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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Things are a Mess and That's Okay

Erin Justyna, NACADA President

Erin Justyna.jpgI stared at this blank page for weeks trying to meet this publication deadline. What does one say as President of NACADA in this moment? The internal dialogue (and dialogue with my husband and friends) went a little something like this:

I can’t bear to add one more thing for people to read about the pandemic. Our inboxes are brimming with communication about COVID-19. We don’t need more. But . . . if I don’t acknowledge the pandemic, then I don’t honor the life-altering effects this event is having on the human beings who make up our membership. No, I need to save this avenue to focus on the important work occurring throughout the association. I can speak to the innovative ways we are approaching our work. (Big sigh.) Except, that isn’t what my heart is telling me to say. I have to be real and acknowledge the mess.

Our lived experiences are anything but business as usual right now. My lived experience is this: I am working 14-hour days to try to keep  afloat in my role as Assistant Provost, attempting to be available to provide support for the staff members in our division; I am trying to be here for my two older children who were forced to move to online college courses; I’m struggling, and mostly failing, to still have mental and emotional energy for my spouse; and I’m trying to breathe and problem solve—rather than just scream—when I find out my high school teen has been turning in all blank work so his online classroom app will show “nothing is due” when any of his parents log in. Things are a huge mess.

But amidst all of this, we still have great things occurring across our lives, our institutions, the association. We couldn’t meet in Manhattan, KS for our midyear Board and Council meetings in April, but we did find six hours across three days (and many time zones) to Zoom in. In our first two days, we received final reports on the Region Review and the Professional Development Committee gap analysis. In the coming weeks, we will determine a plan for moving forward with these groups’ recommendations, which will include the formation of an implementation team. These reports represent years of diligent work that will shape how NACADA engages with members and operates in the future. On our final day, we engaged in very intentional small and whole group discussions around NACADA’s mission and vision. These conversations seemed remarkably timely, given the COVID-19 pandemic is causing people across the globe to rethink education, business, and how we engage with our social networks.

Certainly, the association has had to make some tough decisions—such as cancellation of many regional conferences and other in-person events—and we will have more decisions to make and hurdles to pass in the coming months. Many of us look forward all year to recharging with our colleagues at campus advising award ceremonies, drive-ins, conferences, and institutes. We can and should acknowledge the frustration we feel for things that cannot be, for added stress, for the forced separation from our fellow humans. Things are a mess, and that’s okay. Hopefully, as we are mourning our very real losses and challenges, we can also open our minds to the opportunity to use this crisis to become even better—better as an association, better advisors, better humans.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by members displaying their agility and resourcefulness as they’ve navigated sometimes daily challenges on their campuses, and they’re sharing their ingenuity with all of us. I’ve also been deeply moved by members showing compassion and creativity to lift the spirits of others—both those they know and complete strangers: Facebook groups to highlight what our “new coworkers” are up to at home, toilet paper challenges, virtual celebrations, and safe distance parades. I hope you found ways to honor your colleagues and that others honored each of you during NACADA’s inaugural Global Advisor Appreciation Week the first week of May. We often show our truest selves in times of crisis. I see you, and I thank you.

Erin Justyna, President, 2019-2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Assistant Provost for Student Affairs 
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 
Pronouns: She/her/hers
[email protected]

From the Executive Director: Uncharted Waters Provide New Opportunities

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgIn just a few short months all of us have experienced changes in our personal and professional lives like we most likely have never experienced before. We all have begun to use phrases like “uncharted waters,” “virtual learning experiences,” and “the new normal” in our everyday conversations with friends and colleagues. And for so many of us we are preparing for a new academic year that we are not sure what it will look like and are not sure how we will be engaging with our students and our fellow advising professionals on our campuses and across the world. 

The NACADA Board of DirectorsCouncil members, elected and appointed leaders, and Executive Office staff are working diligently and tirelessly to ensure that NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising continues to provide our members and the profession with the highest quality learning experiences, engagement opportunities, and connections with our colleagues possible. Advisors are facing new challenges as we work to create supportive academic advising experiences for our students and, thus, it is important that NACADA be proactive in supporting the academic advising community globally. As President Justyna so wisely stated in her article, it is important that we all work together to become a better association, better advisors, and better humans. 

NACADA is moving forward with our plans to hold the 44th Annual NACADA Conference in Puerto Rico October 4-7, 2020. We had a record number of proposals submitted for this year’s conference and are excited to offer high quality learning experiences and opportunities for all of us to engage and connect with our academic advising colleagues across the globe. We encourage you to follow the Annual Conference website for all updates and information for the conference.

The NACADA Region DivisionAcademic Advising Communities, and Executive Office are providing to all members a variety of virtual (live and recorded) opportunities to learn from and connect with your colleagues on a regular basis. We encourage you to pay close attention to the NACADA Next Week emails, the NACADA Website, NACADA Facebook page, and various Region and Academic Advising Community Facebook pages for all the virtual opportunities that you can take advantage of. It is so important that especially in this time of uncertainty, we stay connected with our colleagues and we take advantage of all the professional development opportunities possible.

I invite you to contact me at any time if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas for how our association can best serve you and your advising colleagues as we all work to keep focused on our profession and our students.

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

Shame-less: Supporting Students Experiencing Shame and Guilt Through Academic Advising

Alexander Kunkle, Jesse Poole, and Stefany Sigler, Nevada State College

Alex Kunkle.jpgThe human mind is full of complex emotions and often these emotions drive us to places that we may not have prepared for. As academic advisors, we believe that student success is possible. However, there are often subtle emotions or characteristics that lead them to struggle. This is the human condition. Psychologists differ on the number of “primary” or “core” emotions (Boll, 2017) that make up the tapestry of our personalitiesJesse Poole.jpg. In an effort to better understand and visualize “emotion,” psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman was approached by the Dalai Lama with a goal: “When we wanted to get to the New World, we needed a map. So make a map of emotions so we can get to a calm state” (Randall, 2016). The product of this conversation was the Atlas of Emotions (http://atlasofemotions.org/), developed by Dr. Ekman, which maps out five core universal emotions in humans: Enjoyment, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. This was later brought to the minds of adults and children alike in Pixar’s Inside Out (Rivera & Docter, 2015).

Stefany Sigler.jpgAs academic advisors, we see students display a range of emotions every day. While core emotions described by Dr. Ekman are often easy to recognize, secondary or complex emotions are more difficult to identify. The American Psychological Association defines primary emotions as emotions that are typically “manifested and recognized universally across cultures” (American Psychological Association, n.d.). Most individuals experience primary emotions and can recognize them. However, secondary emotions often serve as a reaction to other emotions (Tull, 2019. Two of the secondary emotions students often exhibit to their advisors are guilt and shame. Secondary emotions form as a combination of multiple core emotions and require more self-reflection and are often enhanced through social experiences (Weir, 2012).

When working with students experiencing complex emotions, advisors must first understand how guilt and shame are similar, how they are different, and why they so greatly influence student behavior. From there, advisors must recognize verbal and visual cues for more subtle, secondary emotions, such as shame and guilt. Finally, advisors must find ways to best support students experiencing these debilitating emotions. During advising sessions, students may choose to disclose their struggles to their advisors. Those struggles could range from missing a class, to failing a test, to dealing with parents who are divorcing, or even the disclosure of a sexual assault. In these sensitive situations, advisors must be able to identify secondary emotions, establish the difference between them, and uncover the best way to work with the student. An advisor’s goal should not necessarily be to solve a student’s problem or relieve their shame or guilt but to empathize with the situation and provide support and resources for the student. Not only is this approach more effective, it promotes self-efficacy for students and helps them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which is invaluable for students during their academic journeys and well beyond.

Shame, Guilt, the Benefits, the Challenges, and How to Recognize These Emotions

Guilt and shame are similar in that they are both “negative affective states that occur in response to a transgression or shortcoming, and both are self-conscious emotions, meaning that self-reflection is critical to their occurrence” (Tignor & Colvin, 2017). Despite these similarities, they also have distinct characteristics. Boll (2017) explains, “Guilt arises from a negative evaluation of one’s behavior, while shame arises from negative evaluation of oneself. Guilt is the feeling of doing wrong, while shame is the feeling of being wrong” (Boll, 2017). 

Understanding these differences may lead to different approaches. Consider the student who experiences guilt for failing a midterm because they did not study, while another experiences shame for failing a midterm because they interpret their own skills as lacking. Guilt is seen as a wrongdoing and shame is seen as a deficiency in oneself, thus an advisor’s approach to these situations may differ. Additionally, it is important to note that shame and guilt can be felt simultaneously (Tignor & Colvin, 2017), leading an advisor to take a mixed methods approach to the situation.  

Guilt and shame can be debilitating and can greatly impact student lives. To put it into context, people experience guilty feelings for at least five hours per week on average, making it difficult to think clearly and causing a reluctance to enjoy life (Winch, 2014). Negative affective emotions can be potentially dangerous for students as “individuals tend to be distressed and upset and have a negative view of self” (Watson & Clark, 1984) as a part of that emotional experience. However, negative affective emotions can also lead to prosocial and productive behaviors under certain circumstances (Tignor & Colvin, 2017). This is particularly evident when the individual believes the damage is repairable (Graton & Ric, 2017). 

A clear distinction has been made between how individuals experience guilt and shame.

When experiencing shame, an individual is

  • more likely to attempt to escape the situation and avoid eye contact (Selva, 2019);
  • more resistant to reengagement, even if the student has a strong relationship with the advisor;
  • more likely to exhibit behaviors associated with isolation and disconnection; and
  • less likely to self-forgive due to the internal evaluation of oneself (Thompson, 2015).

When experiencing guilt, an individual is

  • more driven to repair the relationship or circumstance;
  • more likely to engage in small-talk and avoidance of the topic;
  • more likely to have increased levels of anxiety; and
  • more likely to forgive themselves (Selva, 2019).

Tignor & Colvin (2017) explain that it is “much easier to alleviate feelings of guilt than of shame.” An individual who feels guilty regrets behavior; because guilt is behavior-based, an action plan could help repair or reframe these feelings. Meanwhile, repairs for shame are more complex, because they are based upon feelings of their shortcomings as a person, rather than a behavior or action. In these situations, empathy, normalizing, and demystifying are far more powerful tools than an action-based plan.

A Toolbox for Reframing Perspectives

When deciding the best role for an advisor working with students experiencing negative affective emotions, it may be best to consider an advisor’s training and the context of the situation. It can be very difficult and painful for advisors to watch a student suffer through guilt and shame. From the developmental advising perspective, it is of the utmost importance for advisors to meet a student where they are at in the moment and to not use a singular tool to attempt to fix the student’s emotional state. The best course of action, regardless of the theory to which an advisor subscribes, is to consider how tools can contribute positively to a student’s development and not simply how to solve a problem.

To determine where a student is in their navigation and emotional process, start with a framework adapted from the principles of Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). First, express empathy as the student uncovers the root of the issue and describes the events that caused them to have their feelings initially. When expressing empathy, it is essential for an advisor to be genuine to truly connect with the student. Second, roll with the resistance a student may experience and allow them to express why they do not want to make (or do not feel comfortable making) the change. Third, identify barriers that could affect the improvement of the student’s emotional state. Fourth, encourage self-efficacy to foster further student development. Finally, incorporate challenge and support into the interaction. By following this framework, the relationship dynamic between the advisor and student could increase the likelihood that the student is willing to change and/or persist. In addition to modeling genuine, healthy emotional responsiveness for the student, an advisor should implement active listening skills throughout the interaction, ask open-ended questions, validate the student’s feelings, and exhibit cultural competence to reach the best possible outcome.

A student may not be willing to make a change, especially initially, which is okay. In this case, an advisor could empower the student to take ownership of their choices or simply make their space a refuge. Consider creating a comfortable environment where the student can express their thoughts and feelings. Keep in mind it is perfectly normal to have different timelines for processing emotions.

Despite the accompanying challenges that secondary emotions, such as shame and guilt, can present, they also provide valuable opportunities for students to grow. Zhang and Chen (2016) framed the concept of guilt (referred to as regret) as a mathematical formula: “regret+self-compassion=growth.” Once a willingness for change begins to blossom, additional tools can be used to supplement the healing process. Consider using mindfulness as a tool or intentionally bringing awareness to the emotions and staying in the moment with the student through this process. Also attempt to employ the six-step-to-change model, which includes: recall the event, repair the relationship, rethink and ruminate, REACH emotional forgiveness, rebuild self-acceptance, and resolve to live virtuously (Worthington, 2013). 

Another tool could be reframing the student’s perspective and converting their feeling of shame into guilt. As a result, instead of feeling bad about oneself for a perceived internal lacking, the student can assign their feelings to actions or behaviors, which they have the power to change. A plan of action could then be created between the student and the advisor to modify their actions and/or behaviors, making them subsequently repairable. The action plan for resolving guilt would preferably include demystifying or normalizing the feelings, helping the student recognize that the damage is repairable, identifying tangible ways to repair real or perceived damage, and ultimately overcoming the negative emotional impact made by shame and guilt. Succeeding in overcoming these challenges would ideally build a student’s self-efficacy, confidence, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and contribute to their success not only academically, but holistically.

While these tools and approaches can be helpful when working with students exhibiting guilt or shame, genuine empathy should be at the forefront of these interactions. This golden rule is demonstrated eloquently in the words of Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Alexander Kunkle
Director of Academic Advising
Nevada State College
Pronouns: he/him/his
[email protected]  

Jesse Poole
Coordinator of Academic Advising and Student Success Initiatives
Nevada State College
Pronouns: he/him/his
[email protected]  

Stefany Sigler
Academic Advisor II
Nevada State College
Pronouns: she/her/hers
[email protected] 


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Primary emotion. In APA dictionary of psychology. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://dictionary.apa.org/primary-emotion

Boll, J. (2017, May 8). Shame: The other emotion in depression & anxiety. Hope to Cope With Anxiety and Depression. https://www.hopetocope.com/blog/shame-the-other-emotion-in-depression-and-anxiety/ 

Graton, A., & Ric, F. (2017). How guilt leads to reparation? Exploring the processes underlying the effects of guilt. Motivation and Emotion, 41(3), 343–352. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9612-z

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing: Helping people change. The Guilford Press.

Randall, K. (2016, May 6). Inner peace? The Dalai Lama made a website for that. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/07/world/dalai-lama-website-atlas-of-emotions.html

Rivera, J. (Producer), & Docter, P. (Director). (2015). Inside out [Film]. Walt Disney Studios.

Seltzer, L. F. (2015, June 11). 9 ways to talk yourself out of unnecessary guilt. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/9-ways-talk-yourself-out-unnecessary-guilt

Selva, J. (2019, July 4). Why shame and guilt are functional for mental health. PsychologyToday.com.  https://positivepsychology.com/shame-guilt/

Tignor, S. M., & Colvin, C. R. (2017). The interpersonal adaptiveness of dispositional guilt and shame: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Personality, 85(3), 341–363. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12244

Thompson, C. (2015). The soul of shame: Retelling the stories we believe about ourselves. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Tull, M. (2019, June 24). How Primary Emotions Affect You. Retrieved April 17, 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/primary-emotions-2797378

Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1984). Negative affectivity: The disposition to experience negative aversive emotional states. Psychological Bulletin, 96(3), 465–490. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.96.3.465

Weir, K. (2012, November). A complex emotion. Monitor on Psychology, 43(10), 64. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/11/emotion

Winch, G. (2014, November 9). 10 things you didn't know about guilt. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201411/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-guilt

Zhang, J. W., & Chen, S. (2016). Self-compassion promotes personal improvement from regret experiences via acceptance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(2), 244–258. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167215623271

Holistic Advising

Stacey M. Kardash, Southern Maine Community College

Stacey Kardash.jpgThe term holistic advising has existed in the field of academic advising for years, but as an aspect of an office’s approach, not necessarily as a central design element in supporting students. Lately, different organizations such as Achieving the Dream (ATD) and the Community College Research Center (CCRC), have started to describe it as an approach or mindset to the advising process. When the word holistic is applied to advising, it suggests that advisors cannot look at students through a purely academic lens, but rather must regard them as a whole person. Whatever is happening in their personal lives can weigh just as heavily on their academic success.

Through the lens of the learning theory of humanism, educators work to develop the whole person, helping the learner become self-aware and mature (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). The importance is understanding the whole person: where an individual is in their development, what they are currently experiencing in their lives, and what their goals and aspirations are. Through this understanding and exploration, advisors can help students comprehend how their studies can help them gain strategies to make good decisions, problem-solve, and persist through difficulties in every aspect of their lives.

Holistic advising is an important consideration for all college students, but especially important for the community college student. Community college demographics are diversifying quickly, and many students have multiple responsibilities on top of their studies. They may be working full-time, navigating life as a single parent, or returning to school after a lengthy break. All of these factors are important when advisors work with a student. If we don’t look at them holistically, we are not seeing the whole picture of what they are experiencing. Holistic advisingis simply one human being helping another human being—no labels—and viewing all aspects of their lives as inter-connected.

Holistic Design

As the name implies, holistic advising cannot be confined to a series of steps that advisors check off while meeting with students; rather, it is individualized and tailored to assist the individual student sitting in the office with the advisor at that moment.

CCRC has been working on a SSIPP (sustained, strategic, integrated, proactive, and personalized) model for advising (Community College Research Center, 2013), which ATD has included as part of their Holistic Student Supports approach. Keeping these design principles in mind, multiple models of advising can incorporate this approach to support students.

Sustained. For the approach to be sustained, the advisor/advisee relationship must be developed to provide ongoing support. This requires an advisor—whether faculty or professional staff— to understand key moments in a semester in which students may need additional support to maintain their momentum in their studies.

Strategic. First, being strategic requires institutional and community understanding, particularly the resources available to students both on and off campus. Second, it requires the advisor to possess a knowledge of their students through a holistic lens. Not every student is going to need the same supports. Understanding when and where to refer a student is key in holistic advising. It is not possible for advisors to be experts in everything that can happen to a student during their academic career; however, as Charlie Nutt, Executive Director of NACADA, has stated, “they should be experts in the art of referral” (Kafka, 2018, p. 2).

Integrated. To have this approach be integrated, advising must exist as a seamless part of student supports. Ideally, this means minimal bouncing of students between offices, where a student has the opportunity to break the chain of support and potentially experience continued struggles. A system where different supports on campus can access a shared case note system can help alleviate the need for students to tell their whole story once again. It is also vital when assessing an approach to view the support network with a student, rather than staff, perspective.

Proactive. The idea of proactive advising is not new, but it plays an important role in holistic advising. Being proactive involves connecting with students at the first sign of trouble (Varney, 2013). This early intervention can help students access support and resources at key moments rather than waiting until a problem grows into a critical situation. In order to empower advisors to connect in a proactive manner, they must be trained to have these interactions and provide supportive coaching for students.

Personalized. Finally, for the approach to be personalized requires building meaningful relationships. This is developed by building trust between individuals and maintaining ongoing communication (Higgins, 2017). Having accurate and timely information is crucial and was found to be valued by students above other areas such as choosing appropriate electives or getting connected to the college outside of the classroom (Smith & Allen, 2006).

Relationships & Trust

A key foundational element in developing an advising program with a holistic approach is creating a relationship between advisor and advisee, which in turn helps establish trust. For advisors to effectively refer their advisees to services, first the student must trust the advisor enough to feel comfortable sharing that they are having a problem. This is true in any advisor and advisee relationship regardless of the approach; however it is paramount in holistic advising due to the nature of conversations that the advisor will engage in with the student.

To develop a meaningful relationship, conversations must go beyond academics. For students, academic classes are just another aspect of their life—in some cases, it is a small percentage of their responsibilities. Understanding the 360° student view is important. The 360° student view works to look at all areas of a student’s life; by discussing hobbies, family life, or work environments, students can begin to create parallels in those different areas, which in turn can boost confidence in their academics. It also allows the advisor to better understand the environment in which the student is approaching their academic career and provide advice and resources early in the relationship.

Asking open-ended questions is a way to begin to develop the relationship, with an aim to develop a shared sense of responsibility for the student’s goals. Through holistic advising, advisors work to identify areas of stress or barriers—such as family issues or isolation—that students may face, but they may not link to their academic performance (Hamline University, 2018).

An anecdote I can provide around relationships and trust involves a student performing very well academically, but the transition to college life was overwhelming for them. The student was struggling with the social aspect of living in a residence hall and having two roommates, something that they were not used to. By taking the time to reflect on the situation, they realized that the lack of solitude in their living situation was elevating anxiety levels.

This student was my advisee in their first semester at college. We had the opportunity to see each other every week in the first-year success course required by the college; I was in every class as an embedded advisor, not as the instructor. Because this student was doing well academically, they came to me with this dilemma rather than going to the instructor. They knew that they could trust me, and I helped them reflect on what they needed the most. We talked about places available on campus for solitude and considered other housing options such as a single dorm room. In the end, they pursued the option to move into a single room on a satellite campus, which was a smaller community and more in line with the student’s social life, offering a chance for the solitude they were seeking.

If this student had not trusted me as their advisor, they may have faced this dilemma alone without becoming aware of all of the resources available to students. Ultimately, they may have left campus without officially withdrawing, thus ruining a stellar academic performance. This trust and awareness between advisor and advisee is vital if the student is looking to grow and develop in the academic world with an understanding of how every aspect of their lives impacts them as a whole. Relationships played a significant role in keeping this student on campus and in courses as there were no red flags or warning signs academically to prompt a proactive outreach.


In the increasingly complex and diverse college climate, advisors need to be able to address multiple aspects of a student’s life and understand that events or struggles happening outside of the classroom can impact academics as much as struggles in class. A holistic advising approach allows advisors to be comfortable holding in-depth conversations with advisees, which establishes roles of trust and allows advisors to effectively refer students to available resources. In turn, this helps students feel supported in their college journey, which may help them persist through their challenges and remain focused on their educational and career aspirations.

Stacey M. Kardash
Academic Advisor
Southern Maine Community College
[email protected]


Community College Research Center (CCRC). (2013). Designing a system for strategic advising. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/designing-a-system-for-strategic-advising.pdf

Hamline University. (2018). Advising students [PDF File]. https://www.hamline.edu/uploadedFiles/Hamline_WWW/Offices_-_Student_Services/Center_for_Academic_Services/Documents/3.%20Advising%20Students.pdf

Higgins, E. M. (2017, May 25). The advising relationship is at the core of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 40(2). https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Advising-Relationship-is-at-the-Core-of-Academic-Advising.aspx

Kafka, A. (2018, October 9). How faculty advisers can be first responders when students need help. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Faculty-Advisers-Can-Be/244757

Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. Jossey-Bass.

Smith, C., & Allen, J. (2006). Essential functions of academic advising: What students want and get. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 56–66. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-26.1.56

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

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Learning from a Career Class: Tools for Academic Advisors

Madeline Goldman, Virginia Commonwealth University

Madeline Goldman.jpgConsistent with national trends, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has implemented strategies to improve academic advising as a way to increase student progress and graduation rates. VCU has demonstrated significant gains in 4- and 6-year graduation rates for incoming first-time, full-time students that are well above the national average. It has developed an extended coordinated care network where academic advisors can make referrals to other offices: for example, career services. Better coordination among campus administration has led to a breakdown of organizational silos and increased focus on student success. Academic advising has developed more cross-functional coordination with career services and the campus learning center in an effort to integrate campus advising efforts. By building collaborative teams, advisors are able to support the student in a more holistic manner that provides academic resources to enhance student success.

Integrating academic and career advising is becoming more common. The Career Services Center at VCU recently became a part of our Student Success unit which houses all of the first-year academic advising on campus. Students often have career related questions for their academic advisors. When first-year students were given the Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2020) College Student Inventory and asked what they would need help with as incoming students, five out of the top ten answers were major/career related. Since students are often required to meet with their academic advisor, academic advisors are becoming increasingly aware of the need to help students with their career goals. Academic advisors can work with students to help them define, set, and create plans to reach academic and career goals. Students with clear career goals will make better decisions about their major.

Many colleges offer career courses to help students through self-assessment, career exploration, and decision making as well as to provide students with the tools needed for the job search. Students often have difficulty making career decisions; if these difficulties are not addressed, students might not make optimum career and academic choices. Career development classes are important to help students clarify their career and academic goals. Goals often change because of academic and experiential learning.

One such career class at VCU is a Biomedical Sciences Careers Seminar. The course is designed to broaden the students’ knowledge about the spectrum of non-academic careers available to people with degrees in biomedical sciences. In addition, the course is designed to complement the educational experience of the student with career development activities that help clarify career goals and prepare students for future professional endeavors. The overall goal of the class is to help the student make meaningful career choices, prepare and connect for them, and gain confidence in their career development.

Many career development activities from this class can be used in academic advising appointments. Academic advisors are moving away from a transactional approach, which is mainly focused on academic course planning, to a more comprehensive approach that provides holistic support of the student. An academic advisor helps a student understand their strengths and is often proactive in their outreach. The relationship that the advisor has with a student in helping them clarify their academic and career goals can be built upon by incorporating some of these activities from the career class. Here is a list of the activities:

  • myIDP website
  • LinkedIn profiles
  • Informational interviews
  • Referral for resume review and critique
  • Reflection


myIDP is an Individual Development Plan commonly used in industry to help employees define and pursue their career goals. It is a unique, web-based career planning tool tailored to meet the needs of PhD students in the sciences. This would be useful for those who advise graduate students.

myIDP provides exercises to help the student examine their skills, interests, and values. The site offers a list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of fit for each one based on skills and interests. It can also be used as a tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year with optional reminders to help keep the student on track. Articles and resources are available to guide the student through the process. There is no charge to use it.

LinkedIn Profile

Another vital important component of the class was helping students create LinkedIn profiles. In my experience, students often come into advising appointments with career questions and often lack career goals. By creating a LinkedIn profile, the student has the ability to network with other professionals and learn about different career options. For example, they can reach out to a professional who has a job they want for a shadowing opportunity.

To help a student create a profile, students can:

  • create a LinkedIn profile listing education, work experience, at least 10 skills, and a photo and make 10 connections;
  • follow at least one group;
  • learn how to make connections, with a challenge of connecting to at least 10 individuals;
  • search for contacts who work at a company that the student wants to find out more about; and
  • look for informational interviews.

Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are another way for students to gain career clarity and career goals. To gain career clarity, the student should conduct an informational interview with at least one person who has a job that they are interested in. Teaching the students how to network helps to build relational capital. They can also set up informational interviews through contacts on LinkedIn. They can be referred to career services for further help with questions to ask during the informational interview.

Other Activities

The class also taught the students the importance of going to career services when applying for jobs or internships. Students submitted their resumes as part of the class and received feedback. Students also learned how to self-critique their resume. By strengthening the collaboration between academic advising and career advising, the student is treated in a holistic way that better serves the needs of the student.

The class underscored the importance of reflecting on values, strengths, and weaknesses. It is important to teach students how to do this during an advising appointment as well. Clarity in these areas leads to better suited career goals, which then leads to better academic goals. Reflection can often occur in an academic advising appointment when a class or semester did not go as planned. Students can reflect on the skills that they need to develop to be more successful. Students on academic warning or probation may need to clarify their career goals and values before proceeding further in the major. Students should be encouraged to take assessments offered at their university, such as Life Values Inventories that are an online inventory that is free to take.  By understanding themselves, students can determine if they are a good fit for their major.


By participating in career development activities, students showed self confidence in career-making decisions including major and field selection. The more the students understood themselves, the better their career goals were. Students felt much more prepared for a job search when they could create their own LinkedIn profiles, conduct informational interviews, and receive resume feedback. While most of these activities could be started in an academic advising appointment, they should be done in conjunction with the career services office to optimize student success.

Madeline Goldman, PhD
Academic Advisor
Forensic Science, College of Humanities and Sciences
Virginia Commonwealth University
[email protected]


Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2020) College Student Inventory. www.ruffalonl.com


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Empathy: Advise with Care

William E. Smith III, Indiana University–Bloomington

William Smith.jpgAdvising professionals usually view empathy positively, as something advisors should employ to understand and, thus, to better help their students. NACADA’s core values list “empathetic listening” as a defining element of “caring” (NACADA, 2017; see also Ford & Ford, 1989, p. 44; Sims, 2013). Advising scholars identify empathy as a means to achieve various beneficial ends. Hill argues that “listening empathically” can enable “safe conversations,” a practice that “promotes respectful and healthy relationships,” works against “polarization,” and where “curiosity replaces judgement” (Hill, 2019). Carlstrom lists “listening empathically” as one of the skills that can “foster cultural awareness and mindfulness” in multicultural advising situations (Carlstrom, 2005; see also Fox, 2008, p. 351). Building off of Ali’s (2018) work, Schaffling raises empathy’s stakes for advising, claiming “empathy should be thought of as necessary to achieve everything else within the [advising] relationship” (Schaffling, 2018). Jordan articulates well the underlying reasons why empathy is so highly valued among advisors: “Empathy is a powerful aid in understanding others. When individuals put themselves in another person’s position, they can understand more easily how the other person may feel” (Jordan, 2015, p. 217; see also Hughey, 2011, p. 24; McClellan, 2007, p. 46; Paul et al., 2012, p. 54). In as much as empathy aids advisors in better understanding students, empathy’s appeal is hard to ignore.

But advisors should also want to use empathy cautiously, recognizing that it has real limits. Lee counsels advisors that empathy and general kindness are insufficient when working with students of color while making the case that other practices, especially that of microaffirmations, are essential to a just advising practice (Lee, 2018, p. 81). Harman warns advising professionals about “empathy fatigue,” which is a form of burnout that can hinder advisors’ ability to work effectively with students (Harman, 2018). In addition to being situationally insufficient or emotionally draining, empathy itself harbors malign manifestations that can make advising go awry. To quickly get a sense of how empathy can enable bad behavior, an advisor just needs to think of the following types of unexpectedly empathetic people they might encounter in their work: helicopter parents, bullies, and stalkers (Bloom, 2016, p. 37; Breithaupt, 2019, pp. 201–217). When it comes to empathy, then, caution is warranted so that advisors can use empathy rather than have empathy use them. In calling attention to empathy’s dark side, this essay aims to import critical reflections on empathy from other fields to advising with the goal of making advisors more adroit empaths.

Does empathy help advisors to better understand students? Maybe. As an epistemological tool, empathy can aid a person in getting inside another person’s head, but it does so with real limitations. While contemplating empathy’s value as an emotional basis for moral action, Prinz points out that empathy “is easily manipulated” (Prinz, 2011, p. 227). This means that people can engage in certain behaviors so as to shape another’s empathetic responses. In other words, a student can, knowingly or not, emote in such a way that an advisor imputes, for instance, victimhood on a student. As a way of knowing, empathy is limited and can be manipulated precisely because it is a form of reading: interpreting people’s tone of voice, words, gestures, body language, and so forth to imaginatively construct what the advisor thinks the student is experiencing.  

Advisors can also misread a student because empathy is itself partial. “We are grotesquely partial,” Prinz alerts readers when it comes to empathy, “to the near and dear” (Prinz, 2011, p. 224), which means that people’s “capacity to experience vicarious emotions varies as a function of such factors as social proximity and salience” (Prinz, 2011, p. 223). This cautionary note is particularly relevant for advisors working with diverse student populations. Rather than serving as a neutral means to traverse differences, empathy can warp an advisor’s understanding of the student’s situation or experience because, as Prinz remarks, “we feel greater empathy for those who are similar to ourselves. . . . We can empathize with members of the out-group but only by making their similarities salient” (Prinz, 2011, pp. 227–228, emphasis in original; see also Bloom, 2016, pp. 9, 31). If an advisor overemphasizes a student’s similarities to themselves, then this advisor is, in turn, giving less than the necessary attention to the differences between them. Such an empathetic image of the student’s situation conjured by the advisor is thus an inaccurate representation of the student’s actual experience. And this presumes the advisor is able to empathize with the student in question at all. As Bloom points out, people’s ability to empathize with others depends on their prior perspectives on these people (Bloom, 2016, pp. 68–70). In particular, “empathy is modified by our beliefs, expectations, motivations, and judgments” (Bloom, 2016, p. 68), and it “reflect[s] prior bias, preference, and judgment” (Bloom, 2016, p. 70). When working with diverse student populations, empathy and its failures may create more problems than solutions, especially as a resource of first resort during an advising session.

But empathy is partial in another sense. Even in cases where the student and the advisor are of very similar backgrounds, empathy can, as Breithaupt teaches, feed into side-taking. Breithaupt describes a “three-person model of empathy” (Breithaupt, 2019, p. 99) in relation to side-taking: “An observer sees a conflict, takes one side, sees the situation from that perspective, and thereby slowly develops empathy. This in turn leads to a strengthening and reinforcing of the initial side taking” (Breithaupt, 2019, p. 99). Key to understanding this passage is Breithaupt’s point that people pass judgment quickly in situations, assessments that prove to be quite sticky (Breithaupt, 2019, pp. 97–99). When a student presents an advisor with dilemmas or problems that feature another person, such as a dispute with a faculty member, empathy can start to reinforce whatever initial assessment the advisor makes. When empathy is in play, moreover, fairness may be comprised and even outright ignored without the empathizer even realizing they are acting in such a manner (Breithaupt, 2019, p. 98; see also Bloom, 2016, p. 25). These are not problems that more empathy can likely solve, since empathy often increases polarization in these types of situations and across differences (political, religious, racial, etc.) rather than diminishes them (Breithaupt, 2019, pp. 118–120). In other words, an advisor might want to avoid empathizing with a student in situations where they need to be as objective as possible in order to figure out the best course of action in light of a problem or dilemma.  

Additionally, by limiting empathy, advisors can not only avoid burnout but remain actually focused on helping their students. One empathy trap an advisor could fall into is filtered empathy (Breithaupt, 2019, pp. 134–142). In this situation, the advisor identifies themselves with a helper figure and then, from this triangulated position, seeks to help students. A person, for example, might be motivated to become an advisor because of how they saw their advisor help them and others. This person then envisions that, as an advisor themselves, students will respond to them as they believe students did to the advisor’s advisor. In this scenario, the advisor needs students to remain dependent in order to sustain the filtered empathy of the helper figure. Such an advisor would promote neediness rather than student empowerment. Or as Breithaupt explains, the consequences of filtered empathy for humanitarian workers, “filtered empathy does not ‘accompany’ the other but instead only attaches to them when they become a victim, trapping them into that role, perhaps permanently, thus denying them agency” (Breithaupt, 2019, p. 141). In addition to not advancing student development, an advisor operating in this dynamic can see their positive regard for students erode in the face of student success or independence, causing a different form of empathy burnout than described by Harman (2018).   

While it may be tempting to follow the popular culture dictum that more empathy is needed, there is a strong case to be made that empathy will not save us, be it people in general or advisors in particular. Indeed, empathy may cause harm. It may lead advisors astray by amplifying side-taking or bias. An advisor might empathetically misread a student, and thus misunderstand the student’s situation. A student might use an advisor’s empathy to generate a desired response, whether that response is warranted or not when the situation is looked at more objectively. Yet empathy is not valueless, and it should not be rejected entirely. As Breithaupt notes, empathy “can expand our perspective on the world” (Breithaupt, 2019, p. 223). While Breithaupt is specifically thinking about empathy’s aesthetic value here, expanding perspectives can also carry relational value. Strategic deployment of empathy will maximize its benefits while minimizing its potential harms. In other words, when it comes to empathy, advisors should advise with care (both in terms of concern and caution).

William E. Smith III
Assistant Director of Advising
College of Arts + Sciences
Indiana University–Bloomington
[email protected]


Ali, M. (2018, June). Common factors: Cultivating the relational component of advising. Academic Advising Today, 41(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Common-Factors-Cultivating-the-Relational-Component-of-Advising.aspx

Bloom, P. (2016). Against empathy: The case for rational compassion. HarperCollins.

Breithaupt, F. (2019). The dark sides of empathy (A. B. B. Hamilton, Trans.). Cornell University Press. (Original work published 2017)

Carlstrom, A. H. (2005, December 1). Preparing for multicultural advising relationships. Academic Advising Today, 28(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Preparing-for-Multicultural-Advising-Relationships.aspx

Ford, J. & Ford, S. S. (1989). A caring attitude and academic advising. NACADA Journal, 9(2), 43–48. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-9.2.43

Fox, R. (2008). Delivering one-to-one advising: Skills and competencies. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 342–355). Jossey-Bass.

Harman, E. (2018, September). Recharging our emotional batteries: The importance of self-care for front line advisors. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Recharging-Our-Emotional-Batteries-The-Importance-of-Self-Care-for-Front-Line-Advisors.aspx

Hill, C. (2019, June). Safe conversations as a relational tool to augment academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 42(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Safe-Conversations-as-a-Relational-Tool-to-Augment-Academic-Advising.aspx

Hughey, J. K. (2011). Strategies to enhance interpersonal relations in academic advising. NACADA Journal, 31(2), 22–32. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-31.2.22

Jordan, P. (2015). Effective communications skills. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 213–229). Jossey-Bass.

Lee, J. A. (2018). Affirmation, support, and advocacy: Critical race theory and academic advising. NACADA Journal, 38(1), 77–87. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-17-028

McClellan, J. L. (2007). The advisor as servant: The theoretical and philosophical relevance of servant leadership to academic advising. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 41–49. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-27.2.41

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

Paul, W. K., Smith K. C., & Dochney, B. J. (2012). Advising as servant leadership: Investigating the relationship. NACADA Journal, 32(1), 53–62. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-32.1.53

Prinz, J. (2011). Against empathy. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 49(1), 214–233. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2041-6962.2011.00069.x

Schaffling, S. (2018, September). Common factors: A meta-model of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Common-Factors-A-Meta-Model-of-Academic-Advising.aspx

Sims, A. (2013, March). Academic advising for the 21st century: Using principles of conflict resolution to promote student success and build relationships. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Academic-Advising-for-the-21st-Century-Using-Principles-of-Conflict-Resolution-to-Promote-Student-Success-and-Build-Relationships.aspx

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An Organization Theory Consideration for Academic Advising

Douglas Vardeman and Laura Grace Dykes, The University of Texas at Tyler

Douglas Vardeman.jpgWhen Laura Grace Dykes.jpgconsidering the role, function, and possibilities of academic advising as an autonomous profession, greater thought and discussion can be given to the organizational structure of advising departments on college and university campuses. Academic advisors have the opportunity and responsibility of addressing the variety of needs college students face in academia. Advising should be a relational and transformational experience for the student, and, for this to be the case, academic advisors need flexibility, autonomy, and localized control over their work as opposed to a centralized, standardized, and transaction-oriented approach. In this article, the organizational structure of an organized anarchy will be presented as the best organizational structure for meeting the needs of advisors by providing the space to practice both transformational and developmental advising in a way that most effectively meets the wide-ranging needs of students. What organizational anarchies provide advisors, why organizational anarchies are necessary for transformational and developmental advising, and how organizational anarchies yield conducive environments for meeting the needs of students will be discussed.

Anarchy can be a loaded term with diverse intimations, depending on one’s understanding of it as a political or social structure. Kathleen Manning (2018) describes anarchy as a social order which “rather than the absence of order, [relies] on community . . . for organization.” A community of various smaller groups organized by specific interests and expertise can function together to meet the diverse needs of the greater community. Localizing control in the loosely connected parts of the larger organization can boost the effectiveness of organizational functions as autonomy and organizational flexibility and can positively impact communication, workplace culture, and innovation (Costa et al., 2014). As opposed to hyper-centralized control and rigid standardization of operating procedures, organizational anarchy respects the expertise of advisors, allows for the flexibility required to meet diverse student needs, and encourages open communication between advisors, faculty, and administrators by promoting a sense of community and mutual participation in the greater goal of student success.

Students come to advisors with varied needs that require advisors to function in varied roles, which is precisely why academic advising can best function in an organized anarchy. Academic advisors may be the single touchstone that connects a student to their academics, on-campus resources, student organizations, etc. An academic advisor is sometimes the one staff member on campus that a student will regularly meet with face-to-face throughout their college career. Manning (2018) notes that in higher education “no one person . . . fully understands the many realities and perceptions present in the organization” (p.135), which complicates students’ abilities to navigate all aspects of the university. Academic advisors are afforded the opportunity to function as a guide for students to both reach graduation through academic counseling and connect them with relevant and useful organizations and resources to advance their academic careers and address obstacles to the successful completion of their degrees. However, given the vast differences between colleges, majors, and individual students, advisors need the freedom and flexibility to meet each unique student’s needs in an individualized way. A single formula or plan will not work for every student on campus or even every student in a single major.

It has been describe that the three primary characteristics of an organized anarchy are problematic goals, unclear technology and fluid participation (Cohen et al., 1972). A closer look at each of these characteristics will further elucidate the benefits of an organized anarchy structure in academic advising. Cohen et al. (1972) describe problematic goals (or preferences) as “inconsistent and ill-defined preferences . . . [the discovery of] preferences through action more than [acting] on the basis of preferences” (p. 19). In academic advising, each student comes with their own problems and concerns. Often an advising appointment will address unexpected or unplanned issues. In order to make advising transformative for the student, an advisor needs to be able to interact with each student in the ways they need and require. Advisors act based on the problems and situations they bring into the appointment. If advisors rely too heavily on a preconceived idea of what an advising appointment should entail, then advisors risk losing the opportunity to help the student based on their needs in favor of a static, impersonal plan. Being open to and expecting problematic goals as an advisor opens us up to being truly transformative by meeting each student at their level. Working in a structure organized to encourage and nurture problematic goals allows for advisors to practice more transformative advising.

Likewise, unclear technologies—which “[operate] on the basis of simple trial-and-error procedure, the residue of learning from the accidents of past experience, and pragmatic inventions of necessity” (Cohen et al., 1972)—prepare the advisor to approach each student with an openness and adaptability that will suit their personality and learning style. Advisors transform students by working through the various goals they bring in navigating conflict and creating a personalized plan; advisors can relate to students through an individualized approach to interaction. Advisors spend much of their time working with students one-on-one, and in order to relate to students, advisors require the time and space to accommodate the individual through tone, delivery, medium, and substance. If advisors can relate to our students and create a rapport, then advisors are more likely to gain their trust and be able to help them succeed. Operating in a system of unclear technologies acknowledges the need to adapt to varying situations in order to be effective.

Beyond the conflicting goals and differing personalities which impact the style and content of advising, the third property of an organized anarchy reflects another actuality of academic advising: fluid participation. “Participants vary in the amount of time and effort they devote to different domains; involvement varies from one time to another” (Cohen et al., 1972). Manning (2018) describes it as a characteristic which “introduces dynamism, unpredictability, and complexity into higher educational organizational structures.” Students are generally on campus for four to six years, faculty members are often on campus for a decade or more, staff positions are sometimes held by long-term employees while others face frequent turn over, and administrative roles often change after several years. This means that members of the university community are constantly changing, and thus the goals and history of the university community are in a constant state of dynamic development. Even during the four to six years that a student is on campus, their engagement with an advisor changes throughout that time. They require more direction about resources and procedures in their early years, and the advising becomes more specific as time goes on. Some students get more involved with an advisor as they progress in their degree, while some students may transition to a faculty member for guidance. Life changes including health, family, housing, and finances can change a student’s participation in the university community, and advisors must be ready to adapt to that change.

Therefore, with the variable nature of each student, their circumstances and college/university circumstances, an organizational structure that promotes agility and autonomy is advantageous for professional advisors. Organizational anarchies provide the autonomy, flexibility, and opportunities to exercise professional discretion that will guide students through a developmental and transformational advising experience and best respond to issues as they arise. Entrusting academic advisors with the opportunity to utilize professional judgement and implement their best practices to meet the needs of their students is emblematic of organizational anarchies and is an appropriate organizational structure for serving the needs of their students.

Douglas Vardeman
Academic Advisor III
College of Arts and Sciences
The University of Texas at Tyler
[email protected]

Laura Grace Dykes
Academic Advisor I
College of Arts and Sciences
The University of Texas at Tyler
[email protected]  


Cohen, M. D., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1972). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1), 1–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/2392088

Costa, S. D., Páez, D., Sánchez, F., Gondim, S., & Rodríguez, M. (2014). Factors favoring innovation inorganizations: An integration of meta-analyses. Revista De Psicología Del Trabajo Y De LasOrganizaciones, 30(2), 67–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rpto.2014.06.006

Manning, K. (2018). Organizational theory in higher education. Routledge; Taylor & Francis.

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A Year Long Journey of Restructuring an Online Academic Advsiing Program

Dawn Coder, The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus

Dawn Coder.jpgA continuous, single digit increase in enrollments; workload issues; and a student information system (SIS) change provided an opportunity to conduct a review of the current academic advising program for online learners. The previous academic advising program model required academic advisors to assist assigned as well as non-assigned students from matriculation to graduation and during times when a student is academically unsuccessful. The restructure of an academic advising program included three areas of focus: a review of like-online institutions, process mapping by a business analyst, and subject-matter expertise from current leadership and academic advisors. 

One-on-one discussions with like institutions which offer online programming gave insights into current advising structures. An inquiry was sent through the NACADA Advising Administration Community listserv with a request to discuss current academic advising structures, centralized  and de-centralized. Several NACADA listserv members were available to meet and review current practices. A review of Marsha Miller’s (2004) article “Factors to consider when (re)structuring academic advising” provided targeted questions to ask during these meetings, as well as current needs of the advising program. The relevant questions included:

  • How many students do you have attending completely online and pursuing a degree?
  • How many online degrees do you offer?
  • What is your structure for academic advising?

In the discussion, other questions became important to understand including transfer credit evaluation, at-risk student processes, and the adult learner population. The collective information as well as the pros and cons of restructuring provided insight to the leadership team and informed the strategic planning of the current program. 

The implementation of a new student information system (SIS), resulted in academic advisors experiencing and adapting to new manual job responsibilities. In this experience, many of the expectations of academic advisors changed, and new ways of completing work while staying student-centered allowed for opportunities in process change. Through business process mapping, a business analyst diagramed current processes and the time spent in non-advising areas, such as answering a general advising line. From this data, leadership used relevant data to make decisions of how to restructure the academic advising program to exclude non-advising responsibilities. One clear example identified was the need for a new staff position to answer the general advising phone line and general email account. The academic advisors answered the phone line eight hours per week and the general email account one day per month. An equivalent of five days per month spent assisting with general questions which took away time spent with assigned students.

As mentioned, a business analyst reviewed all academic advisor processes from the time that an admit matriculated through graduation. The review found academic advisor responsibilities included approximately 55 different processes with a grouped area related to non-advising tasks. Yes, 55! Each identified process fell into one of three categories: manual/transactional, general academic advising, or specialized services. Although all three research areas were very important, identifying these categories was the most informative when deciding how to restructure.

The previous academic advising program did not provide capacity for academic advisors to be proactive, to build positive relationships, or to provide timely or high-quality services to online students, as is expected. The implementation of a Tier-Level Model is proving to meet these expectations. In this model, there are four tiers. In Figure 1 below, the first three tiers created were informed by the three categories from process mapping.

Figure 1

A Tier-Level Model for Advising

Tier graphic.jpg

Tier one is responsible for all manual/transactional tasks. An office assistant’s (tier one) responsibilities include answering a general phone line, answering the general email account, scheduling appointments for academic advisors, welcoming new and re-enrolled students, and many other general/manual tasks. All tasks were originally required by an academic advisor and included in the 55 plus processes!

Tier two includes all general academic advising responsibilities. Academic advisors (tier two) assist students to schedule; educate students on how to navigate a complex university; and build positive relationships to provide more timely, higher quality, and more in-depth services. In the tier level model, academic advisors are more attentive to new students and provide timely responses. A concern for this tier is that academic advisors will have a higher roster of assigned students due to the specialized nature of tier three.

Tier three is in the category of specialized services with a focus on working closely with students who are academically at-risk of dismissal. This role, academic advisor & liaison, specializes in working with students who are on academic warning or suspension, students who are struggling in a class (early alert), and students who need additional counseling to become motivated toward success. The assumption is that this level will contribute to higher retention and persistence rates. Additionally, this position is the liaison to external units, contributing to building positive relationships and tracking all academic requirements of curricular changes within each program of study. This tier is considered a leadership role and will allow for promotion and the development of a career ladder within this academic advising program.

Tier four is a leadership role responsible for the supervision of academic advisors and assisting the director with strategic planning for the academic advising program. Assistant directors complete upper-level leadership tasks as well as manage the responsibility for tasks in each of the tiers. The philosophy in this academic advising program is for leadership to advocate for all levels and, in order to do so, they need to intimately understand the work of each tier.

Evaluating changes and making slight adjustments early in a program restructure is important when identifying if the changes are meeting goals. Kraft-Terry and Kau (2016) state, “When considering the variety in types of data available, it is important to select the data that is most appropriate to evaluate for the proposed change or area of interest.” Three goals for the restructure of the tier level advising program are: increased staff capacity, increased proactivity in student contacts, and higher quality services for students.

For the past year and a half, results for all three areas of evaluation have shown success. Every member of the tier levels is required to track time as an evaluative method in increasing staff capacity. Staff surveys are distributed every six months focusing on qualitative data. Changed processes are reviewed after each completion time with minor tweaks based on lessons learned. A great success shown is student response times. Under the old model, it would take up to five business days to respond to a student, sometimes longer during busy times. Now, advisors respond within two to three business days, less during non-busy times. A great improvement!

The findings of the evaluation are:

  • tier two and three academic advisors spend less time on manual tasks and more time on proactive and intensive academic advising conversations;
  • overall satisfaction from the survey results shows academic advisors are supportive of the restructure; and
  • fluidity in changing new processes allows for improvements after each process is complete.

One example of fluidity in a new process is the implementation of a schedule change report. Academic advisors check student schedule changes one week from the start of the semester and during the first week of the semester. It is a proactive process that allows academic advisors to catch any scheduling errors a student makes. The first time the process was complete, it was the responsibility of tier three to check all students in degree programs of expertise. This was not as efficient as expected, because tier three members are not the assigned academic advisor: a student was hearing from a non-assigned academic advisor causing confusion. The responsibility changed to the assigned academic advisor checking when a student adds or drops a course during this time. It is more efficient, maintains positive relationships with advisor and student, and it supports persistence to degree.  

Implementation considers questions such as what must be done and who should be involved (Miller, 2004); it will create a culture of collaboration and clear expectations. The ability to plan continuously, make changes quickly, and update all resources, such as process maps, is necessary and extremely valuable as this new academic advising program becomes the new norm. Documenting expectations, best practices, and assessment is also integral in restructuring. Pardee (2004) states “Ultimately, the determining factor in the success of any model is whether there is a good fit between the model and the institution, faculty, students and other variables.” Tier model online academic advising program—a better fit? For this online institution, yes!

Dawn Coder, M.Ed.
Director of Academic Advising and Student Disability Services
The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
[email protected]


Kraft-Terry, S. & Kau, C. (2016). Manageable steps to implementing data-informed advising. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Manageable-Steps-to-Implementing-Data-Informed-Advising.aspx

Miller, M. A. (2004). Factors to consider when (re)structuring academic advising. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/-Re-Structuring-academic-advising.aspx

Pardee, C. F. (2004). Organizational structures for advising. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. 

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The Advisor Hub: Using an LMS to Curate Best Practices, Promote Crowdsourcing, and Seed a Culture of Excellence

Leora Waldner, Lane Boyte-Eckis, Hal Fulmer, Troy University

Leora Waldner.jpgStrong academic advising leads to greater engagement by students, higher levels of retention, student successes, and higher graduation rates (Ohrablo, 2017; Smith, 2018). Given the critically important role of good advising, how can universities create an advising platform where advisors can readily share their best practices and access resources? Lane Boyte-Eckis.jpg

One potential solution involves an Advisor Hub. At Troy University, an innovation team deployed a learning management system (LMS) as an Advisor Hub to engage advisors system-wide, curate best practices, facilitate discussions, and allow advisors to crowd-source advising solutions. Troy University is a public state university in Hal Fulmer.jpgAlabama that employes a decentralized strategy wherein both faculty advisors and professional staff advisors advise students.  All primary role and faculty advisors are enrolled in the hub (students are not enrolled). 

Though the Advisor Hub uses an LMS course shell, it is not a course. A focus group of advisors vehemently rejected the notion of a sequential advising course focused on theories of advising. Rather, they wanted a highly utilitarian, one-stop-shop for advising resources and a way to seek advising assistance from their peers.

Features of the Advisor Hub

Waldner F1.jpg







Figure 1
Advisor Hub Home Page


The Advisor Hub is a Canvas organization where all Troy University advisors can easily access forms, resources, and training to help us thrive as advisors. Built by over 50 primary-role and faculty advisors system-wide, the hub represents a partnership between academic advisors, I.T., and the Centers for Student Success.

This one-stop-shop features easy access to forms and policies; tutorials on registration; tips on advising special populations such as military students; areas to share and discuss advising strategies; information on financial aid and counseling; and quizzes so that new and seasoned advisors can test their advising prowess if desired. A two-minute video orientation provides a guided tour of the hub for new users. Because the hub is an LMS, the announcement feature allows organizers to quickly and effectively disseminate information about advising changes to all advisors at the click of one button.

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Figure 2
Advising Special Populations Menu


Utilizing a simple table design, the Advisor Hub resembles a user-friendly website rather than the module-based design typically utilized in courses. This table-based design ensures that the hub is visually appealing and more accessible to primary role advisors that may not be as familiar with traditional LMS systems.

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Figure 3
Get Advising Help Menu


Developing the Advisor Hub

Universities frequently leverage technology to enhance advising and advisor training (Junco, 2010; Miller & Calchera, 2019), including using an LMS in a flipped advising model to supplement face-to-face advising (University of Florida, 2019) or developing advisor training courses using an LMS (Coder et al., 2019). However, focus groups of current advisors within the university suggested that our advisors did not want a training course—they wanted a very practical hub that would feature on-demand advising resources and allow crowdsourcing of solutions to commonly faced advising problems. Recent initiatives at Humboldt State University suggest that crowdsourcing can be an effective way to cull and share best practices among advisors (Boschma, 2016).  

Two focus groups formed to guide the content and design of the hub.  A traditional focus group was held face-to-face at the Troy campus in Alabama, while a second focus group was held online through videoconferencing in order to reach stakeholders throughout the system at Troy University’s multiple campuses across the globe. Each focus group combined primary role and faculty advisors.

Employing backwards-design principles (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011), the focus groups specified their desired content in detail—for example, what is the role of faculty advisors versus primary role advisors? What are the best tips for advising at-risk students? What do advisors need to know about financial aid? What effective strategies and technologies exist for holding virtual office hours with online students? What tips would the university’s most experienced advisors share about academic regulations and policies, such as drops and withdrawals? For each section, the developers curated tips from experts throughout the university and incorporated a mechanism on each page in the hub where advisors could share their own best practices.

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Figure 4
Financial Aid Page


After the hub launched, the innovation team discussed how to provide ongoing support and maintenance for the hub and how to integrate the hub into the organizational structure of the university to ensure sustainability. The decision was made to house the hub in the Associate Provost and Dean of First-Year Students Office, due to their focus on student success through excellence in advisement.

Benefits and Challenges of the Hub

The Advisor Hub consolidates resources for advisors in one place, thus eliminating the need to search through numerous internal websites. The hub also provides an effective mechanism to push out advising resources and policy changes through the LMS announcement function. Moreover, the Advisor Hub serves as an effective training platform for new faculty. In some academic units, new faculty are required to review the Advisor Hub and complete the basic or advanced advisor quiz to demonstrate proficiency. Upon successful completion of the quiz, the hub automatically generates a certificate of completion for advisors to include in their supervisory reviews. The LMS allows administrators to easily track the completion of the quizzes and even track overall utilization of the hub systemwide. Access reports indicate that there were over 6,000 unique pageviews during the first year of the hub. 

All advisors are enrolled in the hub, and many frequently consult the hub for tips, processes, and forms.  However, some advisors have never visited the hub, as engagement with the hub is voluntary rather than mandatory. The process of incentivizing faculty to review the hub can be challenging. However, as the hub provides advisors a one-stop-shop to obtain information, it maximizes efficiency for those that use it.

Other challenges include keeping enrollments current (adding newly hired advisors), updating the links, and structuring the long-term implementation of the hub.  To utilize the full capabilities of the Hub, future initiatives will focus on facilitating robust discussions in the hub’s discussion boards, and stimulating ongoing crowd-sourced tips from the advisors. With those enhancements, the hub has the potential to genuinely seed a culture of advising excellence throughout the university.

Leora Waldner
Associate Dean for Strategic Innovation
College of Arts & Sciences
Troy University
[email protected]

Lane Boyte-Eckis
Associate Professor of Economics
Sorrell College of Business
Troy University
[email protected]

Hal Fulmer
Associate Provost & Dean
First Year Studies
Troy University
[email protected]


Boschma, J. (2016, February 2). How should colleges share ideas? The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/can-crowdsourcing-fix-academia/459561/

Coder, D., Glover, J., & Musser, T. (2019, September). An online course for faculty advisors: Promoting excellence in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 42(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/An-Online-Course-for-Faculty-Advisors-Promoting-Excellence-in-Academic-Advising.aspx

Junco, R., (2010, September). Using emerging technologies to engage students and enhance their success. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Using-Emerging-Technologies-to-Engage-Students-and-Enhance-Their-Success.aspx

Miller, R. D., III, & Calchera, H. (2019, September). A fresh approach to advising through innovative technology. Academic Advising Today, 42(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/A-Fresh-Approach-to-Advising-Through-Innovative-Technology.aspx

Ohrablo, S. (2017, February 6). The role of proactive advising in student success and retention. The EvoLLLutionhttps://evolllution.com/attracting-students/retention/the-role-of-proactive-advising-in-student-success-and-retention./

Smith, A. (2018). Advising equals engaged students. Inside HigherEd. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/13/proactive-advising-leads-retention-and-graduation-gains-colleges

University of Florida Center for Instructional Technology & Training. (2019, November 25). Flipped advising. http://citt.ufl.edu/showcase/flipped-hybrid/flipped-advising/

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2011). The understanding by design guide to creating high quality units. ASCD.

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Understanding Chinese Students' Learning Behaviors from a Cultural Perspective

Wuriyeti (Harriet WU), Tsinghua University

Wuriyeti.jpgAdvising Chinese students is a hot topic in many western countries, and NACADA even published a book, Advising International Chinese Students: Issues, Strategies, and Practices, to discuss their characteristics and the challenges they are facing. According to statistics released by the Ministry of Education (2020), the number of Chinese students studying abroad in 2018 reached 662,100, exhibiting an increase of 8.83% compared to 2017. New Oriental Education and Technology Group, an official study abroad consulting company, revealed that the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia remain first, second, and third choices for overseas study destinations. The number will certainly maintain considerable growth in the future, and students who choose to  study overseas  are getting younger. What kinds of learning behaviors do Chinese students have? Why are these learning behaviors so different from students in western countries? These are overwhelming challenges that academic advisors face when helping Chinese students.

Learning behaviors refer to a series of actions or ways people take when they study or learn; various factors (e.g. biological, psychological, social) can affect people’s learning behaviors (Pop, 2019). Specifically, cultural factors may have a significant effect on learning behaviors, because individuals tend to behave differently in different cultures. Therefore, a study on learning behaviors should pay attention to their cultural backgrounds. The following section discusses three learning behaviors of Chinese students and analyzes cultural foundations behind them to provide academic advisors with a new perspective and help them understand Chinese students better.

Behavior 1: Passive and Silent Learners

Some westerners stereotype Chinese students as passive and silent learners. Chinese students seldom ask or answer questions in class. They respect teachers and never challenge teachers. Many westerners believe that Chinese students expect to find answers from their teachers. They remain silent even when teachers let them speak their minds freely. However, an understanding of cultural factors helps us to identify and address the limitations of such a stereotype.

In a country shaped by Confucianism for thousands of years, maintaining balance and remaining in harmony is the most important rule everyone should follow. The tradition of honoring and respecting the teacher is a close second. Due to education’s significant role in China’s history—particularly as a tool that served the ruling class—the tradition of honoring and respecting the teacher still influences society. As the old saying goes: “Once you are his teacher, you are his father for your life.”

Additionally, China’s historically exam-oriented methods are rooted in traditional views of education. Most Chinese people believe in the famous saying: read a book a hundred times and you will see its meaning. Therefore, memorization continues to be the primary learning strategy in China. Consequently, Chinese students are good at rote learning and could memorize very detailed information such as dates, numbers, or names. These cultural factors can help explain why some Chinese are silent and shy in the classroom.

Contrary to western stereotypes, most Chinese students are very likely to ask questions or even share their opinions after class. An encouraging sign of culturally informed pedagogy and support would be for professors, or teachers, to stay in the classroom for a while when the class ends and show students that you are ready to answer questions.

Behavior 2: Lack of Critical Thinking

Another typical impression of Chinese students is that they are concerned more about test scores than about the knowledge itself. They like standard answers and are not good at thinking independently. They feel awkward and uncomfortable when somebody disagrees with them and expresses different ideas in public. They are not good critical thinkers.

Cultural explanations behind it could be summarized by two aspects of the culture. First, Chinese traditional culture values induction and entirety more than deduction and analysis. In ancient China, scholars and thinkers usually paid attention to results or conclusions, not demonstrations or proofs. The whole society ignored the importance of thinking. Second, most Chinese people learned to be moderate, humble, and obedient during childhood. It supports the core element of Chinese traditional culture: harmony and the maintenance of balance. To keep balance, people should try to avoid extremes and hold a moderate attitude.

To help Chinese students improve their critical thinking ability, educators should take the responsibility to teach them independent thinking skills and encourage them to explore the truth. During group discussions or debates, which most Chinese students are not keen to, it is important to create a harmonious atmosphere where they feel comfortable to share and talk. Giving every student a chance to express their thoughts is also very helpful.

Behavior 3: Relatively Weak Awareness of Rules

Western educators may also believe that most Chinese students do not care about school regulations or about their rights as students. They may not think deadlines are a big issue, believing that there is still room for change even when the deadline arrives. This may lead to plagiarism or cheating in exams. According to the Center for China & Globalization (CCG) in 2017, 32.57% of Chinese students were expelled from school because of academic dishonesty, up 8.01% from the previous year.

Historically, China was governed by ethical relations, not rules. In ancient China, people had to abide by the social norms of “ruler guides the ruled, father guides son, and husband guides wife.” Personal relations were more important than rules or laws in a society built on networks. Furthermore, Chinese culture emphasized status and rank, which led people to respect official status and power and show awe to authority but ignore ordinary people and rules or responsibilities. Privilege resulted from these social norms, and those with it were allowed to break the rules. Gradually, Chinese people became increasingly indifferent to rules, sometimes not even aware that they were breaking them.

Professors and advisors should keep in mind that Chinese students are not deliberately committing plagiarism or cheating. They just simply do not realize it is wrong. It takes time for students to understand that some common practices or behaviors in China may cause big problems overseas. Professors and advisors would do well to explain the basic codes of conduct and western academic rules to Chinese students before they arrive on campus. Academic officers should regularly emphasize the importance of academic honesty and harsh consequences if students break the rules.


Finishing college is not easy, and you can imagine how difficult it is to complete the study taught in a different language. Chinese students’ learning behaviors influenced by Chinese traditional culture are quite different from western students and sometimes cause troubles and misunderstanding. Educators in western countries can help Chinese students think deeply behind their behaviors by understanding their common learning behaviors and giving them more understanding and respect instead of labeling them. Every advisor is responsible for sharing the academic morality of their university with Chinese students, teaching the effective learning strategies to them, and giving them academic and emotional support.

Wuriyeti (Harriet WU), MA
Academic Advisor/International Student Program Coordinator
The Center for Student Learning and Development
Tsinghua University
Beijing, China
[email protected]


Center for China & Globalization. (2017). Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad. Social Science Academic Press (China): Beijing

Chuah, S. (2010) Teaching East-Asian Students: Some Observations. Retrieved from https://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/showcase/chuah_international

Galinova, E. V., & Giannetti, I. (2014). Advising international Chinese students: issues, strategies, and practices. Manhattan, KS: NACADA

Gu, M. (2014). Cultural foundations of Chinese education. Leiden: Brill.

Huang, J., & Alexander, C.P.  (2009). Are Chinese Students Really Quiet, Passive and Surface Learners? – A Cultural Studies Perspective. The Canadian and International Education Journal, 38(2), 75-88

Jiang, P. (2004). The Influence of Culture on Learning Style in China. Journal of Xinzhou Teachers University, 20(1), 98-101

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China 中华人民共和国教育部. (2020, January 9). 2018 niandu woguo chuguo liuxue renyuan qingkuang tongji [Statistics of Chinese students studying overseas in 2018]. http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_xwfb/gzdt_gzdt/s5987/201903/t20190327_375704.html

New Oriental Education and Technology Group (2019) Reports on Chinese Students’ Overseas Study. https://liuxue.xdf.cn/chengdu/hdzqx/cdhd_my/1602760.html  

Pop, A. (2019). Psychological and biological factors influencing your study results. Studyportals. https://www.distancelearningportal.com/articles/262/psychological-and-biological-factors-influencing-your-study-results.html

Sit, H.H.W. (2013). Characteristics of Chinese Students’ Learning Styles. International Proceedings of Economics Development and Research, 62(8), 36-39

Wang, Y. (2010). Young Chinese Students’ Teamwork Experiences in a UK Business School from a Cultural Perspective. Ph.D Thesis: University of Westminster

Zhou, J.H. (2012). Cong wenhua weidu toushi gaoxiao xuesheng tuandui hezuo wenti de chengyin [Exploration on the causes of teamwork problems from culture dimensions]. Journal of Yuzhang Normal University, 27(8), 59-60

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Engaging Gen Zers Through Academic Advising

Rich Robbins, Bucknell University

Rich Robbins.jpgIn 2019, several NACADA regional conferences as well as the annual conference included sessions on working with millennial students. However, the time has come to shift academic advising practices from a Millennial framework to a Generation Z (Gen Z) approach. Millennials have moved on from higher education and Gen Zers, described by The Pew Research Center as those born between 1995 and 2015 (Dimock, 2019) are today’s traditional-aged college students. There are nearly 74 million Gen Zers in the U.S., with the average 18-year-old first-year student born in 2001.

This is not another article about advising digital natives. Millennials are, and every generation thereafter will be, digital natives. This article presumes such and focuses on specific characteristics of Gen Zers as a completely separate and distinct generation from Millennials. As Seemiller and Grace (2016) point out, “research shows that while Generation Z shares some characteristics with Millennials, it is a vastly different generational cohort.”

The bulk of the Gen Z literature focuses on how to market to Gen Zers (cf., Kleinschmit, 2019). Extrapolating from that information, combined with the few articles on Gen Zers and education, observations and suggestions regarding promising strategies to engage these students through academic advising are offered here. It is important to remember that, as McDowell (2016, para. 10) stated, “Gen Z members face the same life challenges as previous generations, but in a super-connected and rapid-moving technological age.”

Gen Zers and Technology

Gen Zers have never known a world without the internet or smartphones (McDowell, 2016). As a result, they have quick access to more information than any other generation at their age (Seemiller & Grace, 2016) with little separation of work, study, and leisure or public versus private. This is especially true for teenagers who are reportedly connected to social media or the internet nearly every waking hour (McDowell, 2016).

Due to this fondness for and reliance on technology, Gen Zers tend to perceive information visually, have short attention spans (Robertson, 2018 suggests an average of eight seconds), and are less focused than previous generations—including Millennials! Multitasking is a primary trait, and they have the abilities to process and absorb lots of information within seconds (Robertson, 2018).

Personality Characteristics

Gen Zers are very individualistic and are accustomed to having things personalized for them (Fisher, 2016). They are independent and confident and do not rely on their parents to the degree that preceding generations did. Gen Zers have different cultural experiences of family compared to past generations, such as same-sex households, three-parent families, and couples choosing not to have children (McDowell, 2016). They have grown up in ethnically and racially diverse environments (McDowell, 2016) and are the last generation whose majority members will be white. With social justice issues being prominent in their lifetimes, they are very environmentally and socially aware (Robertson, 2018) and firmly feel they have the power to change the world (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). They prefer community engagement opportunities that make a lasting impact on an underlying societal problem over short-term volunteer experiences that only address the symptoms or effects of an issue (Seemiller & Grace, 2016).

Higher Education Considerations

A 2018 study by Barnes & Noble College showed that today’s Gen Z college students expect to be fully engaged in the classroom. Lectures are no longer the accepted norm as they thrive within a collaborative learning environment in which theories and concepts have broad applications beyond classroom exercises and for which they can be hands-on and directly involved in the learning process (Kozinsky, 2017). These students prefer practical learning opportunities that can immediately apply to their lives (Seemiller & Grace, 2016).

Robertson’s (2018) research showed that 44% of teens use computers to do their homework, with 48% viewing videos related to their academics. Gen Zers prefer being connected with their teachers and peers on social media sites when studying, with 50% to 76% reporting that they use social media and/or listen to music and send text messages or watch TV while doing their homework. The majority (55%) conveyed that such multitasking while completing homework did not negatively affect their productivity; many reported that it actually improved their productivity. Due to the individualized nature of technology, Gen Zers are very comfortable with independent learning (Seemiller & Grace, 2016) such that they regard instructors and peers as resources, preferring to work with others on their own terms. They expect on-demand services with low barriers to access and are more career-focused earlier in their college careers than past generations (Kozinsky, 2017).

Today’s campuses are the most ethnically, racially, economically, politically, religiously, and sexually diverse ever. This diversity enriches Gen Z students’ experiences while simultaneously creating new challenges (Mintz, 2019). These students are more likely to know someone from a different socioeconomic background as well as others who use gender-neutral pronouns, and there are more students than ever before with uneven degrees of academic preparation. Such diversity inevitably leads to todays’ students experiencing differences in attitudes, behaviors, and self-presentation styles (Mintz, 2019).

Mental Health Issues

Anxiety and depression are the main concerns reported by many members of Gen Z (Mintz, 2019). According to Schrobsdorff (2016), approximately three million adolescents aged 12–17 years and across all demographics have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Anderssen (2016) reported that over two-thirds of Gen Zers feel overwhelmed by all they have to do every week, and a growing proportion of this generation’s students experience economic stress (Mintz, 2019). Gen Zers grew up post 9/11, witnessing and sometimes even experiencing economic collapse, public shootings, and violence and terrorism both domestic and abroad. Their use of technology offers intimate details of these types of events, promoting anxiety in many students (Seemiller & Grace, 2016).

It remains unclear whether there is an increase of mental health and emotional problems among Gen Zers, as it may be that this generation is more secure with the language of mental health and more willing to acknowledge such experiences and request help. What this does mean is that higher education faculty and staff are more likely to encounter students willing to admit to and discuss such matters.

Academic Advising to Engage Gen Z Students

Seemiller and Grace (2016) identified four ways that campuses can engage Gen Z students. These include (1) the increased use of technology (especially video-based learning) in-and-out of the classroom, (2) the incorporation of intrapersonal learning into class work and group work, (3) the inclusion of community engagement opportunities in the curriculum, and (4) connecting students to practical learning experiences starting earlier in a student’s college career. The first way includes suggestions for any digital native students and is therefore not exclusive to Gen Z students. These include, for example, social networks, learning management systems, and online modules as part of academic advising to provide information to students. Group texts, Facebook groups, even Instagram accounts are options as well. Such applied learning techniques incorporated into the academic advising interaction can foster student learning resulting from advising.

The second suggestion of incorporating intrapersonal learning into academic advising relates specifically to Gen Zers. Due to their experiences with increased diversity, social awareness and social justice issues, environmental concerns, and civic engagement, advisors must be prepared for highly controversial topics to emerge in the advising interactions. Appropriate academic advisor training and development is necessary to ensure that advisors are prepared and able to manage such situations. The emphasis on college as a means to obtain a desired career, combined with the related issue of students and their families concerned about the cost of college and resulting student debt (Mintz, 2019), further means that academic advisors must be able to provide meaningful connections across multiple courses and disciplines regarding students’ academic and career goals (Egan, 2015).

To meet the third and fourth recommendations by Seemiller and Grace (2016), beyond knowledge of available support services, academic advisors need to know the applied learning and community engagement opportunities for students both in individual courses and across the institution. This includes opportunities for the incoming first-year student to the graduating senior. As Robbins (2014) suggested, it has never been more imperative for academic advisors to discuss and promote the benefits of integrative liberal learning to their students.

Finally, given the mental health issues reported by many members of Gen Z students and the fact that academic advisors are often the first persons on campus to whom a student may express such an issue (Robbins, 2012), academic advisors must know when to refer to mental health experts. For example, the Achieving the Dream (2018) program’s processes include comprehensive academic advising as just one component of holistic student support. An integration of intentional supports is necessary, and while developmental advising skills of empathy, listening, and caring are good, Kuhn et al. (2006) discussed when it is appropriate for advisors to refer students to counseling services.


Several points discussed here are not new recommendations, as others have previously suggested increased technology for academic advising (e.g., Esposito et al., 2011; Leonard 2008; Pasquini, 2011; Steele, 2014), and there are numerous articles regarding academic advising and student mental health issues (e.g., Kuhn et al., 2006; Robbins, 2012). What is new is the recognition of today’s Gen Z students being technologically connected most of their waking hours, having short attention spans, and possessing expertise at multitasking. They come from very diverse backgrounds, hold strong social justice attitudes, and report high levels of anxiety and depression. Their characteristics, behaviors, experiences, expectations, and learning preferences are different from the Millennial generation, and academic advising processes need to adapt to their optimal learning conditions while addressing the issues meaningful to them beyond the academic curriculum.

Rich Robbins
Associate Dean
College of Arts and Sciences
Bucknell University
[email protected]


Achieving the Dream. (2018). Holistic student supports redesign: A toolkit.

https://www.achievingthedream.org/resource/17502/holistic-student-supports- rel=”noopener” target="_blank"redesign-a-toolkit

Anderssen, E. (2016, June 24). Through the eyes of Generation Z. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/through-the-eyes-of-generation-z/article30571914/

Barnes & Noble College. (2018). Getting to know Gen Z: Exploring middle and high schoolers’ expectations for higher education. https://www.bncollege.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Gen-Z-Report.pdf

Dimock, M. (2019, January 17). Defining generations: Where Millenials end and Generation Z begins. Pew Research Center Factank. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/

Egan, K. (2015). Academic advising in individualized major programs: Promoting the three i's of general education. The Journal of General Education, 64(2), 75–89. https://doi.org/10.5325/jgeneeduc.64.2.0075

Esposito, A., Pasquini, L., Stoller, E., & Steele, G. (2011). The world of tomorrow: Technology and advising. In J. Joslin & N. Markee (Eds.), NACADA monograph #22: Academic advising administration: Essential knowledge and skills for the 21st century (pp xx–xx). NACADA.

Fisher, A. (2016, August 14). Forget Millennials. Are you ready to hire Generation Z? Fortune.com. https://fortune.com/2016/08/14/generation-z-employers/

Kleinschmit, M. (2019, October 7). Generation Z characteristics: 5 infographics on the Gen Z lifestyle. https://www.visioncritical.com/blog/generation-z-infographics

Kozinsky, S. (2017, July 24). How Generation Z is shaping the change in education. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sievakozinsky/2017/07/24/how-generation-z-is-shaping-the-change-in-education/#6357f8036520

Kuhn, T., Gordon, V., & Webber, J. (2006). The advising and counseling continuum: Triggers for referral. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 24–31. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-26.1.24

Leonard, M. J. (2008). Advising delivery: Using technology. In V. Gordon, W. Habley, & T. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp xx–xx). Jossey-Bass.

McDowell, S. (2016). 9 important insights about Generation Z. https://www.josh.org/9-important-insights-generation-z/?mwm_id=304943788053&mot=J79GNF&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyvWe0pPd5AIVBkTTCh0VxwXyEAAYASAAEgI9hPD_BwE

Mintz, S. (2019, March 18). Are colleges ready for Generation Z? Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-gamma/are-colleges-ready-generation-z

Pasquini, L. (2013, February 19). Implications for use of technology in academic advising. NACADA Clearinghouse. http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Implications-for-use-of-technology-in-advising-2011-National-Survey.aspx

Robbins, R. (2012). Everything you have always wanted to know about academic advising (well, almost…). Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 26, 216–226. https://doi.org/10.1080/87568225.2012.685855

Robbins, R. (2014). AAC&U’s integrative liberal learning and the CAS standards: Advising for a 21st century liberal education. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 26–31. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-14-017

Robertson, S. (2018, July 25). Generation Z characteristics & traits that explain the way they learn. https://info.jkcp.com/blog/generation-z-characteristics

Schrobsdorff, S. (2016, November 7). The kids are not all right. Time, 188(19), 44–51.

Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. Jossey-Bass.

Steele, G. (2014, March 29). Intentional use of technology for academic advising. NACADA Clearinghouse. http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Intentional-use-of-technology-for-academic-advising.aspx


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Empowering First-Generation Students Through Personal Experience and Intrusive Advising

Kelci Kosin, Ball State University

Kelci Kosin.jpgI remember sitting in the Office of Financial Aid each semester as an undergraduate student, facing financial decisions I had no guidance in making, and thinking “I shouldn’t be here.” Needless to say, these trips to the Office of Financial Aid always brought tears. I came from a single-parent, low-income situation with a perceived low chance of attaining my ambitious academic and personal goals of being an opera singer. I was the poster child for what it means to be a first-generation student. But, I made it. I asked questions, I struggled, I kept going, and three degrees later here I am. For years, I was embarrassed about my story and my struggles. Now, however, I believe that this is the story other first-generation students need to hear: that they are not alone.

In universities across the United States, academic advisors are witnessing a growing population of students that identify as first generation. Most likely from low-income, single-parent families, first-generation students might come to college with little to no information regarding what it means to pursue a degree in higher education or how to seek necessary resources in times of need. These students need validation that they belong in a university setting and that their degree is attainable. This support is especially crucial during moments in which the students are challenged academically and/or financially.

Due to these challenges, it is not surprising that only 11% of first-generation students earn a degree within six years of beginning a college degree (Bennett et al., 2018). I am proud to share that I am a part of this statistic. If you, the reader, are also a part of this community, I would like to say: “We did it!” Now, these stories should be shared with students. Even if someone does not identify as being a first-generation graduate, I believe that they also have a story to share and the ability to empower first-generation students. By sharing personal stories in advising, academic advisors can help to prevent these students from falling through the cracks or giving up.

I believe that advisors should not shy away from sharing the challenges they encountered in college. Students are always surprised and relieved to hear my personal and academic struggles. For example, I have had conversations with students about one of the many issues that first-generation college students face: food insecurity. A 2016 study on food insecurities amongst college students analyzed the responses of over 3,800 students from both community colleges and four-year institutions in twelve states. The study revealed that food insecurities were most prevalent among students that identified as being first-generation students; these students were unable to purchase course materials/textbooks, were more inclined to skip classes or withdraw from courses, and were more likely to drop out of school (Dedman, 2017). While pursuing my degrees, I maintained a full academic load while balancing full-time employment to support myself and, sometimes, my family. When I relocated to begin my graduate studies, I had little to no resources and found myself struggling greatly. At my worst, I only had enough money to purchase a large bag of pretzels and a box of granola bars in the hope that I could get by until financial aid reimbursements were distributed.

Students are always surprised by my willingness to share this particular challenging time in my life. It is a slightly painful memory of my journey, but that was the final straw that motivated me to seek help. Had I not asked, I might have given up. When I share this story, I urge students to seek help even when they aren’t sure who to turn to or what resources are available. If your student needs to hear an advisor’s struggle to feel safe enough to voice  their struggle, advisors might be able to prevent students from making the decision to leave school and, instead, lead them to available campus resources.

I am so proud of first-generation students, past and present. I take joy in sharing a story from my graduation ceremony this past summer that reminds me of the pride that comes along with first-generation success. I finished my Doctor of Arts degree, and as I was preparing for the ceremony, my long-time academic mentor and teacher said (with a smile full of pride and confidence), “You are going to take this the wrong way, but you shouldn’t be here.” I knew exactly what he meant by this. I beat the odds. I did it. Statistics would say I shouldn’t be here, but I was and I am. I want this for each of the first-generation students I advise.

I encourage advisors to share their stories—even the challenges, even the failures. If advisors are not sure how to share, or how it might be appropriate in the role of academic advisor, I suggest trying the Intrusive Advising Model. This advising model involves intentional contact with students with the goal of developing a caring and beneficial relationship that leads to increased academic motivation and persistence (Varney, 2007). Here are some things to consider when seeking to empower first-generation students:

  • Connect students with financial literacy programs.
  • Connect and share campus organizations with students to build a family/community.
  • Check in and let students know that they are valued. Discuss and map out their dreams for the future.
  • Remind students that they belong in a university setting. Positive affirmation is a must. Cheer them on as they pursue the seemingly impossible.
  • Remember to maintain boundaries with students, show genuine care, openness and honesty, but maintain professionalism at all times (Thomas & Minton, 2004).

Whether one is a first-generation student/graduate or not, all advisors have the power to lead first-generation students to academic success. These students need an advocate. They need someone to tell them that they belong and that they can achieve their goals with persistence and resilience. I invite all advisors to share their stories, be honest, and be proud of where they started and where they are today.

Kelci Kosin
Academic Advisor
School of Music
Ball State University
[email protected]


Bennett, C., Cataldi, E., & Chen, X. (2018, February) First-generation students college access, persistence, and postbachelor’s outcomes (Stats in Brief, NCES 2018-421). U.S. Department of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018421.pdf

Dedman, B. (2017, January/February). Facts & figures–food and housing insecurities disproportionately hurt black, first-generation, and community college students. AAC&U News. https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/facts-figures/jan-feb2017

Thomas, C. & Minton, J. (2004). Intrusive advisement: A model for success at John A. Logan College. Office of Community College Research and Leadership, 15(2), 10–12. https://occrl.illinois.edu/docs/librariesprovider4/news/update/spring-2004.pdf?sfvrsn=6ff8b389_10

Varney, J. (2007, September). Intrusive advising. Academic Advising Today, 30(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Intrusive-Advising.aspx

Posted in: 2020 June 43:2


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