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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Keeping Academic Advising in the Forefront of Conversations in Higher Education

Joshua S. Smith, NACADA President

As usual, the academic year is flying by. As we head into the home stretch of the spring semester I wanted to follow up on the theme of Professionalism and consider some of the ways we can keep academic advising in the forefront of conversations in higher education. One component of professionalism in academic advising is clearly evidenced in NACADA’s commitment to creating conditions for excellence in academic advising. In the month of February alone, advisors and advising administrators from over 20 college campuses attended the Administrators’ Institute, Adult Learner Seminar, and/or the Assessment Institute. Additionally, Region 7 (South Central) kicked off the first of 10 Regional Conferences in San Antonio (Feb. 28-March 2). Participants at NACADA events benefit tangibly from hearing about cutting edge practice, having dedicated time to collaborate and share ideas, and demonstrate their knowledge and expertise by presenting what is working on their respective campuses.

President Josh Smith.jpg

I truly enjoy attending Regional and Annual Conference sessions and am always impressed with the quality and care that presenters put into each session. However, I often find myself wondering what philosophy, theory, and existing research undergird the implementation of a particular practice or development of a program. In addition to session topics, I have gravitated toward sessions that explicitly cite a reference from a journal in the abstract. I am pleasantly surprised when I receive a short paper citing the research, theory, and/or philosophy that is the basis for the session. As stated in my Presidential address at our Annual Conference last October, some of the leading scholars in academic advising have called for the development of a robust body of literature to validate advising as a field of study, discipline, and profession. The only way to grow that body of work is for us to do it.

A good starting point is preparing a literature review and clearly identifying a theoretical basis for our practice when presenting at conferences. The NACADA Journal and other higher education journals provide rich perspectives of our field and its impact of student experience and learning. We need to push even further if we are to confidently declare, as I do, that academic advising is a field of study.

I would like to pose an academic challenge to presenters at Region and Annual Conferences. Please accept the challenge of writing a short paper and making it available to attendees, and resisting the temptation to hand out a copy of a PowerPoint. Use a PowerPoint or Prezi to guide the presentations, but consider giving attendees something to read on the way home. Include a list of references, pointing readers in the direction to expand their knowledge of the philosophy, theory, and practice you are presenting. In preparation for this challenge, review recent articles in the NACADA Journal and explore recent editions of Academic Advising Today. I find AAT articles to be exemplary “praxis” in advising; that sweet spot connecting research, theory, and practice. Moving in this direction accelerates the volume and quality of expert voices in the conversations about the direction of higher education that are happening within campuses and at the state, national, and global levels.

At a recent College Completion Forum in Maryland, Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of Education, stated that the “greatest challenge to progress is the status quo.” She was speaking within the context of the United States’ desire to increase the percentage of adults with higher education credentials. She and others made a strong case that our collective efforts to increase access to college has been more successful than our ability to assist students in getting through college, as Governor O’Malley put it. Similar forums are happening across the globe as multiple stakeholders discuss and debate the best way to provide quality, affordable education that meets the diverse needs of students. As advisors, we are the innovators and challengers of the status quo. In just a short few decades, the study and practice of academic advising has generated news ways of thinking and practice to address the ever-changing student body attending various institution types. There are no single solutions or one-size-fits-all models, but rather innovative practices: reducing re-admission barriers for transfers, navigating inarticulate articulation “agreements,” retaining first-generation students struggling mid-semester, and helping students connect what they are learning in general education core classes to their development as individuals. These are just a few areas where academic advising is leading the way. In order for advising to remain relevant in these conversations, we need to produce scholarship documenting our impact, post insight on widely read blogs and twitter, present at statewide conferences on college completion, and actively engage in transition and retention initiatives on our campuses.

Finally, I wanted give a brief update on my exploration into Twitter.  After an early hacking or spamming incident, I have emerged unscathed as a full-fledged follower of many talented and insightful advisors, advising administrators, and Jason Alexander (best known as George Costanza from Seinfeld). I have learned a lot and have been able to keep up with timely higher education issues that previously I would either have missed entirely or heard about weeks or even months later. I have even Tweeted some musing and re-Tweeted valuable articles and sentiments. Follow me at @NACADAJosh

Joshua S. Smith, President, 2012-2013
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Dean, School of Education, Loyola University Maryland
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Smith, J. (2013, March). From the president: Keeping academic advising in the forefront of conversations in higher education. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

From the Executive Director: Higher Education Focuses on College Completion – Academic Advising at the Center of University Efforts


Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgWhether you work at a community college, a state university, or a comprehensive research university, the message is the same. Whether you are reading the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, or your hometown newspaper, the message is the same. Whatever part of the globe you live in, the message is the same.  Our students, our legislatures and other governmental agencies, our students’ parents, and our boards of trustees or regents all are telling higher education the same message: Increasing the percentage of college completion and/or persistence to graduation is mandatory.  We see this message delivered by systems or states moving toward funding based on our completion and graduation rates, not just our enrollment numbers. We see this message delivered by the increasing number of students and parents who ask to see an institution’s retention and persistence to graduation rate as they make their selection of institution to attend. 

While we hear this message clearly on our campuses, we are at the same time dealing with significant cuts in our financial bases and are hearing we must “do more with less” (which is impossible! We can only do things differently with less!). It is because of these messages that will not be quieted anytime soon that our campus leaders are very serious today about establishing initiatives, programs, and activities to increase persistence rates in the hope of finding that illustrious “silver bullet” that brings increased student success.  As we know, there is no “silver bullet;” we must seriously shift our campus culture away from a focus only on enrollment to a comprehensive culture of “student success.”  What campus leaders are seeing, some for the first time, is that in the very center of this culture shift must be effective, intentional, and comprehensive academic advising for all students from their first step on our campus to their last step across the stage at graduation – which of course all of us have known, advocated for, and supported for decades. 

Therefore, this is the most important time for NACADA to continue providing the highest quality professional development events, materials, and networking as today institutions are carefully directing funding toward academic student success, which includes professional development. Many of you have already attended or soon will be taking part in one of our 10 Regional Conferences held across North America, as these are outstanding opportunities to learn from and connect with colleagues across your region.  This spring NACADA/Jossey-Bass introduces a first text outlining the key philosophies.  And, of course, our Web Events will continue to provide high-quality interactive experiences for participants, and the NACADA Clearinghouseprovides vast resources that you can utilize as well as share with your campus leaders so that you can be sure they are understanding how essential academic advising is to all new initiatives across the institution.

For our global colleagues, NACADA will also host an international conference on academic advising and personal tutoring at Maastricht University in Maastricht, Netherlands in June. I know we all are looking forward to learning from academic advising professionals from many countries around the world. Lastly, participants across the globe will be learning from and networking with colleagues at our Academic Advising Summer Institutes in June in Jacksonville or July in Scottsdale.

I continue to urge all of you across the globe to take advantage of this increased focus on academic advising in order to become part of the campus culture for success and, even more important, part of the decision-making process on your campus!

I look forward to seeing and working with you at several of the events this spring!

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


Cite this article using APA style as: Nutt, C. (2013, March). From the executive director: Higher education focuses on college completion – academic advising at the center of university efforts.Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


Academic Advising for the 21st Century: Using Principles of Conflict Resolution to Promote Student Success and Build Relationships

Ahmad Sims, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Ahmad Sims.jpgAcademic advising is a proactive and intrusive process in which advisor and advisee build a collaborative relationship in order to promote college success.  Conflict resolution is such an approach to aid advisors in maximizing the potential of advisees to be successful. Wallensteen (2012) defines conflict resolution as a "situation where the conflicting parties enter into an agreement that solves their central incompatibilities, accept each other's continued existence as parties" (p. 8). Let's take a moment and break down Wallensteen's definition and apply it to academic advising.


  • First, advisors should understand that conflict is not negative but an avenue to build healthy relationships. Although advisors and advisees may have conflicting opinions, those opinions are necessary to fuel collaborative actions.
  • Second, advising is an agreement that both advisors and advisees enter into. This agreement facilitates effective communication that, in the end, promotes student success. 
  • Third, advisors should understand that central incompatibilities exist as a means of transforming relationships in order to make them healthier and stronger. In addition, just as conflict should not be seen as negative, so shall the fact that differences exist between advisors and advisees.
  • Fourth, advisors and advisees accept each other's existence because the end goal is program completion for the advisee.  Furthermore, academic advising is an interdependent process that allows for positive conflict to occur in order to achieve common goals. 

Building Rapport

Katz and Lawyer (1992) “proposition that rapport is a process of establishing a relationship of trust, harmony, affinity or accord with another” (p. 23). Their definition of rapport is an exact replica of what should occur in order to promote effective academic advising.  Advisors should understand that “effective academic advising serves to build long-term, satisfactory relationships” (Kim & Feldman, 2011, p. 222).  Academic advising is more than just an advisement session; academic advising is a relationship that builds from start to degree completion.  Through building positive and healthy relationships, the advisor and advisee create an environment of trust and support.  The building of trust and support can help to promote desired goals of the advisee.  “Goals can be defined as desirable future conditions” (Jeong, 2010, 24).  It can be a challenging process for advisees to reach their goals without support.  Therefore, it is the job of advisors to offer support during challenging times in order to help advisees focus on their desired future condition.  

The Practice of Empathy

Empathy is the ability of academic advisors to show compassion in times of great stress.  “Empathy is the process of mentally identifying with the character and experiences of another person” (Hybels & Weaver, 2009, p. 139).  Academic advisors should show empathy not only from a concerned point of view but also from a listening point of view.  “Listening to other people’s feelings is not just a way of giving emotional support, but it is a way of creating intimacy as well” (Hybels & Weaver, 2009, p. 139).  What is interesting about the Hybels and Weaver statement is that intimacy is a part of relationship building.  As the relationship grows and trust is built, advisors and advisees enter into an intimate relationship fostered by trust and support. 

In conclusion, “the expression of empathy communicates that we have some understanding of the other person’s motives or needs” (Wilmot & Hocker, 2011, p. 326).  Often times, academic advising becomes life advising.  In other words, advisees may need their advisor to express or show empathy for their situation.  Academic advisors should show some type of empathy through practicing empathetic listening when advising their advisees.                

Listening Actively

The job of academic advisors is to listen and probe for more information.  An excellent method for listening to advisees is called active listening.  Active listening is the most common form of listening that academic advisors do on a regular basis. Therefore, academic advisors who are effective listeners are most likely an active listener.  “Active listening is an exact statement or paraphrase of what the respondent has said and often focuses on the emotional content of a message and is more of a response than a question” (Moore, 2003, p. 132).  “The use of active listening skills may be an important first step to establishing effective two-way communication and successful collaboration” (McNaughton and Vostal, 2010, p. 252).   

Academic Advising and Collaboration

Collaboration is more than just effective communication but it is also a means of enhancing the relationship between advisors and advisees.  Collaboration involves working together and is exemplified by active listening.  Katz and Lawyer (1992) conclude that “collaboration is maintained by interpersonal relationships” (p. 95) in which the advisor works to empower the advisee to reach their academic, professional and personal goals.  Collaboration also requires that a partnership is formed between the academic advisor and the advisee.  Through such skills as active and empathetic listening, the academic advisor creates a safe and nurturing environment for the advisee. 

Concluding Thoughts

Academic advising is a relationship-building process.  By using conflict resolution principles as a base for academic advising, academic advisors are in a good position to create healthy, long-lasting relationships with their advisees.  It is hoped that academic advisors see conflict as a positive means for promoting effective communication, building intimate relationships, and creating a safe and supportive environment for their advisees to communicate freely and openly.  Although conflict resolution is about resolving issues and concerns on many different levels, there are pieces of this theory that can be utilized and applied to the academic advising process.  Unfortunately, academic advising does come with conflict but through the use of special skills, the academic advisor can successfully overcome any conflict situation in a healthy manner. 

Ahmad Sims
Coordinator of Academic Services and Faculty Advisor
MacArthur School of Leadership
Palm Beach Atlantic University
[email protected]


Hybels, S. & Weaver, R. (2009). Communicating effectively. New York. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Jeong,HW. (2010). Understanding conflict and conflict analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.

Katz, N. & Lawyer, J. (1992). Communication and conflict resolution skills. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

Kim, J. & Feldman, L. (2011). Managing academic advising services quality: Understanding and meeting needs and expectations of different student segments. Marketing Management Journal21(1):222-238.

McNaughton, D. & Vostal, B. (2010). Using active listening to improve collaboration with parents: The LAAF Don’t Cry Strategy. Intervention in School and Clinic 45(4): 251-256.

Moore, C. (2003). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Wallensteen, P. (2012). Understanding conflict resolution. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 

Wilmot, W. & Hocker, J. (2011). Interpersonal conflict. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Cite this article using APA style as: Sims, A. (2013, March). Academic advising for the 21st century: Using principles of conflict resolution to promote student success and build relationships. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Simply Declaring a Major Early Equals Timely Graduation, Right?

David B. Spight, The University of Texas at Austin

David Spight.jpgWith retention and graduation rates increasingly a part of the conversations on our campuses, the question as to whether an early choice of major will lead to timely graduation keeps surfacing.  At this year’s annual conference, there were even a couple of sessions that examined this question.  So, what is the answer?  Does an early declaration of major mean that a student is actually more likely to graduate “on time?” 

Decided students are commonly perceived as being more likely to progress toward graduation in a timely manner, as they are believed to be educationally driven, vocationally certain, academically successful, and likely to persist.  It is often mistakenly assumed that the decision is a fully crystallized one, and is not likely to change (Titley & Titley, 1980).  Add to that the pressures an uncertain student is under to decide early about a major or career, as parents, administrators, faculty, staff, and peers believe that the student’s decision is a reflection of an unwavering commitment to that major or career field.  Students who have not selected a major, in comparison, are usually seen by administrators, faculty and staff to be more likely to change their majors, and less likely to stay on track with progress toward timely graduation. 

What do we know already?  Every year, many students who were “decided” are changing their majors from what they initially had selected on their application for admission.  Titley and Titley (1980) estimate that about 75 percent of college freshmen have some level of uncertainty about their educational and vocational goals.  In a longitudinal study of nine cohorts at Brigham Young University (BYU), Kramer, Higley, and Olsen (1994) determined that an average of 85 percent of students changed their major at least once.  This translates into a small percentage of decided students graduating with the same major they initially declared upon their application for admission.  

When comparing the decided with the undecided, Kramer et al. (1994) concluded that students at BYU who started out undecided changed majors less frequently than their decided peers.  In every cohort, the study showed that decided students were making more changes of major than undecided students.  The percentages of total major changes ranged from a low of 13 percent fewer changes by undecided students in 1983 to a high of 38 percent fewer changes in both 1980 and 1987.  The results also determined that when undecided students chose a major to pursue, they were less likely to change majors in the future than their decided peers.  This study supports the argument that when students consciously choose to wait to make a decision, it tends to be a more appropriate and crystallized choice.

Not every decided student changes majors, but if these declared students are in fact just as uncertain as their undeclared peers, it may be important to consider that all students, or at least a large majority of students, need some level of major and career advising and assistance when they first enroll in college.  In addition, believing that one who has made a decision early made a solid well thought out decision may not be the best thing to do. Graunke, Woosley, and Helms (2006) found that “individuals who reported relatively high levels of commitment toward a specific career path were less likely to complete a degree in 6 years than were individuals who reported lower levels of commitment” (p. 17).  Additionally, there seem to be just too many variables that could affect timely graduation to suggest that the choice of major in and of itself is such a significant factor, especially given that on every campus with undecided students there are those who wait until the last possible moment to declare who still manage to graduate on time, while others who started with a major take an additional semester or even year or more to complete their degree.

Maybe we are asking the wrong question.  It seems that the real question should be how are our students making that decision about a major?  Whether the decision is made when a student applies for admission or by the end of the third or fourth semester at our institutions is less important than what information that decision was based upon.  A student who has researched and learned more about themselves – interests, values, skills, personality, beliefs, etc. – and the educational and career options that are available is one who is more likely to have made a sound decision than the one who simply picked the major because it “sounded like a good general degree to get.”

Academic advisors of all students, not just the undeclared students, have an obligation to engage in meaningful conversation with our students regarding how they made their initial decision about a particular major.  It is important, then, to assess that which is behind the decision and help the student confirm, revise, or reject that choice of major and find one that is a better fit.

David B. Spight
Assistant Dean for Academic Advising & Career Counseling
School of Undergraduate Studies
The University of Texas at Austin
[email protected]


Graunke, S.S., Woosley, S.A., & Helms, L.L. (2006). How do their initial goals impact students’ chances to graduate? An exploration of three types of commitment. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 13-18.

Kramer, G.L., Higley, H.B., & Olsen, D. (1994). Changes in academic major among undergraduate students. College and University, 69(2), 88-98.

Titley, R.W., & Titley, B.S. (1980). Initial choice of college major: Are only the “undecided” undecided? Journal of College Student Personnel, 21, 293-298.


Cite this article using APA style as: Spight, D. (2013, March). Simply declaring a major early equals timely graduation, right? Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Intrusive Advising 101: How to be Intrusive Without Intruding

Jennifer Cannon, University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a presentation by Jennifer Cannon and Danna Magness at the 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN.

Jennifer Cannon.jpgIntrusive Advising is a common practice at colleges and universities today.  But how do we define ‘intrusive’?  Webster’s definition is “without invite or welcome.”  Is this how we want to define one of our best retention tools: academic advising?  Of course not!  As advisors it is important to be intrusive without intruding, and be warm, friendly and inviting while still providing the tough love and information that students need to hear.  It is a delicate balance; though when done right, intrusive advising can enhance the advising relationship while also encouraging student responsibility and participation.  What, then, is intrusive advising and how do we practice it without intruding?  Advisors can use several techniques to provide intrusive advising services without intruding or being overbearing. 

Begin Building Relationships on Day 1 

There are usually numerous campus activities advisors can be a part of during the first few weeks of the semester.  By being active on campus during New Student Orientation or other welcome week activities, advisors get the opportunity to meet and mingle with students.  This is a great way to build relationships and get to know students outside of the office.

Advisors should also consider emailing students early in the semester to provide an introduction and spell out advisee/advisor expectations and responsibilities in the advising process.  Students should be encouraged to reply with their own introduction.  Do not wait for advisees to make the first contact; it might not happen.  Be proactive and reach out to advisees early in the year. Not all students will respond but it begins fostering a relationship with those who do. 

Advisors should continue to be involved and attend campus activities.  Contact with faculty and staff outside the classroom is a researched best practice and retention tool.  Most campuses offer numerous opportunities, whether it is residence hall activities, sporting events, or student award ceremonies.  An advisor’s presence at these events will be noticed and appreciated by students.  “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Maxwell, 2003). 

Be Prepared for Advising Appointments

Being prepared may be one of the most important steps to practicing intrusive advising.  Advisees will feel more welcome if we ensure we are prepared for the appointment.  First, make sure the office and desk area is warm and inviting.  Put away any other projects before the student arrives. This gives students the impression nothing is more important than they are.  Second, review the student’s past advising history including advising notes, early alerts, and current degree plan prior to the appointment.  This step will allow the advisor to ask important follow-up questions and have an understanding of the student’s goals before s/he arrives.  Next, make sure to schedule plenty of time for each advising appointment. Otherwise, the student may feel rushed through the process.  Lastly, since advising requires a vast arsenal of tools, always have chocolate, candy, and tissues on hand.  We never know what might be needed! 

Ask Questions and Make Appropriate Referrals

The more an advisor knows about his or her students, the more personal and specific the referrals will be.  Advisors should ask pointed and detailed questions to really get to know their students and make a connection.  If resources are available to help single parents, veterans, or other special populations, do not be afraid to ask difficult questions.  Use open-ended questions that solicit detailed responses requiring more than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.  Students do not mind if we ask about their personal lives if they understand the purpose behind the question. 

Questions advisors can ask students:


  • Do you work or have a family in addition to going to school?  How many hours do you work?  This will allow us to select an appropriate number of courses.
  • What do you plan to do with your degree and what do you plan to do after graduation?
  • What do you consider a “good” course schedule?
  • Are you happy with your grades from last semester?
  • What challenges did you face last semester?

Building relationships with students is great, but the next step is to use the information to connect students with useful and appropriate resources.  Not all students need to be referred to the honors college and not all students can benefit from the math lab. Use information gleaned from advisees to make referrals to campus resources for which the student qualifies and can benefit.  For this reason, it is essential that academic advisors be aware of all campus student services.  When making referrals, advisors should try to provide students with as much information on the resource as possible including a contact name, phone number and email address.  When practical, walk students to their next campus destination. 

Maintain Regular Contact With Advisees

Advising should not be something that only occurs once a semester before registration opens.  Maintain regular, ongoing contact with students by sending emails; follow up regarding their mid-term grades; call any time an early alert is received from a faculty member; and use social media to your advantage.  All of these practices will help build and foster strong relationships with advisees which allow advisors the opportunity to be intrusive without intruding.  

Intrusive advising can and should be a system which focuses on bringing campus services to the student, rather than passively waiting for the student to identify their own needs and search for solutions.  It is not a means of intruding where we are not wanted.  When done well, intrusive advising models lead to greater retention and student success in college (Cuseo).  By employing a few simple techniques, advisors can ensure the relationship is positive and welcomed by both parties.  Intrusive does not always mean intruding. 

Jennifer Cannon
University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville
[email protected]


Cuseo, J. (n.d.). Academic advising and student retention: empirical connections and systematic interventions. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from University of Wisconsin: Cuseo Collection: https://www.uwc.edu/sites/uwc.edu/files/imce-uploads/employees/academic-resources/esfy/_files/academic_advisement_and_student_retention.pdf

Maxwell, J. (2003). Relationships 101. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


Cite this article using APA style as: Cannon, J. (2013, March). Intrusive advising 101: How to be intrusive without intruding. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Using Reflective Photography To Better Understand First Year Students' Perceptions Of College

Ellen Nagy, Heidelberg University

Ellen Nagy,jpgHeidelberg University is a small private, four-year liberal arts university. The school is primarily a residential campus (78% of students live on-campus) with approximately 1,100 national and international undergraduates, as well as approximately 400 graduate degree candidates. There is a male/female ratio of approximately 52/48, which is unique.


Many Heidelberg students choose the institution because it is close to home, they can continue to play a varsity sport, and the overall costs are competitive. Eighty-four percent are in-state residents. Approximately 25 percent of the student population self-identifies as minority, the largest group being Black, non-Hispanic. Twenty-seven percent of the student population is coded as first-generation, which is defined as neither parent attended or completed college.

For several years, Heidelberg has attempted to provide a program for conditionally admitted students. In addition to being academically underprepared, there is a high percentage of first generation, low socio-economic, and minority students in this group. Most, if not all, of these students are also athletes. The persistence and graduation rate for these students is quite low.

In 2010, the students in this cohort were asked to participate in a qualitative survey including a photography project, much like one at James Madison University (Doherty, 2009). We hoped to dispel the myth on our campus that these students were not “real” college students. We were interested in hearing directly from these students about their first semester experience in college. Specifically, we wanted to have them to retrospectively observe their experience during their first semester in college: the events that they believed were significant and those things that were most enjoyable or stressful, as well as telling us what they actually did during this first semester. While our approach was certainly not groundbreaking, we were able to see a challenging population from their perspective and begin to consider adjustments to our program to help our conditionally admitted students become more successful.

Fall semester 2010, 32 first-time, full-time degree seeking freshmen agreed to participate in the survey and photography project. During their career development course, the students completed the following: a) a short written response at the beginning of the semester as to why they chose to come to this university, b) a short written response mid-semester during registration for spring classes reflecting on their biggest challenge and fondest memory of college, c) at the end of the semester, students were asked to choose three of five reflective questions to answer regarding their overall perceptions of their first semester in college, and d) a photography project. The instructions for the photography project asked students to think back to when they first arrived on campus, moved into their rooms, met roommates, went to class, practice, first game, concert, and to photograph (or use pictures they already had taken) any and all things that they felt represented their transition to college. From these photographs, they were to create a simple PowerPoint of 10 slides and provide a caption for each slide or photo (i.e., what the photo means to them, their thoughts and feelings related to that impression, and what they think may have influenced and contributed to those thoughts and feelings). On the final slide, with or without a photo, they were to sum up the semester at the university. The presentations were viewed in class with students providing commentary. Neither the written responses nor the PowerPoints were graded.


Student response at the beginning of the semester as to why they chose to come to this university – to play their sport – was not unexpected, as Heidelberg has 65% of the freshman class participating in varsity athletics.

Students were pleased to be asked for their input about the campus community and were eager to talk about their overall experience. The photographs were very much focused on their personal lives and spaces. There were relatively few photos of classrooms or academic buildings – and most that did appear were external pictures of buildings with this type of caption: “this is where I have most of my classes.”

Responses allowed us to see and acknowledge student concerns.

Sample Responses

At the beginning of the semester, students were asked why they chose to come to this university. Many of the responses – I came to play a sport – were what was expected given the demographic for this institution, yet many other students indicated that they wanted a better future for themselves than their parents. As one student states: “Football brought me here mainly. Secondly college to me is a way out.”

By the middle of the semester – end of October –  we asked students to simply tell us how the semester had been. Most were beginning to identify the challenges of their coursework, while others indicated pride in their athletic success or thriving social lives. For example, “The academic side of college has been going well. All of my grades are good except psychology[,] which is extremely hard. As for the social aspect, it has been very fun.” The second question we were interested in hearing about was what students felt was their biggest challenge. Even after eight weeks students were still adjusting to their independence. As faculty and administrators we often think that adjustment is or should be somewhat quicker. Here is one student’s comment: “The biggest adjustment that I’ve had to make is probably the life away from home. I have to do everything on my own – laundry, clean my room[,] and the hardest of all is no one to push me to do my school work. It all has to come from me.”

In the students’ final reflections, they were asked to identify the single greatest contributing factor to their overall perception of college. These responses provided us with the most useful information. Almost uniformly, students indicated their friends and the interactions that serendipitously occur. “Friends; friends really can make a college fun or bad. The “get-togethers” that happen outside of sports and classes.”

What did we learn?

While each student’s responses and photos were unique, there were a number of commonalities:


  • Students do more than attend class – they must manage their responsibilities as student athletes, students workers, and family and community members.
  • Students have to figure out how to be independent. Students are on campus 24/7. This means that many of them need to learn how to function in life: laundry, getting up, getting themselves to class.
  • Students get stressed.
  • Students study differently – students do not do all the work faculty assign or think that each class is interesting, but they do care about their grades and they do study, just not in places or ways we would assume.
  • Students change their minds about their major, their interests, their priorities, their friends
  • Students need friends – a  student’s friends are probably the most influential factor in how they view their college experience.


When we started this project, we were interested in knowing why students choose to come and stay at this institution. We thought we would simply confirm what the quantitative data was telling us and what we had observed from our own interactions with these students. We did not have a sense of how students saw their entire experience. After having students reflect and photograph their first year, we have a better sense of their lives. While our conditional students may need more assistance academically, this project was an excellent reminder that they are typical college students who need as much support outside the classroom as inside the classroom. We are currently revamping the conditional admit program and our new faculty mentoring program will help address more of the transitional needs of all students.

As one student wrote on his last presentation slide: “Look into my eyes. What do you see!!!!! The Beginning.”

Ellen Nagy
Director Faculty Advising, Assistant Professor, German
Heidelberg University
[email protected]


Doherty, Frank J.  (2009. March). Picture it: Exploring the undergraduate experience through photography and discussions.  E-Source for College Transitions. National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition.


Cite this article using APA style as: Nagy, E. (2013, March). Using reflective photography to better understand first year students' perceptions of college. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


International Vantage Point.jpg

“I Love What You’ve Done With the Space”: The Physical Space of Academic Advising

Mariam Aslam, University of Toronto Scarborough


Editor’s note: Mariam Aslam presented on this topic at the 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN and the perspectives of advisors and advisees incorporated throughout this article are from her primary research for that presentation.

Mariam Aslam.jpgWith dwindling budgets and competing priorities, higher education institutions are increasingly dealing with space constraints. Many advisors and administrators are being tasked with the difficult job of serving a growing number of students with existing – and often inadequate – physical space. Physical space is especially important when considering first impressions of advisees; space is a tool for facilitating rapport building between the advisor and advisee and should also be perceived as “safe” for both advisor and advisee (Lantta, 2008). According to Folsom (2011), “the design and functionality of advising space is integral to and supports advising missions, goals, objectives, and student learning outcomes. For example, the physical location and décor of advising space sends a message about the institutional role and mission of academic advising to students” (83). If advisors want students to know they matter, attention must be directed to the manner in which students are welcomed into academic advising centres and offices.

Environmental Psychology, a branch of psychology which analyzes the relationship between environments and human behavior (De Young, 1999), and Appreciative Advising, which looks to “help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goal and potentials” (Bloom, Hutson, & He, cited in Strain, 2009) are helpful lenses when analyzing the most important aspects of the advising environment.

Wall colors are infrastructural aspects of space that most advisors do not always have control over; there may be a required standard color for all of the offices in the department. These colors may align to earth/natural tones, recommended for building rapport with students (Strain, 2009). For advisees, the preference of the wall colors in an advisor’s office varies, ranging from neutral warm colors which are seen to prevent being too bright or intimidating to brighter colors like yellow, blue or green to reveal more of their advisor’s personality. In Silver and Ferrante’s (1995) research, cited in Pressly and Heesacker (2001), positive responses were reported for brighter wall colors (blue, green and red) in the office environment in which students received counseling. 

Personalization of office/work space can include décor, photos, plants/flowers and artwork/posters, allowing the advisor’s personality to shine through and assist with “softening” or beautifying the office/work space (Miwa & Hanyu, 2006; Nasar & Devlin, 2011). For some advisors, including photos of their personal lives allows them to build a rapport with their students by creating a fine balance between their professional and personal lives. At the same time, this openness makes the interaction between the advisor and advisee less transactional, allowing advisees to see beyond the meeting as being “all business.” Additionally, some students feel that plants/flowers provide positive energy and hope, which has been echoed by Strain (2009) on the importance of “disarming” office space for advisees. Similarly, selected items of artwork such as encouraging/inspirational quotes or images/paintings of scenery can assist with providing perspective and feelings of calmness in times of stress for advisees. Personalizing office/work space is important in that it has an impact on how the advisor/counselor’s expertise and trustworthiness is perceived, along with how much control/ownership the advisor has over the advising space (Miwa & Hanyu, 2006; Nasar & Devlin, 2011; Pressly & Heesacker, 2001).

Furniture and its placement can have an impact on rapport building between the advisor and advisee. If the space is available, advisors may utilize a “café table,” where the advisor and advisee sit across from one another with a small round table in between. As a strategy for rapport building, the café table can provide an opportunity for a warmer relationship with a balanced distance/proximity between the advisor and advisee. Other advisors may prefer open space between themselves and the advisee with two arm chairs (softening effect). Both layouts have positive aspects. With a table/desk in between, a workspace is provided for writing and reviewing documents, while providing a sense of protection and control for both the advisor and advisee. The open space provides fewer barriers and easier communication and a reduced hierarchy between advisor and advisee (Eckerty, 2011, Pressly & Heesacker, 2001). Eckerty (2011) recommends, no matter the furniture layout, the way to the seat should be clear, as advisees want to know exactly where they will be sitting.  

Chairs with or without wheels are also an area of consideration, as advisors have noted that using chairs with wheels allows one to move around in the office, especially when moving from a café table to the computer. Another strategy to prevent feelings of hierarchy has been to keep chairs or seats at the same height between the advisor and advisee. 

Credentials are often displayed by advisors in order to demonstrate their professionalism and knowledge. For some advisees, credentials can be helpful in establishing the credibility of the advisor while others may not see the necessity of credentials or awards. In some research, credentials on the wall demonstrate a positive perception of the service provider’s qualifications, skills, experience, achievement, and training (Devlin et al., 2009).   

Other design facets of office/work space mentioned by advisors (at the annual NACADA conference) include music in the background, scents such as vanilla and lavender to promote calmness, dim lighting (Miwa & Hanyu, 2006), icebreakers such as interesting objects (i.e. wooden tennis racket, Magic 8-Ball, fish bowl) and candy.    

If academic advising assists retention and persistence of students, then the physical space through which advising occurs is a crucial tool for facilitating rapport building between advisors and students. As Roberta Feldman, architect and psychologist, has suggested, “the creation of the build environment isn’t just about form. It’s not just there for our visual pleasure, but has an enormous influence on our occupants” (Murray, 1999 cited in Pressly & Hessacker, 2001:148). To see this firsthand, consider sitting in the chair/seat used by the advisees and look around the space and see what they see, as first impressions are made in the first three seconds of the meeting (Flora, 2004 cited in Bloom et al.,2008:35). A good first impression can go a long way to solidifying the advisor-advisee relationship.

Mariam Aslam
Academic & Learning Strategist
Academic Advising & Career Centre
University of Toronto Scarborough
[email protected]


Bloom, J.L., Hutson, B.L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. United States of America: Stripes Publishing L.L.C.

Devlin, A.S., Donovan, S., Nicolov, A., Nold, O., Packard, A., & Zandan, G. (2009). Impressive credentials, family photographs, and the perception of therapist qualities. Journal of Environmental Psychology29(1): 503-512.

De Young, R. (1999). Environmental psychology: The study of human nature, reasonable behavior and durable living. Retrieved from http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rdeyoung/envtpsych.html

Eckerty, J. (2011). “Approachable” “Intimidating” “Unprofessional” “Credible”: What do our offices say about us?” Retrieved from, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources from, 

Folsom, P. (2011). “Chapter 6: Space design and redesign.” Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/portals/0/clearinghouse/Links/documents/Folsom-space-M22.pdf

Lantta, M. (2008). Supporting social justice through advising.  Academic Advising Today, 31(2):1.

Miwa, Y. & Hanyu, K. (2006). The effects of interior design on communication and impression of a counselor in the counseling room.” In, Environment and Behavior38(1): 484 - 501.

Nasar, J.L. & Devlin, A.S. (2011). Impressions of psychotherapists’ offices. Journal of Counseling Psychology58(3): 310-320.

Pressly, P, K. & Heesacker, M. (2001). The physical environment of counseling: A review of theory and research. Journal of Counseling and Development79(2): 148-160.

Strain, A.L. (2009). What message is your office space conveying to students?  The Mentor. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/091007as.htm

Cite this article using APA style as: Aslam, M. (2013, March). “I love what you’ve done with the space”: The physical space of academic advising. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]



I’m a New Advising Director – Now What? How to Lead Faculty and Staff Advisors in Harmony

Ryan P. Hall, University of Cincinnati
Teri K. Slick, George Mason University

Teri Slick.jpgRyan Hall.jpgMoving into a Director of Advising role is both exciting and challenging. New advising directors are generally eager to succeed in terms of personal performance and team performance. However, the authors of this article remember some “unforeseen” challenges from our initial stages of being new Directors of Advising. Rarely do advising directors receive training and development opportunities in order to be successful in these new roles.  Moreover, higher education in general seems to lag behind our more corporate counterparts in providing appropriate formalized mechanisms for future advising directors wishing to transition into management/supervisory levels.  In fact, we talked to other more seasoned (i.e. at least 5-10 years) advising directors, and these directors told us that there were no manuals or training sessions provided to help guide them smoothly into their roles.  Consequently, simple questions related to how to address faculty advisors or how the classifications of different advisor types (unclassified administration professional versus classified or waged) can impact an advising director’s ability to “direct” their advising centers. As we can see, entering into a director role can create more ‘unseen’ challenges and this article helps new directors to navigate around those challenges.


We represent only two of many different types of advising directors that exist in higher education, but we felt that because of our experiences in having to blindly find our way in the first couple of years in our director roles, perhaps future advising directors might appreciate learning from our experiences.  Thus, we decided to work together to present at the October 2012 NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, where we were pleasantly surprised to present to a packed room.  While we weren’t able to necessarily cover all of the points we set out to cover, we feel that we achieved our overall objective of trying to lay out the framework of some very basic ideas.  It is also important to note that our presentation did not assume that the attendees were seasoned advising directors.  Instead, we wanted to focus on very new advising directors who may have been unsure of how they were leading their groups, and to offer them encouragement.

Topics covered


  • Effective Leadership Characteristics
  • Do’s and Don’ts of an Advising Director
  • Collaborating with Faculty/Staff/Graduate Advisors
  • Identifying and Developing Advising Talent

Effective Leadership Characteristics



  • Establish clear expectations
  • Learn the culture of the department
  • Ask many questions – ask them often
  • Take one day at a time
  • Delegate
  • Share credit with the team – praise team members when a job is well done (lose your ego)



  • Expect that advisors will always follow your guidance
  • Treat everyone the same – always be fair
  • Expect to have all of the answers immediately
  • Try to solve all of the advising problems in one day
  • Sweat the small stuff

For example, the culture of an organization can communicate to a director what is valued, what communication style may be preferred, what attire is appropriate, and even who the adversaries are in and out of the office. The culture is the reality versus what a mission statement may be. We have two eyes and two ears and one mouth for a reason: to observe and listen more than we speak. Observe and listen early and often, and a new advising director is off to a good start.

Advisor Training



  • When possible, provide access to an advising handbook or frequently used advising documents
  • Provide shadowing opportunities
  • Provide feedback opportunities



  • Micro-manage unless absolutely necessary
  • Be afraid to tap into veteran advisors to share expertise in training sessions/meetings 

Focusing on the first “Don’t” here – provide your team with resources and relevant job knowledge, and then get out of their way. While successful directors are visible and are there for their team, try not to micro-manage any member of the team. Micro-managing can stifle creative thinking and limit opportunities that may come from a creative environment. The only time to micro-manage is when a team member is suspected of doing something egregiously wrong – stealing from the department, sharing student information with others that may violate FERPA, etc. Then micro-managing is warranted as a means to a potential performance action plan or termination. 

Collaborating with Faculty, Staff and Graduate Advisors



  • Use humor – not everything has to be so serious
  • Utilize a weekly forecast – How are you doing?
  • Establish consistent means of communicating updates to them
  • Establish CLEAR expectations from Day 1
  • Address any faculty as Dr. or Professor in your 1st meeting (unless instructed otherwise)



  • Operate in a silo when scheduling meetings, especially one-on-one with faculty members
  • Underestimate the leverage and potential influence of tenured faculty advisors and other faculty members
  • Take it personally if faculty advisors do not respond to your requests immediately
  • Assume that everyone is going to always follow your directions exactly as you envision

When working with faculty, please respect their titles – when in doubt, call them Dr. (or Professor) when initially meeting them. This small gesture of courtesy can go a long way in building and maintaining positive relationships with any faculty member. Further, if a particular college has a strong faculty presence which influences campus decisions, be mindful of how to support and leverage that faculty influence. We are not suggesting to be disingenuous, yet if you work well with faculty and meet them in the middle (and even in their offices, as suggested above) on projects, they may be able to support some of your departmental needs, especially if a mutual benefits exists for your department and the faculty. 

Identify and Develop Advising Talent



  • Determine needs and limitations
  • Identify potential areas for talent growth
  • Encourage professional development
  • Social networking online (NACADA sponsored list serves, LinkedIn group, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)



  • Assume that replacements can always be hired with the same pay level
  • Be shocked at how long it may take to hire or replace a position
  • Assume that new advisors will have immediate access to necessary advising tools (i.e. SIS systems, degree audits, etc.) 

Bottom Line – when entering into a new Director role, observe the culture, work with key stakeholders (including faculty), and hire, support, develop and retain talented employees.


Ryan P. Hall 
Director of Advising & Registration
University of Cinncinnati - Clermont College
[email protected]

Teri K. Slick
Director of Student Services
George Mason University – New Century College
[email protected]


Cite this article using APA style as: Hall, R., & Slick, T. (2013, March). I’m a new advising director – now what?  How to lead faculty and staff advisors in harmony. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Creating a Collaborative Culture in Academic Advisement


Tamara Workman, Southern Illinois University–Carbondale
Teri Farr, Jennifer Frobish, and Anjie Almeda, Illinois State University

Tamara Workman.jpgTeri Farr.jpgThrough involvement with Illinois Academic Advising Association (ILACADA), colleagues at Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale collaborated to explore professional development at Illinois State and how it can be initiated at SIUC.  Teri FarrJennifer Frobish, and Anjie Almeda, academic advisors at Illinois State, were invited byTamara Workman and Gail Robinson of SIUC to provide a workshop on “Creating a Culture of Professional Development.”  Farr and Almeda have been actively engaged in programming and are working on professional development initiatives on campus.  Jennifer Frobish.jpgFrobish, who joined Illinois State in 2008, has been actively engaged in the Anjie Almeda.jpgProfessional Development and Training committee and worked to improve the focus of the group during her time as Chair.  While these professionals are not industry experts, their previous experiences creating professional development opportunities for their respective professional communities provide unique insight into the creation of such programs.

The day-long workshop, attended by both Workman and Robinson and 10 other advisors from SIUC, consisted of a review of Illinois State’s history in terms of professional development, a discussion of the value of assessment and the development of a mission statement, a workshop on how to identify programming topics and create programs, and a conversation about gaining support.

Institutional coordination of professional development and training for advisement is a new concept for SIUC.  While half-day workshops meant to address policy and procedure reviews have occurred in the past, programming was not consistent because of fluctuating support, both financial and human.  Participation in regional, state, or national associations and conferences was self-driven by the individual advisor, and while some benefitted from departmental support, many advisors covered expenses themselves.  As a result, participation at most levels has been low and inconsistent.


Although training and development have not been consistent, SIUC has maintained an advising model that utilizes professional academic advisors.  However, advisors did not function under a shared set of goals, and therefore, NACADA consultant Lynn Freeman visited SIUC in July of 2011 and made recommendations on how to provide advisement the organizational support necessary to effectively involve them in the retention efforts of the institution.

Following Freeman’s review, an Advisory Council on Academic Advisement was formed, composed of college administrators, advisors, faculty, and directors from the core function areas of Enrollment Management.  Workman became the advising champion for campus.  Several working groups were created to address Freeman’s recommendations: Assessment, Technology and Training, and Operational.  At least two of the working groups are expected to develop into standing committees once the implementation phase is complete.  Assessment is being considered as a means of determining how these groups should move forward and develop.

When developing quality academic advising programs, assessment is a key element that should drive decisions.  The results of assessment make it possible for appropriate visions, missions, goals, and activities to be generated in academic advising. 

In approaching advising at SIUC, previous assessment and evaluation indicated that students are seeking care, accurate information, and accessibility from their academic advisor.  Qualitative feedback from advisors on that campus indicated that these three concepts are naturally occurring during advising meetings and are the baseline service for all students.  The advisors were seeking a mission statement, goals, and objectives that would further define what advising is, what students should learn from advising, and what the final outcomes of the process should be.  Student growth, development of personal responsibility, and clarification of career goals are widely attributed to sound academic advising. With the backing of the institution, the advising community at SIUC is in a position to implement assessment to help tie their practices to common outcomes and goals of advising.

It is common that at the beginning of this process, institutions have to create assessment instruments that validate existing goals.  This occurred at Illinois State and is occurring at SIUC.  The key to starting an assessment process is understanding which constituents need to be assessed and for what purpose.  It is suggested that advisors and administrators be the starting point so as to determine what the goals of advising should be.  Essentially, assessment should answer the question, “what should students be able to do differently as a result of participating in academic advising at SIUC?”  In utilizing key constituents who understand the purpose of higher education and academic advising, the answers to this question will generate a mission statement and lead to goals and objectives for the advising process.  Once goals and learning objectives are clearly established, students can be folded into the assessment loop to determine the success with which the goals are being met.  In having measurable outcomes at the start, the assessment of students can determine if academic advisement is providing not only the basics (care, accurate information, and accessibility), but also whether advisement is helping students to develop personal responsibility, clarify career goals, and grow through their education.

This process can also be performed for advisors, for the sake of determining what goals and learning objectives should exist for the Professional Development and Training (PDT) group on that campus.  The initial assessment can focus on what advisors should accomplish as a result of participating in professional development activities.  The results can lead to goals and learning objectives for advisors as professionals, which in turn will guide the programming of the PDT group.

As advisor roles are clarified and defined on campus, the PDT group can move forward with programming and training to help strengthen skills and abilities as they pertain to advisor expectations.  There is no right or wrong way to approach professional development and training.  The key is to look at topics that are relevant, timely, and applicable.  The PDT group can develop topics in a number of ways, but because they will have recently worked through mission, vision, and goals for advisement, it makes sense to utilize issues and needs indicated through that process as topics.

It is also essential to differentiate between development and training.  They are different and should be treated differently on campus, as training is essential to everyday work, but development impacts long-term growth as an advisor.  In the initial stages of developing a campus culture that supports professional development and training, it is likely that training will have to be the focus so that advisors learn from the programming and ultimately see the immediate value.

For creating programs, academic advisors need to consider what type of session best fits the topic.  It is possible that a session already exists through NACADA webinars or campus departments.  For example, if the PDT has determined that crisis management is a relevant topic, Student Counseling Services or the Dean of Students may have a training program already prepared for campus constituents.  The remaining tasks for the PDT are simply logistical in nature.  The bottom line for determining topics is that the topic must fit the group’s mission and objectives, as determined through the assessment process.  If a topic does not align with what the advising community says it does, it is not worth financial and human resources.

To help boost support of programming, the PDT group should consider what incentives can be provided to attendees.  Topics for initial sessions should be something that will entice others to participate, and may even be more fun in nature.  However, as the group gains momentum, PDT will need to consider how to maintain support.  It is always encouraged that groups track participation.  The group can send a list of events to each advisor and his/her supervisor, indicating what sessions have been attended that year.  In the future, perhaps, the case can be made for continuing education credits.  The best way to ensure long-term support is to make certain the group has a diverse representation.  Include faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and administrators in the process, and be certain to bring those who may be resistant to change into the fold.  Silos tend to exist on campuses so, working across departments and fields helps to open doors and create opportunities for all.

From this collaboration, a new partnership between Illinois State and Southern Illinois–Carbondale has been formed.  SIUC hosted their first Fall Advisor Day in 2012 and boasted great success.  They are hosting a campus-wide training session for advisors in the coming weeks.  The two institutions hope to develop a sister-institution relationship, connecting advisors with similar interests and job functions, so that advisors can share best practices and support each other through their work.

Tamara Workman
Director, Transfer Student Services
Southern Illinois University–Carbondale
[email protected]

Teri Farr
Assistant to the Chair and Undergraduate Advisor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
Illinois State University
[email protected]

Jennifer Frobish
Academic Advisor
Department of Marketing
College of Business
Illinois State University
[email protected]

Anjie Almeda
Academic Advisor
Department of Health Sciences
College of Applied Science and Technology
Illinois State University
[email protected]


Cite this article using APA style as: Workman, T., Farr, T., Frobish, J., & Almeda, A. (2013, March). Creating a collaborative culture in academic advisement. Academic Advising Today,36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Be a Part of the Future: Start Your Research Group Today

Jason BarkemeyerJoshua Larson and Anna Adams, University of Utah

Jason Barkemeyer.jpgFor those who live in the world of research, the notion of research as part of everyday life is a given. But for the typical academic advisor, research is usually not included as part of their job duties. Joshua Larson.jpgAdvising administrators will often take on this role to contribute to the body of knowledge yet it is not always an expectation for primary role advisors.

As the call is sounded for advisors to begin fulfilling the role of “practitioner scholar,” it is quickly met with a myriad of reasons why advisors are not able step into this arena. “How do I get started?” “It is not part of my job.” “I have no funding to support doing research.” Anna Adams.jpgAiken-Wisniewski, Smith and Troxel (2010) explain the danger of frontline advisors not taking part in research that directly affects their occupation: “Unless researcher-practitioners make a concerted effort to reverse the historical trend, the lack of scholarship in advising, particularly scholarship produced and consumed by professional and faculty advisors, will persist” (p.5). Given the current lack of research on the advising field and profession, if advisors are not to pick up the banner, what are the implications?


If and when frontline advisors decide to participate in research, the first question that is typically asked is “How do I even get started?” Eighteen months ago that was the exact question three members of an advising research group on campus were asking themselves while hanging out in a campus library. And really the question was not whether to take on research, but rather what to do. The first step was a presentation at a state advising conference. It was that initial presentation that blossomed into a full-blown research project partially funded by a research grant from NACADA.


Throughout its evolution, the research group has come to realize that it is a journey they never expected to take but are very happy to be where they are. With that, the research group offers some suggestions on how to get started with research in advising:


Don’t fly solo. Research can be daunting just from the mention of the word. It can be even more challenging if an advisor does not have an education or background in research methods. So why would one attempt to start alone? Advisors cultivate support networks and the same should be done with research. Combining energy and resources will help members get through the rough patches. In the end, to have someone to fall back on in times of need is very important.  If one is not familiar with or proficient in research, ask someone with experience to participate in the research project.  Eventually, adding a team member with doctoral-level proficiency will be necessary if the group plans to submit a project to the institutional review board. Additionally, utilizing on-campus resources is a key component of success; once our group contacted the Office of Sponsored Projects we received invaluable assistance with our grant writing and submission process.


Talk about it. Once a partner or two have been brought together, it’s time to brainstorm. Identify what each member may be interested in exploring. Throw all ideas out on the table and find common ground. This is the ideal starting point.  Also, take note of each other’s skills and interests.  For instance, when it comes time to assign responsibilities, it will be easy to identify who is better at taking minutes or who might like to try this task in the future.


Follow up. Talk is all well and good, but in order to turn discussion items into action items, someone needs to make sure the group follows through.  It may require multiple meetings, conversations, and creativity before a project is chosen.  These first, less-structured meetings make it easy to lose sight of the project. To keep the group on task and moving forward, we recommend assigning three responsibilities at the beginning: A minute taker, an agenda creator and compiler, and a facilitator to run the meeting, keep it on task, and schedule the next meeting. 


Invite complimentary skill sets. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Do not be afraid to take an honest look at the characteristics of the team. A new team member may make progressing forward that much easier if they have a skill or expertise that others in the group do not possess. Add members to the group to share the load and responsibility, hopefully making the research process manageable and enjoyable.  Our group started as two, then three, and now consists of four.  Each person was deliberately chosen because of how they could potentially contribute to the group.  It is important to not just add people because they are interested but to consciously decide how they can contribute.  While each project may have an ideal group size, we caution against making the group too large unless leadership is very strong. As groups grow in size, so must the leadership in order to get things done timely, accurately, and effectively.


Look at the existing literature. The next stage in the process after identifying an area of interest is to go out and see what other people have found pertaining to your interest. Others might call this a literature review. The review is very important for many reasons. It will allow researchers to gather information to shape the nature of their research. It also lets them know if they happen to be repeating or duplicating the efforts of previous researchers. 


Do something! Write, present, do more research. Not all scholarly inquiry or projects will lead to research or being published in an academic journal. Some literature reviews may answer the original question or address the hypothesis but that should not stop the group from continuing their project and producing something from their efforts.  Literature reviews often supply more questions than they answer.  Many reviews are worthy of publication, a conference proposal, an action committee, or a blog. There are many outlets to pull together findings for others to see, much like this online publication, Academic Advising Today.


Our research group entered the process with only a question, not the intention to embark on a research project.   The group hopes to continue adding to the body of knowledge of academic advising and hopes others join them in their journey.


Jason Barkemeyer
Academic Advising Coordinator
University of Utah
[email protected]

Joshua Larson
Manager and Academic Advisor
University of Utah
[email protected]

Anna Adams
Academic Advising Coordinator
University of Utah
[email protected]



Aiken-Wisniewski, S., Smith, J.S., & Troxel, W.G. (2010). Expanding research in academic advising: Methodological strategies to engage advisors in research. NACADA Journal, 30(1), 4-13.


Cite this article using APA style as: Barkemeyer, J., Larson, J., & Adams, A. (2013, March). Be a part of the future: Start your research group today. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]


Vantage Point: On the Death of a Student

Christina McIntyre, Virginia Tech

Christina McIntyre.jpgKevin, Meredith, Heidi, Austin, Leslie, Maxine, Brian, Nicole, Danny, J.J….

Lives that ended too soon. Students, my students, our students, who should have lived long, productive lives.

Who would have made a difference in this world that very much needs individuals striving to make a positive impact on society.

JJs flowers.jpgA car accident, leukemia, a random act of violence, a hidden sadness, cancer, wrong place/wrong time,  … As one student expressed following the death of a friend, “One thing that I realized is that getting older and experiencing loss doesn't prepare me enough for another tragedy. I still feel rejection, guilt, anger... But one thing that I know is that I'll never forget those who left us. The good spirits they brought into my life will carry on.”

They leave us behind to wonder, to struggle – and to console.

Poet Nikki Giovanni (2007) gives me guidance – “We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.”

I knew he was special. But did I cherish that? Only too late I learn that she played beautiful music. That he volunteered with Special Olympics. I meet her friends and family. We share stories. And laugh – but we catch ourselves laughing – and the tears return – and the laughing turns into a distorted face of anguish.

“We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy” (Giovanni, 2007).

The students look to us for guidance. Our knee jerk-response is to refer them to counseling. Assure them that counseling can be helpful and is not a stigma (regardless of cultural mores). But referring a student to counseling too quickly comes across as passing them off, giving them the runaround. Taking time to talk, listen, be quiet and then suggest we walk over – together – for counseling, can make all the difference.

What else can we say to the student who is hurting from the death of a friend and colleague? Charles (Jack) Dudley (2010), Director Emeritus, University Honors at Virginia Tech wrote:

“The best approach to honors students is to acknowledge that they are fully operating adults. …Trouble requires either capitulation or growth. In a society that treats college as preparation for a job, honors holds out the hope that we can accomplish the crucial task of helping young people become strong and moral leaders in all areas of life. How we assist them achieve such a status determines our success and integrity as a special component of a university. The willingness and courage of our young honors students often defies our expectations, but what they wish for more than anything is that someone—often us—“have their back.”

Having established trusting relationships, our offices can be viewed as a refuge. The SafeZone sticker outside my door extends beyond its original meaning. It’s O.K. to cry, to not cry, to sit and linger, to hug and be hugged in the company of others who feel their fear and pain.

The importance of ceremony: Be it a candlelight vigil, a funeral service or a hike with friends to the mountain top, ceremony is important in the wake of a death. It brings us together when we might otherwise shrink into the shadows. We connect with others who carry the memory and their spirit. My words fall short, and I find solace in the words of another: “We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning”(Giovanni, 2007).

There will come a time to move on, but it should not be too soon, and until that time, we need to be present for and with them.

Christina M. McIntyre
Associate Director, University Honors
Virginia Tech
[email protected]


Dudley, Charles. (2010) Managing trouble in troubled times: A Responsibility of Honors. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council. pp. 15-17. Online Archive. Paper 264http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nchcjournal/264 

Giovanni, Nikki. (2007, April 17). We are Virginia Tech, Convocation Address. Transcript:http://www.remembrance.vt.edu/2007/archive/giovanni_transcript.html  

Hear Nikki deliver this address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-Qx9dIr-68

SafeZone.  http://www.mps.vt.edu/lgbtq/safezone.php


Cite this article using APA style as: McIntyre, C.M. (2013, March). On the death of a student.Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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NACADA Summer Institute: A Transforming Experience

Norma C. Cooper, NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

Norma Cooper.jpgWords cannot express my appreciation for being awarded the opportunity to be a part of a Summer Institute presented by veterans of the discipline of academic advising. The knowledge I gained has had a profound and transformative effect on my life as a graduate student and educator as it relates to the possibilities of innovative programs that can be implemented at my home campus, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU). Attending this Institute and now working as a Student Success Coach have validated what I am destined to be doing at this point in my career. It has also prepared me to better serve our students in the area of advisement throughout their B-CU experience. So, NACADA, kudos to committee members and presenters involved in the organization of an unforgettable week sharing best practices within the multifaceted discipline of academic advising. 

Over the week-long Institute an array of information was discussed. The topic that resonated with me the strongest was “The Assessment of Academic Advising.”  This process assures that the advisement model being utilized is effective through the implementation of an assessment plan. According to Rich Robbins, in one of the presentations at the Institute, “assessment of the advisement model provides key information such as effectiveness, improvement, accountability, and most importantly enhancement of student success, persistence, and retention.” I saw clearly that all of these variables are imperative to what is being practiced as they are the links that bond academic advisement to the university‘s overall vision and mission for its students.

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director, is unaware of it, but he has played a pivotal role in my quest to become knowledgeable and well-versed in advising. I met him at my very first conference and have learned a great deal since then through reading his articles. The thrill that I felt when initially reading the quote below has stayed with me and is part of why I am dedicated to advisement. He wrote, “Academic advising is the very core of successful institutional efforts to educate and retain students. For this reason, academic advising … should be viewed as the ‘hub of the wheel’ and not just one of the various isolated services provided for students… academic advisors offer students the personal connection to the institution that the research indicates is vital to student retention and student success” (Nutt, 2003). This typifies my own personal philosophy of advisement.

SI 2012.jpgStudents and their success have been of paramount concern throughout my career as an educator/ Student Success Coach. My goal is to promote the potential of all students through advisement at my university.  My enthusiasm for advising is engendering within each student self-worth and a confident belief system that each one can become whatever he or she aspires to be. I see all of my students as unique, and in advisement, I evaluate how I can enhance their educational journey. In keeping with the mission and vision of B-CU, as a Student Success Coach, I am strongly grounded in the process of helping promote and produce lifelong learners. To accomplish this endeavor, I encourage all of my students to think critically, be creative, and embrace ideals that will lead to their academic success.  The Institute reinforced my goals and gave me many ideas to use on my campus. As a member of NACADA, my goal is to evolve into a change agent. This directly aligns with NACADA Core Value Four, “Advisors are responsible to their institutions” (NACADA, 2005). Daily I implement NACADA standards and guidelines which are considered best practices nationally and internationally.

This Summer Institute awarded me every opportunity to build upon my knowledge. Through periodic breakout sessions we discussed ways to improve advisement, and we learned from each other. Allotted time also provided opportunities for one-on-one discussions with the presenters, as well as for networking with others in attendance. I was amazed to see and converse with members from all over the world, even from as far away as Kuwait, at this Institute. In addition, I had an assigned mentor, Blane Harding. His insights and help were empowering. It was obvious from what I learned at this Institute “flagship academic advising programs do not simply emerge. They must be conceptually grounded, meaning both theoretically and institutionally directed and guided by statements of vision, mission, goals, and program objectives that codify the values, philosophy, approach, and central purposes of academic advisement” (Campbell, 2008). I have a sound basis to build upon for making advisement on my campus a richer experience.

Habley (1994) stated, "Academic advising is the only structured activity on the campus in whichall students have the opportunity for on-going, one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution" (p. 10). I fervently believe this and am a dedicated and concerned advising representative. My passion for advisement is evidenced in my credo that I instill in all of my advisees which simply says that your destiny is not written for you, it is determined by you. Advisement, I believe, shines a light that dispels the darkness of self-doubt, heals academic weaknesses, and motivates enthusiasm and striving for the top echelon of achievement. Thanks again, NACADA, for the scholarship, but even more for the experience of being part of the Summer Institute. What I learned is exceedingly practical and that is invaluable.

Norma C. Cooper
Student Success Coach/Faculty
Bethune-Cookman University
[email protected]


Campbell, S. M. (2008). Vision, mission, goals, and program objectives for academic advising programs. In Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R. & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). Academic advising: Acomprehensive handbook (second edition)San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Habley, W.R. (1994). Key Concepts in Academic Advising. In Summer Institute on Academic Advising Session Guide (p.10).  Available from the National Academic Advising Association, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS.

NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from theNACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/122/article.aspx

Nutt, Charlie L. (2003). Academic advising and student retention and persistence. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/636/article.aspx


Cite this article using APA style as: Cooper, N.C. (2013, March). NACADA summer institute:  A transforming experience. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]


Personal Practical Theory

The Theoretical Reflections series is sponsored by the NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission with the assistance of Chair Sarah Champlin-Scharff (Harvard University) and Past-Chair Shannon Burton (Michigan State University).

As NACADA and Jossey-Bass make final preparations on the Academic Advising Approachesbook that will debut this October at the NACADA Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, this is a perfect time to start to think about our own personal approach to academic advising.  This book doesn’t propose picking the “best” or the “right” approach to advising; instead the book presents overviews of a variety of advising approaches and it is clear that there is more than one right answer in terms of how to deliver high quality advising to our students. The reality is that there are a smorgasbord of options for informing and improving our approach to our work as academic advisors.  And, as individuals we all have the power to choose for ourselves our own Personal Practical Theories (PPTs) of Academic Advising.  The purpose of this article is to give an overview of PPTs and to give advisors an opportunity to develop their own PPT of academic advising. 

PPT Overview

Researchers exploring the relationship between teacher beliefs and their classroom practices found that teachers’ experiences impact what they believe teaching should be like and that teachers form their own theories in teaching (Clandinin, 1986; Cornett, 1990; Cornett, Yeotis, & Terwilliger, 1990). Conett (1990) defined PPTs as the systematic set of beliefs (theories) guiding teachers’ practices (practical) that are based on their prior life experiences (personal).  Surfacing their PPTs enables teachers to be more cognizant of their rationale for ongoing decision making and empowers them to become reflective practitioners (He & Levin, 2008; Levin & He, 2008). Similarly, academic advisors also bring their own experiences into advising practices. Identifying PPTs that inform advising practices could allow advisors to become more thoughtful and reflective in applying and adapting various advising approaches and theories in their unique advising contexts (Hutson, Bloom, & He, 2009).

Developing Our Own PPT

Academic advisors can develop their own PPTs by completing the following chart. In the left hand column write down what you deem to be the characteristics of excellent academic advisors, and in the right hand column write down where you first learned this from or experienced this (Hutson, Bloom, & He, 2009).  Note that there are no right or wrong answers and the source can be from a wide variety of people, including teachers, parents, relatives, co-workers, etc.:

My Personal Practical Theory of Being an Excellent Academic Advisor is……

Personal Practical Theory

Source – Where did I learn this from?

Example: Excellent academic advisors have high expectations for students.



Example: My high school English teacher had exceptionally high expectations for me and my classmates and she pushed us to become better writers than we thought we were capable of becoming.









Once the Academic Advising Approaches book is released, advisors can update this chart with new information and insights gained from reading the book.

Jennifer L. Bloom
Clinical Professor
University of South Carolina-Columbia
[email protected]

Ye He
Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
[email protected]


Clandinin, D. J. (1986). Classroom practice. London: Falmer.

Cornett, J. W. (1990). Teacher thinking about curriculum and instruction: A case study of a secondary social studies teacher. Theory and Research in Social Education, 18, 248-273.

Cornett, J. W., Yeotis, C., & Terwilliger, L. (1990). Teacher personal practice theories and their influences upon teacher curricular and instructional actions: A case study of a secondary science teacher. Science Education, 74, 517-529.

He, Y. & Levin, B. B. (2008). Match or mismatch? How congruent are the beliefs of teacher candidates, teacher educators, and field mentors? Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 37-55.

Hutson, B. L., Bloom, J. L., & He, Y. (2009). Reflection in advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(4), 12.

Levin, B. B., & He, Y. (2008). Investigating the content and sources of preservice teachers’ personal practical theories (PPTs). Journal of Teacher Education. 59(1), 55-68.


Cite this article using APA style as: Bloom, J.L., & He, Y. (2013, March). Theoretical reflections: Personal practical pheory. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.




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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.