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Ed.), Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/paternalism/  

Lowenstein, M. (2008). Ethical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 37-47). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ross, W. D. (2002). The right and the good. P. Stratton-Lake (Ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University. Retrieved from https://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/readings/ross.pdf

NACADA Summer Institute as Summer Camp

Sharon Wight, 2018 Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

Sharon Wight.jpgI first heard about the Summer Institute in October 2017. My supervisor came back from the NACADA Annual Conference with information about it, and when I saw that it was a week full of activities, and in Albuquerque, I knew I had to go. I had always wanted to go to Albuquerque and, since beginning my position in July 2017, had felt a need to have the ability to network outside of my institution. I have been at my institution since I was 18 years old, both as a student and an employee, but have not had a lot of opportunities to venture away. Also, the position I received in July 2017 was my first full time appointment; all other jobs prior had been adjunct teaching opportunities at various institutions in my area.  

When making my plans to attend the institute, I knew I would need additional funding assistance. I received a scholarship from my Advising Council that covered a large amount of the cost and had departmental support, but I knew the Wesley B. Habley scholarship would make my argument for going to the institute stronger. I applied and waited to hear if I had received the scholarship, then heard back on the day of my institution’s commencement. From then on, the concept of attending was finally real.

Leading up to the institute, I started to feel a sense of nervousness and urgency. Having received the Wesley B. Habley scholarship and the scholarship from my institution, I knew I needed to make the most of this opportunity. It had been a long time since I had felt nervous in this particular way, but I knew I recognized it. It was how I had always felt in the days leading up to summer camp as a teenager. I would get nervous and excited about the people I was going to meet and the things I was going to do while away at camp. As a recipient of the Wesley B. Habley scholarship, I knew I was going to be asked to write something upon my return from the institute, and in recognizing the emotion I was feeling I knew: I was going to compare the Summer Institute to summer camp.

Sharon Wright girls.jpgOne of the first similarities of the NACADA Summer Institute and camp was meeting new people. I knew that I was going to have the opportunity to meet people from all over the country, and I was very excited to do so. Being in my institution’s bubble has given me a great depth of knowledge about my institution, but not a lot of opportunities to get perspectives from other institutions. To me, this opportunity to network was one of the most important parts of the institute, aside from the development of an action plan. I call myself an extroverted introvert, which can sometimes cause issues when I am in situations where I must interact with others for several days at a time. I love meeting new people, and consider myself to be fairly social, but at the same time can get tired quite easily. Since meeting people was one of my primary goals, I had worked on preparing myself for that exhaustion. Thankfully, because of the structure of the institute, I never got overwhelmed nor exhausted. I had plenty of time to get to know my new colleagues and friends, while at the same time moments of calm. In going to the Summer Institute, I also identified that this introverted extroversion was why I was always so exhausted at the end of summer camp.

Sharon Wright SI friends.jpgI also compare the institute to summer camp because of the highly structured atmosphere and the learning opportunities. At summer camp, it was breakfast, lessons, small group time, lunch, more lessons, free time, dinner, and campfire every day. The institute is also very structured, while at the same time gives plenty of free time to go and enjoy the area in which the institute is taking place. I attended each foundation session, group session, and topical session and made sure I remained present at each one. I took copious notes to bring back to my institution and also for my own memory. Each evening is free and open, and since I was working hard to put myself out there, I was able to experience new things. For example, I rarely go hiking on my own at home, but two of the individuals I met asked if I wanted to go, and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever encountered. I also encouraged my new friends to try something new and asked them to do one of my favorite activities with me: an escape room. I was so glad I pushed myself to do this.

Another way that the institute was similar to summer camp was that it had specific goals. In a summer camp setting, you are, even if you do not realize it, meant to accomplish specific goals during your time there. I learned life skills at camp, put together talent show performances, and developed a deep network of individuals, many of whom I still am in contact with to this day. At institute, there was a clearly defined goal of coming with and working on a specific project as well as identifying my own goals. The most important goal to me when I wrote my Wesley B. Habley essay was to develop more of a network, and I accomplished that goal in spades.

Sharon Wright SI team.jpg

Attending the institute was one of the most pivotal experiences of my career thus far. While in some ways it was like the summer camp I adored in my adolescence, especially in the emotions it evoked in me, it was also a substantially different experience. I left with great ideas, some of which I have already implemented into my advising program, and also, I believe, gave others great ideas. I communicate regularly with my group leader and members of my group, and I know they are there for me in times of need. I am so grateful to NACADA and the Wesley B. Habley scholarship for the opportunity to attend summer camp again.

Sharon Wight
Academic Advisor
Purdue University Fort Wayne
[email protected]

Posted in: 2019 June 42:2


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