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Voices of the Global Community


From the Executive Director: Finding New Dimensions

Melinda J. Anderson, NACADA Executive Director

Melinda Anderson.jpgWith a flip of the calendar, we find ourselves in June, the halfway point of the year. June ushers in the first official day of summer, sunshine and warmer days, summer vacations (hopefully) and a chance to exhale (another hopefully). Just as spring flowers disappear and summer fruits ripen, many campuses send their newest graduates into the world while welcoming students who are now preparing for their futures. It is this cycle of campus life—and the connections we build with incredible students—that inspires us to continually improve the student experience and provide the best support possible. 

It was wonderful to host our regional conferences in-person this spring, and we are so grateful to the more than 2,000 NACADA members who participated in these events. I want to again thank all of the Region conference committees, Region chairs and our executive office staff for their hard work and dedication to this tremendous experience. I was fortunate to attend all but one Region conference this year as I felt that it was important to engage with our members to learn firsthand what changes were occurring on their campuses and how our work was evolving since the pandemic. I was honored to serve as keynote for six of the regional conferences and thrilled to meet new colleagues at each of them. 

My first year in this position has been exciting, thrilling, exhausting, and full of surprises. I am growing as a leader, we are growing as an association, and our profession is ever-evolving. Together, we will lead the way to better support for our students and their success. I am discovering new dimensions of our profession, increasing my business acumen, and I have never been so sure about where my feet need to be in terms of serving our association and leaders right now. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising and our members are critical to student success and ultimately to the health of higher education institutions. Our leaders, the executive office, and I understand what needs to happen to ensure our growth, sustainability, and influence of our association to get us there.  

Our exceptional Summer Institutes will be hosted in Erie, Pennsylvania this year, and I am looking forward to connecting with colleagues and members in the engaging curriculum designed to support their needs on their respective campuses. We continue to look toward the annual conference—which will be here in a few flips of calendar pages—in Portland, Oregon where we will celebrate the incomparable Charlie L. Nutt, who has officially retired from the executive office after 20 years of service.

Melinda J. Anderson, Ed.D.
Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

Advising Gen Z: Using the RUC Helping Model to Enhance the Student-Advisor Relationship

Olivia Elliot, Texas A&M University

Olivia Elliot.jpgPractitioners of academic and student affairs are often the first professionals students approach to help them understand and navigate their academic, social, and personal concerns (Reynolds, 2009). Each generation of college students is different (Renn & Reason, 2021), and with this being the most diverse generation yet (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2018), higher education professionals must adapt to new ways of meeting their differing needs. Potentially the most impactful way practitioners can meet the needs of Gen Zers is by changing their approach to the student-advisor relationship because, as Gordon-Starks (2015) puts it, “academic advising is relationship building” (para. 1). With continuously growing caseloads and advisor burnout being more prevalent than ever (Mallar & McGill, 2021), the interactions between students and advisors seem to be more transactional and less personable.

As one of the NACADA Core Competency areas, the Relational component provides academic advisors skills to effectively conduct sessions with students (NACADA, 2017). Most are not trained as professional counselors, but advisors need to have well-developed interpersonal skills (Reynolds, 2009). The importance of the student-advisor relationship cannot be underestimated. Not only do these relationships contribute positively to college students’ retention and academic success, but they also have the potential to improve students’ overall college-going experience (Austin, 1977; Tinto, 1987; as cited in Reynolds, 2009).

The Relating-Understanding-Changing (RUC) Helping Model, designed by Nelson-Jones (2016), provides a framework emphasizing the importance of the relationship between the student and advisor. By breaking this model into three stages, advisors can ensure they nourish their relationship with the student while helping them achieve their goals. One should note that stages can overlap, and it may be necessary to move between stages (Nelson-Jones, 2016). Examining the values of Gen Z students and reviewing some of the critical counseling skills advisors can utilize during their student interactions will make this three-step model most effective.

Understanding Gen Z and the Importance of the Student-Advisor Relationship

The Pew Research Center concluded anybody born in 1997 and onward would be considered part of the post-Millennial generation (Dimock, 2019), also known as Gen Z. Gen Z and Millennials share a number of values (Renn & Reason, 2021), but Loveland (n.d.) expanded on the values of Gen Zers. For example, Gen Z appreciates real life experiences, highly values peers’ input, and is career-minded (Loveland, n.d). This generation is full of independent individuals accustomed to having things personalized for them (Fisher, 2016 as cited in Robbins, 2020). In addition, while still considered digital natives, Gen Zers desire traditional one-on-one communication (Loveland, n.d.).

Consider the number of advising interactions a student may have throughout their academic journey and where this all begins. The first interaction with an academic advisor is likely to set the stage for future interactions. In addition, the first time a student interacts with their academic advisor is likely to be at their orientation program. During this time, they learn about university and degree requirements and resources available to help them succeed. Typically, they will meet with their advisor to discuss course planning and build that initial connection.

Higgins (2017) suggested that developing effective advising relationships is the gateway to the student learning experience. Consider the first interaction you had with an advisor. What was your first impression? How would you describe your overall advising experience through your academic journey? Consider the ways your experiences shape your work and approach with students.

Relating-Understanding-Changing Helping Model

“We’ve all heard myriad rumors about advisors thwarting their students’ career progress or, at least, sitting passively on the sidelines without any support” as Eberle (2019) stated (para. 2). Using the RUC Helping Model, advisors can be seen as individuals who alleviate stress, promote academic achievement, and support students. The following breaks down each stage of the RUC Helping Model and discusses skills advisors may utilize.

Establishing Common Connections. First impressions count! Gibbons (2018) mentioned the first seven seconds are crucial as individuals form their impression of you and determine how trustworthy you seem. Seven seconds is not a lot of time to show somebody who you are. However, several simple skills will make you appear more approachable and establish you are trustworthy in seconds.

Your purpose in the Relating stage of the RUC Helping model is to establish a collaborative relationship (Reynolds, 2009). Primarily, you will be listening attentively and using appropriate non-verbal communication. Active listening and non-verbal communication go hand in hand. The way you react tells much more than words ever could. Pay attention to your posture: sit up straight, lean forward slightly, and make eye contact with the student. Use effective head nodding or facial expressions where appropriate. Paraphrasing or summarizing can also help you fully understand what the student is saying.

Feel free to self-disclose. Self-disclosure, when used effectively, can positively impact the student-advisor relationship. Disclosing information about yourself in relation to what the student is experiencing can provide a new perspective, normalize difficulties, eliminate the power dynamic, and even offer reassurance (Nelson-Jones, 2016). In addition, while not a skill, try making your office a space where students feel comfortable, safe, and can get to know a little about you. You can showcase your interests by hanging pictures, having knick-knacks from your favorite sports teams, or displaying items that describe your personality and values. Many of these skills will carry forward into the second and third stages of the RUC Helping Model, but they are potentially the most impactful in the first few minutes of meeting a student.

Deepening Your Understanding of the Meeting. Students approach advisors for various reasons, from course registration and academic difficulties to mental health concerns and more. Remember, every student has a different opportunity or challenge that requires an individualized approach to solve. Gen Zers are used to having things personalized for them, and the advising interaction should be no different.

Do not attempt to tackle the situation without additional information because “misunderstandings occur when assumptions are made” (Eberle, 2019 para. 7). To avoid misunderstanding and making assumptions, apply your active listening skills and take the time to fully understand what the student needs from you. The Understanding stage is also a great time to ask questions. Consider clarifying questions that help you gain a better understanding. You may also choose to ask questions that extract relevant information about the students' thought process, perception, and understanding of the rules (Nelson-Jones, 2016).

Asking questions seems simple. However, some techniques make this skill more effective. Keep the questions as open-ended as possible because students will provide longer, detailed responses with information you may need. Eliminate the use of why questions (Reynolds, 2009). Instead, utilize words like how or what.

Creating an Action Plan and Following Up. Not every student you meet with is going to have an issue that needs resolving but ending the meeting with a plan of action puts the responsibility back on the student to follow through, whether it be they came to you for advice, discussed courses for the upcoming semester, or shared a job they are interested in applying for. The Changing stage does not have to be as complex as it seems. Think of it as creating goals and taking action.

Reynolds (2009) emphasized collaboration with the student and the importance of not solving the problem for the student. Identifying goals the student has will help the two of you develop an effective action plan. For example, the student may have a goal of graduating in three and a half years. Knowing Gen Zers are career-minded, it may be wise to ask future-oriented questions as they “help students conceptualize goals and directions” (Parsons, 2004 as cited in Reynolds, 2009 p. 156). You may also advise the student to think about this choice, or since Gen Z values input from their peers, suggest the student consults them. Further, together you may brainstorm to create an exhaustive list of viable possibilities.

The Changing stage is another stage where the student-advisor relationship can be strengthened or broken. Emphasis is put on this stage because the meeting typically concludes and the follow through on the student side or the advisor side can fall through the cracks. In the past, it may have been enough to meet with a student and move on but following-up with a student is one way to carry the relationship forward. Follow-up can be in the form of another meeting, an email, or a quick phone call. It all depends on the situation and the action plan.


The RUC Helping Model is one of many frameworks focused on building the student-advisor relationship. As Gen Z continues enrolling, the RUC Helping Model proves useful for advisors new and old. “In every nook and cranny of college student life and experiences are opportunities for practitioners to assist students with decision making, problem solving, and self-exploration” (Reynolds, 2009, p. 244). Recall your experiences with advisors when you were a student and remember your reasoning for joining the profession. It is your turn to make sure students feel heard, appreciated, and helped.

Olivia Elliot
Associate Coordinator
New Student and Family Programs
Texas A&M University


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/

Eberle, S. K. (2019, October 7). Your advisor, your ally. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2019/10/07/how-build-good-relationship-your-adviser-opinion

Gibbons, S. (2018, June 19). You and your business have 7 seconds to make a first impression: Here’s how to succeed. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/serenitygibbons/2018/06/19/you-have-7-seconds-to-make-a-first-impression-heres-how-to-succeed/?sh=6de0ec1a56c2

Gordon-Starks, D. (2015, September). Academic advising is relationship building. Academic Advising Today, 38(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Academic-Advising-is-Relationship-Building.aspx

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

Loveland, E. (n.d.). Instant generation. National Association of College Admission Counselors. https://www.nacacnet.org/news--publications/journal-of-college-admission/instant-generation/

Maller, M., & McGill, C. M. (2021, September). Emotional labor and professional burnout: Advisor self-care in the age of COVID. Academic Advising Today, 44(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Emotional-Labor-and-Professional-Burnout-Advisor-Self-Care-in-the-Age-of-COVID.aspx

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

Nelson-Jones, R. (2016). Basic counseling skills: A helper’s manual (4th ed.). SAGE Publications Ltd.

Renn, K. A., & Reason, R. D. (2021). College students in the United States: Characteristics, experiences, and outcomes (2nd ed.). Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Reynolds, A. L. (2009). Helping college students: Developing essential support skills for student affairs practice. Jossey-Bass.

Robbins, R. (2020, June). Engaging gen zers through academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Engaging-Gen-Zers-Through-Academic-Advising.aspx

The Chronicle of Higher Education (2018). The new generation of students: How colleges can recruit, teach, and serve Gen Z. http://connect.chronicle.com/rs/931-EKA-218/images/NextGenStudents_ExecutiveSummary_v5%20_2019.pdf 

Supporting Community College Transfer Students at Four-Year Institutions

Editor’s Note: Readers who would like to learn more on this topic may be interested in NACADA’s eTutorial on Advising Transfer Students.

Anna Peace.jpgCommunity colleges are a vital component of four-year universities as nearly half of all students who completed a baccalaureate degree at a four-year institution in 2016 had been enrolled at a community college sometime in the previous 10 years (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2017). For many students, community colleges serve as their path to higher education access and social mobility as transfer students are more likely to be from low-income families and to be first-generation college students (Taylor & Jain, 2017; Wyner et al., 2016). With their low costs, open admissions policies, and convenient locations, community colleges provide pathways for historically underserved student populations (Cohen et al., 2014).

Transfer is a salient function of higher education. Although the majority of community college students intend to earn a baccalaureate degree or higher, an approximate 13% of those from the transfer-intending community college cohort earn a baccalaureate degree within six years (Shapiro et al., 2017). The significant disparity between students’ intentions and baccalaureate degree attainment points to issues within the transfer function.

Supporting transfer students must be a commitment across higher education. One means of prioritizing transfer students is fostering a “transfer receptive culture” (Jain et al., 2011, p. 253). Created with the lens of critical race theory, Jain et al.’s theoretical framework encourages a commitment by four-year universities to support transfer students from community college through graduation with a baccalaureate degree. Jain et al. detailed five elements to foster a transfer receptive culture: (a) establish transferring students as high priority, (b) create resources regarding transfer-specific needs, (c) provide financial and academic support, (d) recognize students’ unique experiences and intersectional identities, and (e) assess transfer programs and student outcomes frequently. Within the transfer receptive culture framework, there are a variety of actions four-year institution leaders should consider to reduce barriers, promote student success, and center equity.


Transfer-intending community college students experience difficulties in transferring to and moving through four-year institutions. Some of the most significant barriers include issues with advising, credit loss, financial aid, and stigma (Jain et al., 2011; Wang, 2020). The responsibilities to guide and support students rest on both transfer-sending and transfer-receiving institutions. It is critical that four-year academic advisors understand the barriers this population faces and how they can support students. Advisors are well-positioned to learn students’ needs, refer individuals to resources, and advocate for meaningful change. Within the transfer receptive culture frame, university leaders must pay special attention to academic advising, course articulation, campus partnerships, campus resources, and advocacy opportunities to address challenges faced by transfer students.

Academic Advising

In her book entitled On My Own: The Challenge and Promise of Building Equitable STEM Transfer Pathways, Wang (2020) shared the experiences of transfer students who felt left to their own devices in the transfer process. Students expect accurate information from their advisors regarding registration, graduation timelines, university policies, and expectations. Further, advising errors and omissions can result in wasted time and money for transfer students (Allen et al., 2014; Hodara et al., 2016). Some transfer students reported advisors were inaccessible; communicated inaccurate information about transfer processes; shared contradictory information; and merely provided website links to assist students (Wang, 2020). Students who self-advise risk missing critical requirements or resources, so advising must be relational, accurate, and accessible.

To begin, as one of the first individuals with whom a transfer student meets, advisors must actively listen to learn about students. Transfer students report feeling they must retell their educational history and goals upon every meeting with an advisor or professor (Allen et al., 2014). It is important to keep detailed information about students so they feel welcome, heard, and valued. Next, four-year university advisors should encourage students to choose their major early (Wyner et al., 2016). When students choose their major prior to transferring, they start their first term in coursework for their degree, which results in quicker graduation pathways. Last, academic advisors should immerse themselves in the policies, practices, and procedures within the university and academic departments. Students rely on advisors to help them navigate higher education’s complex systems (Allen et al., 2014). Academic advisors are uniquely positioned to connect with transfer students individually.

Course Articulation

Students are negatively impacted when their credits do not transfer or if their credits transfer as elective credits rather than as courses that fulfill degree requirements. Credit loss during transferring results in longer timelines to graduation, increased educational expenses, and inflated chances of students stopping out (Hodara et al., 2016). Many students feel frustrated and confused with the transfer articulation process from their community college to a four-year university (Schudde et al., 2020). While a student may have transferable credits that are accepted at the receiving institution, this does not equate to the applicability of the credits counting toward their major or degree requirements. Monaghan and Attewell (2014) found fewer than 60% of community college students were able to transfer most of their credits and approximately 15% of students transferred almost no credits. Some of the cumbersome transfer processes can be repelling, intimidating, and lead students to believe they are not welcome at the university.

On the other hand, students who transferred almost all their community college credits were 2.5 times more likely to attain a baccalaureate degree than those who transferred fewer than half of their credits (Monaghan & Attewell, 2014). Articulation for credit application rests on state policies and formal agreements between colleges. When no course articulation exists, academic advisors assist students on the case-by-case syllabi review process with academic departments (Cohen et al., 2014). This can be tedious and time consuming for students to collect previous syllabi. Further, when students do not know what credits count within their major until they are enrolled, they cannot make an informed decision as to where they transfer or their major. University leaders should consider centralized transfer advisors who work with academic departments on course articulations prior to when the student enrolls (Wyner et al., 2016). Building systems to reduce using transfer students’ time and capital centers equity and student success.

Campus Partnerships

Fostering connections between transfer-sending and transfer-receiving institutions supports transfer experiences. To begin, four-year university advisors should share admissions processes, tuition costs, scholarship opportunities, and course requirements with two-year academic advisors to clarify and bolster transfer pathways (Jenkins & Fink, 2016). As some institutional websites can contain outdated or inaccessible transfer information, it is critical that four-year advisors connect with community college advisors (Schudde et al., 2020). Based on location and previous student transfer information, four-year advisors should identify two-year university partners with whom to facilitate smoother transitions for students.

Campus Resources

While transfer students are familiar with college in general, they rely on academic advisors to introduce them to their new university. It is critical that four-year university academic advisors share campus resources. For example, when a student asks about the campus health center, the academic advisor should detail information regarding any fees associated with the resource, how to make appointments, and what students can expect. Where native students typically learn about campus services through summer orientation, residence hall programs, or first-year seminars, transfer students may not have these same learning opportunities (Jenkins & Fink, 2016). On a larger scale, administrators should consider how to replicate first-year activities for transfer students. Personalized and proactive campus referrals support students’ accumulation of transfer student capital.


Advisors support students within the university’s policies and procedures. Further, advisors can play a role in in changing policies or procedures that might be unintentionally harming students. For instance, financial aid policies requiring full-time student status to use financial aid may be a barrier for students who work full-time or care for dependents (Wang, 2020). In the face of several barriers and opportunities associated with transferring to a new university, academic advisors hold a unique role to empower transfer students throughout multiple aspects of their next phase and advocate for transfer students’ needs. There are a bevy of suggested practices for four-year university leaders and staff to center transfer students in addition to the aforementioned academic advising considerations.

  • Dedicate staff and resources specifically for transfer students (Wyner et al., 2016)
  • Allow faculty release time to collaborate with community college faculty on articulation agreements and transfer program maps (Jenkins & Fink, 2016; Shapiro et al., 2017)
  • Allocate financial aid for transfer students (Jain et al., 2011; Wang, 2020)
  • Update websites for accuracy and accessibility (Schudde et al., 2020; Shapiro et al., 2017)
  • Track transfer and share data on transfer student outcomes (Wyner et al., 2016)
  • Consider policies that may unintentionally harm transfer students (Wang, 2020)
  • Promote a culture of self-assessment among administrators, faculty, and staff (Wang, 2020)
  • Encourage personnel to seek out opportunities to learn about community colleges and transfer students


Within Jain et al.’s (2011) transfer receptive culture frame, four-year university administrators, faculty, and staff promote diversity, equity, and inclusion when they prioritize transfer student success. Four-year university advisors can help reduce friction on individual, departmental, and university levels. Supporting transfer students must be a university-wide initiative.

Anna Peace
Academic Advisor
Department of Theatre and Dance
Ball State University


Allen, J. M., Smith, C. L., & Muehleck, J. K. (2014). Pre-and post-transfer academic advising: What students say are the similarities and differences. Journal of College Student Development, 55(4), 353–367. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2014.0034

Cohen, A. M., Brawer, F. B., & Kisker, C. B. (2014). The American community college (6th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Hodara, M., Martinez-Wenzl, M., Stevens, D., & Mazzeo, C. (2016). Improving credit mobility for community college transfer students: Findings and recommendations from a 10-state study. Planning for Higher Education, 45(1), 51. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552117724197

Jain, D., Herrera, A., Bernal, S., & Solorzano, D. (2011). Critical race theory and the transfer function: Introducing a transfer receptive culture. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 35(3), 252–266. https://doi.org/10.1080/10668926.2011.526525

Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2016). Tracking transfer: New measures of state and institutional effectiveness in helping community college students attain bachelor’s degrees. Community College Research Center, Aspen Institute, and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Monaghan, D. B., & Attewell, P. (2014). The community college route to the bachelor’s degree. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373714521865

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. (2017). Snapshot report: Contribution of two-year institutions to four-year completions at four-year institutions. https:// nscresearchcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/SnapshotReport26.pdf

Schudde, L., Bradley, D., & Absher, C. (2020). Navigating vertical transfer online: Access to and usefulness of transfer information on community college websites. Community College Review, 48(1), 3–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552119874500

Shapiro, D., Dundar, A., Huie, F., Wakhungu, P.K., Yuan, X., Nathan, A., & Hwang, Y. (2017, September).

Tracking transfer: Measures of effectiveness in helping community college students to complete bachelor’s degrees. (Signature Report No. 13). National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED580214.pdf

Taylor, J. L., & Jain, D. (2017). The multiple dimensions of transfer: Examining the transfer function in American higher education. Community College Review, 45(4), 273–293. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552117725177

Wang, X. (2020). On my own: The challenge and promise of building equitable STEM transfer pathways. Harvard Education Press.

Wyner, J., Deane, K. C., Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2016). The transfer playbook: Essential practices for two-and four-year colleges. Aspen Institute. https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/publications/transfer-playbook-essential-practices.html

Supporting Adult Students: When Returning to School Requires Major Life Changes

Kathryn Larson, University of Nebraska Omaha

Katie Larson.jpg “I am so excited to help you reach your goals. This is a wonderful teacher preparation program! But I have to warn you, it’s going to turn your life upside down.”

Mid-career adults entering or re-entering higher education face an exciting, confusing, and sometimes humbling experience. Those who support returning students will find much written on the need for program flexibility to help students complete their degrees quickly. But how do we help students adjust when a course of study is not designed for flexibility and speed? The transition to college life and expectations can be especially challenging to non-traditional students when institutional expectations seem rigid. As an educatio­n advisor at a metropolitan university, I work with many students who must get creative to start their new careers.

Attracting non-traditional students is a growing need for many institutions. Demographic shifts in traditional college-aged populations mean that supporting and retaining students 25 and older will be increasingly important (Gast, 2013). From 2007 to 2019, the number of college students in the U.S. aged 25 and older was projected to grow from 7.1 million to 9.7 million (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Perhaps more than any other students, adult learners hope for a fast, flexible degree program. Snyder and Zona (2018) write that adult learners often seek “the shortest possible route to graduation.” In addition to speed, students like the flexibility of in-person and online options, room for electives to ease transfer issues, and the opportunity to be full-time or part-time.

Researchers have established best practices for retaining adult students. Gast (2012) writes, “Once recruited, adult students must be provided with specialized support services and have access to staff who recognize their unique needs and busy lifestyles.” However, practicum-based undergraduate programs that prepare students for careers like teaching and nursing may not be set up to honor a student’s busy schedule. These programs must meet curriculum and practicum requirements set by states or national accrediting bodies and may require strict schedules for practicum rotations. School-based practicum hours take place during the school day. The schedule is challenging for many students of all ages and backgrounds. Established workers who return to school often require a major life transition.

These 10 tips from research and practice offer strategies to support adult students who make the tough transition to a less-flexible undergrad program.

  • Relationships are key. As with all advising partnerships, the top tool for serving non-traditional students is building authentic, caring bonds. Lambert and Felton begin their 2020 book on student success with this striking phrase: “Relationships are the beating heart of the undergraduate experience.” This is doubly true with a vulnerable student facing tough choices.
  • Listen, then listen more. “There is no typical adult student” (Rans, 2014). As with all students and student groups, adult or returning students are not a monolithic body. They have varying levels of support and different barriers, so ask good questions to determine student needs. Snyder and Zona (2018) suggest an interview/intake form to help you get to know your students’ concerns, strengths and needs.
  • Communicate clearly. Consider sending a standard pre-meeting email that includes your program’s structure, highlighting commitments and responsibilities. Schedule changes and surprises are tougher for established workers, so sharing a program preview lets prospective students come to their first meeting with good questions.
  • Honor student skills and experiences. A teacher who previously worked as a para educator/teacher aide—or who has been on the parent side at a parent-teacher conference—brings a valuable viewpoint. Celebrate that! Advisors used to working with traditional-aged students may find mid-career student relationships awkward at first. Peters et al. (2010) write that “Advisors should feel confident about working with students who may possess career competencies and life experiences far more extensive than their own.” But building this confidence takes time. Acknowledge student expertise as adult learners and share your expertise and credentials as an advisor. These interactions can prompt reflection about the advising relationship. Does this relationship feel different than others? Why? Are there advisor-student power differentials to consider?
  • Be yourself. Many advisors are career changers or have juggled multiple roles, working or caregiving while taking classes. If there are experiences that you feel comfortable sharing, show your students these situations can be challenging without being impossible. In a list of tips for supporting adult learners, Snyder and Zora (2018) wrote “Share your story. Adult learners need to hear real experiences; your story should be authentic and persuasive in tone and content.” Advisors may have walked a different path than their mid-career students, but they have personal and professional expertise to support all students.
  • Plan for challenges early. For students in education programs for example, advisors might ask: Have you thought about what you’ll do when your practicum responsibilities increase? Can I send you information about the campus childcare center or the math learning center? One way to dig into challenges once a relationship is established is to ask students what they’re worried about. Perhaps you can explain a requirement or allay a fear.
  • Know a little bit about similar academic programs in your area. When a degree program isn’t a good fit for a prospective student, advisors can point out a nearby school that may work better. Often students appreciate that level of candor, and on researching the competition, they still may choose to attend your institution. When advisors want what is best for the student, it shows.
  • Advocate for change. Advisors may not design academic programs or determine their own workloads, but they can see problems and propose solutions. Advisors can model flexibility and access by offering phone or virtual meetings for busy students. And when advisors have a seat at the table, they should share their tough conversation. Departments that consult with advising set up their returning students for success.
  • Give students time to adjust after you deliver tough news. It is common for overwhelmed prospective students to say “I can’t do this.” Students who need to commit to major life changes often need time to think and to investigate all options. Be ready with referrals to financial aid and admissions so students can get expert advice.
  • Celebrate success. When mid-career students excel, take notice! Nominate returning students for scholarships, awards, or honors. This helps build a campus culture that celebrates the contributions and perspective of non-traditional students. When we serve returning students well, the campus and community win.

Kathryn Larson, M.S.
Assistant Director of Academic Advising
College of Education, Health and Human Sciences
University of Nebraska Omaha


Gast, A. (2013). Current trends in adult degree programs: How public universities respond to the needs of adult learners. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (140), 17–25. https://doi-org.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/10.1002/ace.20070

Lambert, L. M., & Felten, P. (2020). Relationship-rich education: How human connections drive success in college. Johns Hopkins University Press. https://doi.org/10.1353/book.78561

Marques, J. F., & Luna, R. (2005, June). Advising adult learners: The practice of peer partisanship. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 19(6), 5.

Peters, L., Hyun, M., Taylor, S., & Varney, J. (2010, September). Advising non-traditional students: Beyond class schedules and degree requirements. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Advising-Non-Traditional-Students-Beyond-Class-Schedules-and-Degree-Requirements.aspx

Rans, J. (2014, March). The resiliency of adult learners. Academic Advising Today, 37(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Resiliency-of-Adult-Learners.aspx

Snyder, E., & Zona, L. (2018, March). The returning adult learner: Advising strategies to support their degree completion efforts. Academic Advising Today, 41(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Returning-Adult-Learner-Advising-Strategies-to-Support-Their-Degree-Completion-Efforts.aspx

U.S. Department of Education. (2012). Federal Student Aid Strategic Plan FY 2012–16.  https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/FiveYearPlan_2012.pdf

Advising Students Struggling with Imposter Syndrome

Jeannine Kranzow, Azusa Pacific UniversityJeannine Kranzow.jpg

Faculty and professional academic advisors play an essential role in student support, and research indicates that contact with an advisor increases the likelihood of student success (Vasquez et al., 2019). Advisors help students with a number of challenges experienced during the college years. Among those challenges discussed, Academic Advising Today authors Ewing-Cooper and Merrifield (2019) identify Imposter Syndrome (IS) as one of the most common. While IS might sound like a mental health disorder, it is not an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (Naruse, 2021; Weir, 2013). Rather, it is a personality tendency that leads people to negative thinking about themselves and altered wellness (Clance, 1985; Cohen & McConnell, 2019; Weir, 2013). For advisors wanting to better prepare themselves to support students experiencing IS, this article will provide information and practical insights to help guide and educate students toward healthier mindsets.

Those experiencing IS (also referred to also as Imposterism or Imposter Phenomenon) struggle with feeling inadequate, having low self-worth, and/or experiencing self-defeating thoughts about the role or task at hand (Clancy, 2018; Wyatt et al., 2019). Transition periods into higher education environments often bring about IS (Clance, 1985; Parkman, 2016). Students in new academic environments might have worries about not belonging in college, not being smart enough, or not being up to the academic tasks required of them. They often fear they gained access to the institution or program by mistake and that someone will figure this out.

By its very nature, IS negatively impacts student mental health. It can bring out anxiety, a tendency to isolate, feelings of inadequacy, and depression (Peteet, Brown, et al., 2015; Peteet, Montgomery, et al., 2015; Wang et al., 2019). While some students are familiar with the term Imposter Syndrome, most are only familiar with the thoughts and feelings being experienced. Therefore, assisting students with identifying and overcoming IS can help them both mentally and academically.

One significant thing advisors can do is to be proactive in talking to students about IS (Richey et al. 2021). Looking and listening for IS in both verbal and nonverbal student messages is important, as breaking the silence of shame is critical. In a recent publication of Academic Advising Today, advisors and learning strategist Richey et al. (2021) present a coaching/questioning model used with medical students in order to identify and intervene with students experiencing IS. To further their conversation, the following sections offer specific success strategies that advisors can apply with undergraduate students and those doing other types of graduate work. This article notes recommendations which can help determine whether students are experiencing IS and offers research-based advice for advisors seeking to help students wanting to become more confident and at peace with their academic abilities as well as find a sense of belonging.

In order to understand how students are feeling, advisors might consider asking open-ended questions such as:

  • How comfortable do you feel in approaching a faculty member with a question?
  • What are you thinking and feeling in terms of the tests and other assignments coming up this term?
  • Do you feel included and that you belong in this community (or class or program)?

Answers to these questions can illuminate student lack of confidence, isolation, and fear of asking a question (out of concern that it will expose them for a fraud). In conversations, also listen for perfectionistic tendencies which are negatively correlated with IS (Wang et al., 2019).

If the conversation reveals that the student is experiencing IS, the student can be assured that it is common for those in new academic environments to feel that way and that their peers may also be experiencing those feelings (but might be uncomfortable bringing up the topic). Sharing with advisees that people from nearly every profession (from library science to medical professionals to academic faculty) struggle with it (Johnson & Smith, 2019; Ladonna et al., 2018) may bring a sense of relief that they are not alone. If you, the advisor, personally had to overcome IS, consider sharing that with the student. Students can be reminded that they were invited to the program or institution because they are capable, and they do deserve to be there as much as anyone else.

Simply opening up the conversation will likely bring students experiencing IS some relief, but IS requires students to change their thinking about themselves if students are truly going to overcome it. Helping students recognize the importance of taking control of inner thoughts is important (Meichenbaum, 2008). Advisors can recommend multiple approaches for helping students to change their thinking.

Some suggestions are relatively simple to employ in order to help students with thinking more positively. One of these is to have students write down successes and accomplishments (Wyatt et al., 2019) which helps students to focus on the positive and powerful things they have done instead of what they have failed to do. To supplement the writing of success and positivity, students can practice positive self-talk. Much of what takes place for those struggling with IS is negative self-talk, so encouraging students to recognize the negative self-talk and turn it into positive self-talk can be significant.

Literature has suggested that reframing negative “I can’t do this” thoughts into a posture of intellectual humility “I don’t know all I need to know, but I can and want to learn,” can be seen as a good thing (Wang et al., 2019). This approach offers students the chance to view IS in a new light and to see that a willingness and openness to learning is far better than a know-it-all attitude.

Another approach is to have students visit the counseling center to speak to a counselor or therapist. Most counselors are adept at using a cognitive behavioral therapy approach to help students navigate life circumstances, which can help them overcome IS as well as other challenges they may face in the future (Reynolds, 2009). Counselors can help students learn to understand how their thoughts impact their feelings and actions. De-stigmatizing counseling is critical so that students approach counseling as part of a well-being and success plan and not as something they go to because of a problem.

It is important to note that literature suggests some environments lend themselves to students experiencing IS. Especially for students of color in predominantly male or white environments, sometimes, “they don’t just feel like imposters; they are made to feel like imposters, regardless of how self-assured, smart, and confident they are” (Johnson & Smith, 2019, p. 4). First-generation college students frequently experience IS (Whitehead & Wright, 2017) as do African American students (Peteet, Brown, et al. 2015). While environments and cultures must become supportive environments and helpers are charged with being student advocates, changing these things takes time. As such, it is imperative that individuals are supported with advising, coaching, and possibly counseling in the meantime (Young, 2021).

Perhaps one of the most powerful tools for helping students experiencing IS is mentorship. Mentors can affirm, remind, and encourage students that they have what it takes and teach students to give themselves credit for hard-earned successes (instead of crediting the mentor, teacher, or another student). For students from underrepresented backgrounds, a mentor is often someone who has been there and overcome the same struggle.

One final suggestion in the literature is that students can be encouraged to fake it until they no longer feel like an imposter. There is reason to believe that over time, many students will begin to think of themselves in a new, more positive way (Cuddy, 2018), but in the meantime, students can relax and be willing to wait for that feeling to come.

Not every suggestion will work for all students, but advisors can utilize different approaches with different students and try to determine what is best in any given situation. By engaging in conversations about IS, advisors can help students to become more confident and find their sense of belonging.

Jeannine Kranzow
Department of Higher Education
Azusa Pacific University


Clance, P. R. (1985). The impostor phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success. Peachtree Publishers.

Clancy, A. (2018, October 1). Dealing with imposter syndrome: Overcoming imposter syndrome can be challenging, particularly when it spirals into persistent negativity. Accountancy Ireland. https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/Accountancy-Ireland/Articles2/Leadership/Latest-News/Article-item/dealing-with-imposter-syndrome

Cohen, E. D., & McConnell, W. R. (2019). Fear of fraudulence: Graduate school program environments and the impostor phenomenon. The Sociological Quarterly, 60(3), 457–478.

Cuddy, A. (2018). Presence: Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges. Orion Press.

Ewing-Cooper, A., & Merrifield, K. (2019, June). The eight crises of college students: Advising with Erikson across a student's academic lifespan, Academic Advising Today, 42(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Eight-Crises-of-College-Students-Advising-with-Erikson-Across-a-Students-Academic-Lifespan.aspx

Johnson, W. B., & Smith, D. G. (2019, February 22). Mentoring someone with Imposter Syndrome. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles. https://hbr.org/2019/02/mentoring-someone-with-imposter-syndrome

Ladonna, K. A., Ginsburg, S., & Watling, C. (2018). “Rising to the level of Your Incompetence”: What physicians’ self-assessment of their performance reveals about the imposter syndrome in medicine. Academic Medicine, 93(5), 763–768. https://doi.org/ 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002046

Meichenbaum, D. (2008, May). Core tasks of psychotherapy/Counseling: What “expert” therapists [Conference presentation]. 12th Annual Melissa Institute Conference, Miami, FL, United States. https://melissainstitute.org/documents/Meichenbaum-Core_Tasks.pdf

Naruse, K. (2021, November 2). Imposter syndrome: Beating the cycle. Peer Mental Health. https://www.peermentalhealth.com/imposter-syndrome-beating-the-cycle/

Parkman, A. (2016). The imposter phenomenon in higher education: Incidence and impact. The Journal of Higher Education Research and Practice, 16(1), 51–59. https://doi.org/10.1177/0892020620959745

Peteet, B. J., Brown, C. M., Lige, Q. M., & Lanaway, D. A. (2015). Impostorism is associated with greater psychological distress and lower self-esteem for African American students. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, 34(1), 154–163. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-014-9248-z

Peteet, B. J., Montgomery, L., & Weekes, J. C. (2015). Predictors of Imposter Phenomenon among talented ethnic minority undergraduate students. The Journal of Negro Education, 84(2), 175–186. https://doi.org/10.7709/jnegroeducation.84.2.0175

Reynolds, A. L. (2009). Helping college students: Developing essential support skills for student affairs practice. Jossey-Bass.

Richey, K., Lewellen, C., & Henninger, L. (2021, March). Going toe-to-toe with imposter phenomenon. Academic Advising Today, 44(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Going-Toe-to-Toe-with-Imposter-Phenomenon.aspx

Vasquez, S., Jones, D., Mundy, M. A., & Isaacson, C. (2019). Student perceptions of the value of academic advising at a Hispanic serving institution of higher education in South Texas. Research in Higher Education Journal, 36(1), 1–14.

Wang, K. T., Sheveleva, M. S., & Permyakova, T. M. (2019). Imposter Syndrome among Russian students: The link between perfectionism and psychological distress. Personality and Individual Differences, 143, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.02.005

Weir, K. (2013). Feel like a fraud? American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud

Whitehead, P. M., & Wright, R. (2017). Becoming a college student: An empirical phenomenological analysis of first-generation college students. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 41(10), 639–651. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/10668926.2016.1216474

Wyatt, G. E., Chin, D., Milburn, N., Hamilton, A., Lopez, S., Kim, A., Stone, J. D., & Belcher, H. M. E. (2019). Mentoring the mentors of students from diverse backgrounds for research. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 89(3), 321–328. https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000414

Young, M. E. (2021). Learning the art of helping: Building blocks and techniques. Merrill.

Who Do You Think You Are? Dealing with Imposter Syndrome in Academic Advising

Brianna L.R. Harvie, Mount Royal University

Bri Harvie.jpgImposter Syndrome, also known as Imposter Phenomenon, Imposterism, Fraud Syndrome, and Imposter Experience, is the feeling that somehow one hasn’t earned their academic, personal, or professional accolades, rather that they have somehow fooled their colleagues and peers into seeing them in a certain light. Individuals who suffer from Imposter Syndrome are incapable of internalizing their own accomplishments and tend to find external reasons for them. Imposters will point out that they are aware that others view their accomplishments as such, but they maintain that these accolades have been falsely bestowed upon them (Parkman, 2016). It stands to reason that when a student is developing a sense of personal and academic identity, they may begin to suffer from Imposterism, and given that most of these changes happen during a students’ time at post-secondary institutions, it is critical that these feelings be addressed before they paralyze development. As a common point of contact, academic advisors are uniquely positioned to help identify Imposterism and help students see it in themselves so it can be managed effectively.

There has been significant research done into the relationships between elder millennial/Generation Y students and their education, but trends with the younger iterations of this generation and older Generation Z students are just beginning to emerge in the post-secondary world. The systems colleges and universities created to help previous generations of students are still being used and may be hindering students of both generations’ abilities to develop their own identity in post-secondary. As a result, students either tend to study too hard in order to try and prove themselves or are so paralyzed by fear of inadequacy that they are incapable of taking risks (McAllum, 2016). There are pedagogical prescriptions for how to teach and work with the current demographic of students that may be exacerbating these tendencies as well. Instructors and administrators are expected to give clear and structured assignment instructions; set specific, measurable goals and outcomes; distribute grades among many small assignments instead of fewer large ones in order to alleviate stress; and provide constant micro-level feedback (McAllum, 2016). These systems have nourished students’ need for continual external affirmation and reduced their resilience when faced with challenges or failures. What this means for the student is that helicopter parents have been replaced with helicopter faculty and administrators.

Learning to recognize and identify Imposter Syndrome in advising appointments is key to understanding how, when, and why some students fall prey to its influences. Individuals who are suffering from Imposter Syndrome lack the ability to internalize their accomplishments, instead crediting a lowering of standards or their charm and people skills (Brown & Ramsey, 2018). They tend to deflect compliments and praise and respond with humor, usually in the form of self-deprecation. These habits are a detriment to students’ abilities to achieve academic success. They can either stymie momentum and force students into procrastination or can make students so crippled by anxiety that they are no longer able to meet even the minimum standards for graduation.

There are myriad ways to work with students suffering from Imposterism, but the most important step is to acknowledge its existence. If advisors are able to address the issues being seen early enough in the students’ educational journey, they may be able to work with other campus resources to move beyond their feelings of Imposterism before it has too negative of an impact on their mental health and academic performance. One way to screen for Imposterism is to do activities around identifying strengths and weaknesses with students. If an individual is struggling to identify strengths but lists many weaknesses despite proof to the contrary (i.e., high grades, certificates, praise from instructors, etc.), they may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Advisors can provide lists of strengths and weaknesses that the student can work with, or students can free-write their own lists, but having them listed in different ways (single words vs. short sentences) may also help them with the identification process.

Journaling is another effective way of working with Imposter Syndrome. A simple three-step process can help students shape their journal entries and identify where Imposterism may be impacting their wellness. The three steps are: write, reflect, and examine. It’s most important that students understand that this process must be done for an extended period of time (at least a week) and from a place of honesty and self-awareness. They should not be required to share their results with anyone, though they may find it helpful if they are struggling to realign their goals or see their potential and value in certain situations. The writing step of the process is a simple task of identifying what activities the student participates in throughout the week. They can list things they do the most frequently or enjoy the most, and then rank each activity in terms of feelings of enjoyment or fulfillment. This portion of the journaling work is most effective if it is completed daily while memories of activities and the feelings around them are fresh. After a week or two of writing down these daily activities, students can move into the reflection step. This is the most difficult part of the process for many is it involves clarifying core values; core values are what shape our worldview and how we perceive those around us. If a student is having trouble identifying or naming their core values, it can help to have them think about other individuals they admire and list the traits that they possess that are admirable. Another way to help identify values is to think about what changes they would make to their community. What would they change and why? What does that change say about them? Some probing questions to help students think about the reasoning behind their thoughts and feelings can help clarify and name their values if they are struggling to do so. The final step in the journaling activity is to examine the activities and the reflection. Have the students look at what most of their time is spent doing. Are they activities the student is successful in or enjoys, or not? If not, why? What could be done differently? Often by having conversations about what went well during a significant period of time (even a week or two), students will be able to see their contributions and skills, which can help identify the source of feeling inadequate.

The most important part of working with students with Imposter Syndrome is normalizing their feelings.  Helping them understand that while this is common in post-secondary students, they have their strengths and skills and that focusing on them is important, especially if they’re feeling burdened with self-doubt. Finding the balance between giving constant feedback and helping students see their value is challenging but important work that needs to be done in academic advising. Giving students a brave space to identify and work through feelings of Imposterism can be crucial in determining their success in their post-secondary education. By developing a list of core values, strengths, and weaknesses, students can learn to identify the source of their feelings of inadequacy and internalize and take credit for their accomplishments. Through this self-awareness, advisors can help students navigate a crucial period in their personal and academic development, which in turn, can impact the rest of their lives.

Brianna Harvie, BA
Manager, Academic Advising
Student Affairs Division
Mount Royal University


Bernard, N. S., Dollinger, S. J., Ramaniah, NV. (2002). Applying the big five personality factors to the imposter phenomenon. Journal of Personality Assessment, 78(2), 321–333. https://doi.org/ 10.1207/S15327752JPA7802_07

Brown, D., & Ramsey, E. (2018.) Feeling like a fraud: Helping students renegotiate their academic identities. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 25: 86-90

Cook-Sather, A. (2016). Creating brave spaces within and through student-faculty pedagogical partnerships. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 18(2016), 1–5.

Cooley, E. L., King, J. E. (1995). Achievement orientation and the impostor phenomenon among college students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20(3), 304–312. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1995.1019

Krukowski, R. A., & Ross, S. R. (2003). The imposter phenomenon and maladaptive personality: Type and trait characteristics. Personality and Individual Differences, 34(3), 477–484. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00067-3

McAllum, K. (2016). Managing imposter syndrome among the “trophy kids”: Creating teaching practices that develop independence in millennial students. Communication Education, 65(3), 363–365. https://doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2016.1177848

Parkman, A. (2016). The imposter phenomenon in higher education: Incidence and impact. The Journal of Higher Education Research and Practice, 16(1), 51–59. https://doi.org/10.1177/0892020620959745

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Academic Advising in a Virtual Environment: The Pros & Cons From and Advising and Student Perspective

Tiffany LeDonne-Smith and Jackie Keith, Oakland University

LeDonne-Smith & Keith.jpgSince March 2020, the environment of academic advising has been constantly changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Advisors have had to be flexible in adapting to the current environment when it comes to meeting students' needs. Along with many others, our office in the School of Business Administration at Oakland University was forced to transition from a face-to-face environment into a completely virtual, and now hybrid, format. Challenges of the pandemic, although forcing some abrupt changes, have also provided some unique opportunities to re-evaluate accessibility of advising within one's institution. At Oakland, we’ve learned that now more than ever, flexibility is key in effectively meeting our students' needs. Not only is this flexibility beneficial to students, but also to advisors in creating more work-life balance.

There has been the phrase “living within a new normal” which had us wondering what that would look like for advisors in the future. We questioned whether or not our current practices at Oakland were working for our student populations and what the future of advising at could potentially look like in a theoretical post-pandemic world. We’ve seen the pros and cons with virtual advising and wanted to take a deeper look into our students' thoughts and perspectives. A survey was sent to over 1,500 students from our academic unit in the School of Business Administration. A summary of our results and recommendations are highlighted here in hopes to share what we’ve learned to educate others on the possibilities moving forward in a hybrid advising environment.


Oakland University is a public university that consists of 88% commuter and 27% non-traditional students. In our personal advising experiences in the School of Business Administration, neither of us had previously participated in an advising interaction virtually. In a pre-pandemic world, it was rare at our institution to offer appointments in a modality other than in-person. Our office was open from the standard 8:00am-5:00pm and closed for the 12:00pm-1:00pm lunch hour. Most appointments were held during the times of 9:00am-11:00am and 2:00pm-4:00pm with occasional evening, in-person advising appointments from 5:00-7:00pm. We also held large group orientations where sessions were a 12:1 student to advisor ratio. 

Transition to Virtual Advising

Over the past two years almost all of our advising interactions in the School of Business Administration have been conducted fully online. While we have since returned to offering in-person advising, our advising interactions have by and large been virtual. Despite the return to in-person classes, there continues to be a high demand for the virtual advising format. We're now able to offer virtual options for both evening weekday and Saturday morning advising to better meet the needs of non-traditional students. In addition, orientations that were previously held in a large group format are now done one-on-one with students, providing them with a much more personalized experience.

What Students are Saying

The authors of this article created and sent out a survey in Summer 2021 term in hopes that the results could influence our advising practices during the upcoming academic year. The survey was sent to 1,789 students in the School of Business Administration who had an assigned School of Business Administration academic advisor. The results from the survey were collected over a three-week timeframe and yielded a response rate of 25% with 448 students completing the survey.

Of the students who completed the survey, the majority of respondents had both in-person and virtual experiences during their time in college thus far with only 33% having only virtual appointments. A very small number had only in-person appointments or reported never meeting with their advisor.

  • 47% of students surveyed were equally satisfied with virtual and in-person advising
  • 20% were more satisfied with virtual advising
  • 15% were more satisfied with in-person advising
  • 15% were neutral
  • 2% never met with their advisor

In addition to student preference, we also were able to collect data on factors outside of an advising appointment modality. During the transition to virtual advising, the majority of students reported,

  • Advisors were more responsive to emails, including after business hours
  • Advisors were more accommodating and flexible with dates and times to meet virtually

Regarding follow-up from advising interactions, the survey asked students a series of questions related to their actions after their advising appointment. It was reported that most students agreed or strongly agreed with the following statements:

During/After my last virtual advising meeting,

  • If I were tasked with something, I did it immediately after meeting with my advisor.
  • I felt I better understood the curriculum and program requirements.
  • I was glad to have set up the advising appointment.

In the survey there were several open-ended questions offered to provide students the opportunity to voice their experiences related to virtual advising.

In general, students reported:

  • “I really enjoyed the flexibility it offered to my schedule and the ability to plan ahead. I also liked that after each meeting, I could immediately begin working on or looking into what was discussed.”
  • “I could be flexible with the times I could meet. I could take my lunch break at work and meet with my advisor. I could use my time more efficiently.”

While there were a lot of students who had positive things to say about their experiences with virtual advising, there were some comments indicating that students preferred in-person interactions.

Common themes of students who were not in favor of virtual advising stated:

  • “Internet reliability/data usage. I live in an area with limited internet availability and limited data allowances. Exchanging paperwork is also trickier with email although my advisor helped this situation by being very organized.”
  • “I am more engaged in any situation when in-person and I find in-person interactions more beneficial to communicate.”

Overall, the results from our survey showed a higher preference for virtual advising compared to in-person. This could be due in part to student demographics in the School of Business Administration and the specific majors we advise. Comparably, a survey completed by Wang and Houdyshell (2021) showed split views of students’ preferences with in-person and virtual academic advising. With that, we believe it’s important to identify the needs of your own student voices when making decisions about modifying advising practices for the future.

Implications for Advising Formats at Oakland

While it’s important to note the students' perspectives in virtual advising, it’s also important to look at the data as it relates to the appointment modality that is being utilized.  With the ability to offer virtual advising as an option, our advising office has been able to be more flexible with advising appointments, meeting the needs of more students.

  • Fall 2019 (no virtual advising) vs Fall 2020:
    • Saw 116 more students in Fall 2020 with virtual advising as an option and had 55 fewer no-shows.
  • Winter 2019 (no virtual advising) vs Winter 2021:
    • Saw 559 more students in Winter 2021 with virtual advising as an option and had 30 fewer no-shows.

With virtual advising, students are able to attend more appointments and receive the assistance they need from us without other time constraints, although students who never experience an in-person advising interaction might not be getting the full benefits of the advising and college experience. Wang & Houdyshell (2021) describe that the new normal in the world of Academic Advising will likely continue to offer a mix of both in-person and virtual modalities. “RAA (Remote Academic Advising) should not only become more popular, but also change the academic advising landscape in higher education” (Wang & Houdyshell, 2021, p. 50). There are pros and cons to both advising experiences, which is why it is even more important to continue providing opportunities for serving students in a hybrid format. 

Recommendations and Hopes for the Future

The results of our survey at Oakland show that students express a high level of satisfaction with virtual advising, and more of students' needs are being met. To best meet the needs of all students and preferences, it’s our recommendation as authors that whenever possible, offer students a hybrid advising environment by giving them the option to choose to meet virtually or in-person.

As advisors, we’ve also seen that having the flexibility to work virtually from a remote location has strong advantages impacting employee satisfaction and retention. The authors of this article both identify as working mothers who have seen firsthand the importance of working remotely when trying to establish a healthy work-life balance. The opportunity to flex our schedule and offer early morning or evening appointments while advising from home not only meets the needs of our students, but also meets the demands of a working parent. Working from home not only benefits one's work-life balance, but it also saves time commuting, which reduces the carbon footprint and provides cost savings on gas and mileage.

Our hopes for the future and for our own professional work-life balance is that working remotely and virtual advising will remain an option regardless of the state of the pandemic. It’s our belief that this will allow for greater advisor and student satisfaction which will then increase both advisor and student retention.

Tiffany LeDonne-Smith
Academic Advisor
School of Business Administration
Oakland University

Jackie Keith
Academic Advisor
School of Business Administration
Oakland University


Wang, C. X., & Houdyshell, M. (2021). Remote academic advising using synchronous technology: Knowledge, experiences, and perceptions from students. NACADA Journal, 41(2), 40–52. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-20-27

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The Equity of Asynchronicity

Steve Quinn, Olympic College

Steve Quinn.jpgTwo years ago, the pandemic sent me home from the office where I had spent a decade advising community college students. This represents an entire generation of students who have been directed to me in ways other than as the old guy with long hair and an office upstairs. Personal insecurities aside—the image of the hermit crab without its shell comes to mind—I have come to see officelessness as a good thing. My challenge is to hang onto its benefits even after I am allowed back into my shell.

While most of my colleagues embraced Zoom as the next best thing to being there, I found myself working from home in an old neighborhood with such limited bandwidth that any kind of streaming was an invitation for pixilation and signal loss. Even the phone is fraught with issues of caller privacy, reception strength, and voicemail garble. It was while using email to set up synchronous conversations that I discovered the many benefits of asynchronicity. These might be characterized as equity of inquiry, equity of identity, and equity of access.

When pandemic restrictions began to ease, a chemistry professor I work with was ecstatic about reopening the in-person lab: “At last I will be able to answer a question without six emails back and forth.” I totally get his point, but advising is not rocket science—or chemistry lab—and for me and my students the six emails and the laborious clarification they require can be useful.

One way of looking at equity is as a suspension of assumptions. Without body language or pregnant pauses, I don’t know what my students are asking until they ask it. This can be frustrating, but once we get past that to the point where they can express what they know and what they need, it can become empowering. The conversation-starter, “I need an advising appointment” becomes, “would psychology count as my last humanities class?” How cool is that? If a synchronous conversation comes at all, it often is to validate newfound confidence rather than plea for rescue. I miss seeing my students, but when I do return to in-person advising, I need to remember not to rush to fill the pauses between the lines. Helping them say what they need is advising too.

Another way of looking at equity is categorically, as an attempt at offsetting and overcoming disproportionate access and opportunity between groups. Most of my students probably guess my gender from my name, and I make similar assumptions about most of them, but the descriptive categories available to us are limited: I may be a guy, but I no longer am the old guy or the old guy with long hair—no more comments about whether or not I used to play guitar for AC/DC. No more reading ancestry into my pale skin.

The descriptors I have for my students are equally limited. Last week I worked with a student who was . . . and from there it is all about the inquiry and our conversation, and the blank is filled in with “confused about” or “changing majors” instead of anything about categorical identity. Even the autistic students I work with—and I am a primary referral from our disability support office—defy categorization in most emails. In the absence of other categories of potential inequity, relative adeptness and confidence in the inquiry itself appears as a category of its own. This is a source of inequity I can do something about, even if it takes half a dozen emails. What I need to know about the student—which blanks need filling in—becomes a more deliberate part of the inquiry here than in the synchronous world.

Perhaps the most common way of discussing equity is as it relates to relative privilege. Without easy access to categorical information and other assumptions, privilege in the asynchronous world manifests primarily as academic currency: knowing the jargon, navigational cues, and when and how to push back in this artificial world of higher education. As an asynchronous advisor, to be equitable is not to be anti-privilege—the student who knows what they want is not denied the answer—but to lift up those with less academic currency and give them access too. They challenge me to eliminate jargon that plays into privilege, to clarify contextual assumptions and help students do the same, and to present options and resources in ways that are relevant and accessible to outsiders and insiders alike. My challenge, when I return to being face-to-face, will be to not let appearances fool me. “What do I need to know about you to help you?” still needs to be asked.

Last week I met with a student who is registering for her last three classes in her degree. Yes, I know her gender—I looked it up to inform my pronoun selection. She and I never have met in person and are not likely to. She is an asynchronous success story. After a relative parade of advisors in the synchronous world, in almost three years she had accumulated a third of the units needed for her two-year degree. She felt misunderstood, discouraged, and jerked around, and her first question was, “How do I get out of this place?”

I am not saying asynchronicity was all that saved her, but from her emails when we met, she came across as relatively insecure. She insisted on a phone call early in our work together and took the call on speaker with a friend who had been to college and “knows how this stuff works.” Our relationship has been defined by the pandemic, and in that time, asynchronous except that initial call, instead of looking for the exit and who is to blame, she lately has re-evaluated her goals, raised her GPA by a third, and begun to ask questions that are resource-based, specific, and intentional. Not to mention the impossibility imposed by her having moved three time-zones away; synchronicity is overrated.

Confidence and empowerment always have been cornerstone outcomes of advising, but difficult ones to solidify in the crush of the synchronous world. I am not grateful for the pandemic, but being forced to spread advising inquiries across days of deliberate question and answer have taught me things I hope I will not forget when they let the long-haired old guy back into the building.  

Steve Quinn
Advising Faculty
Professional-Technical Programs, Business & Technology Division
Olympic College

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Advisors as Originals: Unlocking the Potential in Yourself and Students

Chris Hubbard, University of North Texas

Chris Hubbard,jpgAs children, we often imitate characters that we see on television or in movies. The thought of solving problems, protecting others, or triumphing over unforeseen obstacles often encourages us to subconsciously attribute those perceived traits to the actor's actual personhood. Much like actors are recognized based on the characters they play, academic advisors are remembered based on the person they are.

According to Elizabeth Wilcox (2021), general academic advising practice involves operating from a solid foundation of “givens” (p. 1): being knowledgeable, informed, accessible to students, fair, ethical, and timely in responding to students. However, great advising requires raising the bar. Great advising focuses more on relationship building, inclusivity, connection, and seeing advising interactions as a unique opportunity to adapt, adopt, or employ different strategies to best serve the needs of students at any given time. This is where being an original takes center stage.

Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant (2016) defines an original as “a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way [or] a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity” (p. 3). Originals renounce default ideas and concepts in favor of exploring if better alternatives exist. For advisors, this means more than simply thinking outside the box. However, it does not mean abandoning the core values that undergird the advising profession. In advising, being an original involves a complete paradigm shift from espoused values that limit the way we advocate for, support, and interact with students. It means taking what we know about the nuances of advising practice and leveraging ideas and resources to serve the needs of diverse student populations.

One advising approach that has gained traction over the past few years is Appreciative Advising, earmarked as the go-to framework for advising practitioners seeking to evolve “from providing good service to providing great service to students” (Collins, 2001). Advising as an original relies heavily on developing an in-depth understanding of the six tenets forming the appreciative advising model (disarm, discover, dream, design, deliver, and don’t settle) and using creativity to implement this framework. If demonstrated effectively, advisors increase their capacity to motivate students and support their self-efficacy, which is critical to helping students realize their potential.

Advising as an Original: Unlock the Potential of Students

It is important to see students beyond their GPAs and past academic performance. As times have changed in the higher education landscape, especially since the 2020 pandemic, supporting the intellectual development of students is imperative. Being an original can assist by challenging advisors to help lead these efforts. For example, author Stephen R. Covey (2020) posits that “leadership is communicating to another their worth and potential so clearly they are inspired to see it in themselves” (p. 161). However, leading in this capacity requires a change in how we assess student situations.

In his book titled Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell (2005) asserts that “human beings have a story-telling problem; we are quick to come up with explanations for things that we don’t really have an explanation for” (p. 69). Many outcomes from the interactions we have with others could be positively different if the time is taken to assess a situation accurately and not assume the behavior and intentions of others. What does this mean for advising as an original? It means showing less judgment and more care and empathy.

Walker et al. (2017) posit that showing care to students is one of the biggest contributors to developing strong advisor-advisee relationships. Similarly, Eaton (2020) suggests that “the prerequisite to facilitating a strong sense of belonging for students is caring about their success” (p. 3). Collectively, these ideas present the notion that students connect the most with advisors who see them, show genuine care, and accept their personhood as it is presented to the world. Students also connect well with advisors they can see themselves in—whether that’s from an ethical, socio-economical, or educational perspective. As such, students can develop an interdependent relationship with their advisors and view them as a trusted source of information and guidance. Advisor feedback and being able to establish a genuine relationship with advisors matters to students. Any disruptions to that advisor-advisee relationship can have profound consequences.

For example, certain aspects of “cancel culture” can exist in academic advising practices. A leading tenet of cancel culture ideology is that it involves a series of “actions taken to hold others accountable” (Vogels et al., 2021) which carries some significance in the context of advising interactions. According to Wallace (2007), a challenge for academic advisors seeking to aid students in their development as responsible advisees is attributed to lack of opportunity (time constraints) and student knowledge gaps in preparing for advising appointments, which malign the ability for meaningful developmental advising to take place and perpetuate a cycle of dependency rather than empowerment (pp. 1-–2).

Next, advisors often try to save time understanding the reason why students have scheduled an appointment by relying on case notes and degree audits as a point of reference for guiding an upcoming meeting. However, this can lead to a negative advising experience for a student if pre-judgments are made based solely on prior academic performance and minimal effort has been put forth to get to know a student beyond their degree program needs. Even more so, this can inadvertently “cancel” the potential of students who want to succeed but may be experiencing challenges in the present moment and didn’t find resolve from meeting with their advisor. In this instance, advising as an original requires using non-traditional approaches (when warranted) to meet students where they are at, removing judgment as a measure of success, and seeking to understand the depth of story behind their current academic state. This creates the opportunity to integrate the advising approaches, methods, and resources for unlocking students’ potential and championing their development as originals.

Nurturing the intellectual potential and uniqueness of students is often not an easy task. However, leading by example in an advising role can help. When advisors have a thorough understanding of who they are as originals, they can champion and celebrate students in the same way. In short, to advise as an original, one must:

  • Understand and embrace their own identity as an original
  • Transition from using traditional advising methods to great advising practices
  • Invest in the potential of students by showing care and empathy
  • Utilize creativity and personal uniqueness to connect authentically with students
  • Champion the development of students as originals

Advising as an original is best illustrated by practitioners working in the field. For example, I had the pleasure of connecting with a colleague named Shante to discuss what being an original meant to her. She expressed that being an original means utilizing her skills and professional position to bridge the gap between academic affairs and student affairs for students. “From my experience in higher education, I have noticed a disconnect between the academic and student service sides of university campuses—and this directly impacts students in many ways,” says Shante. “As an advisor, I have found (through practice) that respecting students as young adults and supporting their development in responsible decision-making, taking accountability, and taking ownership of their academic careers has the greatest influence on their future success.” When asked about ways to champion the development of students as originals, Shante suggests creating opportunities for students to connect with advisors through seminars that focus on assisting students with academic readiness, encouraging autonomous decision-making, and helping students learn self-advocacy strategies to facilitate their success.

In summation, being an original allows advisors to make a lasting impression on students by setting an example of what it means to embrace originality while also supporting this characteristic in others. With the rise in advisor burnout and the ever-changing environment of higher education, leaning into an identity as an original also provides motivation and encouragement to keep pressing forward and present our authentic selves to the world. The question to ask yourself now is: what does being an original look like for you?

Chris Hubbard, M.S.
Assistant Director of Advising
University of North Texas


Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Covey, S. R. (2020). Principles of interpersonal leadership. In The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change (pp. 110–166). Simon & Schuster. (Originally published 1989)

Eaton, T. (2020, March). Why should academic advisors care about students’ sense of belonging? Academic Advising Today, 43(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Why-Should-Academic-Advisors-Care-About-Students-Sense-of-Belonging.aspx

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. Little, Brown and Co.

Grant, A. (2016). Originals: How non-conformists move the world. Penguin Books.

Vogels, E. A., Anderson, M., Porteus, M., Baronavski, C., Atske, S., McClain, C., Auxier, B., Perrin, A., & Ramshankar, M. (2021). Americans and 'cancel culture': Where some see calls for accountability, others see censorship, punishment. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/05/19/americans-and-cancel-culture-where-some-see-calls-for-accountability-others-see-censorship-punishment/

Walker, R. V., Zelin, A. I., Behrman, C., & Strnad, R. (2017). Qualitative analysis of student perceptions: “Some advisors care. Some don't.” NACADA Journal, 37(2), 44–54. https://doi.org/10.12930/nacada-15-027

Wallace, S. (2007, September). Teaching students to become responsible advisees. Academic Advising Today, 30(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Teaching-Students-to-Become-Responsible-Advisees.aspx

Wilcox, E. (2022). https://advisingmatters.berkeley.edu/great-advising#:~:text=Great%20advisors%20are%20expert%20listeners,verbal%20and%20non%2Dverbal%20cues

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Searching for the Booyah: Three Rules That Will Improv(e) Your Communication Skills

Jason Higa, University of Hawai'i-Manoa

Jason Higa.jpgThroughout my academic advising career, I have never had any issues getting training (or finding information) on campus policies, procedures, degree requirements, course curriculums, campus resources, and the like, but I realized, what good is all that training and information if I am unable to effectively communicate with my students? Like many advisors, I was not formally trained on how to communicate or interact with students, I was just expected to have that skill or to learn it on the job. I tried reading books, articles, and watching YouTube videos on how to become an effective communicator, but I still felt like I was not connecting with my students. I finally decided that I needed to try something completely out of the box, so I enrolled myself in a series of improv comedy courses.

You might be asking yourself, what is improv and what does it have to do with communication? “Improvisation, or improv, is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment” (The Hideout Theatre, n.d.). As an improviser, you are taught to remain in the moment and to draw upon your previously developed knowledge and skills in order to provide input to a scene or story. A common misconception about improv is that it is unstructured or chaotic; however, there are actually many rules to improv that prevent chaos from ensuing. When I advise students, I focus on three of those rules (listen to every detail, avoid saying no, and find the booyah), which have vastly improved my communication skills, and I hope that they can improve yours as well.

Rule #1: Listen to Every Detail

One of the keys to producing a good scene or story in improv is to listen to every detail that your partner is saying, from the very first word to the very last word. A good example of this is a warm up game called Word Association. In Word Association everyone joins a circle and Person 1 will start off the game with a word. Based on that word, Person 2 will say a different word that they believe is associated with Person 1’s word. Then, Person 3 will say another word that they believe is associated with Person 1 and 2’s word, and so on and so forth. Eventually a theme will illuminate from the contributed words.

Example 1: Word Association

Person 1 says “Orange”

Person 2 says “Peach”

Person 3 says “Apple”

Person 4 says “Banana”                  

As you can see in Example 1, when everyone is listening and paying attention, an obvious theme surfaces (in this example, fruits), but what would happen if someone started thinking about what they were going to say next instead of listening to every detail?

Example 2: Word Association

Person 1 says “Orange”

Person 2 says “Peach”

Person 3 says “Red”

Person 4 says “Banana”                                                 

In Example 2, you can see that Person 4 was not listening to every detail. Yes, orange and peach could be considered fruits, but they are also colors. When Person 3 says “red,” that changes the entire theme. When conversing with students, advisors sometimes have a tendency to think about what they are going to say next, or attempt to multitask, instead of being in the moment and listening to every word their students are saying. This often results in advisors missing important content and subtexts that are being expressed by their students. It can also give students the perception that their advisors are making suggestions without taking what they have expressed into consideration and can potentially lead to misunderstandings, misdirection, and conflict (Kulhan, 2017).

As important as listening is, it is only half the battle of effective communication. The next step is to be able to talk to students in a way that engages them and builds rapport, but how do we do that?

Rule #2: Avoid Saying No (At Least in the Beginning of the Appointment)

When I say “avoid saying no,” that does not mean that you should never say no, but there is definitely a right (and a wrong) time and a place to say it. The reason we as advisors should avoid saying no, at least at the beginning of our appointments, is because the word no kills a conversation. If we say no too early in the appointment, the student will feel rejected and foolish, which will make them become much more defensive and less likely to open up to you. 

One of the most important rules in improv is called “yes, and.” “Yes, and” creates an environment where advisors can postpone judgment and increase focus and engagement. In improv, there is a game where you literally say the words “yes” and “and” the whole time, but that is not necessary when you apply it to the real world. The word “yes” implies acceptance and inclusivity. When advisors say “yes” to their students, they are acknowledging that they hear and understand what their students are communicating to them. “And” is a connector that allows advisors to heighten or build on what they said yes to. Advisors can use “and” to input their perspectives and expertise into their students’ ideas. It is important to note that “yes, and” is an “unconditional acceptance of an offer, not thoughtless acceptance of an action” (Kulhan, 2017, p. 44). Once “yes, and” is established, the advisors and students can converge their ideas, and at that point eliminate anything that is unrealistic or a bad idea (this would be an acceptable time to say no). To be perfectly clear, saying “yes, but” is not the same as saying “yes, and.” When you say “yes, but” you are also acknowledging that you hear and understand the student; however, like the word “no,” “but” implies a rejection of an idea, so you are essentially telling the students, “yes, I hear you, but I do not care.”

Now with all of that said, the question becomes how long should advisors “yes, and” our students? To be the most effective, advisors should continue to “yes, and” their students until they find what we call the booyah.

Rule #3: Find the Booyah!

What exactly is the booyah? The booyah is something said or expressed that is unusual, weird, interesting, or stands out. In improv we are constantly listening and using “yes, and” to find the booyah, which ultimately creates the premise and context of the story or scene. When applied to advising, the booyah represents what the student really wants or needs from their advisor: whether it is more information, a person to vent to, or the need for further resources.

An issue that I used to encounter with the booyah, in the advising setting, was after I would find the booyah, I would be afraid to pursue it because I was worried that it may lead to an uncomfortable conversation. However, I learned that those uncomfortable conversations are a small price to pay for the success and well-being of the students. On multiple occasions, I have encountered a booyah where the students said something that seemed odd or out of place. My pursuit of the booyah eventually led me to apply some mental health first aid, asking them if they have ever attempted or thought about committing suicide. After our talk, I would walk the students up to our counseling service (even though some students did not want to go), but the next time I met with those students I could tell that their moods had changed, and they were able to get their academics back on track. It should be noted that the booyah in the advising setting is not always negative. Sometimes the booyah has nothing to do with academics or advising, but by pursuing the booyah, and engaging in fun and interesting conversations with your students, you are building trust, rapport, and gathering information, all of which will be useful in your future appointments.


The rules discussed in this article are not exclusive to advising. They can also be used in everyday conversations, and I would encourage you to practice these rules in your day-to-day lives as much as possible. When you are practicing these rules for the first time, try to:

  • Listen to every detail before you speak. Eventually you will build the confidence to be in the moment and trust that you have the knowledge to contribute to the conversation.
  • Compare “yes, and” conversations to “yes, but” and “no” conversations. You will begin to notice that “yes, and” conversations are much longer and interesting for you and the person you are conversing with.
  • The booyah is the key to great conversations, so when you find it, do not be afraid to go after it. 

Lastly, if you ever have a chance to join an improv troupe, do it! The knowledge and the repetition you get from doing improv is second to none.

Jason Higa
Academic Advisor
College of Social Sciences
University of Hawai'i-Manoa


Kulhan, B. (2017). Getting to "Yes And." Stanford University Press.

The Hideout Theatre. (n.d.). What is improv? https://www.hideouttheatre.com/about/what-is-improv/

Posted in: 2022 June 45:2


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