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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Pausing at the Half

Cecilia Olivares, NACADA President

Cecilia Olivares.jpgMarch marks the midpoint of my term as NACADA president, and as Patrick O’Neill (2013) reminds us: “Pausing at the half allows us to reflect on the good work we have done, what we haven’t done, and what we must do to advance our personal and professional development.” Inspired by O’Neill, I reflect on four observances: recommit, reconnect, recognize, and recreate.


In October and November, the NACADA Board of Directors began the process to review the association’s mission and vision. Through the reflections of past presidents Susan Campbell, Casey Self, and Dana Zahorik, the current Board members engaged in a series of activities led by Melinda Anderson, Kyle Ross, and Oscar van Wijngaard to draft an updated mission and vision for the association. Mission statements reflect the purpose and values of an association and serve as the roadmap to achieve the mission, which reflects the aspirations of the association. The mission and vision serve as the commitment to NACADA’s direction and purpose. Additionally, in February the Board of Directors started the process of reviewing and updating our strategic goals to set association priorities over the next five to ten years.

Updating the mission, vision, and strategic goals in 2021 serves as the Board’s recommitment to the association; fully realizing these aspirations is the Board’s priority. We look forward to sharing the updates with our members during this spring’s regional conferences and at virtual events to get your thoughts and feedback.


NACADA started 2021 with a webinarBuilding Relationship with Today's Students through Effective Communication Strategiespresented by our colleagues at the University of Missouri-Columbia and University of Vermont, followed by the Administrator and Assessment Institutes in February. In March and April, we will come together virtually through five combined regional conferences, including a week of pre-conferences available to all members. Meanwhile, our advising communities, committees, advisory boards, and regional steering committees are conducting meetings and other events every week. (Check out “Featured Events” from the NACADA homepage or the “NACADA Next Week” emails from the Executive Office for more information.)

The call for proposals for the international and annual conferences recently closed, but the flurry of professional development activity is a reminder that we are an association of professionals working together to enhance the educational development of students. I look forward to engaging with you at a regional conference or the global conference in June, but also welcome the opportunity to connect via email, text, phone, or virtual meeting.


Through professional development events, NACADA members come together to share best practices and identify ways to reach our academic advising goals and improve student success outcomes. These are examples of O’Neill’s third observance of recognizing what is going well and what needs improvement.

However, I will utilize a different interpretation of recognition at this midpoint to acknowledge upcoming changes in NACADA leadership within our membership and in the Executive Office. General election voting is open from February 26 to March 11 with an impressive slate of candidates to serve as chairs for standing committees; advising communities; and Regions 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9, in addition to the Advising Communities Division representative on the Council and the Board of Directors. Please take the time to review the candidate platform statements and videos and vote! 

Additionally, I would like to recognize and celebrate three Executive Office staff members who have announced their retirements in 2021: Rhonda Baker (Assistant Director: International Conference), Bev Martin (Marketing Manager), and Charlie Nutt (Executive Director). NACADA has expanded tremendously in size, programming, and global reach through their service and leadership to the association and its members. Thank you, Rhonda, Bev, and Charlie, for all that you have poured into NACADA! We are excited for each of you as you start new chapters in your lives.

I anticipate that in the next Academic Advising Today, there will be new information to share post-elections and updates from Executive Office hiring as well.


As an association, we continue to put in a lot of time working together to provide professional development in restructured or reimagined ways to meet organizational goals. However, the moments I appreciate most in our monthly Board meetings are when we check-in with one another and laugh together in the middle of focused conversations. Those are the times when recommitment, reconnection, and recognition come together – through recreation (fun and play), even if just for a couple minutes.

In this pause for all of us to reflect on what we have done, what we still have to do, and what changes we anticipate in 2021, I hope that you also find time to include laughter and self-care in your life, away from your job responsibilities, NACADA, and other competing priorities and major stressors. Thank you for all you do for students and for each other!

Cecilia Olivares, President, 2020-2021
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Director of Transfer Center & First Generation Student Initiatives
Interim Director of Discovery Center
University of Missouri-Columbia

O’Neill, P. (2013, May 23). The midpoint. Extraordinary Conversation. http://extraordinaryconversations.com/thought-leadership/2013/5/23/the-midpoint

Regional Review Implementation Committee Update

In Spring of 2020 the Regional Review Work Group submitted its final report based on a survey and focus groups that gathered information from the membership regarding the regional structure and, more importantly, how we as an Association serve our members. This was a significant quantitative and qualitative study that provided a wealth of actionable information.

The current global pandemic has impacted NACADA’s operations and philosophy on how professional development can be provided to its membership. To provide a historical perspective, the Regional Review was completed in March 2020 prior to the pandemic. The Regional Review Implementation Committee (RRIC) began its work in June 2020, after the pandemic had begun. The implications of virtual engagement for conferences and meetings based on new strategies implemented after the pandemic have shifted the way the Association operates and engages with its members. The resources provided to support virtual professional development opportunities have increased access to NACADA globally. This shift in operations will continue to have an impact on how members interact with and perceive the value of NACADA and the advising profession as a whole, as well as on their personal professional development, and for the support of their work on their campuses.

Upon review of this final report, the NACADA Board of Directors charged the RRIC to take the recommendations from the Region Review Report and determine what units in NACADA should assume ownership of implementing the recommendations and timeframe for implementation, and whether there would be any financial implications to their operations.  Additionally, the RRIC added considerations of how the Association has already addressed some of the recommendations based on their response to the global pandemic.

The following committee members were brought together for the first RRIC meeting in June 2020:

Co-Chair - Melinda Anderson, Board of Directors
Co-Chair - Deb Dotterer, former Region 5 Chair, Professional Development Committee
Co-Chair - Mehvash Ali, Board of Directors

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
Shea Ellingham, Region 8 Chair, Canada, Finance Committee
Chris Kirchhof, Region Division Representative
Karen Lewis, Region Division Representative, Professional Development Committee
David Grey, UKAT CEO, Research Committee and Editorial Board, Publications Advisory Board
Janine Mayers, British Columbia Liaison, Region 8
John Sauter, ACD Cluster Representative, Technology in Advising Steering Committee
Lizbeth Alcántara, EO Project Manager

The work required that the committee be divided into three groups, with each group responsible for two of the six thematic areas identified in the Region Review Report.  Those areas were Accessibility and Availability, Breadth and Depth of Content, Engagement, Global, Infrastructure, and Leadership Opportunities.

The groups considered each recommendation within their assigned two thematic categories in terms of the following:

  • Which operational divisions within the association (i.e. Executive Office, Board of Directors, Council, etc.) would be in the best position to effectively and efficiently implement the recommendations. 
  • Whether the recommendations can be implemented in the short-term or would be a long-term project. For this purpose, short-term was considered to be less than one year. 
  • Whether there are financial implications associated with the recommendations.

The RRIC assessed the recommendations in the original Regional Review Report in light of the shift in the manner in which the Association operated post-COVID with significant advancements in virtual engagement. The RRIC has thus highlighted some areas within the recommendations to emphasize how this paradigm shift in the delivery of professional development is a critical step in engaging the membership moving forward.

Once the groups had completed their individual work, the full committee met to review all the recommendations together, noted additional comments, and finalized the work completed by the individual groups. The RRIC is finalizing their report to the Board of Directors to be presented during their Mid-Year Meeting in April 2021.

When Black Girl Magic Isn’t Enough: Supporting Black College Women Through Advising & Coaching

Dawn Yvonne Matthews, LaShae Roberts, CyNedra Nina Flanagan, & Rose-May Frazier, Florida State University

Editor’s Note: To hear more on this topic from this team, plan to join them on April 27, 2021 for a Webinar.

LaShae Roberts.jpgDawn Mathews.jpgIn 2013, CaShawn Thompson coined the term “Black Girl Magic” resulting in a social movement to honor Black women’s beauty and brilliance (Thomas, 2015). Black Girl Magic has since become indoctrinated into Black culture and used to combat the devaluing of Black women in society (Halliday & Brown, 2018; Hobson & Owens, 2019). Black Girl Magic does not assert false ideologies of superhuman abilities, but instead gives language to the legacy of resilience Black women possess. Within higher education, Black Girl Magic is characterized by how Black women in college combat stereotypes, navigate hostile environments, and earn college degrees in a system that has perpetually ostracized them (Morton & Parsons, 2018).

Rose-May Frazier.jpgNina Flanagan.jpgThis article aims to highlight the experiences of Black women as college students and aid the practitioners supporting them. As Black women who are scholars and professionals, we as authors offer insight that is grounded in research and our personal experiences.

For several decades, Black women have represented the fastest-growing group of bachelor’s degree attainers, and to date are only second to Latina women (U.S. Department of Education, 2019). Coupled with the warranted attention toward decreasing enrollment and challenges of Black college men and conflicting labels such as “at-risk” and the “new model minority,” Black women’s needs are often overlooked (Gasman, 2007; Kaba, 2008; Lee & Freeman, 2012). Nonetheless, Black college women have displayed the capacity and audacity to succeed.

Below are some specific challenges Black women encounter in the college environment. We acknowledge the different climates and legacies associated with institutional types such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and historically White institutions (HWIs). However, the unique history of racism and sexism in American education affirms Black women's shared connections across various campus environments (Collins, 2002; hooks, 2000; Matthews, 2020; Wilder et al., 2013).

Imposter Syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the internal belief that you are not as competent or knowledgeable as others and fear that you will be exposed as a fraud (Peteet et al., 2015; Pennie Sims, 2020). This psychological belief tricks Black women into thinking they cannot achieve at the same level as their White female or male peers. This leads to self-doubting and setting low expectations. This syndrome increases in environments where Black women’s experiences are devalued and when they are unable to build community. Marginalized students who experience imposter syndrome may experience a lack of engagement in academic pursuits, a negative impact on their mental health, and develop unhealthy expectations of success (Pennie Sims, 2020; Peteet et al., 2015).

Tokenism. Black women may feel tokenized based on being the only Black person, the only woman, or the only Black woman (Morton & Parsons, 2018; Winkle-Wagner & McCoy, 2018). Tokenism is an implied responsibility of having to represent one’s entire race or gender (Hughes, 2020; Taulton, 2020). Some Black women may also feel that their dual identity is leveraged simply to illustrate a diversity facade. These students are not oblivious to when they are being tokenized and subsequently must negotiate how to navigate this burden with the simultaneous realities of the access to opportunities that may accompany being tokenized.

Discrimination & Stereotyping. Black women are battling many stereotypes that transfer from media into academic environments. According to Corbin et al. (2018), media showcases Black women as overly aggressive, angry, and ghetto. Subsequently, Black women in college must master the art of combating stereotypes and microaggressions while maintaining their identity. For example, the “angry Black woman” stereotype permits non-Black women to question the validity of an experience and often leads to Black women's silencing. Behavior associated with such stereotypes sustains hostile environments for Black women in college.

Mental Health. On average, White and Black women have comparable mental illness rates, but Black women are more likely to have poorer health outcomes and less likely to seek services (Carter & Rossi, 2019; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). Persistent stress and emotion suppression in Black college women could look like unhealthy and emotional eating, disruptive sleep patterns, high functioning anxiety or depression, and reluctance to self-care for fear of appearing weak (Carter & Rossi, 2019; Woods-Giscombe & Black, 2010). Black women who experience higher levels of gendered-racial microaggressions are at an increased risk of poorer mental health outcomes (Martins et al., 2018).

Addressing the Challenges

The successful ascension of the first Black and Asian woman to the vice presidency, Kamala Harris, is significant to the legacy of Black college women. However, the backdrop of this monumental moment includes the plight of equity against racial and gender injustices. Campaigns like Black Lives Matter, Say Her Name, and various non-profit efforts to subdue COVID-19’s impact on Black communities have highlighted the realities of police violence against Black communities, Black women’s invisibility, and health disparities linked to systemic racism. While these may seem unrelated to work in higher education, the reality is that students, especially Black women, are directly impacted and carry this weight into their advising and coaching sessions.

Acknowledging. Awareness of Black college women’s experiences and issues facing other marginalized communities is an essential component of addressing the aforementioned challenges. Advisors and coaches must make efforts to stay abreast of events that are shaping the lives of Black women and contribute to their identity development. This awareness must include acknowledgment of the intersecting identities that Black women carry. Beyond Blackness and womanhood, understanding the needs and resources for those identifying as LGBTQ+, Latinx, international, first-generation, high-achieving, and countless other categories, is vital to ensuring that institutions of higher education are serving them holistically. When working with Black women, it is important for coaches and advisors to use a unique approach that communicates understanding and awareness around the cultural influences the student may be navigating. As with all students, these identities shape the interests and needs of Black women thus affirming approaches to advising that promote deep engagement and employ strategies of Socratic questioning and active listening.

Supporting. For many cultures within the Black diaspora, community and family are embedded into one’s core values. As Black women, we often subscribe to approaches of “other mothering” in our quest to support Black students. Othermothers “assist blood-mothers by sharing mothering responsibilities” (Collins, 2002, p. 178). This is linked to the history of the enslavement of Africans in America which resulted in the dismantling of family structures. The culture of “looking after each other’s children” and community child-rearing that emerged transferred into educational settings (Guiffrida, 2007).

This history provides insight into the tendency for Black college women to gravitate toward staff with shared identities as their own, due to feeling comfortable, safe, and supported. Othermother relationships are of extreme value to Black college women and instrumental to their social and cultural capital (Guiffrida, 2007) and further validate the importance of cultural representation among advisors, coaches, and administrators.

Subsequently, non-Black advisors and coaches should support the need for such same-identity relationships to exist. Additionally, they may need to make intentional efforts to connect with Black women college students to prevent their colleagues who are Black women from burnout by serving as mentors. Mentorship should include formal and informal advisement, which may be academic or personal (Edwards, 2003). It must be genuine and consider the needs of each student. These support strategies are significant influencers in academic achievement and sense of belonging for Black women in college.

The advisor or administrator's role is to provide resources offered by the campus community. Carter and Rossi (2019) recommend connecting Black women to clinical or therapeutic resources, normalizing the challenges of navigating campus culture, working to remove the stigma that goes along with seeking mental health support, and helping students process the difficulties of being a Black woman in their environment if they initiate the conversation.

It is not about saying the right thing, but about providing a safe space where students can talk openly about their challenges. As an advisor or coach, be familiar with your campus resources and provide referrals as needed. This may also entail encouraging Black women to set boundaries and rest. If you notice a student feeling overwhelmed by meeting others' needs, prompt reflection by asking how they are meeting their own needs so that they do not overextend themselves. The need to support Black college women is essential to combating the challenges they experience.

Advocating. In addition to support, Black women that are navigating college can also benefit from professionals serving as allies and accomplices to their individual needs at the institutional level. Allyship encompasses activism that is displayed through supportive behavior and solidarity efforts with marginalized communities. Comparably, being an accomplice entails utilizing one’s privilege to dismantle or disrupt systems of oppression (Clemens, 2017; Desnoyers-Colas, 2019). The responsibilities of an accomplice and an ally are both essential to ensuring that Black women in college can succeed and actualize their aspirations in college or beyond. Advisors and coaches are often positioned to serve in these capacities, given their expertise from engaging with students and administrators alike. As students work diligently toward earning a college degree and fighting for a seat at the table, it is our responsibility as administrators, advisors, coaches, and mentors to use our seat at the higher education table to advocate on their behalf.

As the future of higher education becomes increasingly unprecedented, institutions of higher education must support Black college women and acknowledge their Black Girl Magic. Regardless of our identities as administrators, advisors, and coaches, we must reflect on how we currently serve Black college women. Guiding questions must include:

  • Does your institution employ Black women to ensure that representation exists?
  • Are there courses and programming that cater to the needs and culture of Black women?
  • Is data examined with consideration to the persistence, engagement, and graduation of Black women?
  • Do Black women feel able to take advantage of the services offered on campus?
  • Are there ongoing efforts to improve the experiences of all marginalized student groups?

It is not enough to answer yes to one of the questions above. If you cannot say yes to all, begin conversations at your institution on developing the space needed for Black women to engage deeply in the campus community. While Black Girl Magic is often leveraged to help Black college women survive, we owe it to them to create environments where this “magic” becomes more than enough and allows them to thrive.

Dedication: This article is dedicated to all of the Black women whose lives were taken due to acts of police brutality, over-policing, unjust laws, and various forms of senseless violence that have plagued our nation and directly impacted Black women, Black men, Black people, and all communities of color. We recognize the power we have in acknowledging their lives and continuing to advocate for justice.

Dawn Yvonne Matthews
Associate Director
Advising First
Florida State University

LaShae Roberts
Assistant Director
Advising First Center for College Life Coaching
Florida State University

CyNedra Nina Flanagan
Assistant Director
Advising First Center for Exploratory Students
Florida State University

Rose-May Frazier
Advising First
Florida State University


Carter, L., & Rossi, A. (2019). Embodying strength: The origins, representations, and socialization of the strong black woman ideal and its effect on Black women’s mental health. Women & Therapy, 43(3–4), 289–300.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013, November 22). CDC health disparities and inequalities report—United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 62(3). https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/other/su6203.pdf

Clemens, C. (2017, June 5). Ally or accomplice? The language of activism. Teaching Tolerance. https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/ally-or-accomplice-the-language-of-activism

Collins, P. H. (2002). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge.

Corbin, N. A., Smith, W. A., & Garcia, J. R. (2018). Trapped between justified anger and being the strong Black woman: Black college women coping with racial battle fatigue at historically and predominantly White institutions. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 31(7), 626–643.

Desnoyers-Colas, E. F. (2019). Talking loud and saying nothing: Kicking faux ally-ness to the curb by battling racial battle fatigue using white accomplice-ment. Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, 8(4), 100–105.

Edwards, A. (2003) Mothering the mind: Women of colour creating supportive communities to increase the academic success rates of minority students. Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering, 5(2), 144–153. https://jarm.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/jarm/article/viewFile/2037/1245

Gasman, M. (2007). Swept under the rug? A historiography of gender and Black colleges. American Educational Research Journal, 44(4), 760–805.

Guiffrida, D. (2007) Othermothering as a framework for understanding African American students’ definition of student-centered faculty. The Journal of Higher Education 72(6), 720–723.

Halliday, A. S., & Brown, N. E. (2018). The power of Black Girl Magic anthems: Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and “feeling myself” as political empowerment. Souls, 20(2), 222–238.

Hobson, J., & Owens, T. (2019). Black Girl Magic beyond the hashtag: Twenty-first-century acts of self-definition. University of Arizona Press.

hooks, b. (2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Pluto Press.

Hughes, T. T. (2020). A study of factors affecting the advancement of Black faculty and staff at predominantly White institutions (Publication No. 2455764300) [Doctoral dissertation, Trevecca Nazarene University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Kaba, A. J. (2008). Race, gender and progress: Are Black American women the new model minority? Journal of African American Studies, 12(4), 309–335.

Lee, W. Y., & Freeman, K. (2012). From diplomas to doctorates: The success of Black women in higher education and its implications for equal educational opportunities for all. Stylus Publishing.

Matthews, D. Y. (2020). We’re all fighting: Experiences of Black women HBCU graduates enrolled in HWI doctoral programs (Publication No. 2447513666) [Doctoral dissertation, Florida State University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Martins, T. V., Lima, T. J. S. D., & Santos, W. S. (2020). Effects of gendered racial microaggressions on the mental health of Black women. Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, 25, 2793–2802.

Morton, T. R., & Parsons, E. C. (2018). #BlackGirlMagic: The identity conceptualization of Black women in undergraduate STEM education. Science Education, 102(6), 1363–1393.

Pennie Sims, L. M. (2020). Understanding the relationships among growth mindset, imposter syndrome, and academic behaviors in high school girls of color (Publication No. 28024325). [Doctoral dissertation, Saint Mary’s College of California]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Peteet, B. J, Montgomery, L., & Weekes, J. C. (2015). Predictors of imposter phenomenon among talented ethnic minority undergraduate students. The Journal of Negro Education, 84(2), 175–186.

Taulton, L. J. (2020). Perceptions of Black women administrators: Implications of race and gender on career advancement at predominantly White institutions (Publication No. 2436812748) [Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Thomas, D. (2015, September 9). Why everyone’s saying ‘Black girls are magic.’ Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-everyones-saying-black-girls-are-magic-20150909-htmlstory.html

U.S. Department of Education (2019). National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), "Degrees and Other Formal Awards Conferred" surveys, 1976-77 and 1980-81; Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), "Completions Survey" (IPEDS-C:90-99); and IPEDS Fall 2000 through Fall 2018, Completions component.

Wilder, J., Jones, T. B., & Osborne-Lampkin, L. (2013). A profile of Black women in the 21st century academy: Still learning from the “outsider-within.” Journal of Research Initiatives, 1(1), 5.

Winkle-Wagner, R., & McCoy, D. L. (2018). Feeling like an “alien” or “family”? Comparing students and faculty experiences of diversity in STEM disciplines at a PWI and an HBCU. Race Ethnicity and Education21(5), 593–606.

Woods-Giscombe, C. L., & Black, A. (2010). Mind-body interventions to reduce risk for health disparities related to stress and strength among African American women: The potential of mindfulness-based stress reduction, loving-kindness, and the NTU therapeutic framework. Complementary Health Practice Review, 15(3), 115–131.

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Sometimes the Effects Last a Lifetime

Emily Emerick, Brigham Young University

Emily Emerick.jpg"An advisor's ability to communicate and develop a relationship with a student provides a foundation for meaningful dialog and interactions" (Hughey, 2011, p. 22). The effects of some student interactions last longer than the appointment time slot. Sometimes they last a lifetime. It is not always the student who exits the meeting feeling impacted.  

As an academic advisor in 2019, a young, dynamic, and beautiful student walked into the office. She was meeting with multiple advisors as she gathered the information she needed to make decisions. Not unlike many students, she was grappling with the weighty decision of which major to declare. She wanted to combine her interest in helping people resolve problems and in bringing people together. She saw the division in people, and she desperately wanted to rectify the detachment many felt today. We discussed her strengths and interests. She shared her goals and dreams. She expressed her desire to do something that would impact the world for good. She wanted to make a difference. She hoped to find a major that would align her studies with her deep sense of purpose. It was clear she was going to do something big.  

She asked profound and interesting questions that surpassed what the major could do for her. She wanted to know beyond just the course requirements and prerequisites. She wanted to know how she could use this major to promote positive change. This student's curiosity, positive attitude, and bright smile left a great impression on me. Her enthusiasm was contagious. She was different. She was committed to changing the world. I believed in her mission. I believed in her. She did not seem to make any immediate decisions, but it was clear that she would excel when she found her major. She had decisions to make and multiple paths to consider. She was driven, dedicated, and determined to follow her heart.

On a hot summer day in 2020, my family and I decided to venture out and try a new place to swim and kayak. The location was an hour away from the university but drew people with the allure of multiple rope swings off tall trees. The site was beautiful. It was a refreshing choice for a hot, fun day.

When we were ready to leave this very rural town, we could not access the road we needed to cross because a train had stopped directly in our path. It seemed strange for the train to be blocking our way and our view. We were at a standstill. We were trying to see if we could figure out why the train had stopped. We watched as flashing emergency vehicle lights approached one severely mangled car. It appeared to have people inside the wreckage. The crash was so recent that only one highway patrol car was on-site. In the next few seconds, we watched as additional help arrived. We saw emergency responders jump out of their vehicle before it slowed to a stop. The experts moved into quick action. Police officers arrived and redirected us to continue moving along and away from the scene. The wreck was traumatizing and horrific. The gravity of that accident we witnessed started to materialize later that night as the news broke with details about the crash. News reporters explained that there were no safety arms in such a rural location to protect and alert drivers that a train was coming. The reports were that there were three college students in the vehicle. Of the three students in the car, one woman died on impact, and the two men were life-flighted to the hospital. Within the week, both men passed away from their injuries. Authorities notified the student's families, and names were eventually released to the public.

I could not have known at the time, but later learned that one of the people I saw slumped in the car was the same vibrant student, bursting with dreams, who walked into my office a year before.   

In the Bloom et al. (2008) dream phase of Appreciative Advising, advisors are implored to "encourage students to share their dreams and be inspired by them." In essence, this student mastered the dream phase. She shared her dreams and inspired others. She inspired me. This bright, young student's vision of bringing people together was realized. After her passing, staff and faculty at the university shared stories of their own interactions with her. She inspired us all. Everyone who interacted with her had experienced the power she had to connect. She set out to change the world, and it turns out that she did precisely that. In her very short life, she fulfilled her dream.

NACADA's core values of caring and respect admonish us to "honor the inherent value of all students" and "support, nurture, and teach" (NACADA, 2017). Admittedly, this student was exceptional. Her legacy serves to remind us all as advisorsthat not only do we need to honor those who come inspired and overflowing with dreams, but we honor all students on every path. We encourage, empower, and help them put their greatness to use. Through empathetic listening and exploring a student's dream, it makes us better advisors, and it makes the world a better place.

This tragic and horrific incident helped me put the NACADA value of caring into perspective and action. It is a stark reminder of the value and importance of each student and every interaction. It also serves as an admonition of the impact we have on each other's lives, no matter how brief. While it is unusual to be on the scene of a student's death, it is a reminder that each student has dreams, goals, and desires. As our lives intersect, it is our privilege and honor to coach, teach, and encourage them on their path (Drake, 2013). We are more connected than we might realize. These are the students who inspire us and remind us to leave each student better than we found them.  

Emily Emerick
Academic Advisor
College of Fine Arts and Communications
Brigham Young University


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

Drake, J. K. (2013). Advising as teaching and the advisor as a teacher in theory and in practice. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.) Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 17–32). Jossey-Bass.

Hughey, J. K. (2011). Strategies to enhance interpersonal relations in academic advising. NACADA Journal, 31(2), 22–32.

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


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The "Why" Project: Helping Students to Define and Value Their Academic Purpose

Kelci Kosin, Ball State University

Kelci Kosin.jpgBeing a college student is hard sometimes. Add the uncertainties of a pandemic to the equation, and the lists of challenges becomes even more daunting for students. As an academic advisor, I have seen how these challenges have nearly blinded students from seeing what is ahead. This has been a challenge in the field of academia and higher education as well. The emphasis on retention has become an even greater focus and concern for many institutions across the country as students question the logistics of attending classes in the midst of a pandemic. I have often found myself unsure on how to best advise my students this year, especially while recognizing how very individualized each student’s needs are, but I have also recognized how opportune this season is to remind students of their purpose in hopes of guiding them through challenging times in academia. Identifying personal and professional strengths has been crucial in giving me the confidence to face the current challenges surrounding me and my students.

Academic advisors build relationships and work to find an understanding with students on the direction they have with their academic, career, and personal goals. Furthermore, advisors seek to inspire students while giving them the tools to build confidence and self-efficacy (Smothers, 2020). In fall 2020, I started the “Why Project.” In efforts to truly understand and get to know the needs of my student load, I have asked that each student share their why statement with me via email. The why statement challenges students to think about their purpose and their motivation to pursue their declared major. This statement also gives me the information to connect with each student as they navigate their academic career and manage major academic obstacles.

I advise students in the arts, specifically music majors, so I asked them to specify why they choose the arts, an academic path that can be very rewarding but also demanding of time, talent, and energy. The responses were so honest and generous. I discovered that many of my students choose music because it makes them feel complete. Music is their identity and many of these students, one example being the anonymous response below, have always known that their careers would somehow be linked to music.

I truly believe music has the power to change this crazy, stressful world we live in. And it starts one child's life at a time. I want to teach, inspire, and get children involved in music, while building confident leaders of tomorrow. I want to be there for all kids, no matter their disability or family life, even if other teachers/people/friends won't.

This student shared their interest in music and assisting students with exceptionalities, such as autism. This why statement and the student’s willingness to share personal interests allowed me to share a fantastic campus resource offered at Ball State University, The Prism Project, and to share my similar interests. In general, asking these students to share and explore their why statements with me has opened a door that has allowed me to communicate with students in a meaningful way, especially during a time in which in-person advising appointments are not an option. I also received responses that were blunt and less dreamy. Some students expressed that they simply could not articulate their why statement and I took this as an opportunity to help them define or at least seek their why statement.

I’ll be honest. I don’t think I can come up with a good reason why I love music or why I want to continue studying music. Studying and playing music has been a constant in my life for the past 10 years. I started piano lessons at 8 years old and have only gotten more involved with music. Because of this, I can’t say with certainty that I chose to be a music major because I love music (at least not in the way I feel other music majors love it). I believe the reason I chose music as a major is because I feel I have been successful at it and it has been a focal point of the majority of my life.

This student’s response gave me the opportunity to ask questions and start a conversation which led the student to articulate how music has shaped their academic path and really solidify why they choose music. The student’s initial email response became a week-long exchange of emails in which I was able to learn more about the student and their background.

I initially asked students this question, what is your why, in hopes of motivating students to question and discover their academic purpose, but I discovered that this approach is an excellent way to connect with students in a thoughtful and individualized manner. Asking students about their purpose and motivation can open the door for advisors to connect and empower students while providing quality advising (Delmas, 2002). It can also be a resourceful way to put NACADA core values (2017) into action. While reading through responses, I thought about advisors’ commitment to NACADA core values and in this instance, my interactions with students was a commitment to the following core values.

  • Empowerment: motivating, encouraging, and supporting students and the greater educational community to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and express individuality.
  • Caring: responding to students in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach.
  • Integrity: acting intentionally through honesty, transparency, and accountability to the student.
  • Commitment: dedicating excellence to all dimensions of student success.

While each of the seven NACADA core values apply, these four seemed to resonate as I worked with students to discover and explore their why statement. I encourage advisors to take time to create a Why Project of their own and let this be the path that motivates advisors to learn more about each of their student advisees, share campus resources, and truly understand the NACADA core values that shape academic advisors globally. There is no formal model to a Why Project. I would recommend exploring communication that works best with your student advisee population. The lasting impact of seeking to know students more is an investment in their long term academic and personal success.

I plan to hold on to the student responses I have received this semester. I plan to review each of them carefully so that I can better advise my students on a personal and individualized level. I plan to reference their why statements in moments in which they need a reminder or moment of clarity as to why they choose this particular path in higher education, and I plan to reference it when they face inevitable challenges that blind them from the academic goals and long-term professional visions ahead.

Kelci Kosin
Academic Advisor
School of Music
Ball State University


Delmas, P. (2002, June). The 'quality' in advising. Academic Advising Today, 25(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Quality-in-Advising.aspx   

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

Prism Project. Ball State University. https://www.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/music/about-us/community-outreach/prism-project

Smothers, A. (2020, March). Explaining academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Explaining-Academic-Advising.aspx


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Going Toe-to-Toe with Imposter Phenomenon

Kristin Richey, Courtney Lewellen, & Lauren Henninger, Indiana University School of Medicine

Courtney Lewellen.jpgKristin Richey.jpgImagine all students felt like they belonged and had confidence in their abilities. What would that look like? In order to work toward that ideal, two of the lead advisors and the learning strategist at the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) have developed, implemented, and improved a coaching method to work with students facing Imposter Phenomenon (IP). Clance (1985) describes IP as “internal experiences of intellectual phoniness” (p. 71) in individuals who are highly successful but unable to internalize their success (Bernard et al., 2002; Clance & Imes, 1978). Pauline Clance (1985), a psychologist who explained IP based on her clinical experiences, noted that IP can affect the psychological wellness of an individual.

Lauren Henninger.jpgWhether in high school or college, high-ability students often feel like the largest fighter in their weight class. However, when they enter competitive programs such as an honors college, graduate program, or professional school, they suddenly feel like an average fighter. This transition can create an identity crisis as students lose part of who they thought they were. Students might fear that someone will discover their secret—that they might actually be a failure and have experienced success solely based on luck. If a student experiences failure, questions their career path, or battles pressure from family and peers, those fears can increase. Even medical students, who are often perceived as “having it all together,” sometimes reflect that they were admitted to medical school because of luck and not based on their abilities. They often compare themselves to classmates and find it hard to attribute success to their hard work and capabilities. The comparison with others can also prevent students from appreciating their unique qualities.

Clance (1985) believes that IP is evident through six characteristics (illustrated in Figure 1): superwoman/superman aspects, the Imposter Cycle, the need to be special or the very best, fear of failure, denial of competence or discounting of praise, and fear and guilt about success.   

Figure 1
The Imposter Cycle


How can advisors assist students who express any of the six characteristics related to IP? It can be easy to discount the concerns of high ability students. They are smart. They usually figure things out on their own. They have been accepted into competitive programs, whether that be an honors college, graduate program, or professional school. An advisor might be tempted to point to evidence that a student should not feel like an imposter. Because those feelings run deep and can linger for years or even decades, it is important to help students develop coping strategies. Advisors can use coaching to help students tap into their own stories to find ways to recognize and manage their feelings of imposterism.

According to the Office of Completion and Success at Indiana University,

In academia, Coaching Conversations create opportunities for dynamic, meaningful engagements with students that move beyond transactions related to requirements, policies, and procedures to reinforce empowerment, ownership, and accountability. As you learn how to interact with your students in a coaching way, you will find that you are having the kinds of conversations that you always thought you would have when mentoring or inspiring students. (The Office of Completion and Success, n.d.)

Coaching conversations use powerful questions to discover the student's current state, desired state, and future plan. Coaching conversations according to the Office of Completion and Student Success typically follow the Arc (see figure 2), where the coach asks powerful questions about the Current state. How does the student perceive the Current state? Once that state is well-defined, the coach moves to the Desired state. What does the students want life to look like? Finally, the coach asks powerful questions to help the student to consider the Future Plan, the steps that will help them reach the Desired state. These types of conversations are particularly helpful when students are managing an internal dialogue such as IP. The conversation can center on the student's perceptions, actions the student has taken in the past, and concrete steps the student can take to move forward. Talking about past experiences can help students tap into their resilience and see their own attributes. Additionally, the use of affirmations, reflective listening, and summarizing by the advisor help the students to hear themselves in their own words.

Figure 2
Coaching Conversations Arc


Processing the current state helps the student analyze what is happening and distinguish fact from their internal dialogue. In the case of IP, the student can start to see that the characteristics of IP are messages they are giving themselves. Students can consider that these messages do not reflect reality and that the messages are hurting them in the long run. Advisors can recognize Imposter Phenomenon when students say:

  • “Yes—I was admitted to that competitive program, but applications were low that year.” (In other words, the student was admitted due to luck.)
  • In response to receiving positive feedback, “they were just being nice.”
  • “If I fail this exam, I’m worried I won’t get admitted into _______.” (Fill in the blank with a competitive program.)
  • “I stayed up all night, but I managed to complete that project.”

Exploring the desired state with a student helps them process what they would like the world to look like. How do they want to feel? What does it look like to be confident or accomplished?

In considering the future, the student lays out steps that will pave the way to the desired state. Articulating steps puts control in the student's hands. When students come up with their own action plan, they are more likely to follow it. They typically list steps that they feel they can manage.

When a student is facing a transition such as matriculating into college or beginning a graduate or professional school, identifying the transition as one of the six characteristics, and using the coaching arc (figure 2) can help them to reflect on transitions they have dealt with in the past to see the skills they used to ease the transition and become part of the community. Students might reflect that they got involved in co-curricular activities, used services offered by the school, or connected with teachers. They can then apply those skills to the new situation.

Examples of powerful questions that we use in our first meetings with our students include:

  • What are you enjoying about medical school?
  • Tell me about your last exam.
  • What challenges you as a student?
  • Tell me about a time when you faced a similar transition.
  • How will you know if this strategy is successful?
  • What would be at risk if you tried X? What might be the benefit of trying X?
  • On a scale of one to ten, how confident are you that you will be successful? How could you raise that by one?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What are challenges or roadblocks that might come up?
  • How can you celebrate the successes you have?

When advisors help students process their responses to questions and validate their success, students can build a foundation to see their resilience and factors that facilitate their success.

Advisors and administrators can additionally adapt practices and programming to help students better transition and address IP early on. At IUSM, matriculating students are added to a Canvas site in June. The site includes class-specific information and tasks to help students prepare for the start of classes in the fall. To begin our coaching conversations with the students, we ask them to complete a journal entry asking, “Why do you belong at IUSM?” While the question assumes that students belong at the school, some students question whether they in fact belong. If students indicate that they were admitted due to luck, that response helps advisors identify which students might feel IP.

Examples of student journal entries:

  • “I don’t necessarily believe that I belong at the IU School of Medicine. Nothing from my past experiences has, no matter how superficially prestigious or well perceived, made this path an inevitability for me.”
  • “I am really concerned about my success in med school, as I feel it was really lucky that I was accepted on my second attempt.”

The lead advisors and learning strategist at IUSM have also adapted Clance’s IP scale and are using it with students each year to measure student levels of imposterism. The scale helps students reflect on the factors that lead students to feel like imposters.

In addition, students who are on the Indianapolis campus are assigned a peer mentor. The training for mentors includes segments on IP and motivational interviewing. Some students may not admit feelings of IP to their advisor and may feel more comfortable indicating their concerns to another student. If peer mentors can identify characteristics of IP, they can use powerful questions to help students see their resilience. The peer mentors have the practice and ability to assist students in seeing their resilience. Additionally, as physicians in training, students are learning skills they will use with patients.

By providing academic and peer support, and through the use of powerful questions, advisors can relieve the burden of Imposter Syndrome and help students internalize their success.

Kristin Richey
Learning Strategist
Indiana University School of Medicine

Courtney Lewellen
Lead Advisor
Indiana University School of Medicine

Lauren Henninger
Lead Advisor
Indiana University School of Medicine


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

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

Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006

Office of Completion and Success. (n.d.). Coaching conversations at Indiana University. https://ocss.iu.edu/coaching/index.html

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High Impact Educational Practices: What They Are and How to Promote Them

Madeline Goldman, Virginia Commonwealth University

Madeline Goldman.jpgVirginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has become one of the leading institutions in the United States to eliminate graduation gaps for underrepresented minority (URM) students. As an institution, we have had a 15 percent increase in graduation rates for URM students over a ten year period. We have also seen significant gains in four- and six-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time degree seeking students. Our graduation rates are well above the national average. There have been key milestones to VCU’s student success initiatives such as the use of several high impact practices. High impact practices are powerful because they require applied, hands-on, integrative, and often collaborative learning experiences. Examples of high impact practices include first-year seminars, common intellectual experiences or core curriculum, learning communities, writing intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, study away/global learning, service learning, internships, capstone courses, and ePortfolios.

Why High Impact Practices are Important

Research has shown students gain more from their college experience when they engage in high impact practices (Kuh, 2009). Astin (1999) further underscored the importance of involvement to student achievement and other outcomes such as persistence and educational attainment. Research also suggests that students from different backgrounds all benefit from engaging in high impact educational practices (Kuh, 2009). Engagement even appears to have a compensatory effect on grades and persistence for students who are not as well prepared academically (Kuh, 2009).

High impact practices are powerful because they require applied, hands-on, integrative, and often collaborative learning experiences. Examples of high impact practices include first-year seminars, common intellectual experiences or core curriculum, learning communities, writing intensive courses, collaborative assignments and projects, study away/global learning, service learning, internships, capstone courses, and ePortfolios. For my PhD dissertation, I studied the importance of high impact practices on academic success and graduation outcomes in a research setting. As a former career advisor and current academic advisor, I have also witnessed the impacts of these types of experiences in my daily work with students.

Research shows that high impact practice is often inequitable, with first generation, transfer, African American, and Latino students being the least likely to have such experiences (Kuh et al., 2017). For this reason, it is imperative that academic advisors encourage students to participate in these high impact practices. Students who participate in these high impact practices are more likely to experience student success and positive student outcomes such as graduation, employment, and graduate school. Student success can mean academic achievement, engagement in purposeful activities, satisfaction, persistence, and attainment of educational objectives that prepare a student to live an economically self-sufficient, civically responsible, and rewarding life (Kuh et al., 2017).

Implementation of HIPs at VCU

Virginia Commonwealth University has implemented several HIPs into its curriculum and daily practice. One-third of VCU students are first generation students. One-third of VCU students are also on Pell grants. Forty-four percent of VCU students have minority status. These high impact practices are critical to the success of VCU students. As an R1 research institution, VCU has promoted undergraduate research as a way to expose students to systematic inquiry and work to answer new questions. Students can do research for credit in almost every major.

VCU has also developed several learning communities to promote student success. Students can participate in VCU LEAD, a four semester living learning community dedicated to helping students develop individual leadership skills. They have developed VCU Innovate, a living learning community committed to innovation and leadership. Students can earn an undergraduate certificate in product innovation, venture creation, or human-centered design. VCU Globe is a living learning community that is globally focused and prepares students to live in a diverse world. VCU ASPiRE is a living learning community where students work with community partners to address critical community needs.

Participation in study abroad is another example of a high impact practice that promotes student success. VCU has a Generation Study Abroad initiative that aims to double study abroad enrollment by the end of 2020. The College of Humanities and Sciences developed a Baldacci Experiential Learning Scholarship as well as VCU’s Development and Alumni Relations airfare scholarship which have helped address financial barriers to studying abroad. VCU has also converted the initial study abroad appointment to an online session to make it easier for students to access and learn about studying abroad.

VCU has also developed a strong program for the high impact practice service learning­­­. In forensic science for example, students can participate in a service learning class where they teach forensic science to middle school students. It counts for elective credit for the students and is offered in both the fall and spring semesters to allow for the greatest amount of flexibility.

In an effort to further develop high impact practices, VCU created a REAL initiative. REAL stands for relevant, experiential, and applied learning. It guarantees every student an academic experience that involves hands-on learning relevant to their personal and professional goals. It is intentional organizing of career building and civic minded activities that VCU does well. It is working to improve the tracking of experiential learning across the institution. It also brings an equity lens to experiential learning through information sharing and student exposure. In an effort to promote REAL opportunities, these grants provide funding support for VCU faculty and staff as they create or enhance experiential learning opportunities for students.

Implications for Academic Advising

Implementation of HIPs also occurs in academic advising at VCU. Advisors collaborate with the Education Abroad advisors to create study abroad advising pages for different majors. When this was completed in forensic science, it more than tripled the number of study abroad options. Academic advisors also encourage students to participate in research. In forensic science, students are assigned a faculty mentor that can discuss research opportunities. The department also holds experiential learning sessions where students can learn about the process for doing research for credit. A department webpage houses a description of research projects available and the forms needed to do research for credit. Internships are also discussed and managed in a very similar manner.

Another important tool for academic advisors at VCU are major maps (https://majormaps.vcu.edu/). Major maps are strategic career planning maps that allow academic advisors to create individualized plans with each student geared toward their professional goals upon graduation. The maps encourage major exploration, introduce professional networking opportunities, and engage students in real-world experiences. They are based on five pillars: maximizing course and degree planning, getting connected with the community, building cultural competence, getting REAL experience, and preparing for life after college. They are available on a website for easy student access with easy links for students to follow. Find an example at https://majormaps.vcu.edu/Major/forensic-science-forensic-biology.

The major maps ensure that students are taking the right courses in the right sequence to meet graduation goals. They encourage students to explore and make an impact on the VCU community. They help students globalize their skills and help them highlight their ability to work with others from different backgrounds and cultures. They encourage students to get REAL experience through internships, research and other relevant experiences. The major maps also teach students that it is never too early to start thinking about life after college. Major maps are available for each major at VCU and are routinely discussed in advising appointments. Service learning, study abroad, internships, research opportunities and living learning communities are routinely discussed with the help of the major map during advising appointments.


Participation in high-impact educational practices has many positive outcomes for students. HIPs help ensure access, equity, and educational quality. They help us go beyond lectures and transcripts to more purposeful learning. As advisors, we must work to continue to expand HIPs and have developed some frameworks to do so. Student success has become a national priority and the global future depends on postsecondary education offering high levels of learning and personal development for students of all backgrounds.

Madeline Goldman, PhD
Academic Advisor II
College of Humanities and Sciences
Virginia Commonwealth University


Astin, A. W. (1999, March/April).  Astin, A. W. (1999). "Involvement in learning" revisited: Lessons we have learned. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5), 587-98. http://proxy.library.vcu.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/scholarly-journals/involvement-learning-revisited-lessons-we-have/docview/62307124/se-2?accountid=14780

Kuh, G., O'Donnell, K., & Geary Schneider, C. (2017). HIPs at ten. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 49(5), 8–16, http://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2017.1366805

Kuh, G. D. (2009). What student affairs professionals need to know about student engagement? Journal of College Student Development, 50(6), 683–706, http://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0099

VCU ASPiRE. https://community.vcu.edu/aspire/

VCU Education Abroad Study Abroad Advising Pages. https://vcu.studioabroad.com/_customtags/ct_FileRetrieve.cfm?File_ID=05007477734F0B72037071020F741C727C080F14077C06036E73057301767705067276717701067403

VCU Globe. https://global.vcu.edu/vcuglobe/ 

VCU Innovate. https://davincicenter.vcu.edu/undergraduate/vcuinnovatellp/

VCU LEAD. https://lead.vcu.edu/

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Problem-Based Learning Advising

Jolene Muneno, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Jolene Muneno.jpgProblem-based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered pedagogy in which participants learn by solving real-world problems. In this approach, learners identify what they know and what they need to learn more about, conduct research, and apply their knowledge to come up with solutions to problems. A facilitator guides the learning process. 

Boud and Feletti (1997) explain that the pedagogy evolved through innovations in medical education. An alternative to traditional lectures that teach different medical disciplines separately, PBL requires medical students to research and combine knowledge from multiple domains and to use deductive reasoning to problem solve. In an overview of PBL, Savery (2006) states that PBL became an accepted instructional approach in North American and European medical schools in the 1980s and 1990s. The use of PBL has since spread to elementary, middle, and high schools, universities, and professional schools.

PBL and Advising

Problem-based learning has been shown to improve learner independence and confidence (Thomas & Chan, 2002) and long-term retention of knowledge (Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009) in college settings, and learner motivation (Chiang & Lee, 2016) and problem solving skills (Gallagher et al., 1992) in high school settings. Advisors strive to foster these same qualities in students. While group advising traditionally relies on a lecture-style presentation of information, it is worth exploring whether PBL can effectively present the same information in a way that is more engaging and that encourages independent thinking and problem-solving skills. 

PBL Activity

A PBL advising activity was designed to help University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) undergraduate students learn about University requirements and campus resources and identify solutions to advising-related problems. A post-assessment evaluation survey measured student engagement and their preference for PBL compared to a lecture-style presentation of the same material. 

All incoming Kinesiology & Rehabilitation Science (KRS) students for Fall 2019 were invited to participate in the PBL advising activity, and 12 students opted in. The participants were divided into three groups of four students. Each participant was provided with a laptop to use for internet research. The participants were told they would play the role of an advisor and were given background information on what advisors do.  

Three undergraduate juniors and seniors majoring in KRS were invited to be group facilitators. The invited students were selected because they had leadership experience within the KRS Club and KRS Summer Bridge program and were in good academic standing. The three students attended a researcher-led training on PBL group facilitation which introduced them to the background and theory of PBL. In the training, the researcher also guided the trainees through the entire PBL advising activity as if they were the participants and modeled what questions to ask as a facilitator. Trainees were then asked to reflect upon their experiences as PBL participants and the role the facilitator played.  

A group facilitator was assigned to each group. The groups were incrementally presented with a series of common advising scenarios that followed the first semester of a UHM freshman student majoring in KRS. The scenarios involved teaching the student about graduation requirements and the registration process, and connecting the student to campus resources like tutoring and counseling services. Once the group completed one scenario, they were given the next one.

Most participants had little prior knowledge of the scenario topics. A few times, someone in the group had some knowledge of the topic and was able to begin the inquiry. More often, during times when the entire group did not know how to begin their research, the group facilitator asked guiding questions such as “What is the student struggling with?” and “What can you do an internet search for to learn more about this?” The group facilitators took notes on the whiteboards during the discussions, frequently asked the participants to expand on their thoughts, and reminded them to find tangible evidence to support their advising decisions. For each scenario, the participants researched solutions online, identified campus resources to refer the student to, and shared their findings with their groups. The groups then discussed how they would advise in each scenario. If they missed important information, such as a campus resource that would have been helpful to the student, the facilitators asked follow-up questions to help prompt the participants.  

PBL Activity Evaluation

In a post-assessment evaluation survey that was completed in person, 83% of participants “Strongly Agreed” and 17% “Agreed” that the activity was engaging. 100% of participants “Strongly Agreed” or “Agreed” that the activity gave them a better understanding of graduation requirements, resources on campus, and what can be covered in an academic advising appointment. 83% “Strongly Agreed” or “Agreed” that they prefer the PBL advising activity over a lecture-style presentation on the same topics.

Participants were asked what they enjoyed about the activity. Seven out of twelve participants stated that they enjoyed learning about the various campus resources. Three participants indicated that they enjoyed learning about the requirements for their KRS major. Two participants used the word “engaged” to describe their experience in the activity.

Participants were also asked how the activity could be improved. Two participants mentioned that it could be improved by incorporating more complex or challenging scenarios. One participant suggested expanding the activity to two advisee storylines.

One of the group facilitators shared reflections on the experience: “It's one thing to read/learn about the system, as well as listening to our suggestions on how to do things, but applying that information to the scenarios gave [the participants] a chance to think critically. . . . As a leader, it made me realize that I need to do what's best for the entire community instead of what I want to do. It’s important to listen to people.” 


Post-assessment results suggest that students find PBL advising to be highly engaging and most students prefer it to a lecture-style presentation on the same topic. Furthermore, 100% of participants self-reported having a better understanding of campus resources, graduation requirements, and academic advising after completing the PBL advising activity. 

PBL advising may also be beneficial to the group facilitators by providing opportunities to develop their leadership skills. As the facilitator’s reflections reveal, participating in the PBL advising activity can lead the facilitator to the realization that leadership involves attentive listening and allowing others to discover things for themselves rather than telling them what they need to do or know.

While the results indicate that PBL advising can be successful, translating PBL to a group advising format comes with limitations. In many group advising settings, an advisor can present information to a large number of students at once. A PBL approach to advising can be limiting because in order for it to be effective, it is ideally done with smaller groups (Lohman & Finkelstein, 2000). This can be time-consuming and unrealistic for advisors who have large advising loads. Furthermore, since PBL requires participants to research, discuss their ideas, and problem solve, the learning process can take more time than traditional group advising would.

Advisors who are constrained by time and a large group size can experiment with incorporating PBL-inspired mini scenarios into their group advising presentations. For example, periodically throughout their presentations, advisors can ask students to research and discuss various scenarios in short think-pair-share activities. This can serve to make the presentations more engaging and effective.

A long-term goal of advising is for students to develop independence and self-sufficiency as they progress through their academic careers. While research outside the field of advising suggests that a PBL approach can cultivate these qualities, little research exists on the effects of PBL as it relates to advising. Future research can focus on the effects of PBL advising approaches on post-secondary students’ long-term retention of knowledge, engagement, motivation, and problem-solving skills.


PBL Advising can be an effective platform for advisors to orient new students to campus in an engaging and empowering way. It is also an innovative approach to fostering collaboration and camaraderie among new students and developing group facilitators’ leadership skills.

In the future, group facilitator recruitment efforts will target students who plan to attend graduate schools that use PBL as the primary method of instruction, such as medical schools. The group facilitator experience can then serve as an early introduction to PBL methods for these students, which has the added benefit of preparing them for graduate school. 

An additional plan for the future is to incorporate PBL-inspired mini scenarios with in-person and virtual large group advising sessions to investigate whether these shorter PBL-inspired activities are effective, and whether the outcome is affected by the delivery format. 

While many new student group advising sessions focus on one-way delivery of information from the advisor to the student, PBL advising aims to empower students to find information themselves and share it with their peers. PBL advising reinforces the idea of advisors as facilitators and aligns with the goal of students becoming independent learners. Since PBL advising is a new approach to advising, further research is needed to determine its effects on long-term student academic success.

Jolene Muneno
Academic Advisor
Office of Student Academic Services
College of Education
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa


Boud, D., & Feletti, G. (1997). The challenge of problem-based learning (2nd ed.). Kogan Page.

Chiang, C. L. & Lee, H. (2016). The effect of project-based learning on learning motivation and problem-solving ability of vocational high school students. International Journal of Information and Education Technology, 6(9), 709–712. http://www.ijiet.org/vol6/779-EP00028.pdf

Gallagher, S., Stepien, W., & Rosenthal, H. (1992). The effects of problem-based learning on problem solving. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36. 195–200. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shelagh_Gallagher/publication/247858974_The_Effects_of_Problem-Based_Learning_On_Problem_Solving/links/564dd18108ae1ef9296ad39b.pdf 

Lohman, M. C., & Finkelstein, M. (2000). Designing groups in problem-based learning to promote problem-solving skill and self-directedness. Instructional Science, 28(4), 291–307. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1003927228005

Savery, J. R. (1999). Enhancing motivation and learning through collaboration and the use of problems. In S. Fellows & K. Ahmet (Eds.), Inspiring students: Case studies in motivating the learner (pp. 33–42). Kogan Page.

Savery, J. R. (2006). Overview of problem-based learning: Definitions and distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1002

Strobel, J., & van Barneveld, A. (2009). When is PBL more effective? A meta-synthesis of metaanalyses comparing PBL to conventional classrooms. The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning, 3(1), 44–58.

Thomas, M., & Chan, L. P. (2002). Achieving learner independence using the problem-based learning approach. Journal of Language and Linguistics, 1(3).

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Creating a New Advisor Orientation Program on a Virtual Platform

Rafael R. Almanzar, Texas A&M University

Rafael Almanzar.jpgThe COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the academic advising profession—academic advisors quickly learned to adopt new methods of providing advising services and support to their students. The traditional in-person advising appointment shifted into a virtual platform where students and academic advisors utilize video telephony software programs such as Zoom and WebEx.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shaped how academic advisors engage in training and professional development. For instance, the October 2020 NACADA Annual Conference scheduled for Puerto Rico transitioned into a virtual conference for the safety and health of NACADA members, and the spring 2021 Regional Conferences are being held virtually as well. In addition to training and professional development, on-boarding has also changed for new academic advisors hired in the amidst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The literature on developing orientation programs is scarce (Cho, 2012). Orientation programs are essential for the on-boarding process for new academic advisors. According to Almanzar et al. (2018), successful orientation programs outline expectations, provide relevant resources, and cultivate a smooth transition into the institution. The following article will address the development and establishment of a virtual orientation program that will position new academic advisors towards success in the advising profession. I will share strategies to apply to virtual orientation programs for new academic advisors.  

The Importance of On-Boarding for New Advisors

Academic advisors come from a plethora of lived experiences, educational fields, and professional backgrounds. Due to the various avenues through which a person can enter the academic advising profession, on-boarding is integral in the socialization, retainment, and recruitment of new academic advisors (Poe & Almanzar, 2018). It is essential for institutions and advising administrators to be mindful that not all new academic advisors are equipped with knowledge of student development theories, advising theories, advising approaches, or have adequate cultural competence (Givans Voller, 2012).

NACADA Core Competencies as the Theoretical Framework

When planning a virtual orientation program, institutions should utilize the NACADA Core Competencies as the framework. According to NACADA (2017), exceptional academic advising programs incorporate all three components of the NACADA Core Competencies: conceptual, informational, and relational.

The conceptual component addresses academic advisors’ role, such as providing a brief overview of academic advising’s origin and function, going over the NACADA core values, and conceptualizing academic advising outcomes at the institution. Discussing the conceptual component during a new orientation is instrumental since academic advisors have different educational and professional backgrounds.

The informational component addresses what academic advisors need to know, such as an introduction of the institution’s historical context and how it shapes the current campus culture, norms, and climate. With the current climate and social unrest in our US society and higher education, this is pivotal for new advisors in understanding how an institution’s culture and climate can shape or perpetuate institutional norms, values, and beliefs that can cultivate an unwelcoming learning environment for historically marginalized and minoritized student groups. Since higher education is increasingly becoming more ethnically and racially diverse (Espinosa et al., 2019), this is integral to discuss at a new advisor orientation.

The relational component addresses the communication skills academic advisors need. Additionally, introducing the institution’s expectations for new academic advisors to reach during their first year is worth mentioning. It is important to note that the relational component is a continuous learning process that new academic advisors must develop after a new advisor orientation program. However, providing new advisors with the tools needed will expedite their growth and development in this area.

Goals and Objectives

Also, before establishing a new advisor orientation program, institutions must determine the goals and objectives. Below are objectives to consider for a new advisor orientation program:

  • To provide a smooth transition into the institution and academic advising profession.
  • To introduce the objectives and expectations of academic advising at the institution.
  • To build community, fellowship, and support from other academic advisors.
  • Equip new academic advisors with knowledge and resources to aid in their growth and development.  
  • To present other training and professional development opportunities on campus.

Strategies for Developing an Effective Virtual New Advisor Orientation Program 

Delivery of Program. Academic advisors are experiencing online fatigue now more than ever. When establishing a virtual orientation program, it should be kept short. Instead of an all-day event, a half-day event is much more feasible to ingest. Providing an all-day event with too much information can be overwhelming and challenging to absorb. Murayama et al. (2015) argued that people are often exposed to more information than they can remember. Furthermore, short breaks throughout the program are encouraged. Short breaks will allow new academic advisors time to refresh themselves to avoid online fatigue.

Additionally, when coordinating a virtual orientation program, a co-host should be assigned to the virtual meeting to avoid the risk of slow internet or disconnection. For instance, Zoom has the capability of setting a host and a co-host. The co-host can serve as the contingency plan; the co-host can help monitor the chat feature and engage with new advisors. The host or co-host should enable closed captioning to allow for accessibility to those with hearing impairments.

Identify Important and Necessary Content. The content of a virtual orientation program is integral in the on-boarding process of new academic advisors. Orientation programs should include a representative from campus units that experience high student interactions, such as the tutoring center, career services, disability resources, and counseling services. Representatives can provide a 20 minute overview of the services offered to students. The last five minutes should be allocated for new academic advisors to ask questions.

Additionally, representatives from the Title IX office and the diversity office are strongly encouraged to provide an overview for new academic advisors. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual harassment, sexual violence, and discrimination based on sex. Depending on the institution, academic advisors are mandated reporters if a student discloses any Title IX violation. New academic advisors should be exposed to the institution’s diversity office to learn about resources and training on cultural competency. Discussion on diversity and inclusion is essential with the racial divide higher education institutions continue to face with historically marginalized and minoritized student groups.

Other campus units that require more virtual time for their overview can provide a one-page summary highlighting the top three to five things new academic advisors should know about their office. The one-page summary should contain the contact information for new academic advisors to reach for additional questions. The one-page summary will honor the short half-day virtual orientation. These one-page summaries can be disseminated to new academic advisors after the virtual orientation program as an additional resource. Another option is to have these campus units provide a short video recording of their presentation to be shared with the new academic advisors who can view it at their own time. The NACADA Core Competencies pocket guide or Folsom’s (2015) New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Academic Advising are additional resources to introduce to new academic advisors at virtual orientation programs.

Engagement Throughout the Virtual Orientation Program. One can argue that it is difficult to be engaging in a virtual orientation program. However, it is just as easy to be engaging virtually as it is to be in person. It requires creativity and innovation. For instance, institutions can enact engagement throughout the virtual orientation program by quizzing new academic advisors about their institutional knowledge.

Additionally, implementing a panel of academic advisors into the virtual orientation program can be instrumental for new academic advisors. A panel discussion is an opportunity for new academic advisors to ask questions and for the panelist to provide suggestions to be successful in the profession. Panelists should be diverse in the number of years advising, gender, department or college housed in, and student populations worked with. Ideally, adding a panelist who just completed their first year in the advising profession can share a different perspective from seasoned academic advisors. Furthermore, inviting a seasoned academic advisor and an advising administrator to the panel can provide additional diverse perspectives.

Assessment for Effectiveness. To measure effectiveness and implement improvements, assessing the new advisor virtual orientation program is critical. Creating a short anonymous survey that captures new academic advisors’ feedback can provide direction to improve your virtual orientation program. The survey should be framed with the goals of the orientation program in mind. Institutions can disseminate the survey right before the end of the virtual orientation program and afterwards by email. Also, institutions must include a deadline and a gentle reminder the day before the deadline to yield more responses. Being open to feedback will enhance future new advisor virtual orientation programs.


Whether in person or online, a new advisor orientation program is the first step in on-boarding and transitioning new academic advisors into the profession and institution. If done well, new academic advisors will be equipped with the tools needed to be effective, which then cultivates student success.

Rafael R. Almanzar
Academic Advisor III
Office for Student Success
Texas A&M University


Almanzar, R. R., Hapes, R., & Rowe, G. (2018). Strategies for a successful graduate student orientation program. Academic Advising Today, 41(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Strategies-for-a-Successful-Graduate-Student-Orientation-Program.aspx

Cho, M. (2012). Online orientation in higher education: A developmental study. Educational Technology Research Development, 60, 1051–1069.

Espinosa, L. L., Turk, J. M., Taylor, M., & Chessman, H. M. (2019). Race and ethnicity in higher education: A status report. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/89187

Folsom, P. (2015). The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising (P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin, Eds.). Jossey-Bass.

Givans Voller, J. (2012). Advisor training and development: Why it matters and how to get started. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-training-and-development-Why-it-matters-and-how-to-get-started.aspx

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

Murayama, K., Blake, A., Kerr, T., & Castel, A. D. (2015). When enough is not enough: Information overload and metacognitive decisions to stop studying information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(6), 914–924. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000213 

Poe, K., & Almanzar, R. R. (2018). Supporting and retaining new academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 42(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Supporting-and-Retaining-New-Academic-Advisors.aspx


Visualizing the Connection between Advising Frameworks, Structures, and Approaches

Sarah A. Forbes, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Sarah Forbes.jpgEven though academic advising has been around for centuries, a number of academic advisors lack training for specific administrative roles in this field, such as creating or revising an entire program. To fill this gap, NACADA has compiled a myriad of resources to ensure quality advising programs. However, absorbing these resources can be a daunting task as there is a plethora of foundational knowledge to learn, along with jargon specific to the field. Questions such as, “Do theories matter in developing an academic program?” or “Is ‘developmental’ a framework or an approach?” arise and can elicit different answers depending on the author. At the end of the day, it is imperative that administrators understanding how all of the component pieces fit together. Currently, no graphic organizer exists, which spurred the development of this image (see Figure 1). This graphic organizer provides a global perspective which can give direction for seeking out additional information and making decisions. 

Figure 1
Graphic Organizer for Advising Frameworks, Structures, and Approaches


Selecting a Framework

The first step to creating or revising an academic advising program is to determine the framework: prescriptive, developmental, or educative. While these are represented as discrete ideas, elements of each framework will surface during the course of academic advising. Selecting a framework equates to identifying the overarching goal of the advising program. The initial impetus for academic advising arose in the late 1800s with the introduction of elective courses into the higher education curriculum (Kuhn, 2008). Students needed guidance on which elective courses to take, which came to be known as prescriptive advising. Students were expected to follow the advice given by the advisor, similar to the relationship between a doctor and a patient (Crookston, 1994). The ultimate goal was compliance, given that the advisor was more knowledgeable on such subjects.

With the rise of developmental theories in 1960s and 1970s, academic advising shifted to a developmental framework with the goal of whole person development (e.g., decision making, critical thinking) rather than merely compliance (Crookston, 1994). Hagen and Jordan (2008) placed these theories into three categories:  psychosocial, cognitive-development, and personal preference or type. Psychosocial theories “look at different periods or stages in people’s lives and the issues faced during these stages . . . [emphasizing] developmental tasks, transitions, and identify formation” (Hagen & Jordan, 2008, p. 20), as seen in Erikson’s (1963) eight stages of development and Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) seven vectors of development. Cognitive-development theories focus on “how individuals perceive and interpret their life experiences” (Hagan & Jordan, 2008, p. 23), as seen in Kohlberg’s (1977) theory of moral development and Perry’s (1970) nine positions. Personal preference or type theories “focus on differences that are more preferential, on personality differences, and on how students approach their learning environment as well as the world at large” (Hagan & Jordan, 2008, p. 26), as seen in Kolb’s (1984) four learning styles and Jung’s (1960) theory of personality types. This framework elevates the role of the academic advisor beyond a signatory. Institutions have begun to reframe this idea into holistic advising, acknowledging that “advisors cannot look at students through a purely academic lens, but rather must regard them as a whole person” (Kardash, 2020).

Within the last two decades, Hemwall and Trachte (1999, 2005) and Lowenstein (1999, 2005, 2014) expanded on the idea of developmental advising to align more closely with the core mission of higher education. As theories of student learning emerged, views of academic advising shifted towards advising as an extension of the classroom, an opportunity to facilitate student learning. Melander (2005) further developed the advising-as-teaching approach into advising-as-educating. Theories supporting this framework include Gardner’s (1999) multiple intelligences and Baxter Magolda’s (1999) self-authorship. More recently, Lowenstein (2014) proposed the idea of integrative advising in which advisors guide students to “make meaning out of their education as a whole” (para. 54). While holistic personal development has not been abandoned, it has been refocused. 

Selecting a Structure

Once a framework has been established, advising administrators will need to determine the structure of the program. The structure delineates the parties responsible for providing academic advising. While there are many options to consider, both traditional and emerging, many refer to Habley’s (1983) seven structures to get a sense of those possibilities, which include faculty-only, supplemental, split, dual, total intake, satellite, and self-contained. In the faculty-only model, all incoming students are assigned to a faculty member who has sole responsibility for academic advising. The supplementary model continues to assign all students to a faculty academic advisor but makes provision for an advising office that supports the efforts of the faculty. In the split model, the advising office advises undecided students or underprepared students, while faculty advise the rest of the students. In the dual model, the advising office advises students on their general education requirements, policies, and procedures, with faculty advising on requirements in their major. With the total intake model, incoming students are advised in the advising office until a certain threshold has been met (either in time, requirements, etc.). In the satellite model, each academic department would create an advising office that would advise all students in that department. In the self-contained model, an advising office would be the primary source of academic advising. In the most recent survey of academic advising practices (Carlstrom & Miller, 2011), NACADA pared this list down to self-contained, faculty only, shared supplementary, shared split, and total intake. 

Selecting an Approach

Once the framework and structure are selected, a determination must be made as to which approaches are appropriate for the student population and campus culture. Though not required, it is common for an institution to select more than one approach as they are not mutually exclusive. These approaches focus more on what happens during the time an advisor meets with an advisee. There are nine academic advising approaches most frequently utilized by the NACADA community: advising as teaching, learning-centered advising, developmental advising, motivational interviewing, appreciative advising, strengths-based advising, self-authorship, proactive advising, and advising as coaching (Drake et al., 2013). These approaches are well-developed in theory and practice.

The advisor as teacher must “act as a facilitator of learning, have knowledge of academic and cocurricular resources, and communicate to students in a way that both encourages their self-actualization and demonstrates sincere concern for them” (Drake, 2013, p. 26). Learning-centered advising takes advising as teaching to the next level by focusing on those good practices that facilitate student learning, such as getting students involved in the process, facilitating student motivation, and student self-reflection (Reynolds, 2013). With developmental academic advising, the advisor “accept[s] the student on a three-dimensional continuum [academic, personal, career] and facilitate[s] growth in each one through the coordination of a variety of experiences” (Grites, 2013, p. 45).

Academic advisors leverage motivational interviewing “to assist students in developing motivation to make a choice or to change a behavior” (Hughey & Pettay, 2013, p. 67). Appreciative advising is “the intentional and collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potentials” (Bloom et al., 2013, p. 83). Within a strengths-based advising approach, advisors “assess the talents and personal assets that students bring into the college environment and work with them to develop those competencies into strengths through gained knowledge and skills” (Schreiner, 2013, p. 105).

Utilizing self-authorship, advisees undergo a “shift from less dependence on an authority to an intrinsic understanding of self that guides decision making” (Schulenberg, 2013, p. 121). Proactive advising, according to Varney (2013), “involves intentional interactions with students before a negative situation cannot be ameliorated” (p. 140). Advisors in the advising as coaching approach “focus on promoting the growth, learning, and development of their clients largely through one-on-one inquiry-based processes grounded in facilitated decision making and accountability” (McClellan, 2013, p 159). 

In addition, there are a number of emerging approaches to academic advising. For example, a Socratic approach emphasizes critical thinking (Spence & Scobie, 2013); a hermeneutic approach emphasizes interpretation for personal significance (Champlin-Scharff & Hagen, 2013); and a narrative approach emphasizes stories (Hagen, 2007, 2018).


Having a global orientation to the components of academic advising will facilitate the creation or revision of an advising program. From this overview, questions can be raised and details explored.  Further, knowing the components of your institution’s academic advising program will facilitate advisor training and development. When participating in NACADA events, look for sessions that talk about a specific approach or leverage the same structure as your institution. In addition, leverage this new jargon when doing a literature search or engaging in discussions with other advising professionals. This is where strategies and best practices will begin to emerge. 

Sarah A. Forbes, Ph.D.
Director of Student Academic Success
Academic Affairs
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1999). Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship: Constructive-developmental pedagogy. Vanderbilt University Press.

Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2013). Appreciative advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 83–99). Jossey-Bass.

Carlstrom, A. H., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). 2011 NACADA national survey of academic advising (Monograph No. 25). NACADA: National Academic Advising Association. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/2011-NACADA-National-Survey.aspx

Champlin-Scharff, S., & Hagen, P. L. (2013). Understanding and interpretation. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 121–136). Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. K. (2013). Advising as teaching and the advisor as teacher in theory and in practice. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 17–32). Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Academic advising approaches. Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity. Jossey-Bass.

Crookston, B. B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 5–9. www.nacadajournal.org

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). Norton.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligences reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. Basic Books.

Gordon, V. N., Habley, W. R., & Grites, T. J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Grites, T. J. (2013). Developmental academic advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 45–59). Jossey-Bass.

Habley, W. R. (1983). Organizational structures for academic advising: Models and implications. Journal of College Student Personnel, 24(6), 535–540.

Hagen, P. L. (2007, September). Narrative theory and academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 36(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Narrative-Theory-and-Academic-Advising.aspx

Hagen, P. L. (2018). The power of story: Narrative theory in academic advising (J. Givans Voller, Ed.). NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Hagen, P. L., & Jordan, P. (2008). Theoretical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 17–35). Jossey-Bass.

Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (1999). Learning at the core: Toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 5–11. www.nacadajournal.org

Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 74–83. www.nacadajournal.org

Hughey, J., & Pettay, R. (2013). Motivational interviewing. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 67–82). Jossey-Bass.

Jung, C. G. (1960). The structure and dynamics of the psyche. Bollingen Foundation.

Kardash, S. M. (2020, June). Holistic advising. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Holistic-Advising.aspx

Kohlberg, L. (1977).  Moral development: A review of the theory. Theory into Practice, 16(2), 53-59.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice Hall.

Kuhn, T. L. (2008). Historical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 3–16). Jossey-Bass.

Lowenstein, M. (1999). An alternative to the developmental theory of advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 1(1999). https://journals.psu.edu/mentor/article/view/61758/61402

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal 25(2), 65–73. www.nacadajournal.org

Lowenstein, M. (2014). Toward a theory of advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal, 16(2014). https://journals.psu.edu/mentor/issue/view/3043

McClellan, J. (2013). Advising as coaching. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 159–175). Jossey-Bass.

Melander, E. R. (2005). Advising as educating: A framework for organizing advising systems. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 84–91. www.nacadajournal.org

Perry, W. (1970). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years. Hold, Rinehart & Winston.

Reynolds, M. M. (2013). Learning-centered advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 33–43). Jossey-Bass.

Schreiner, L. A. (2013). Strengths-based advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 105–120). Jossey-Bass.

Schulenberg, J. K. (2013). Academic advising informed by self-authorship theory. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 121–136). Jossey-Bass.

Spence, J. M., & Scobie, N. A. (2013). Socratic advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 121–136). Jossey-Bass.

Varney, J. (2013). Proactive advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 137–154). Jossey-Bass.

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Utilizing an Ecological Paradigm Theoretical Framework to Address Student Behaviors: Long-Term Student Success within High Needs Populations

Rishard Wedderburn, Shaw University

Rishard Wedderburn.jpgExpanding an advisor's toolkit promotes growth for the profession and increases the likelihood of student success. Primarily serving students on academic probation and students with multiple faculty referrals requires revised practices to address recurring negative behaviors affecting students' academic progress and matriculation throughout the time of service delivery. To combat these challenges, utilizing and implementing human services’ concepts and theories within an academic recovery program allows students to modify behavior(s), which harms their achievement. An academic recovery programs' prevention and intervention strategies derived from Bronfenbrenner's concepts of ecological paradigms as well as strategies from Multisystemic Therapy (MST) nine principles of an individual's development enhances students' opportunity for long-term academic recovery.

Academic advising, student engagement, and ecology system modifications foster an environment for students' substantial personal development. The core principles of academic advising create guidance and learning, thereby establishing an academic path for students to matriculate through college. The dyad with academic advising strategies and using concepts of ecological paradigms has enabled students to develop skills to overcome ecological system challenges affecting their college matriculation.

Per Kuh (2001), academic advising takes place in "situations in which an institutional representative gives insight or direction to a college student about an academic, social, or personal matter. The nature of this direction might be to inform, suggest, counsel, discipline, coach, mentor, or even teach" (p. 3). Additionally, these strategies provide a modified counseling strategy to reach students’ environmental needs in a non-traditional framework. Similar to the “Let’s Talk” program started at Cornell University, within our university community, we have served students while advocating for additional support services and resources.

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) was created approximately 25 years ago as an intensive family- and community-based treatment program to focus on juveniles presenting with serious antisocial behaviors and who were at-risk for out-of-home placement (Zajac et al., 2015). Based upon Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Social Ecology Theory, MST recognizes that each ecological system (individual, school, family, peer, and community) plays a critical role in a youth's world and each system requires attention when effective change is needed to improve the quality of life for youth and their families (Tighe et al., 2012).

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological paradigm addresses five environmental contexts of development: microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and chronosystems (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994). MST embodies characteristics of the microsystem. As defined by Bronfenbrenner and Ceci (1994), a microsystem is a pattern of activities, social roles, and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing person. These patterns happen in a given face-to-face setting with particular physical, social, and symbolic features that invite, permit, or inhibit engagement.

Critical components of MST focus on addressing nine principles: (1) the primary purpose of assessment is to understand the ʺfitʺ between the identified problems and their broader systemic context; (2) therapeutic contacts emphasize the positive, and use systemic strengths as levers for change; (3) interventions are designed to promote responsible behavior and decrease irresponsible behavior among family members; (4) interventions are present‐focused and action‐oriented and they target specific and well‐defined problems; (5) interventions target sequences of behavior within and between multiple systems that maintain the identified problems; (6) interventions are developmentally appropriate and fit the developmental needs of the youth; (7) interventions are designed to require daily weekly effort by family members; (8) intervention effectiveness is evaluated continuously from multiple perspectives; and finally, (9) interventions are designed to promote treatment generalization and long‐term maintenance of therapeutic change by empowering caregivers to address family membersʹ  needs across multiple systemic context (Zajac et al., 2015).

Within higher education, high impact practices increase student engagement and retention. Encouraging and supporting students to modify behaviors and address obstacles in each relevant ecological system provides a platform for academic advisors to encourage long-term transferable skills. Processing and reviewing systematic challenges with students will develop their problem-solving skills to attain resiliency traits. Additionally, extending the recovery programming to each paradigm encourages the utilization of external support systems within a student’s social network, thereby increasing their overall accountability.

The services of academic coaching, advising, and counseling provide students the opportunity to develop a strengths-focused approach to better navigate the college system while engaging students with faculty and staff (Kuh et al., 2008). Factors affecting a student's proneness to dropping, stopping out, or failing out tend to be regarding challenges within their microsystems.

MST supports individuals through a holistic framework. The tenets of holistic student support all draw on well-documented research on student success and persistence, especially those who may have fewer resources or struggle with navigating college (Kuh et al., 2008).

Engagement has compensatory effects on grades and persistence for students who most need a boost to performance because they are not adequately prepared academically when they start college while engaging in educationally purposeful activities helps to level the playing field, especially for students from low-income family backgrounds and others who have been historically underserved. (Kuh et al., 2008)

The field of academic advising will continue to evolve to meet the needs of students. As time progresses within higher education, student support services will continue to mirror the human services model. Higher education's institutional framework must continually challenge itself to diversify the scope of methodologies to achieve the overall goal of student success.

Rishard Wedderburn, MA
Director of Academic Success
Office of Academic Success
Shaw University


Bronfenbrenner, U., & Ceci, S. J. (1994). Nature-nurture reconceptualized in developmental perspective: A bioecological model. Psychological Review101(4), 568–586. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295x.101.4.568

Kuh, G. D. (2001). Assessing what really matters to student learning inside The National Survey of Student Engagement. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning33(3), 10–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091380109601795

Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M. (2008). What student affairs professionals need to know about student engagement. Journal of College Student Development, 50(6), 683–706. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0099

Let’s Talk Drop-In Consultation. CornellHealth. Cornell University. https://health.cornell.edu/services/mental-health-care/lets-talk

Tighe, A., Pistrang, N., Casdagli, L., Baruch, G., & Butler, S. (2012, February 13). Multisystemic therapy for young offenders: Families' experiences of therapeutic processes and outcomes. Journal of Family Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027120

Zajac, K., Randall, J., & Swenson, C. C. (2015). Multisystemic therapy for externalizing youth. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America24(3), 601–616. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2015.02.007

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Optimizing Emails and Workflow for Remote Advising

Lorain Ambrocio, Columbia College Chicago

Lorain Ambrocio.jpgWith the Spring 2021 semester in full swing, and some institutions nearing the half-way point for their classes, academic advisors may be balancing new demands from students. Between assisting students with technical issues in Canvas or Zoom, navigating major-change requests, and guiding the go-getter students who are already planning for summer registration, email communication has steadily increased between students and academic advisors. And while email communication may be the best way to reach students during the times of a pandemic, effective outreach strategies and inbox management are just as important to consider.

Email strategies and establishing a steady inbox workflow can allow academic advisors to serve students effectively while also evading the feelings of email fatigue. Academic advisors can consider themselves as digital marketers in a sense—where they use a communication tool (email) to convey a message to their target population (their student caseload) and prompt them to act on a message—not just to open the email, but to act on the message the advisor is delivering.

In 2016, a web and mobile analytics company called Mixpanel analyzed the performance of almost 86,000 subject lines across 1.7 billion emails. The average open rate was 13.5%, and shorter subject lines (typically 30 characters or fewer) performed better overall (Miars, 2017). Mixpanel also found subject lines that posed a question also performed better, along with emails that began with "how-to," which increased the open rate by 7.5 percentage points (Miars, 2017). While these statistics are impressive, there is still a disconnect between the target not seeing the value in the email and choosing not to open it.

Re-Thinking How Emails Are Crafted

How can Mixpanel's data be used as an example to engage students to want to open emails? This is where a call to action can be used and begins with the subject line. Communicating effectively with students begins with strong and consistent subject lines. Advisors can keep their subject lines short and include "from your academic advisor" at the end of the subject header. This technique can allow for students to quickly associate the message with their advisor—the message is something separate from the institution and is important to their academic success. Then the call to action in the message of the email is where the advisor will tell students what needs to be done. This message could be registering for a class, making an appointment with the tutoring center, or following up on a missing document, for example.

A few other points that can build on the call to action (CTA) within an email are the following:

  • Optimize emails for mobile viewing—are students receiving a block of text of information, or is the message short and clear with a discernible CTA?
  • Utilize bullets or numbered lists to format the essential information in the email, drawing the student's eye to the CTA.
  • Highlight or use a bold-faced text to emphasize important dates or notes. The student’s eye will be drawn to read through the email or find the information at a quick glance if revisiting the email again.
  • Communicate with the student, not at them. Revise emails and eliminate any jargon or acronyms that a student may not understand.

Adjusting Email Workflow and Management

Once emails are re-evaluated and academic advisors implement their own outreach strategies over time, a concurrent step to consider is to utilize the triage method for inbox management. Triaging emails is a practice that Ohrablo (2018) spoke about in her work, High-Impact Advising: A Guide for Academic Advisors, which allows the email inbox to work for the user and not the other way around.

In using the triage method, an advisor may start by looking for communication threads or messages from co-workers or the institution and reply to these first if needed. Any “reply-all” emails or subscription newsletters can quickly fill up an inbox and give the impression that there may be more messages to read through. Advisors can quickly delete these messages once they have been able to go through each message and alleviate any feelings of fatigue or being overwhelmed first thing in the morning.

After this the advisor can then begin to mark emails from students and quickly skim through each one. If there is an email from a student that has 10 questions listed or is a big block of text, the advisor may consider sending a quick response back to the student recommending them to make an appointment instead. If there are emails that include questions on financial aid or housing, for example, then the advisor can quickly send off a template reply or standard policy message that has already been created.

By doing this initial scan, advisors can have more time for emails or questions that may need a thorough look at the student's record before a response can be sent. The triage method allows every email to be responded to in an ideal amount of time, while optimizing the advisor’s time for an 8-hour day (Ohrablo, 2018). The advisor is able to listen effectively to what the student is asking for and respond holistically. Utilizing this method may not necessarily mean that all emails are answered in the order they were received, but rather providing timely responses to all students that include personalized messaging and detailed information that may go beyond what the student initially asked for. In other words, providing proactive responses rather than reactive advising.

Email strategies and outreach will look different for every advisor and so will inbox management. Utilizing effective email strategies and inbox management can assist academic advisors in improving their communication techniques with students and easing overall personal workflow management. As academic advisors formulate their own strategies for outreach, it is helpful to keep in mind what their students need to understand, how the student is expected to reach out, and the expectations for advising appointments. While the future of higher education may still feel uncertain for students, advisors can control the messaging and communication they are sending to students to help lift their morale and continue to be a pillar of support.

Lorain Ambrocio
Academic Advisor
Columbia College Chicago


Miars, L. (2017, February 14). How one advising leader saw a 600% increase in student responses. EAB. https://eab.com/insights/blogs/student-success/how-one-advising-leader-saw-a-600-increase-in-student-responses/

Ohrablo, S. (2018). High-impact advising: A guide for academic advisors. Academic Impressions.


Posted in: 2021 March 44:1


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