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Voices of the Global Community


Apathy's Antidote: Using Mindfulness to Improve Advisor Performance

Eirin Grimes and Chrissy Renfro, Laramie County Community College

Erin Grimes.jpgChrissy Renfro.jpgWhile the concept of mindfulness is not new, its use and applicability in the Western world is relatively recent.  Mindfulness in modern psychology might embrace Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (1990) definition of mindfulness as “moment-to-moment awareness” (p.2).  The Dalai Lama (2006) refers to mindfulness simply as insight, about which he has said, “To succeed at developing insight you first need to identify ignorance” (p. 29).  We are also encouraged to define mindfulness for ourselves by simply answering the question, “What is it like to be here in this moment?”

In the advising arena, mindfulness can be defined as the ability to focus, block out distractions, and have heightened levels of the five senses. Advisors’ moment-to-moment awareness of what is happening in an advising session can have a positive impact on the experience for our students and for ourselves. Thus it is helpful when advisors understand the benefits of mindfulness practice in academic advising and the ways in which we can formally practice mindfulness in our daily routines.

Improving the Quality of the Advisor-Advisee Relationship.  For some time the advising relationship has been lauded as one of the key ingredients to student success. Light (2001) noted that, “good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience” (p.81). Habley (as cited by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2005) took it a step further saying that “advising bears the distinction of being the only structured activity on campus in which all students have the opportunity for ongoing, one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution, and this fact is a source of its tremendous potential today”(p. 2).

So, we are left wondering how to get the most out of what is sometimes a 10 minute interaction. Famed clinical psychologist Carl Rogers, in his memoir A Way of Being, came to the conclusion that one of the most simple and healing services he provided his clients was simply “hearing” them (1980). Active listening – responding to both verbal and non-verbal behavior, paraphrasing, and clarifying – is a basic interpersonal skill that can be helpful in forming an instant connection. The art of active listening is not new to anyone in academic advising, but it can be challenging to maintain in EVERY student interaction. We propose that when we calm our minds and focus on our breathing – a basic mindfulness skill – advisors can strengthen the relationship between ourselves and our students. When we do this we heighten the verbal and non-verbal exchange of advising.

Try this: Pick an object frequently in your line of vision when you are with students. Every time you look at this object, take a deep breath; feel the air enter your nostrils and then your lungs. Feel the air rush out as you exhale.  Do it again.  For just a few moments make your breath your total focus.

Being intentional with our “advice” in advising.  NACADA Past President Nancy King (2009) has said that the words we use matter.  When we are in a hurry and say things like, “get your general education courses out of the way” to an advisee, we are communicating that we do not think those courses are important.  We know better, of course, but to not be mindful of how that sounds to an advisee can harm the student’s view of the college experience. Kabat-Zinn (1990) lists non-striving (p.37) as a pillar to mindfulness practice. He suggests that many times we introduce the idea that we are not where we should be, and along with it comes the notion that we are not okay right now. Mindfulness is non-doing. It is simply paying attention to what is happening, thereby allowing us to be more intentional. We propose that by practicing non-doing and staying in the moment we can remind ourselves that we are okay and take the time to be very intentional with our wording.

Try this: After focusing on your breathing for a few seconds, feel what it is like to be in your office, sitting on your chair, feel your body sitting at your desk. Enjoy the sensation of just being; let the student take the lead. Resist the urge to “go over everything,” focus on the students’ questions and the sensations at hand.

Loving our jobs every day. Addressing mindfulness is also a matter of professional development and decreasing the risk of burnout.  “…(The) increased time demands [in academic advising] place a higher relevance on self-care” (Davis, 2008, p. 453). Symptoms of burnout can include negative feelings toward students, self-doubt, anger, guilt, inability to concentrate and feeling overwhelmed (Davis, 2008). During busy advising times it can be hard to take a few moments and focus our awareness on how we feel:  Tired?  Hungry?  Stressed?  It also can be difficult to address those needs. Another pillar of mindfulness practice is the idea of the Beginner’s Mind – or cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p 53). When we cultivate a Beginner’s Mind we set aside our preconceptions about the student/situation and approach each student with a fresh attitude and renewed focus.

Try this: While you breathe, focus your thoughts on why you went into this field in the first place. Most of us gravitated to advising because we like people and like helping them. When you bring yourself back to remembering the simple reasons you chose this profession, you can find feelings of contentedness.

Challenges to mindfulness. Why is the practice of mindfulness so difficult for some?  The hustle and bustle of our work and personal lives, paired with our culture’s emphasis of doing over being, are a few of the challenges we face as we attempt to operate in the moment. Others may be concerned that suggestions to breathe deeply and focus on an object may be misconstrued. Technology can be another barrier to true mindfulness – it can be difficult to pick up on subtle cues when corresponding via email or when a student in the advising chair is texting constantly. The bottom line is that each of us must find the level of mindfulness that works and feels comfortable given our individual personalities and work circumstances – the very effort of trying to meet someone else’s standard of mindfulness takes the focus off our own progress. 

Try this: Think about a time when being mindful in an advising session resulted in positive outcomes for you and the student – what were you aware of?  How might you repeat that success in other interactions?  Conversely, think about a time when you were not mindful in a session – what happened?  At what point did you “drop the ball,” and what have you learned about yourself as a result?

There is an old saying -- “happiness is not a destination, but a mode of transportation.”  Mindfulness is similar – it is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

Eirin Grimes
Academic Advisor
Laramie County Community College
[email protected]

Chrissy Renfro
Director of Advising and Career Services
Laramie County Community College
[email protected]


Davis, K. (2008). Advising administrator perspectives on advising. In Gordon, V.N., et al. (2nd Ed.) Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (342-355). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Habley. W.R. (2005). quoted in The role of academic advising: CAS standards contextual statement. Retrieved from http://www.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Dell Publishing.

King, N. S. (2009, February). Creating a culture of teaching and learning in the advising experience of students. Plenary address at the NACADA Administrators’ Institute, Clearwater Beach, FL.

Lama, Dalai. (2006). How to see yourself as you really are. New York: Atria Books.

Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rogers, Carl. (1980). A way of being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.

From the President: Spring! The Time for Renewal and Growth within NACADA


Kathy Stockwell,  NACADA President

Kathy Stockwell.jpgSpring! A time to complete projects we started earlier in the academic year, a time to carry forward important initiatives that will extend beyond 2011, and a time to begin new, exciting initiatives that will impact NACADA and advising for many years to come. For advisors spring is a time to re-energize and enhance our advising skills so we are better prepared to help our advisees succeed. A great re-energizing step is attending NACADA Regional Conferences where we can meet advising colleagues from across our regions. What a great time to share successes, gain perspective on campus issues, and discuss current advising practices. Check the NACADA website for the Regional Conference dates. Can’t attend your region’s conference? Consider attending one of the nine other conferences held throughout the spring.

To continue the Association’s forward movement, the NACADA Board of Directors remains focused on our five strategic goals. We have made great progress since these goals were implemented in 2008. As reported previously, the globalization sub-committee has made great strides in recognizing the scope of our Association. The new tag line, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, was unveiled at the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio, and the revamped logo was adopted in summer 2010. Sub-committee members led by the Association’s Vice President Glenn Kepic are raising international awareness of NACADA by soliciting input regarding advising practices at institutions across the globe. In conjunction with the work of this sub-committee, the Board has charged the Membership Committee with developing a guidebook for international allied associations, has asked the Council to define how international members can best fit within our current regional structure, and has formed a sub-committee, under the leadership of Board members Beth Higgins and Susan Kolls, to create a glossary of advising-related terms that will benefit all members as we work with advisors from around the globe.

Two technology sub-committees are also hard at work. Board member Jennifer Joslin is chairing the committee charged with assessing the technology needs of the Association and determining our technology priorities. In addition to her work with the glossary team, Beth Higgins is chairing a separate technology committee charged with reviewing the functionality of the NACADA website to see how it can be more user-friendly for our members. Also within the technology arena, the Executive Office staff, under the leadership of Brad Popiolek (University of Texas-Austin) and Laura Pasquini (University of North Texas), received training on the use of social media tools to enhance the events and services provided by the Association.

Another Board priority is to educate university and college decision makers about the role of academic advising in higher education. A sub-committee under the direction of Board member Josh Smith is investigating the best and most efficient ways to make these connections. This sub-committee is also charged with increasing awareness of the annual Pacesetter Award and encouraging nominations for this prestigious award. To recognize deserving individuals, the criterion for this award have been expanded to include Academic and Student Affairs officers such as Vice Provosts, Vice Presidents, Deans, etc., who exemplify a commitment to advising across the institution.

To ensure the effectiveness of the Association, Board members Kazi Mamun and Celeste Pardee are developing a plan for scheduled and periodic reviews of our policies, by-laws, and long-term contracts. Under the leadership of Pardee and fellow Board member Peg Steele the annual assessment (360 degree review) of the Board and Executive Office is undergoing review and discussion is underway within the Council regarding how to best establish an assessment of that leadership body. To ensure that all voices are heard, the Board has committed to open lines of communication.

The restructure of the Commission and Interest Group Division (CIGD) is underway. In a vote held during the Annual Conference in Orlando, members of the CIGD leadership voted to substantially change the Division structure so that both the Commissions and Interest Groups work more in line with each other.  A Restructuring Implementation Task Force, led by Dana Zahorik, Chair of the Peer Advising & Mentoring Commission, has been named and is beginning its work. Stay tuned for updates as this group works on restructuring the CIGD.

Many individuals are working on behalf of the Board and the Association.  I look forward to communicating the progress of the various sub-committees in future articles so you, the members, know what is being done to ensure the viability of NACADA and the field of academic advising.

I wish you all the best this spring, the perfect time for renewal and growth across our campuses and within our Association!

Kathy Stockwell, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising

Fox Valley Technical College
[email protected]

From the Executive Director: Opportunities Abound!

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director


Spring is finally here and with it comes a multitude of NACADA events and resources that not only support the student success, retention, and persistence efforts at campuses across the globe, but also provide all academic advisors with the professional development and skills needed to increase the success of students.

I look forward to seeing many of you at one of our Regional Conferences this spring. I am excited that this year two of these conferences, Region 6 in Winnipeg and Region 8 in Calgary, are in Canada, thus allowing colleagues to connect and share across international borders. NACADA Regional Conferences continue to be tremendous opportunities to network with colleagues and identify programs and initiatives that can be used on our campuses to increase student success. 

I hope many of you are planning to attend one of the NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institutes in Colorado Springs or New Orleans. The Summer Institutes continue to be unique opportunities for individuals and campus teams to come together for a full week to gain the skills and knowledge needed to enhance the academic success of students. SI participants work in small groups with an expert in the field to develop an action plan to improve and enhance student success programs on their campuses.

In addition to these outstanding events, NACADA continues to be the leader within the field for providing quality professional development and resources at a distance. There is still time to register and take part in one of our Web Events. NACADA Webcasts are the most cost effective in the field and are always presented by current advising and student success practitioners. Campuses unable to participate in live a Webcast have access to recordings of all Webcasts along with a full array of electronic resources including the highly effective professional development DVD series Scenes for Learning and Reflection. The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources continues to provide members with the largest and highest quality resources, articles, and information available on the Internet.  

NACADA also prides itself on our publications including our monographs, pocket guides, and books where all members of the academic advising and student success community can gain valuable information and skills. Find our full array of publications on our website. Watch this fall for our new monograph on academic advising administration. 

In the face of increasing student enrollments and decreasing funds and resources, this is a challenging time for all within higher education. With these changes, professional development is even more important for all of us. NACADA continues to provide the field with the highest quality professional development resources and most cost effective support for higher education across the globe.

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

International Vantage Point.jpg

Pioneering Academic Advising in Japan: Analytical Perspectives from International Christian University Tokyo, Japan

Sonoko Morikawa, International Christian University, Tokoyo Japan

Sonoko Morikawa.jpgQuantitative data are powerful persuaders. If this is a true statement, then why don’t we use this powerful tool more for planning in academic advising? This article discusses an analytical approach to the collection and analysis of data in academic advising and provides examples of the use of quantitative data within advising practice at International Christian University (ICU).

Introduction to ICU

International Christian University (ICU) is a private, four-year liberal arts college, founded in 1953 in Japan. The student population is about 3,000 including the graduate school. The student-faculty ratio is 18 to 1, which is about the average for Japanese universities (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and Technology, 2008). From the beginning of the university, ICU has had a faculty advising system where each student is assigned a faculty advisor.

Academic planning practices at ICU arguably can be considered a pioneering endeavor among Japanese institutions. Although academic advising is beginning to get attention in Japan, it is still not common among Japanese universities. This is because most Japanese students choose their major before they enter college; once entering students find that the curriculum is fixed and there is very little flexibility for course selection. Therefore, there is less need for advising than in North American schools since students follow the course sequence within standard programs.

Change in Academic Advising at ICU

Before  2008, ICU had a typical Japanese system where students entered one of the six divisions under the college of liberal arts and followed the specified curriculum for their chosen division. In 2008, ICU underwent a major academic reform that merged the six divisions to one Arts and Sciences division with 32 majors. Students were granted the freedom to choose their major(s) at the end of their second year. The new ICU curriculum was more flexible, requiring students to have the ability to make academic planning decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.

This curricular change had a major impact on the ICU academic advising system. Advisors assigned to new students might not be in the student’s chosen major nor may they have knowledge about the curriculum of the majors outside their chosen field. Out of necessity, the Academic Planning Center (APC) was established in 2008 to strengthen advising at ICU. The mission of APC is to help students navigate through the major declaration process and to foster 'intentional learners' who can design their learning processes and make decisions on their own in order to achieve their goals (Academic Planning Handbook 2010). This unit was purposely not named an “advising” office in a belief that students should take the initiative for their academic planning.

APC Data

ICU started learning about leading advising practices at NACADA institutes in the U.S; there were no models in Japan for helping students select a major. Since an office that specialized in academic advising was new to ICU, we decided to collect data and record our advising practices from the start of the APC so we could monitor how our new advising system functioned.

The intended outcomes for data collection and the analysis were:

  1. Data can help us anticipate student need for academic advising
  2. Data can help advisors expand their capacity to handle student advising needs
  3. Data can help us find ways to improve academic advising.

The  three outcomes were derived from two data sources: 1) records of every student visit to the APC as transferred to a web system after advising sessions, 2) Academic Planning Essays students are required to write every year. The Academic Planning Essay is a chance for the students to regularly review and assess their progress, organize their thoughts, and develop their ability to plan (Academic Planning Handbook  2010).

 1. Analysis of student visit records. The following are findings from data collected in 2008 and 2009:

  • Number of student visits. The total number of students visiting the APC doubled in two years (Approx. 300 in 2008, approx. 600 in 2009). By the end of 2009, 40% of the total first-year student population and more than 60% of the total second year student population visited the APC.
  • Dates of student visits. The peak time for student visits to the APC in 2009 was course registration periods. We now know that the university calendar affects the number of students who visit.
  • Student Questions:
    • First year students want to solve problems they are facing at the moment
    • Major selection is the main concern of second year students
    • Third year students are concerned about senior thesis and graduation
    • Transfer students need academic planning
    • Senior students are worried about graduation

The operation of the APC became efficient because we analyzed these data. Knowing when peak periods occur made it possible for us to effectively schedule APC events. Figuring out the needs of each class enabled us to better prepare for student questions, discuss how questions vary, and provide advisors with the academic information needed to handle questions posed by students. The data also suggested that if only 40% of first-year students came for advising, then more might be done to advertise APC services to students.

 2. Analysis of the Academic Planning Essays.  Information obtained from the Academic Planning Essays was especially beneficial in analyzing student academic trends. Students were asked to choose up to three majors of interest in their Pre-Matriculation Essay. Analysis of these essays indicated that 25% of matriculating students chose the International Relations major as compared to 5% or fewer students who choose any of the other 31 majors. Analysis of the End of First Year Essay showed that 10% of students chose the Media, Communication and Culture major, while the number of students who chose the International Relations major dropped to 5%.

The results of the analysis of these essays indicated that one year of college experience had a great impact on the student decision-making process. The data showed a drastic change in student interests and supported what was heard in advising sessions with pre-major students. Matriculating students who were eager to major in international relations hoped to do something “international” in the future; these students had the same international goal after one year but saw other ways to achieve it. The data confirmed our perception regarding the trend in student major selections. Knowing the transitions students go through helps advisors prepare for the predictable advising patterns.


The role data plays in academic advising is significant especially when there are few models for advising at an institution. The data assisted APC staff to anticipate advising questions, expand advisors’ capacity to help students, and help advisors find effective measures for improvement. An analytical approach can be invaluable in surmounting challenging issues in academic advising.

Sonoko Morikawa
Academic Planning Center
International Christian University
[email protected]


Academic Planning Center (2009), Academic Advising at ICU. Academic Planning Handbook 2010, pp.7-8

School Fundamental Survey (2008): Catalog of Statistical Charts, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and Technology.

An Advisor's Journey: To Summer Institute and Back Again

Belinda Viljoen, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

Belinda Viljoen.jpg

I attended the NACADA Summer Institute in August 2010 in Philadelphia. If you haven’t attended a NACADA institute, do it!  It is a phenomenal opportunity to learn about academic advising and to connect with people from colleges and universities from across the globe.

My trip to the U.S. started in cold and icy South Africa (in August) and was filled with many “firsts” for me.  It was my first trip overseas and, of course, my first in the U.S.; it was filled with magical moments as I traveled from New York to Philadelphia and finally to Manhattan, Kansas (which I learned is known as “the Little Apple”).

I embarked on my journey with nerves of steel and lots of prayers; I was overwhelmed with expectations and scared that I would lose my luggage. My first destination was New York City; after an 18-hour flight (yes, 18 hours in an uncomfortable seat without sleep), I arrived in a wet and rainy New York City. I got into a yellow cab (another first as I had never ridden in a taxi) and found that it would take an hour to get to my hotel on 29th Street in Manhattan. I did not waste even one minute to rest; I was on a mission, determined to see as much as possible.  I spent the next two days exploring the streets of New York City, watching Broadway productions, and drinking lots of Starbucks© coffee.

Two days later, I left for Summer Institute in downtown Philadelphia. When I arrived, I felt the blazing heat but thought that the humidity was better. I checked into the hotel and immediately went out to explore the town. That was when I realized that the humidity was still high, but I loved it. Although most shops were closed, I found a Starbucks (one shop that quickly became a favourite) and went back to the hotel.  Later that day, I witnessed newlyweds taking pictures on the hotel sidewalk with its background view of City Hall. I took the rest of the day to rest after my two and half days of New York magic.

On the Institute’s opening day, I was the first participant to register and collect my Institute materials – I was the typical “first-timer”!  The opening session covered the history of academic advising and was presented by NACADA President Jayne Drake. We found our Small Groups, and my group facilitator was Karen Boston from the University of Arkansas. We referred to our group as the “diverse international group,” since we were comprised of four people from the U.S., a few from Canada, a lady from the Netherlands, and me, all the way from South Africa. During the week, we learned a lot from each other; even though our institutions and countries were different, we realized that our challenges and issues are almost identical! We shared ideas and strategies for what works on our campuses. This process turned us into “experts for a moment” and helped motivate us to go back to our respective universities and promote new strategies to enhance the academic advising process.

The week was filled with foundation sessions, workshops, topical, and at least one Small Group discussion daily. I wish there was more time to attend all the sessions; each session was interesting or informative. I learned so much!

After the close of the Institute, I was privileged to visit Kansas State University and spend time with NACADA staff.  I want to live there! The people are so friendly and willing to share their expertise. The campus is beautiful, and seeing students drive their own “branded” Mustangs was truly amazing. Of course, I couldn’t say no to the lovely Mexican food.

 Belinda Viljoen and NACADA staff.jpg

Looking back at my experiences I would say that Summer Institute is a must!  I gained so much knowledge and confidence; when I returned to my home campus I was able to present my Action Plan and the strategies I learned. This was especially helpful because I am new to the systems approach and my small group members worked with it every day. I met so many new “colleagues” and am still in contact with them; they support me and give great input as we move forward on our campuses.

Looking back at my experiences I would say that Summer Institute is a must!  I gained so much knowledge and confidence; when I returned to my home campus I was able to present my Action Plan and the strategies I learned. This was especially helpful because I am new to the systems approach and my small group members worked with it every day. I met so many new “colleagues” and am still in contact with them; they support me and give great input as we move forward on our campuses.

A quote from Mark Twain sums up my total experience in the U.S. and what is still to come: ”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Belinda Viljoen
Chief Officer: Academic Advising
Student Development and Success
Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning
University of the Free State
Bloemfontein, 9301 (South Africa)
[email protected]

Peering into the Future: Using Peer Advisors to Assist Changing Student Populations

Dana Zahorik, Peer Advising & Mentoring Commission Chair

Dana Zahorik.jpgPeer advising supports the achievement of key institutional priorities, including student retention and persistence, promotion of student success, and helping students to meet their career goals. As the economy continues to waver, the number of students enrolling at our institutions climbs as dislocated workers return to college and younger students seek to lower their loan indebtedness by taking classes while living at home. These students bring with them a different set of needs that challenge us to provide effective advising services. Institutions must react and adjust advising services if we are to meet the needs of our changing student populations. Peer advisors can be an integral part of the solution.

Our willingness to adjust advising services is a reflection of the culture an institution embraces. Implementation of peer advising services demonstrates that advising is taken seriously and that addressing student needs is an institutional priority. Peer advising can be an effective strategy for meeting student needs on a peer-to-peer basis. War Soldier (2002) noted that students are able to understand the various life experiences of other college students. This is not to say that advisors are not able to understand college students and their experiences, but that peer advisors can help expand the reach of advisors to connect with their peers. Koring and Campbell (2005) support this concept by stating, “In addition to serving in a variety of roles, peer advisors also work with a variety of populations. Many, if not most, peer advising programs target first-year students as a primary population. Some models target subsets within the first year cohort; others may target specific peers or offer differentiated programs through which advisors work with subsets of first-year students” (p. 11).

Students are working more and going to school less. The number of full-time students at many institutions has declined. Summer enrollment in general has increased (Brown, 2008), and the number of students enrolled in distance education courses has increased. Working students require increased flexibility and the number of dislocated workers entering college has soared. As a result, more students are balancing employment with attending college. Who better to show these students how to balance multiple roles than peers who have successfully demonstrated that they can succeed in college? When successful peers make a simple connection with entering students, they become the important mentor needed for student persistence.

Student financial constraints have contributed to changes in student demographics. Different patterns are emerging as a result. The fear of overwhelming school loans has added pressure to those entering college. McLaren (2004) stated that “some of the recent changes in student demographics may be due to the increased financial demands of continuing an academic education and students’ concerns about future loan debt” (p.173 ). In addition, increasingly rising tuition has forced more students to work full-time while attending school, take fewer courses, or take courses in summer.  Financial constraints may also contribute to the fact that fewer students are living on campus or away from home in general (McLaren, 2004, p.173 ). Students are living at home to help save money, which means that they are on the road more and have commuting costs that may not be covered by financial aid. Travel time must be factored into students’ time management plans. Many students are heads of household and support families while they juggle college, work, and family life (McLaren, 2004, p. 6). Peer advisors can be mentors for these students and refer them to the resources as needed. For example, Fox Valley Technical College utilizes an Emergency Loan system where students in need can be referred to a counselor to receive up to $500 in emergency money to overcome a barrier to finishing their education. A peer advisor can assess the situation and refer the student in need to such a service as well as help connect students to other appropriate resources.

Tough economic times have had an effect on the decision making of some students. Often, dislocated workers must adhere to strict retraining timelines. Many colleges have seen an increase in career counseling referrals because of the increase in the number of dislocated workers. McLaren (2004) noted that “it is very important to refer students to counselors specializing in career counseling and personal counseling whenever necessary.  Students often do not find their way to these types of resources, where readily available in the university, without an academic advisor to point out the importance of such consultations” (p. 174). Peer advisors often serve as the missing link to connect these students to the appropriate resources including career or personal counselors who can help them seek out additional resources.

The informal trust system built between students and peer advisors is something faculty and staff cannot replicate. This trust is a resource that can be used to promote student success. Peer advisors have successfully walked in these students’ shoes and are willing to give back what they received from fellow peers.  Peer advising can provide an invaluable resource to the institutions and the changing student populations we serve

Dana Zahorik
Academic Counselor
Fox Valley Technical College
[email protected]


Brown, L.C. (2008). Advising a diverse student body: Lessons I've learned from trading places. Liberal Education. 94(4) p. 62-63.

Koring, H. & Campbell, S (2005). An introduction to peer advising. In Koring, H & Campbell, S. (Eds.) Peer advising: Intentional connections to support student learning. (NACADA monograph No. 13) NACADA: Manhattan, KS.

Marques, J. F. (2005). Best practices in adult advising: A team conclusion. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 29(8) p. 4-5.

McLaren, Jennifer (2004). The changing face of undergraduate academic advising. Guidance and Counseling. 19(4).

War Soldier. R.S. (2002). Using life’s lessons to mend. News from Native California 15(4) p 25.

Effective Ways to Deal with Large Advising Loads

Debra Y. Applegate and Gayle Hartleroad, Ball State University

Debbie Applegate and Gayle Hartleroad.jpg

Being an academic advisor is no small task; we inform students about opportunities to expand their knowledge and experiences, help them make life-changing decisions, and assist them to achieve their maximum potential.  As budget restraints negatively affect academia, there is valid concern that institutions remain adequately staffed and sufficiently meet the needs of students in a timely manner -- two of the Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education requirements for academic advising programs (CAS, 2005). Many of today’s academic advisors are overwhelmed by the number of students in their advising loads and their responsibility to help these students develop academically and personally. What exactly defines a “large advising load?” How might an advisor effectively advise this number of students? What does it take for an advisor to manage this demand? Do advisors have accessible resources that are not being utilized efficiently?

Defining a “large” advising load

Although suggestions vary, Habley (2004) noted that a generally accepted recommendation for the number of students assigned to a full-time, professional academic advisor is approximately 300 (¶ 4). Habley noted that this recommendation should be qualified by the specific needs of the student population and the structure of the institution (¶ 5). Advisors assigned to work with undecided, disabled, transfer, adult, and international students, among other sub-populations, may require a smaller load to accommodate more extensive advising needs. Another factor which may determine an assigned advising load is the number of electives within a specific program. For instance, business and engineering are two programs with few electives so some administrators may not consider other student factors and think that advisors can handle larger advising loads. In these cases it may be helpful if advisors are assigned a select group of students within a specialty or in the same year.

Advising a large population of students (750 pre-business in our situation) has required us to think strategically in our efforts to handle the demands of a large number of students effectively without sacrificing student focus or our ability to assist students in utilizing campus resources to obtain the best possible college experience.

Defining student populations

When managing a large number of advisees, a critical component is advisor knowledge of the general and specific needs of each student population group. At Ball State University, we utilize a coding system for advisors. This has proven beneficial to categorize advisees using designated codes which indicate student progression through the required course sequence. For instance, pre-business students are coded “WW” when entering sophomore status, “XX” for students successfully continuing in the program after their first semester, “YY” if an international student, “ZZ” if an honors student. At a glance, Ball State pre-business advisors can see what type of student is being advised and know probable questions and concerns.

Defining effective formats for various student populations

Once student populations have been identified, a specific format is utilized to best meet the needs of advisees. Incoming or newly identified pre-business students (coded as “WW”) must attend a mandatory group orientation advising session in their first semester. Course sequencing, registration, GPA requirements, major choices, advising expectations, internships, and available resources are explained in this session. We encourage students to efficiently progress through pre-business toward admission into the college of business. Students who successfully advance to the next semester are coded as “XX” and will attend individual advising appointments until they are fully admitted into the college. This group often requires more specific advising to help them successfully progress to their declared majors. International students, also known as the “YY” population, meet with an advisor one-on-one in all cases since there are often additional requirements and specific needs to be addressed. For similar reasons, individual advising appointments are the favored format for the honors “ZZ” group.

Defining possible resources

The number and types of advising resources are diverse. A sampling of options include:

  • The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. The web-based Clearinghouse is a primary resource for advisors on a multitude of advising-related topics. Clearinghouse topics are divided into two basic groups: resources to help advisors work with students and advisor/system related resources (NACADA, 2011c).
  • Individual institution websites. Many advising programs have their own websites that provide resources for advisors, faculty, and students. Advisors should search websites of programs that mirror their own in advisor load, student population, or program structure for ideas on how to best convey information within their advising situation. 
  • Technology. When considering advising resources many of us immediately think of technology applications; this is illustrated by the vast listing on the “Advising Technology” section of the NACADA Clearinghouse (NACADA, 2011a). We know that technology is a primary way students seek immediate access to information. Some specific technology applications for advisors and students may include, but are not limited to, the following:  
    • Email
    • saging s Instant me
    • Text messaging
    • User-friendly portal or website
    • Blogs
    • Social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
    • Pod or Vod casts
    • Electronic signage
    • School-specific systems, such as Blackboard
    • Applications created specifically for mobile devices
  • Institution or Regional Advising Groups. Some institutions have their own advising association within the campus community (NACADA 2011b). Colleagues can be one of the best resources for advisors because they have insight into the specifics of a particular campus community, student populations, or school-specific policies/procedures.
  • Current staff. There are almost always creative ways to modify current positions to better support advising. These modifications can include new ways to exchange “behind the scenes” administrative work for in-person assistance to advisors. 

When addressing the challenges of managing today’s large advising loads, academic advisors can benefit tremendously from categorizing their advisees, identifying specific student needs within these categories, selecting appropriate advising formats, and utilizing available resources. It is critical we remember that even though we may be overloaded with work each student is an individual with individual needs. Students deserve the guidance needed to help them navigate the bureaucracy and challenges of college in order to be successful. NACADA is an incredible support organization to assist academic advisors in this professional endeavor.

Debra Y. Applegate
Academic Advisor
Miller College of Business
Ball State University
[email protected]

Gayle Hartleroad
Director of Student Services
Miller College of Business
Ball State University
[email protected]


Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2005). Academic advising programs: CAS standards and guidelines. Retrieved from www.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0

Habley, W. R. (2004). Advisor load. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/advisorload.htm

National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011a). Advising technology. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/Links/Technology.htm

National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011b). Allied associations.  Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Membership/allied_members.htm

National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011c). Clearinghouse topics index. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/index.htm


Freedom to Choose: Advisor Classifications and Internal Identities

David Freitag, Pima Community College

David Freitag.jpgAcademic advisors are free to choose their own level of professionalism and scholarship. While we may be organizationally classified by “who” we are (e.g., faculty advisors, staff advisors, or student peer advisors), “where” we work (e.g., centralized advising office, satellite offices, or faculty offices), and “who” we advise (e.g., student-athletes, international students, honors students, or freshmen), I propose that advisors have the freedom to choose to be at one of four levels within our discipline: advising practitioner, emerging professional, advising professional, or advising scholar. Advising administrators can build the advising team best suited to their institution by being aware of the choices we, as advisors, make and where we are in our journey towards academic advising professionalism and scholarship.

The Academic Advising Practitioner

When individuals are hired to advise full-time or take on advising as part of their faculty role, we are typically expected to communicate information accurately to these students, help students problem solve, and make referrals when necessary. New advising practitioners frequently need close supervision and someone who can guide them. Advising for these individuals is just part of an 8 to 5 job and many advisors happily remain advising practitioners during their entire careers.

Advising practitioners may be aware of NACADA, but often are not members. They may be aware of the larger discipline of academic advising, but do not feel connected to it despite their position. They might attend an advising conference when paid for by the institution, but would not consider paying their own way. Advising, to the advising practitioner, is just their job or a part of their job.

Despite a low level of personal commitment, academic advising practitioners are the backbone of many advising systems. There are several organizational influences that encourage administrators to maintain a system with only advising practitioners: low entry requirements and expectations for staff advisors, a desire to keep advisor pay low (on par with administrative personnel for staff advisors and no pay at all for faculty advisors), or a fundamental lack of understanding of the scope and complexity of academic advising in today’s institutions of higher learning. Because of these factors, it is entirely possible that the institution expects every advisor to remain an academic advisor practitioner.

The Academic Advising Emerging Professional

An academic advising emerging professional is not satisfied with the view that they should just do a job – they want to be a professional and to be treated as such. Such advisors are moving towards becoming a full-fledged academic advising professional by joining their international association, NACADA, and by working to improve their advising practice as they learn from others in the field through publications, webinars, and conferences. The advising emerging professional works to improve the practice of advising during work hours, but rarely takes advising work home.

Most advising administrators welcome the increased competence of an advising emerging professional since such an advisor not only is beginning to self-identify as an advising professional but is starting to ask for, and take on, more advising responsibilities. Advising emerging professionals are doing things to take charge of their careers; they no longer are satisfied to be supervised, but instead want to be managed in a more collegial manner. They wish to be led rather than be closely supervised. In return for more freedom, these advisors strive to improve their advising work not just for themselves and their students but also for other advisors at their institution. Emerging professionals without post-graduate work in an area applicable to advising start to feel their lack of credentials and make plans for improving their educational standing.

The Academic Advising Professional

Academic advising professionals view academic advising as a profession and treat it as such. Advising professionals are highly qualified and actively seek further educational opportunities to enhance their advising credentials. They are members of NACADA and are active participants in its growth and governance. They attend local, state, and national conferences even if their institution does not pay their way. They are advocates for the academic advising discipline.

Certifications and credentials are as important to the advising professional as they are to other professionals in fields such as teaching, law, and medicine. Academic advising professionals have earned a degree on par with other campus professionals and graduate hours in academic advising, higher education, counseling, or another related discipline.

Advising administrators can expect advising professionals to perform their responsibilities without close supervision. Professionals, such as the academic advising professional, do not need to be supervised since they take pride in their work ethic and knowledge within the field. These advisors invest a number of hours outside the office in studying advising or working to improve their advising knowledge and skills by keeping up with academic advising literature such as the NACADA Journal and Academic Advising Today. Their workday often does not end at 5 p.m. An academic advising professional’s goal is to better serve their students and institution by improving their own proficiency and the proficiency of other advisors at their institution.

The Academic Advising Scholar

Academic advising scholars have post-graduate degrees and are recognized for their expertise in the advising field. The focus of advising scholars is not on their own competence, which is a given, but on the larger issues of advising administration, advising program assessment, or advancing the discipline of academic advising through scholarly inquiry. Academic advising scholars in a staff position should also be called academic professionals since they are academics in the true sense of the word.

Academic advising scholars are experts in academic advising. They keep up with, and add to, the current body of literature in the field; they are active participants in their association. Academic advising scholars identify with the field of academic advising more than their current position (which may or may not be working full-time advising students). Advising is not just a job for the advising scholar – it is a passion and a calling.

Being academic professionals, academic advising scholars’ work hours are comparable to other academic professionals, including faculty and administrators. It is not unusual for an advising scholar to work more than 50 hours a week with the hours beyond the standard 40 dedicated to service or research within the academic advising field.

Academic advising scholars create new knowledge through their research and scholarship. They publish and share their discoveries and thoughts at conferences and seminars. An academic advising scholar does not experience office down-time because their life’s work will never be complete. They are constantly thinking about ways to improve and promote the field of academic advising. Academic administrators should use the knowledge and experience of academic advising scholars in improving not only their institution’s advising services, but also to be leaders in the field of academic advising.


All academic advisors are full members of the academe and have the freedom and opportunity to choose to be advising professionals and scholars of academic advising. Choosing to become an advising professional or a scholar requires not only a shift of attitude, but also a change in action and behavior. Becoming an advising professional or scholar requires accepting individual responsibility for professional development, mentoring and learning from fellow advisors, working effectively with the advising administration of the institution, and working for the professional advancement of the field of academic advising. This is a challenging path to choose, but it is a path with many unexpected rewards, both professionally and personally.

David Freitag
IT Development Services
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ
[email protected]


Schulenberg, J. K., & Lindhorst, M. J. (2008). Academic advising: Toward defining the practice and scholarship of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 28(1), 43-53.

An Advisor's Primer to the Language of Budgeting

Robert Hurt, NACADA Emerging Leader

Robert Hurt.jpgEven in periods of relative abundance, advising administrators and their staffs must pay careful attention to managing fiscal resources. This attention to detail is even more crucial in times like these when we must justify and compete for every dollar. From an accounting point of view, advising centers are most often treated as discretionary cost centers; that is, managers are held responsible for their costs since such centers typically do not generate revenue. Although advisors and students understand all too keenly the relationship between high-quality advising and student success, upper-level administrators may see advising as a discretionary item—rather than one that is “mission critical” for the institution. Yet, when advisors understand the role of budgeting, how to manage budgets carefully, ethically and creatively, and learn to “speak the language” of budgeting, we can preserve funding and serve students even in the “lean times.”

Budgets have at least four important purposes in virtually every organization.  They

  • are a way to allocate resources;
  • help communicate the mission, goals, and objectives throughout the organization;
  • clarify organizational priorities; and
  • can be used to evaluate performance.

Far more than a principal source of anxiety and frustration, the budget provides a “common language” to discuss what should happen and why it should happen; it also gives advisors a financial tool to look back and see how they did.

Understanding a few key terms can go a long way in helping advisors communicate with others regarding the budget; these terms include:

  • Appropriation. The money received, typically at the start of the year, from someone higher on the organizational chart, such as a director, dean, or vice president.
  • Encumbrance. A commitment of appropriated funds. Encumbrances are unique to government and not-for-profit (GNFP) accounting.  Effectively, they set aside funds for a specific purpose—they can be thought of as a “budget within a budget.”
  • Expenditure. Contrary to the common meaning of the term (spending money), an expenditure in GNFP accounting arises when a liability is created—usually by receiving goods. Expenditures can be encumbered first, but may not be if they are regular and recurring (such as staff salaries).
  • Cost variance. The difference between actual costs and budgeted costs is cost variance. Variances arise most commonly from one of two sources: financial factors and quantity factors. For example, an advising administrator may budget $500 for sending staff to a NACADA event, but actually spend $700 because (a) three staff members actually attend instead of the two budgeted (quantity factors) and / or (b) plane tickets may be more expensive than originally budgeted (financial factors).  Accountants and managers can use variance analysis to tease apart the impact each factor had on the overall budget variance and determine how to avoid cost variances in the future. Cost variances can be one element of an advising center’s balanced scorecard.
  • Balanced scorecard. A technique for evaluating organizational performance that examines the organization from four perspectives: financial, customer, internal business process and innovation, and learning.

Activity-based budgeting and zero-based budgeting are useful techniques for connecting the budget to initiatives and plans within an advising center. Activity-based budgeting is an extension of activity-based costing, a technique for allocating costs based on the activities that create them. Activity-based budgeting (potentially more useful to advising centers) is a method for specifying what monies will be used for in the coming academic year. For example, instead of saying simply “We will allocate $10,000 for supplies,” activity-based budgeting would tie those supplies to specific activities:  “For summer orientation, we expect to serve 500 students.  Each student will need a CD of materials, each of which will cost about $1.00.  Thus, we should budget $500 for summer orientation supplies.”

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) forces managers to look at proposed activities very critically, evaluating each activity based on its relationship with organization mission. The technique gets its name from its overall approach:  each budgeting cycle, every organizational unit starts with a base budget of zero. Each unit must justify its very existence by showing how it contributes to the organizational mission.  In ZBB, managers typically organize proposed activities in leveled “packets;” budget administrators fund packets based on resource availability and relationship of the activities in the packet to the organizational mission.  Communication skills are very important in ZBB, as the manager who makes the best argument often gets the best funding.

Advisors do not need degrees in accounting or finance to navigate the budgeting process and manage limited resources effectively.  Please consult the resources listed below for more information on the topics presented here.

Robert Hurt
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
[email protected]

Additional Resources

Brewer, P., R., Garrison, and E. Noreen. (2010). Introduction to managerial accounting. (5th ed).  McGraw-Hill / Irwin.

Copley, P. (2011). Essentials of accounting for governmental and not-for-profit organizations. (10th ed).  McGraw-Hill / Irwin.

Cunningham, L.  (1983). Not-for-profit budgeting. The Public Relations Journal, 39(5), 33.  

Gerdin, J.  (2004, September).  Activity-based variance analysis: New tools for cost management. Cost Management, 18(5), 38-48.

Hunt, S. & P. Klein. (2003, August). Budgets roll with the times. Optimize, 85-90.

Hurt, B.  (2004, Spring & Fall).  Using the balanced-scorecard approach for program assessment of faculty advising. NACADA Journal, 24(1,2), 124-127.

Kaplan, Robert S. & D.P Norton. (2005, July). The balanced scorecard: Measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, 83(7,8), 172-180.

Macintosh, Norman B.  (1980, May). Control of discretionary costs with ZBB: A second look.  Cost and Management, 54(3), 26.

Malpas-Sands, Clive, & Meyer-Piening, Arnulf. (1979, April). The zero based budget. Management Today, 76.

Sandison, D., S. C. Hansen, & R. G. Torok. (2003, March). Activity-based planning and budgeting: A new approach from CAM-I. Cost Management,17(2), 16-22.

Enhancing Advisor Development through the Wide World of Wiki

Kohle Paul, Valdosta State University

Kohle Paul.jpgThe Student Success Center (SSC) and the Office of Academic Student Instructional Support (OASIS) at Valdosta State University recently merged into one decentralized department. The SSC/OASIS employs 27 graduate assistant advisors who are dispersed throughout 13 different departments on campus. The initial perception of the SSC/OASIS staff was that there may be a lack of inter-advisor communication and collaboration because of the decentralized advising system.

The communication and collaboration efforts of the 27 graduate assistant advisors were assessed to determine the frequency of inter-advisor communication and collaboration. It was found that when there were changes in departmental/university policies and procedures some graduate assistant advisors were the last to be informed. For example, when one graduate assistant advisor inquired about undergraduate course audit policies it was found that the majority of graduate assistant advisors were unaware of the necessary process and procedures for auditing classes. To help bridge the communication and collaboration gap, we decided to investigate different mediums for enhancing advisor communication and collaboration. It was agreed that the use of an advising wiki could help alleviate the communication and collaboration gap among graduate assistant advisors.

Wikis are defined as a collaborative Web space where users can add and edit content (Richardson, 2006, p. 8). Wikis can be used to write, discuss, comment, edit, reflect, and evaluate information and material from a myriad of sources. They offer a shared environment where advisors can actively participate in the integration and co-creation of knowledge (West & West, 2009; Solomon & Schrum, 2007; Richardson, 2006). Because some graduate assistant advisors also teach a freshman seminar class, a wiki could also enhance communication and collaboration about research projects, advising related material, class material and grading.

Wikis have both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits include:

  • Most offer a free version as well as a “sandbox” or test wiki for user practice.
  • All users are required to register for an account before they can add and edit content.
  • Information stored on a wiki is stored by topic rather than chronology.
  • Wikis can help enhance organizational communication as well as group and interdisciplinary collaboration (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).

The drawbacks include:

  • Training on how to use a wiki is necessary before it can be utilized.
  • Lack of free time can impede training demands and use of a wiki.
  • Wikis lack “real-time” collaboration so two users cannot post and edit within the same wiki page at the same time (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).

Wikis can be used as informational mediums for advisor training and development. They can act as a discussion board where advisors can interact about a variety of educational topics. Wikis provide a location to store and maintain institutional and departmental policies and procedures (Clark & Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006). They also provide a digital space where departmental and university calendars can be posted and updated on a daily basis (Glogowski & Steiner, 2008).

The Valdosta State University advising wiki is used as a digital advising manual where advisors can post, edit, and discuss information about departmental / university policies and procedures with other advisors. The wiki postings are used to set topics for monthly advising focus groups, webinars, and professional development opportunities. For instance, ethics in advising was brought up on the advising wiki and multiple advisors expressed an interest in this issue, so a focus group was called to address this topic. Focus group members suggested that advisors should attend an ethics training course offered by the campus Employee Development Office for further professional development.

Staff from the SSC/OASIS conducted one-on-one graduate assistant advisor interviews and focus groups to elucidate their perceptions on the use of the advising wiki. Preliminary results showed that all the graduate assistant advisors read the advising wiki on a weekly basis. They agreed that the advising wiki increased advisor communication and collaboration across campus. However, a little more than half of the graduate assistant advisors posted and edited wiki content on a weekly basis. Advisors identified their advising load and lack of time as their main reasons for not committing to the intent of the advising wiki.

To encourage more use of the advising wiki, we have made several improvements. Each advisor schedules a 15-30 minute block each week to review the advising wiki. The advising wiki is linked to the SSC/OASIS appointment scheduler page, making it more visible and easier to access. Weekly email reminders are sent to each advisor and monthly focus groups have also been helpful in promoting wiki use.

We plan to continue using the advising wiki as a collaborative manual for training discussions and workshops. The wiki, in conjunction with monthly advisor development workshops, allows us to enhance advisor knowledge of the conceptual, informational, and relational issues so important to effective academic advising (King, 2000). 

Kohle Paul
OASIS Center for Advising and FYP
Valdosta State University
[email protected]

Additional NACADA Resources

Ford, S.S. (2007). The essential steps for developing the content of an effective advisor training and development program. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/AdvTrng-Steps.htm

French, B. (2010).  Advising 2.0: Utilizing web 2.0 resources in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 33(1), 12, 24.

Little, T. (2010). Understanding knowledge management: Developing a foundation for future advising practices. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Knowledge.htm


Clark, C. J., & Mason, E. B. (2008). A wiki way of working. Internet References Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 113-132. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_07

Glogowski, J., & Steiner, S. (2008). The life of a wiki: How Georgia state university library’s wiki enhances content currency and employee collaboration. Internet Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 87-98. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_05

King, M. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In Gordon, V.N. & Habley, W.R., & Associates (Eds.),  Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (p.289-97). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Preparation for Addressing the Complexities of Academic Advising


Colleen Bauer, Northwest Christian University

Colleen Bauer.jpg

My experience at the NACADA Summer Institute in Philadelphia was my first formal introduction to NACADA. I first became aware of NACADA when I was appointed to coordinate undergraduate academic advising at Northwest Christian University (NCU) in 2009. My first assignment was to complete the faculty advising manual begun by my predecessor. As I read through the working copy of the manual, references to NACADA kept appearing. But what was NACADA? I conducted an internet search for NACADA and found what would become a very valuable resource as I proceeded in my new role.

During the first part of the school year, it became very apparent I needed training. While my previous experience and training in education served me well, it was not sufficient preparation to address the complexities of academic advising on campus. I became aware of the NACADA Summer Institute scholarship opportunity, applied, and, much to my amazement and delight, was awarded the scholarship. I was off to historic Philadelphia!

To prepare for the week-long institute, I met with my supervisor and key campus personnel to outline an Action Plan that would be in accordance with the university’s mission and goals. I arrived in Philadelphia with my Action Plan draft in hand for the creation of a mentorship program which would revolutionize academic advising at NCU. I was ready to meet with academic advising veterans to obtain the help needed to fine tune and formalize the plan for implementation when I returned to campus.

Summer Institute faculty laid a foundation for the week by taking participants through the history of academic advising and helping us understand the role of academic advising within our campus environment.  We learned how to create effective advisor development programs, conduct effective assessment, and how to lead from our positions to effect change. These themes, along with what was learned in topical sessions, were addressed each day in assigned Small Groups where group leaders facilitated discussion and encouraged group members to identify an important aspect of what was learned in the last 24 hours.  My group included participants representing small independent colleges and universities; we were facilitated by seasoned advisor Blane Harding. Through his guidance, Action Plans were shared and discussed. Each day brought more insight and direction as we examined our individual Action Plans and delineated goals, challenges, and methods for implementation. Action Plans were amended, redesigned, and refined as we processed information gathered from the various sessions held throughout the week, from the feedback of other participants and facilitators, and from the individualized meetings with advising experts.

My Action Plan focused on developing and designing a faculty/student mentorship program to be implemented over a five year period. The main goal of the program was to create a sense of belonging and assist students to successfully adapt to the numerous academic,  career, social, spiritual, and personal issues that accompany being a college student. However, soon after my arrival, as I listened to foundation sessions, topical sessions, workshops, presentations, and small group discussions, I began to realize the full magnitude of the Action Plan I was assigned and recognized it would be more profitable to focus my attentions on developing a plan to firm up and develop the existing academic advising program at NCU. The input gained from fellow group members, other participants, and NACADA faculty was invaluable.

The NACADA Summer Institute was not “all work and no play.” Free time was allotted for sightseeing, visiting with new found friends, and relaxing. The NACADA team treated us to a dinner cruise where we were entertained by the musical talents of the crew and invited to dance as the sun faded over the horizon. We walked the cobblestone streets of the historic district and rode horse drawn carriages while narratives depicting early Philadelphia life unfolded before us. We experienced local cuisine, such as the Philly Cheese Steak, and drank coffee in street cafes. We shared experiences and told stories that cemented our bonds of friendship and camaraderie.

By the end of the Summer Institute, I had received a thorough introduction, or induction, if you will, to NACADA. Not only did I have a greater appreciation for and understanding of academic advising, I had a viable and realistic Action Plan to take back to NCU. I was now equipped with the tools, skills, and resources needed to strengthen my campus academic advising program. Furthermore, I was encouraged to lead and effect change from my position. I went to the Summer Institute alone, but came back as a colleague within an international team of advisors with common challenges and goals.

I strongly encourage all academic advisors to attend a Summer Institute during your career. You will be encouraged and motivated; you will learn new skills and be introduced to comprehensive resources. You will discover a wealth of wisdom, assistance, and knowledge from all you meet.

Colleen Bauer
Coordinator, Academic Advising
Student Records and Licensure Counselor
School of Education and Counseling
Northwest Christian University
[email protected]


Why  Do We Love Our Jobs?

Sometimes the act of writing out what we enjoy about our work can give a new sense of perspective and a new appreciation for working in higher education. Here is a personal description of why I love my job. I hope my story will remind others why, even during challenging times, we love the work we do.

I am just coming off the “high” I get after attending a Landmark College graduation ceremony.  Landmark College is a small two year school that exclusively serves students with learning disabilities (LD).  We still have two graduation ceremonies each year: one in December and one in May. Now this may seem extravagant for an enrollment of just under 500, but there’s something intimate and special about the Landmark College ceremonies that call for bi-annual celebrations. It is always heartwarming and satisfying as we watch a graduation class of scholars leave our institutions of higher learning, many who have earned academic awards for excellence in scholastic achievement. At my campus, these student awards are earned despite a student’s learning disability. I am reminded of the old remark about Ginger Rogers doing all the same steps that Fred Astaire did; however, she did them backward and in high heels.  It’s an apt metaphor for the struggles students at my institution have.

While the life of a college student is demanding in itself, it is exponentially more demanding for students on the Landmark College campus. Some struggle with reading, others with writing; some with crippling procrastination and unwieldy distractibility, and some with all of these and more. Going through college with a learning disability is laborious and exhausting. These students arrive with levels of intelligence and cognitive ability equal to their non-LD peers, although their potential is locked inside brains that process language differently, making academic success a little like dancing backwards in heels. But they do it, many of them, and we, their faculty members and advisors, get to sit in the auditorium and share with them the day that most never expected would ever happen.

As academic advisors to LD students, we are the gatekeepers to a world of academic success. I love my job because I am honored to help navigate these young people as they complete their academic journey filled with twists and turns, many early failures and more recent successes, and a lot of perseverance and resiliency.  As I work with these students to discover their learning profile, I collaborate with other campus faculty and staff to create strategies for success.  Through this process, many find a path to a major and ultimately a career that will complement their enormous gifts and talents in satisfying and meaningful ways. It is no wonder that at their graduation, when they give their individual speeches, they always publicly and proudly point to our very small, though enormously devoted faculty and advisors as the reason for their success.

It is on graduation day, as I sit in my academic regalia along with my colleagues, that I feel especially fortunate to be an academic advisor at Landmark College. I see a young man walk across the stage and remember that when he first met with me for advising, he had considered taking another route because he was lacking confidence in his ability to do college-level work. Through the course of the term we talked about Nihilism and Nietzsche, and he discussed his final paper topic with me: Nihilism and the Jerry Seinfeld show. Two years earlier, he never believed he’d be able to keep up in a philosophy class. Another student who has severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Executive Functioning difficulties had just written an excellent piece on mirror neurons and psychological development. A young woman who had a math phobia in her first semester reached Calculus and became a tutor in the math lab. In an egotistical sort of way, I always have an opportunity to be part of a student’s first positive learning experiences, and it is very gratifying work.

Certainly this should be enough, but I also love my job as a faculty member and advisor because it offers me flexibility in terms of a daily schedule. I enjoy limited supervision and the satisfaction of being valued by colleagues and administrators. Furthermore, I have been offered much in professional development opportunities including some tuition reimbursement and loads of encouragement to present at professional conferences. I’ve also been able to travel abroad with students.

A very large portion of the faculty were the founding faculty of the college 25 years ago, and I have had the honor and privilege of working with these dedicated people who were pioneers in the field of learning to help LD students gain academic success. The fact that so many have remained, and have remained for so long, has created a very strong community, one in which all who enter can feel and often want to remain part. In addition, several of our administrators are also among the founding members, so this longevity has bred a well-constructed tradition of cooperation and collaboration.

At a Christmas party twenty five years ago, I met a man who worked at the college as the Athletic Director, and he encouraged me to apply for a position at the college. The description he gave about how much he loved his job seemed over the top and very unbelievable. I thought he was really laying it on thick and even considered that he might be delusionary. But, he wasn't. He was telling the truth. I love my job and am sure I am equally as boring at parties when I tell people about it!

Denise Mary Manning
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Member
Landmark College
Guest writer at the request of
Alison K. Hoff
NACADA Member Career Services Chair
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

Posted in: 2011 March 34:1


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