From the President: Getting Involved in NACADA
Kyle Ross, NACADA President
As we begin a new year, I have personally felt the conflict between feeling that I am getting closer to a place of normalcy and routine that I have missed since the onset of the pandemic and feeling that I am still a long way out from that place. A lot has changed for me since 2020, with having transitioned to a new institution and community. Through everything that has happened in the past two years, one of my constants and anchors has been this association and the colleagues and friends I surround myself with within it. I find revitalization from this association and excitement with where the Board of Directors is leading us.
I hope our membership feels the same sense of renewal by engaging with NACADA’s numerous opportunities for professional development and networking. Over the past few years, a frequent topic that I have talked about with members and presented about at conferences is how to get involved in NACADA and what first steps members can take toward leadership roles. It can feel overwhelming and confusing to figure out who to ask and where to start. So, I want to use this space to share my perspective and encourage members to consider these involvement opportunities.
NACADA’s structure is primarily organized by three divisions: the Administrative Division, the Advising Communities Division, and the Region Division. Each division ultimately serves our members by fostering opportunities for professional development and engagement and for advancing the overall work of the association toward accomplishing the strategic goals developed by the Board of Directors.
The Administrative Division collaborates with the Executive Office around events and services available to all members and key activities of the association directly linked with the strategic goals. This division consists of advisory boards (e.g. Annual Conference Advisory Board) and committees (e.g. Membership Recruitment & Retention Committee). Individuals interested in contributing to the work of these groups can seek appointment as formal members of committees and/or advisory boards for two years. Each group’s website contains a section on “How to Get Involved” that details experience needed for appointment and who to contact if interested. Members can then seek to serve as chair once they complete their initial two-year term. Committee Chairs are elected for a two-year term by their current members, and Advisory Board Chairs are appointed by the president, in consultation with the Administrative Division Representatives and with the Board of Directors.
Advising Communities Division
The Advising Communities Division is responsible for creating opportunities for members to network with colleagues and engage in professional development around topics of similar interest. Topics range from institution types (e.g. Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to academic areas (e.g. STEM) and student populations (e.g. Undecided and Exploratory Students). There are over 35 advising communities to connect with, and members can officially join up to four of them. They can also contact the respective Advising Community Chair to get involved with their steering committee. After a year as an official member of an advising community, members are eligible for election as chair for a two-year term.
The Region Division is responsible for programming events and opportunities for networking/professional development for members who are connected by geographical proximity. Members are assigned to one of the 10 regions within which they are located. For example, I am affiliated with Region 8 (8 is Great!). However, members can always participate and connect with other regions as well. Each region has a steering committee and opportunities to volunteer on conference planning committees. Members can contact their respective Region Chair to get involved. I always recommend serving on the steering committee before considering running for a chair position that is elected for a two-year term by the region’s membership.
Opportunities for involvement exist outside of these three divisions as well. Members can volunteer to review conference proposals; write for NACADA; participate in the elections process; and/or present at local, regional, annual, and international conferences.
I always am open to talking directly with members who want to discuss how and where to get started. I understand it is a tremendous ask for members to give their time and volunteer in whatever way they can and want to in this association during this time. However, I can easily say it is worth every second and investment of personal energy because I go back to my full-time role, my team, and my students recharged and reinvigorated.
Thank you and be well!
Kyle Ross, President, 2021–2022
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Head Academic Advisor
College of Business
Oregon State University
From the Executive Director: Hope Springs Eternal
Melinda J. Anderson, NACADA Executive Director
As we move into spring, trees will blossom, flowers will bloom, and warmer weather and longer days will return. We will shed our heavy coats and boots and replace them with lighter fare that reminds us summer is just around the corner. Just like the seasons, a college campus follows a natural rhythm. There is an air of excitement when students arrive back on campus, ready to engage in their classes, eager to see their friends, and ease back into their routines.
As professionals, we fall into our own routines. Every year I make a New Year’s resolution to introduce changes into my personal or professional life, and like clockwork, I am sad to say, I am back to my old routines. However, every Decemeber 31st, I am still committed to making another New Year’s resolution because next year, well, next year is going to be different. Hope springs eternal. I like this phrase because it reminds me that as long as there is hope, there is a chance for change. Change means growth, which means we blossom into better versions of ourselves.
As an advisor, I worked purposefully to sow the spirit of hope and encouragement in my students when they navigated through challenging times. As an administrator and colleague, I work even harder to model the qualities needed in today’s workspaces—qualities such as grace, kindness, hope, and professional growth—and use humor to foster courage. Our thoughts today often turn into questions of how we continue to encourage and support our advisors, our faculty, and the profession when the pace of change in higher education is quickening, demands are growing, and limited resources are shifting.
While we continue to address these questions in the advising community, we must not lose sight of what is important in our work. It is our students, and it is you. Education is a process of development, and it is a lifelong endeavor for us. We must not lose sight of what connects us to our field, our individual talents, and our greatest passions. My hope as we continue to move forward is to recognize the power in our community and in our hearts. We recently received a video message from a NACADA leader who, through happy tears, said “I love all of my NACADA family. We’re all in this fight together, and we’re all trying to navigate everything and help our students. Their smiling faces and encouragement just mean so much to me. I just love all of my advising friends.” That beautiful sentiment summed up what NACADA has always meant to me and the role that I hope it continues to play for you and our profession.
As I move into the second half of my first year as executive director, I look forward to NACADA’s spring events: advising and administrators’ institutes, regional conferences, elections, the research institute, and Global Advising Week. I’m planning to attend all ten regional conferences to conduct a casual advisor-to-advisor listening tour as it is imperative for me to understand our members’ hopes and concerns for NACADA as well as their thoughts on growth opportunities. NACADA will also host a series of monthly community forums to discuss the Association's proposed diversity, land acknowledgment, and Black Diaspora/Black Labor statements.
What I know for certain is that NACADA’s strength, energy, and power lie in its members. So much has changed in our country and communities, and through NACADA, we have the expertise and gravitas to shape the future of higher education. Together, we can leverage our position as the leading global association for academic advising and be the trailblazer our profession and students need and so richly deserve. Hope springs eternal at NACADA.
Melinda J. Anderson, Ed.D.
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
From Self-Care to Systemic Change: The Evolution of Advisor Well-Being in NACADA
Kacey Gregerson, Chair, Well-Being & Advisor Retention Advising Community
Liz Sutton, Co-Lead Research, Well-Being & Advisor Retention Advising Community
Olivia Miller, Co-Lead Research, Well-Being & Advisor Retention Advising Community
Self-care, well-being, Zoom fatigue, burnout—buzzwords heard since spring 2020 and the rise of COVID-19 when many were working from home. However, these themes and feelings are not new—research on job satisfaction, occupation burnout, and work-engagement has been steady for more than 100 years (Schubert-Irastorza & Fabry, 2014). In academic advising this has become a consistent topic, solidified with the creation of the Health & Well-Being track for the 2016 NACADA Annual Conference and the creation of the Well-Being & Advisor Retention Advising Community in 2020. It is no secret the work of an academic advisor is stressful. With caseloads in the hundreds, changing policies and demands from upper administration, and the wide varieties of emotions students bring to our office, it often can be overwhelming—and the field acknowledges this fact. The nature of academic advising and the importance of well-being for advisors and students are noted in the CAS Standards for Academic Advising (2005), the NACADA Core Values (2017), and the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies (2015).
The topics of job satisfaction, stress, and burnout have been consistent over the years in academic advising (Donnelly, 2009) and student affairs (Marshall et al., 2016) with one of the first articles published in 1987, “The Advisor Under Stress—Fired Up or Burned Out?” (Murray, 1987). Only recently have articles shifted to well-being, with one of the first being, “The Healthy Advisor” in 2007 (Kem et al., 2007). In this article Kem et al. address five areas where advisors can be healthy for themselves and as role models to students. The focus connects the dimensions of well-being to the field of advising, with acknowledging the nature of our work and how to maintain our emotions while working. Later, Huebner (2011) outlines more specific steps to cope with advisor burnout, specifically “promoting positive responses to stress.” These articles apply research from other professions to advising, yet there is a shortage of research dedicated specifically to academic advising.
The topic of stress and well-being is being discussed among advisors—specifically at conferences. Since creating the Health & Well-Being track in 2016, there have been 107 live, concurrent sessions with a record breaking 28 in 2021. Keywords associated with these sessions are personal well-being, stress reduction, emotion regulation, wellness, and work environment. Common themes in conference abstracts from the NACADA Executive Office reflect the trajectory in the research—the stressful nature of academic advising, how to manage that stress, and self-care to promote wellness and mindfulness. Often these themes reveal reactive steps in combating stress rather than preventative responses with advising training and maintenance. This is found at NACADA’s regional conferences as well.
One of the authors has led concurrent presentations and workshop sessions during NACADA annual and regional conferences, with the following themes emerging:
Volume of work. Many advisors expressed the sheer volume of work has a significant negative impact on their well-being. This could be due to a large advising load, offices and teams being understaffed, needing to balance other administrative duties, and (particularly during the pandemic) the volume of email. Conference attendees often express that because their highest priority is supporting students, they will work hours far outside the traditional 9 to 5, which may have cascading impacts on their stress levels outside of work. Advisors also expressed that workloads become more overwhelming in the present culture of immediacy, referenced in the 2020 annual presentation “The Slow Advisor: Taking a Principled Stand in an Age of Immediacy” (Scheckel, 2020). Students expect to receive responses almost instantaneously, a trend some advisors say extends to their colleagues and supervisors.
Burnout, compassion fatigue, and emotional labor. Other conference attendees say the emotionally exhausting nature of advising work is negatively impacting them. Each annual conference has featured multiple presentations about burnout. Maslach et al. (2001) describe burnout as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization with respect to students and colleagues, and reduced feelings of personal accomplishment at work. The emotional exhaustion of burnout comes up most often among attendees, specifically in the forms of compassion fatigue and emotional labor. Many advisors express they do not have the emotional capacity to appropriately respond to student distress.
Lack of institutional support and resources. Advisors express their departments and institutions do not provide the support necessary for them to effectively do their jobs, directly impacting their ability to stay well. According to attendees, the disconnect between administrators and advisors often means the impact on advisors of changing policies is not understood or acknowledged. Lack of appropriate financial resources was mentioned often during concurrent sessions—some had inadequate staff, others mention no raises or professional development funds, and others express the financial strain on students makes advising them even more stressful.
The themes above only encompass those most often endorsed by attendees—the determinants of advisor well-being vary widely among NACADA members. More importantly, sources of distress are interconnected. For example, the high volume of work means tasks fall through the cracks, potentially leading to reduced feelings of personal efficacy (a component of burnout). Add shifting institutional deadlines or policies and stalled compensation, and it is not surprising advisors are searching for relief from stress. These pressures are not evenly distributed—many advisors of color speak of the need to take on additional mentorship for students of color, in addition to the aforementioned competing priorities.
This is what attendees brought to the sessions—what do the presenters suggest in terms of well-being and stress relief strategies? While many stressors identified by advisors are structural or institutional, the vast majority of strategies presented to manage the stress response are individual. Mindfulness has been the focus of several presentations at each annual conference, along with other cognitive strategies, mindset shifts, or so-called hacks to interrupt the stress cycle. Other presentations suggest leaning into gratitude and appreciation given the scientific evidence that expressing gratitude both supports our own well-being and positively impacts others. Several presentations offered physical tactics for combating stress, for example incorporating yoga into the actual session or providing strategies for changing your workspace to support well-being. While filled with supportive resources, these presentations primarily address what advisors can do when they already find themselves stressed and burned out, rather than incorporating well-being into training and institutional structures.
Some presentations have taken a longer-term, more institutional approach—although they are in the minority. One presentation provided guidance for incorporating well-being into professional development planning with the goal of maintaining flourishing throughout your advising career. Examples include finding ways to increase self-efficacy in your work and connecting with your purpose or why in advising. A few have looked at ways to incorporate well-being practices as an entire office or unit, providing support for advising administrators who are hoping to shift the culture of their teams. Finally, a 2019 presentation looked at the institutional impact of well-being, proposing a shift from self-care to “communities of care” and providing a framework for examining the ways advising practices contribute to burnout, thus holding accountable the system that created the need for self-care (Lang & Morris, 2019).
With this growing interest at both regional and annual conferences, a group of advisors met in 2018 and this led to the formation of the Well-Being and Advisor Retention (WBAR) Advising Community (AC) in 2020. The community seeks to promote research specifically on advisor well-being and to advocate for structural changes that support both advisor and student flourishing. To that end, the WBAR AC partners extensively with the Advisor Training and Development AC, seeing retention as complementary to the advisor training and development process and works together to integrate well-being practices into training and development. Perhaps most important, the WBAR community provides a forum for advisors to freely express their feelings and needs, providing continued support long after attending a single conference session—as seen last summer following an informal survey navigating a post-pandemic world.
In summary, advisors seek any well-being support they may access, whether it is through articles, conference presentations, podcasts, or advising communities. Authors and presenters have offered their skills and expertise to support advisors in recovering from burnout and maintaining their own well-being. Yet, there remain two voids in how we conceptualize and discuss well-being in NACADA: first, there has been little research specifically with advisors to understand the particular sources of stress and burnout for those in the advising profession; second, little support has been offered for advisors to improve well-being by changing institutional policies and culture. We have a wealth of resources and strategies focused on treatment; questions of prevention are rare. We have not asked “how do we design advising structures to support advisor well-being?” Better understanding of why advisors are struggling, with a focus on institutional impacts, will allow us to shift the focus towards prevention, hopefully saving advisors who may be struggling and helping retain more advisors in the profession. The desire to improve advisor well-being is evident, and the energy, resources, and expertise in the advising community are abundant. With more research and a focus on structural change, advisors—and by extension, their students—have a real opportunity to thrive.
Senior Academic Advisor
Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Director of Advising
Wharton Undergraduate Division
University of Pennsylvania
Senior Academic Advisor
Henry W. Bloch School of Management
University of Missouri-Kansas City
American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. (2015). ACPA/NASPA professional competencies rubrics. https://www.naspa.org/files/dmfile/ACPA_NASPA_Professional_Competencies_1.pdf
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2005). Academic advising programs: CAS standards and guidelines. http://standards.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0
Donnelly, N. (2009). A national survey of academic-advisor job satisfaction. NACADA Journal, 29(1), 5–21. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.5
Huebner, C. (2011). Caring for the caregivers: Strategies to overcome the effects of job burnout. NACADA Clearinghouse. http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Burnout.aspx
Kem, L., DeBella, J., & Koenecke, W. (2007, December). The healthy advisor. Academic Advising Today, 30(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Healthy-Advisor.aspx
Lang, K., & Morris, L. (2019, October 20-23). In our corner: Shifting from self-care to communities of care [Conference session]. NACADA 2019 Annual Conference, Louisville, KY, United States.
Marshall, S. M., Gardner, M. M., Hughes, C., & Lowery, U. (2016). Attrition from student affairs: Perspectives from those who exited the profession. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 52(2), 146–159. https://doi.org/10.1080/19496591.2016.1147359
Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397–422. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.397
Murray, G. L. (1987). The advisor under stress—fired up or burned out? NACADA Journal, 7(2), 47–53.
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx
Scheckel, R. (2020, October 5-8). The slow advisor: Taking a principled stand in an age of immediacy [Conference session]. NACADA 2020 Annual Conference, Virtual.
Schubert-Irastorza, C., & Fabry, D. L. (2014). Job satisfaction, burnout and work engagement in higher education: A survey of research and best practices. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching, 7(1), 37–50.
Advising Practices for Inclusive Environments for LGBTQIA+ Students
Eileen Makak, Baruch College
Editor’s Note: To learn more on this topic, readers may wish to consider the new NACADA/Stylus book, Advising Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer College Students.
In a time of reconstructing the way higher education looks, academic advising practices can embrace a dynamic set of student development theories. In creating space for students, advisors and educators can thoughtfully reconstruct the ways in which inclusive practices are utilized while working with students, specifically those who identify in the LGBTQIA+ community. Higher education professionals can tap into this opportunity to welcome paradigm shifts. By doing so, campuses shift away from seeing gender and sexuality as binaries. Rather, institutions can re-create a space that emphasizes fluidity and spectrums of gender, sex, and sexuality. Below are some simple things that can be done to create a more inclusive environment in advising sessions.
Uphold the Value of Queering Discourses
This can take the form of many small acts that contribute to a larger picture. LGBTQIA+ discussions and representation does not only need to be held inside the classroom or within a specific event on campus. Advisors and administrators on campus can encourage the use of self-identifying technology features. Platforms like Zoom, PeopleSoft, and various user interfaces can allow students to create their identity. By allowing students to claim their name and gender outside of what might be listed on a birth certificate, students are given the tools to reconstruct their world for themselves. Additionally, simple acts like including pronouns in email signatures and introductions can help students feel empowered to explore and engage with their identity. These are practices that are becoming more and more popular. As practitioners, understanding where these ideas come from and the theories they are grounded in can help facilitate a deeper understanding of self and of students.
Embrace Paradigm Shifts
While not a new concept, growth mindsets play a role during advisement appointments. By focusing on learning and development and not performance evaluation, students may have the space they need in order to thrive. “Learning goals, as the research indicates, tend to make individuals less vulnerable to the effects of fluctuations in confidence” (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Advisors can support students as they navigate the challenges of college and identity development through an emphasis on learning and the construction of unique education paths.
Advisors are in a unique position to assist in the deconstruction of harmful systems. Advisors do not have to be gatekeepers in terms of grading and evaluation which provides the opportunity to coach students through developing their own learning goals instead of pre-set goals designed by the institution. Access to information and resources on curriculum and policy is key to the success of an effective advisement office. While advisors do not typically grade and evaluate students, it may be helpful to explore the concept of gatekeeping in the context of supporting LGBTQIA+ students. If students do not feel advisors are accessible or safe to approach, then necessary information may not be available and the opportunity to develop learning goals becomes intangible.
The college experience can be vast and overwhelming. Advisors can help students cope with the stresses of thinking through many decisions that are not just academic and professional, but also personal. To do so, professionals in the field can embrace changing environments—educators too are in a constant state of learning. “Although individuals often experience their sexual and gender identities as innate, unchosen, and ingrained, these feelings and identities exist within a specific historical period that limits and/or provides access to certain ways (e.g., categories, nomenclature, cultural norms) for making meaning of feelings, desires, fantasies, and identities” (Denton, 2019). Students may be simultaneously embracing and challenging the spaces they discover while in college as it relates to their identity. As one system of support for students, advisors can be acutely aware of the possible unsafe environment students find themselves in throughout their time in college at home or on campus. By supporting a student’s identity development, their reality may be both deconstructed and then reconstructed.
Hold Space for Expression
Because students may be facing several challenges, holding space for students to be vulnerable during advisement meetings can be essential. This can take on various forms of sharing. Sometimes, this means having a pride flag in the office that is visible to students. Sometimes, this means sharing interests with them and asking about their hobbies. A person’s identity is dynamic and multifaceted. Giving space for expression can mean embracing someone’s gender expression, but it also means embracing the whole person. Talk to students about the video games they play, about the poem they are working on, the craft project they were thinking about starting. This is a signal that the student can talk about what’s going on in their minds on a personal level—even if the formal title of the person in front of them is academic advisor.
Give students opportunities to express themselves in ways that are not vocal or visual. Especially during virtual advisement appointments, vocal communication styles might not be safe for students who cannot be their full selves while at home. LGBTQIA+ students may not be out at home, but advisors can help students feel comfortable to be out in spaces they create. Use chat features in advising sessions or ask students “Can other folks hear us? I want to make sure I am respecting your privacy as we go over your academic record.” These examples can be of assistance when creating space for students to communicate in their preferred and most comfortable form.
Advising conversations may begin within the academic sphere, but questions like “How are you feeling? What about your overall well-being?” do not have to be uncommon. Inquisitive advising practices demonstrate to students that advisors care about them as whole students. This convergence of inquisitive advising with grounding in queer theory can provide the instructions needed in the process of constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing space for students who may be going through several layers of uncertainty and development.
Eileen Makak, MSED
Senior Academic Advisor
Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College
Denton, J. M. (2019). Queer theory: Deconstructing sexual and gender identity norms, and developmental assumptions. In E. S. Abes, S. R. Jones, & D. L. Stewart (Eds.). Rethinking college student development theory using critical frameworks (pp. 58–64). Stylus publishing.
Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256–273. https://www.unco.edu/cebs/psychological-sciences/about-us/faculty-staff/pugh-kevin/dweck_leggett88.pdf
Humanistic Advising Evolution Stemming from COVID-19
Jessica Nicklin, James Shattuck, and Natasha Segool, University of Hartford
The search for best practices in academic advising is persistent, critical, and continuously evolving based on the needs of students. The coronavirus pandemic only exacerbated this issue, forcing advisors to quickly pivot on advising strategies, processes, and modalities. In addition to COVID-19, many other factors contributed to the turbulence of the past 24 months, including, but not limited to a tempestuous presidential election, the murder of George Floyd, and increases in anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. These cultural factors coupled with the already increasing levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among college students (e.g., Lee et al., 2021) has required the role of the academic advisor to evolve. Advisors may have been forced into change, but this isn’t just a moment in time due to COVID-19; this is the new normal for academic advising.
Advisors and deans alike are often looking for formal training, conferences, and best practices to inform academic advising. Perhaps however, the best advice for the future of advising is simple: practice being more human through listening, showing empathy, and compassion. When the authors surveyed our own advisors in the spring of 2021 to identify skill gaps and training needs in light of COVID-19, we discovered several humanistic themes that can help guide institutions and academic advising programs post-pandemic. We asked them how their advising has changed, what worked well in their advising approach, and how their advising will be impacted in the future. This was entirely exploratory as part of our planning for future programming—we did not survey the advisors with any specific expectations.
We sent an email to all faculty and staff advisors. We received 51 responses (60% female, mean age = 48.6, mean institutional tenure = 12.57). Although most advisors agreed that academic advising during 2020–2021 was a challenge (62%), they also indicated that they believe changes made to their academic advising approach has made them better advisors (69%). Interestingly, despite indicating that they were looking forward to more in-person advising (80%), 90% of respondents indicated that they would continue to use remote advising for students. To better understand the complexity of the advising experience we used thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) to analyze the open-ended responses. This resulted in three main themes: advising scope, technology, and training.
In their written responses, advisors consistently described an expanding advising role that involved being more proactive (requiring more outreach and check-ins) with a focus on well-being. To illustrate, advisors stated:
“I called students to follow up on concerns more commonly.”
“More time was spent making certain advisees were supported and set up for success.”
“I checked in more with my students. I would take the time to slow down and ask them how they were doing.”
It is evident that the focus, frequency, and quality of interactions with students changed, with advisors providing more support for students. They repeatedly acknowledged how their advising specifically adapted for struggling students. For example:
“I feel like I have done less with actual academic advising and more with helping students who are struggling.”
“So many conversations with students who were really struggling, academically, anxiety, depression, and general financial challenges.”
“Much of my advising centered around personal issues of stress and depression rather than academic problems.”
Many advisors also emphasized the need to be supportive and compassionate and acknowledged that their empathy for students increased. For example:
“Using empathy and trying to reassure students that they are not alone.”
“Compassion and empathy with overall guidance to assure them they can solve problems.”
Perhaps one could argue that these are skills advisors should have always demonstrated, yet certainly not all did. Advisors must find space for both the academic and humanistic sides of advising by being proactive, supportive, empathetic, and compassionate. Leadership should clarify expectations for the advising role and provide corresponding training opportunities.
Technology was a major theme in advisors’ open-ended comments and was viewed as both a positive and a negative. There was a clear tension between the desire for personal face-to-face interactions with the recognition that technology provided both accessibility and convenience. This corresponds with quantitative data that revealed advisors prefer to be in-person, but they will continue to use remote options. For example:
“Technology changed the nature of the interactions in substantial ways, both positive and negative. On one hand, it was easier to reach some students who would otherwise resist in person meetings. On the other, it was challenging to make deep connections with some students because they were less likely to be paying full attention and more likely to be distracted.”
“Zoom conferences in parking lots outside of work might help keep the relationships going with students that had difficulty coming to campus during working hours.”
“I did notice that I was able to accommodate more students[—]in the past year I was able to meet with more students beyond the 8:30–4:30pm business hours more easily.”
“The increased use of video conferencing software made my students more receptive to having virtual advising meetings. This has made for a huge improvement in connection and really discussing things like career goals and work-school-life balance while developing individualized program plans.”
Common challenges include:
“Pivoting to online advising wasn’t difficult but it lost that personal touch that I am used to having with my advisees.”
“Communicating by email was cumbersome and students tend to write short e-mails and omit some of the small talk that normally would help us form a connection.”
Moving forward, we encourage advisors to modernize their advising to include accessible options for all, while also recognizing that certain technologies are not always the best for establishing trust and rapport with students. It is a balancing act, and one size may not fit all; listening and responding to students’ needs and preferences is essential.
The first two themes already illustrate the need to invest in professional development for advisors. Advisors are not professional therapists, counselors, or IT experts; therefore, knowledge and skill development must be supported to match the scope and evolving demands of the job. Advisors indicated the need for more training around university requirements (majors, policies, finances), technology (early alert systems, degree evaluations), and supporting students’ emotional needs. One quote really sums it up:
“I think there could probably be a whole curriculum of training around advising—as you know it is a profession, its own set of skills and capabilities.”
To support the humanistic side of advising, microskill training benefits the communication and listening skills of non-professional counselors such as educators, academic advisors, physicians, and nurses (Daniels & Ivey, 2007). Along with training, institutions should ensure that their policies and procedures align. For example, if virtual advising remains, then paperless processes must be created to match this transformation in the advisor-advisee relationship. If advisors are expected to be accessible after hours, what does this mean for their work schedule and the institutional structure? Decisions around advising cannot be made in a vacuum, so considerations around training and development have broad institution-wide implications.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other distressing events over the past two years have shifted the roles of academic advisors. Although this study is based on a modest sample at one institution, it is likely that these sentiments generalize to other advisors at other schools. It would be beneficial for collegiate leadership to survey their own advisors to reveal concerns and opportunities for advising development. Likewise, a limitation of this survey was that it did not ask about advisors’ personal needs and experiences. It is impossible to ignore the toll COVID-19 and other worldwide stressors have had on academic advisors (Maller & McGill, 2021). Advisors are on the front lines daily, dealing with the myriad of student issues while handling their own personal and familial obligations. Institutions also need to adopt a humanistic lens for employees by finding ways to support advisors through training, wellness programming, and time off to decompress. Academic advisors can and will navigate these choppy waters, but we must be supportive of their needs for them to be most helpful to students.
Associate Vice President for Student Success
Division for Student Success
University of Hartford
Associate Provost of Undergraduate Studies
University of Hartford
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Hartford
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa
Daniels, T., & Ivey, A. (2007). Microskills: Making skills training work in a multicultural world. Charles C. Thomas Publisher.
Lee, J., Jeong, H. J., & Kim, S. (2021). Stress, anxiety, and depression among undergraduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic and their use of mental health services. Innovative higher education, 1–20. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-021-09552-y
Maller, M., & McGill, C. M. (2021, September). Emotional labor and professional burnout: Advisor self-care in the age of COVID. Academic Advising Today, 44(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Emotional-Labor-and-Professional-Burnout-Advisor-Self-Care-in-the-Age-of-COVID.aspx
On Their Level: Making Meaningful Connections with Students Via Social Media
Jessica Jensen, Aurora University
Kelci Kosin, Columbia College Chicago
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the best moments in advising were the daily, in-person interactions with students: meeting on-campus for a cup of coffee, hosting free-breakfast Fridays, offering candy/snacks and a welcoming space, and just about any opportunity to connect beyond the realm of a typical advising appointment. Motivation for advisors was and is driven by balancing meaningful connections through academic advising to create relationships based on trust and care. Through intentional outreach and interactions, students see advisors as supportive and caring individuals that guide them through their academic journey.
The shutdown in March of 2020 challenged communication efforts in advising significantly. The in-person interactions were reduced to virtual interactions via Zoom, phone calls, and frequent exchanges via email. Luckily, students are often conditioned to check institutional emails regularly and, prior to the pandemic, many advisors utilized emails as a way to regularly check in with students and share informative content and resources. But the increase in email exchanges during the pandemic took a toll, and we as advisors noticed an increasing number of students that began avoiding email as a means of disconnecting and coping with the challenges and changes of the pandemic. According to an ongoing report on email statistics by The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, individuals send and receive over 120 emails daily, and that number is increasing annually (Radicati, 2018). To no surprise, the data finding suggests that email remains the most pervasive form of business communication. Students and advisors certainly felt the weight of constantly having to manage increased email activity during the pandemic, and the negative impacts became clear: a change in productivity, creativity, and overall motivation to engage.
Our Social Media Journey
One of the challenges we faced as advisors was changing the setting of traditional advising and the means in which we communicate with students. For us, the authors, it became a quest to find alternative ways to interact with students in meaningful ways beyond email outreach. Our mission: to meet students on their level and offer communication, that despite the challenges of a pandemic, would provide caring and impactful interactions to holistically support students and their academic success.
Our journey began with YouTube. We began creating video content to connect with students beyond email. We could use video content to share important information and institutional deadlines/policies and also allow students to absorb the information while seeing our smiling faces and hearing the inflections in our voices. This proved to be favorable amongst students. The initial purpose of the YouTube video messages was to check-in and let students know we were thinking of them. This was crucial early in the pandemic when students were suddenly sent home for the semester and disconnected from the campus and community. Gradually, the videos became by-weekly outreach in which we could connect with students to share important information, resources, and deadlines in a creative yet timely manner.
Eventually our social media journey inspired us to explore outreach and communication via Instagram. This social media platform allowed us to share video content, pictures, and informative posts/captions all while creating a space for students to get to know us beyond the realms of our on-campus presence. We started to see how these small initiatives impacted students and deepened our interactions during advising appointments. Students started sharing more information with us in advising appointments and we were able to make more accurate referrals based on both their academic and personal needs. Something was happening. Students were responding!
Guidelines for Creating Content
Typically, outreach via social media aligns with the deadlines and timeline of the individual institutions and, as authors, we both recommend that when considering social media usage, be intentional with content. Remember that the point is to offer communication that is genuine and connected. Students appreciate authenticity and honesty, so when making content via social media, be yourself. Advisors do not have to be social media influencers to create content that is meaningful and engaging for students. The path to meaningful outreach via social media does not have to be flashy or polished. Create content that gives the student an experience that is as real and personal as in-person encounters while remaining professional to uphold the standards of the institution. It might be helpful to consider the following four principles when creating content for students:
- Create to inform.
- Create to inspire.
- Create to connect.
- Create to celebrate.
Create to Inform. When creating content, especially when it comes to relaying important information, it is a good idea to set deadlines/ create a schedule for producing and sending out the content. Using social media gives advisors the power in a very creative way to ensure students are aware of important information regarding their academic path and institutional policies/procedures. Base your post theme on the needs of your students. Is it a critical time in the semester with lots of dates and things to remember? If so, choose to create content to inform.
Create to Inspire and Celebrate. Maybe it is a difficult time in the semester or there is something major happening in the world that is impacting students. While an advisor’s responsibility is to make sure students are aware of policy and academic requirements, they can also use communication via social media to empower and uplift students as they face challenges. Sometimes sharing inspirational content is enough to make a difference. Create content to inspire and celebrate.
Create to connect. Connectedness is imperative when considering retention, student success, and a student’s well-being (Jorgensen et al., 2018). By interacting via social media, advisors are extending that line of communication and showing students that they will meet them at their level. Advisors can adapt to ensure their students know they are thought of and cared about beyond the discussion of an academic plan. Create content to connect.
Implications and Next Steps
Meeting students on their level via social media usage is just one in which advisors can become more holistic in advising. While we are sharing informative content with an agenda to guide students academically, we are also taking the time to let them know that we see the personal struggles they encounter through their journeys, and we are here to be a support system. These interactions encourage students to connect with us in advising, to foster a space of trust and care, and ultimately social media interactions have given us the space to get to know our students in a unique way. Afterall, when we are open and vulnerable to our students, they tend to be open and vulnerable as well, which ultimately creates a foundation for a relationship of growth and trust. What starts as a conversation about a post or a video can grow into discussion about academic plans, the challenges students face in courses, and school/life balance.
The discovery and exploration of creative ways to communicate has only sparked curiosity for future initiatives to connect with students in advising. There are many aspects that remain explorable and researchable. One area in which we hope to explore is data analysis to better understand how social media is received by students. Our hopes are to understand how many students engage in viewing the content and if there is a more successful platform for outreach. Many social media platforms, like YouTube, offer data analytics for users and we hope to conduct future research on how social media outreach correlates with students and their efforts to schedule advising appointments as a result of viewing content. We also hope to address alternative methods of communication beyond email communication alone. Can we limit email communications via interactions beyond email and will this positively impact our students overall collegiate experience? These are just a few of the questions that we hope to explore as we continue to seek methods to meet students on their level. We hope that this inspires other advisors to question the traditional methods of student outreach and consider exploring options that might be more accessible, meaningful, creative, and overall beneficial to not just the academic student but, more importantly, the whole student.
Columbia College Chicago
Jorgensen, D. A., Farrell, L. C., Fudge, J. L., & Pritchard, A. (2018, January). College connectedness: The student perspective. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(1), 75–95. https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v18i1.22371
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
Radacati Group, Inc. (2018, March). Email statistics report. https://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Email_Statistics_Report,_2018-2022_Executive_Summary.pdf
More than Just a Requirement: Advising Opportunities to Personalize General Education
Susan Taffe Reed, Dartmouth College
Elysa R. Smith, Franklin University
Justine S. Leigh, University of South Florida
A note about the origins of this article: The authors of this publication met through an Idea Generation Writing Group that was part of the NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising Writes Initiative. All three authors work with undergraduate students at non-profit schools. During monthly meetings, advising experiences were shared from the authors’ home institutions—Dartmouth College (four-year liberal arts college, approx. 4,500 undergraduates), Franklin University (adult student focused, large online presence, approx. 3,000 undergraduates), and the University of South Florida (four-year public state institution, 60% transfer students, approx. 35,000 undergraduates). As the group’s conversations evolved over time, discussions focused on general education at each respective institution and how the authors advise students on this part of the curriculum. The important role academic advising plays in assisting students with the selection of general education courses was recognized, especially in helping students make meaning and develop connections based on their individual perspectives, interests, and values.
The merit, purpose, and logistics of fulfilling general education requirements is a salient advising topic in conversations with students across a variety of undergraduate colleges and universities. The structure of a core curriculum that covers a diverse swath of academic disciplines can be found at a variety of institutions (Rust, 2011). Understanding the institution, the student population, and the individual student is key to shaping conversations about general education from multiple perspectives. A tailored approach is needed to meet the unique needs and interests of each individual student as they consider the many general education choices available to them. Academic advisors can begin to shift common student perspectives on general education—such as the idea that these courses are merely a requirement to fulfill or a box to check—by guiding students through an intentional process of exploring the general education opportunities available to them. The goal of this article is to use self-authorship theory to provide approaches to general education advising conversations held by primary-role advisors and faculty advisors with students, whether those conversations be about the student’s personal values, interests, or career goals.
Advisors can start general education conversations by utilizing the concept of self-authorship theory to help students co-construct their college experience. Self-authorship theory is “the capacity to internally define a coherent belief system and identity that coordinates engagement in mutual relations with the larger world” (Baxter Magolda & King, 2004, p. xxii). Along the self-authorship journey, students move from allowing others to define and guide them to becoming the author of their own life through developing a grounded sense of who they are and basing decisions on their inner core beliefs. Academic advisors can play a key role in this journey by acting as “intentional interaction designers” (Shockley-Zalabak, 2012). For example, an academic advisor could suggest to a pre-medical student that an introduction to psychology general education course could be beneficial to understand patients holistically—physically and emotionally. Viewing the advising relationship this way aligns with “student-centered goals that focus on the development of students’ capacities as lifelong learners . . . so that students can manage their own learning as well as self-author their own meaning making, knowledge construction, and bases for judgment, decision making, and problem solving” (Melander, 2005, p. 90).
Academic advisors can “help the student see the meaning of the educational journey” (Champlin-Scharff & Hagen, 2013, p. 233) every time the student needs to make a choice between general education courses. These moments are openings for “dialogue in which the learner has the opportunity to express, justify, and discuss individual goals and ideas” (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005, p. 80) and “interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies” (Melander, 2005, p. 86). The advisor can connect the student’s goals and competencies to general education options. For example, a cisgender female STEM major might be interested in taking an introduction to women’s studies general education course because she wants to learn more about how societal gender roles may impact her field.
Approaching conversations from the lens of self-authorship theory will ensure that each student is treated as an individual and recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all academic plan. It also gives the space to acknowledge that there are various socio-historical factors that impact student’s goals, interests, and choices such as “an individual’s race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion as well as place of birth, educational background,” etc. (Champlin-Scharff, 2010, p. 62). Advisors are encouraged to have these conversations across multiple semesters because time itself plays a role in the development of a student, their interpretations of themselves, and their relationship to their educational choices (Champlin-Scharff, 2010, p. 62).
Through the use of open-ended questions, advisors can find out important information about students, such as what motivates them, what their interests are, and what they value. When reviewing the general education curriculum and course offerings, academic advisors can frame general education as an opportunity for personal growth and self-improvement. “The excellent advisor helps the student to understand, and indeed in a certain sense, to create the logic of the student’s curriculum,” Lowenstein argued (2020, p. 5). Questions to ask students might include:
- What connections can you draw between the courses you have taken so far?
- In which academic subject area(s) have you always wanted to take a course?
- What is one skill that you would like to develop and why?
According to Rust (2011), “Students question many aspects of their college experience, including the value of taking a particular course, joining a student organization, studying abroad, or pursuing any other endeavor outside of their major or focus area” (p. 5). It is good practice to help students reflect on completed coursework to make decisions about future enrollment by identifying interests, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, etc. Advisors can cultivate the discovery of new areas of academic curiosities and even new majors through the curricular exploration that general education fosters.
Academic advisors can also connect general education requirements to what may be most important to the student—their career. In a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, Schroeder (2021) discussed higher education’s future of “bridging the gap between the expectations of learners and the needs of employers.” For many students, the priority is getting a job after graduation. In the same article, Schroeder (2021) cited a University of California, Los Angeles’s annual survey of first-year students entering four-year colleges and universities. According to this survey, roughly 85 percent of first-year students say they are going to college so they can get a job (Horn & Moesta, 2020, para. 1). It is not just traditional students who are going to college for their career; post-traditional students are also focused on the benefit a college education can bring to their current and future job. In a separate survey of students, “nearly 90 percent of those returning to college are seeking to enhance their career prospects” (Schroeder, 2021, para. 2).
While the needs of employers have evolved over time, most “generally have confidence in higher education” and believe that “a liberal education, or preparation for more than a specific job, provides knowledge and skills that are important for career success” (Flaherty, 2021, para. 2). In a recent report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the consistently top ranked essential learning outcomes employers value are “critical thinking and analysis, problem solving, teamwork, and communication through writing and speaking” (Flaherty, 2021, para. 15). General education courses are one place students can find opportunities to strengthen these skills.
Academic advisors can help students facilitate finding value in general education courses by connecting traditional and post-traditional students’ expectations with future employers’ needs. For example, the specific content of a humanities course may not be directly applicable to every student’s major, but the skills learned in the humanities course—critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills—can be. It is up to advisors to help students distinguish the difference between the content of a course and its universal transferable skills that can be used in future courses, experiences, and jobs.
There are many ways that academic advisors can engage in rich conversations with students about how general education courses are more than requirements needed for the baccalaureate degree. Students may start their college experience by prioritizing individual components, such as only focusing on future careers. However, by utilizing the concepts from this article, academic advisors can shift student perspectives, guiding them to envision their undergraduate education holistically. Academic advisors encourage students to build areas for personal growth, self-improvement, and explore academic curiosities. The self-authorship process helps students understand how general education courses can be the intersection of personal and professional interests that lead to a meaningful and individualized college experience. Overall, general education courses are opportunities for students to curate their education, prepare for their career, and become lifelong learners.
Susan Taffe Reed
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students
Undergraduate Deans Office
Elysa R. Smith
Senior Academic Advisor
College of Business; College of Health & Public Administration
Justine S. Leigh
College of Nursing
University of South Florida
Baxter Magolda, M. B., & King P. M. (2004). Learning partnerships: Theory and models of practice to educate for self-authorship. Stylus.
Champlin-Scharff, S. (2010). Advising with understanding: Considering Hermeneutic Theory in academic advising. NACADA Journal, 30(1), 59–65. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-30.1.59
Champlin-Scharff, S., & Hagen, P. (2013). Understanding and interpretation: A hermeneutic approach to advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 223–239). Jossey-Bass.
Flaherty, C. (2021, April). What employers want. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/
Hemwall, M., & Trachte, K. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 74–83. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-31.1.5
Horn, M. B., & Moesta, B. (2020, January). A not-so-tidy narrative. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/
Lowenstein, M. (2020). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 40(2), 5–14. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-20-90
Melander, E. (2005). Advising as educating: A framework for organizing advising systems.NACADA Journal, 25(2), 84–91. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-25.2.84
Rust, M. (2011). The utility of liberal education: Concepts and arguments for use in academicadvising. NACADA Journal, 31(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-31.1.5
Schroeder, R. (2021, March 9). Higher ed’s future at the intersection of learners and employers.Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/
Shockley-Zalabak, P. (2012). Advisors as interaction designers. NACADA Journal, 32(1), 12–17.https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-32.1.12
The Necessary Evolution of Advising in the Liberal Arts
Steven Schaffling, Syracuse University
Advising has grown in recent decades to serve many strategic goals as universities have realized its effect on student success and completion (Young-Jones et al., 2013). However, as Shaffer and Zalewski (2011) stated, “the substance of academic advising in the current climate must be radically revised to serve the needs of current and future students who are planning to participate in the postindustrial economy” (p. 75). Here, the authors are specifically talking about redefining what advising is and how academic advising as a term is no longer broad enough to describe the content of what advising needs to be. Shaffer and Zalewski go further when they say, “academic advising without career advising builds a bridge to nowhere” (p. 75). Shaffer and Zalewski proposed that a human capital model of advising should be followed to assist students in articulating what they know as was also suggested by DiConti (2004). In other words, students must be able to articulate what competencies they have learned that employers value and see as transferrable (Kovalcik, 2019). In order to accomplish this, advising must move to an integrated advising-as-teaching model, whereby academic and career advising learning outcomes are achieved through an association with a single advisor. This is most critical for advising programs in the liberal arts.
Liberal arts and sciences programs often tout the concept that their graduates can do anything with their degree. While this statement is directly supported by the vast diversity of economic sectors in which liberal arts students enter (Domingo & Roberts, 2017), the statement is too broad and untethered for many parents and traditionally aged students to assess its truth or how it comes to fruition. For instance, it is far less conceptual and easier to understand that a business degree will lead to a career in business. The tether that needs to be connected for liberal arts students comprises the competencies that year after year businesses cite as the most sought after in their employee searches (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2020). Advisors know that students learn these competencies throughout their undergraduate liberal arts education, both through academic coursework and experiential education. But where do students learn how to effectively articulate that they have learned these competencies? Where do students learn to tell the story of how their undergraduate experiences have given them the competencies that employers are looking for? As Shaffer and Zalewski (2011) argued, this is where the advisor role needs to be expanded to serve students today.
The concept of teaching students how to articulate their learned competencies through an interview, resume, or cover letter comes from what might traditionally be considered career advising, if it is actively taught anywhere at all. When it comes to advising in the liberal arts, however, a fundamental shift needs to occur in the definition of advising to affect the continued long-term success of these historical degree programs. The requisite shift is towards a model of integrating career and academic advising and changing what advising is for student success.
Academic advising programs in the liberal arts that practice an advising-as-teaching model must redefine their learning outcomes to include career advising topics. The concept of transferrable competencies learned explicitly through undergraduate liberal arts programs is simply one critical outcome and only the beginning. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (n.d.) defined eight competencies for career readiness, including communication, critical thinking, and equity and inclusion. Undoubtedly, almost all liberal arts programs would pride themselves on producing graduates who excel in these competencies, but where are students being taught how to articulate they have learned these competencies? Some believe that there is a gap not in the competency acquisition but in the ability of students to articulate this to employers (DuRose & Stebleton, 2016; Goodwin et al., 2019; Kovalcik, 2019). When it comes to the job of teaching students how to articulate that they have learned these competencies (e.g., orally through interviews and written in resumes or cover letters), the work needs to be taken up by advising. In doing so, advising vastly increases its value to the liberal arts. This would allow liberal arts programs to directly state they have a resource that not only increases student success within college, but also employability success postgraduation. These two pieces wrapped together in a single advisor allows the student to far more easily navigate decisions rather than having to piece together conversations that would normally happen with two different student resources.
Specifically, advising programs must shift and practice an integrated holistic advising model that sees their advising practice cover learning outcomes across both traditional academic advising topics and career advising ones. The relationship between the advisor and the student has the potential to be one of the most powerful in creating student success (Tinto, 2006). However, advising needs to evolve to leverage that relationship to create continued success for the student beyond the confines of the degree itself. In liberal arts advising, it is no longer enough for advisors to play the role of a curricular guide without engaging the full student decision-making process. Students have co-curricular and experiential engagements throughout the entirety of their undergraduate degree program, and these experiences affect their academic plans and decision-making. Advisors must incorporate conversations around these experiences and opportunities into their advising to help the student make curricular decisions. Likewise, advisors must assist students in flushing out how classroom experiences have changed their plans and help them tie these adjustments directly to opportunities, such as internships.
At Syracuse University, in the College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, the advising office has embraced and implemented such an integrated model. This required a reorganization of advising services and a redefinition of advising itself. The office serves approximately 5,000 undergraduates across 60 degree programs spanning arts, humanities, and the sciences. The advising curriculum is mapped across all eight semesters and four years of an undergraduate student’s degree. Career advising has been implemented in a scaffolded manner beginning with learning outcomes mapped to the very first semester, including the introduction of competencies that students will learn throughout their degree. Internal assessments of the program and the mapped learning outcomes continue to show yearly improvement. Most critical from an advising perspective, the integration has allowed for the continued development of career advising tools that allow advisors to be better equipped to guide their students, who continue to see the increased value of both their advisor and their degree program.
Steven Schaffling, Ed.D.
Assistant Dean for Student Success
College of Arts & Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
DiConti, V. D. (2004). Experiential education in a knowledge-based economy: Is it time to reexamine the liberal arts? The Journal of General Education, 53(3–4), 167–183. https://doi.org/10.1353/jge.2005.0003
Domingo, A. & Roberts, B. (2017, August). Putting your liberal arts degree to work. Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/liberal-arts.htm?view_full
DuRose, L., & Stebleton, M. J. (2016). Lost in translation: Preparing students to articulate the meaning of a college degree. Journal of College & Character, 17(4), 271–277. https://doi.org/10.1080/2194587X.2016.1230759
Goodwin, J. T., Goh, J., Verkoeyen, S., & Lithgow, K. (2019). Can students be taught to articulate employability skills? Education and Training, 61(4), 445–460. https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-08-2018-0186
Kovalcik, B. C. (2019). Developing employability skill articulation in college students: A framework and practitioner approaches for co-curricular educators. The Journal of Campus Activities Practice & Scholarship, 1(2), 26–32.
National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2020, January 13). Key attributes employers want to see on students’ resumes. https://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/candidate-selection/key-attributes-employers-want-to-see-on-students-resumes/
National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (n.d.). What is career readiness? https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/career-readiness-defined/
Shaffer, L. S., & Zalewski, J. M. (2011). A human capital approach to career advising. NACADA Journal, 31(1), 75–87. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-31.1.75
Tinto, V. (2006). Enhancing student persistence: Lessons learned in the United States. Analise Psicologica, 24(1), 7–13.
Young‐Jones, A. D., Burt, T. D., Dixon, S., & Hawthorne, M. J. (2013). Academic advising: Does it really impact student success? Quality Assurance in Education, 21(1), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1108/09684881311293034
Developing a Philosophy of Advising Graduate Students
Ellyn R. Mulcahy, Kansas State University
My philosophy of advising has evolved each year of working in academia. This year marks my fifteenth year of advising and teaching undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Over this time, I have moved from exclusively undergraduate advising to almost exclusively graduate advising. My mental process for developing an evolving philosophy is a strategy I utilize for many areas of my professional and personal life. I consider the advising that I have experienced, in addition to the advising I provide; I think about the advising practice I aspire to provide, and then I execute my plan.
My advising philosophy is to advise the student who is in front of me. This reads as a simple and short statement, but it is in that simplicity that lies the complexity of advising. I agree with Freitag (2015): it is not a fast or easy process and requires self-reflection. As explained by Freitag (2015), an advising philosophy is personal and belongs to oneself alone. This philosophy can include personal preferences, personal strengths, and one’s own view of how advising can be best practiced. In addition, this philosophy is a dynamic entity and not simply a static document that is formulated and written once and never again amended.
The purpose of a philosophy is clear to me and should be clear to my fellow advisors and advisees. The philosophy should be sufficiently structured to give a framework to the advising process, but fluid enough to allow encounters with new scenarios, new students, and new academic and curricular developments. It should be nimble enough to respond to an ever-changing world of higher education within the larger context of constant global change. This is rather ambitious, and can it even be possible? As with many facets of education, it is not necessarily the end result, but the pathway that is formative. The content of a philosophy of academic advising may be guided by the experience of the advisor, the academic home of the advisor, the requirements of the advising unit, and the needs of the advisees. These may, in combination, guide the development of the content, or one may be more influential than another. I believe that one of the most important roles and responsibilities of an advisor is to help students to identify and then realize their personal, academic, and career goals. I believe the advisee is also a partner and is responsible for the success of advising. Crookston affirms my belief that the advisee shares responsibility with the advisor for the success of the advising process (Crookston, 1994).
How does an advisor develop a philosophy of advising for graduate students? Graduate students are not simply older undergraduate students, and advising therefore is not merely advising adult learners or older students. As Preisman (2019) bluntly states, “it’s much more than what class comes next.” In a study of perceptions of their advisors, graduate students rated accessibility and knowledge as important features of their advising experience (Cross, 2018). In a second study of graduate student perceptions of their advisors, five themes emerged of the most helpful characteristics of an advisor, including a demonstrated care for their advisees, accessibility, being a role model in both professional and personal matters, the ability to provide individually tailored guidance, and proactive integration of students into their profession (Bloom et al., 2007). This echoes my personal experiences with my advisees, whereby they are seeking timely, definitive answers to sometimes not definitive questions.
What resources then should advisors provide to graduate student advisees and how do advisors plan for questions that are not yet asked? A comprehensive orientation is one of the most efficient and well-received resources. A successful orientation sets the stage for advisee and advisor expectations, provides resources that are needed right now and those that will be needed later, connects advisees to their peers and faculty (who may become secondary advisors), and initiates the all-important relationship with their primary and secondary advisors. As Almanazar et al. (2018) described, an orientation can be designed to ease the transition for students into their new role as graduate students.
Another essential advising service for graduate students comes in the form of connections to campus resources that will assist with their retention and success. As described by Vickio and Tack (1989), and Poison (1999), graduate students are a diverse population that need help and guidance to navigate their way through an often anxiety-causing and challenging chapter in their lives. Even though advisors should not assume to advise graduate students as another category of adult learners, it is important not to interpret graduate students as adults who may not need support (Vickio & Tack, 1989). This is where advising graduate students becomes challenging and, as explained by Selke and Wong (1993), is “a balancing act that frequently involves trial and error on the part of professors and students.”
How then do advisors provide timely resources, that are specific to individual student needs, while engaging them on a psychosocial level as adults? Advisors first acknowledge that graduate students are indeed adult learners, with responsibilities outside academia, and active personal and professional commitments. Advisors must understand that while graduate students understand academia, graduate study is new territory, and they will have questions requiring specific answers. Advisors must also acknowledge that their graduate degree is a vital step to a new career or a pathway to advancement in their current career. Therefore, advising takes on an individualized, tailored approach. Bloom et al. (2016) outlines strategies for graduate advisors to assist with this complex process, including setting clear expectations, regular progress meetings, and advocacy. These strategies are echoed by Powers and Wartalski (2021) in adult learner advising, whereby trust, communication, and programmatic documentation emerged as key themes to support adult learning.
As a scientist in an advising role, I look to the theoretical framework of advising to enhance my practice (Mulcahy, 2020; 2021). My philosophy of advising is most shaped by the theory of mattering and marginality developed by Nancy Schlossberg (1989) and self-authorship developed by Marcia Baxter Magolda (2010). These authors have influenced my view of advising as both theories discuss the support and development of the student as a person. The theory of mattering and marginality explains that the advisor supports the advisee to ensure that the advisee feels engaged, welcomed, and valued. The theoretical perspective of self-authorship describes how in the process of self-authorship, advisees become more self-reliant and less reliant on other people to define themselves. These theories both incorporate support of the person and development of the person outside of their identity as a student. I believe that an important part of my role as an advisor is to help prepare and guide students in their lives after their graduate studies and therefore these theories appeal to me. These theories support my advising philosophy, as they are based on the support of the student’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. These theories help me guide and advise the student who is in sitting in my office, waiting in my inbox, calling, or teleconferencing—a student that needs my help.
Last, advising is a continuum. Academic advising delivery approaches that best fit the student should be learned and delivered. Approaches may work well for most students but may not work for other students. Therefore, it is important to understand and be able to implement a number of approaches for the student sitting right there in front of you.
Ellyn R. Mulcahy (she/her/hers)
Director, Master of Public Health Program
Associate Professor, Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology
Kansas State University
Almanazar, R. R., Hapes, R., & Rowe, G. (2018, March). 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
Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2010). The interweaving of epistemological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal development in the evolution of self-authorship. In M. B. Magolda, E. F. Creamer, & P. S. Meszaros (Eds.), Development and assessment of self-authorship (pp. 25—43). Stylus Publishing.
Bloom, J. L., Propst Cuevas, A. E., Hall, J. W., Evans, C. V. (2007). Graduate students' perceptions of outstanding graduate advisor characteristics. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-27.2.28
Bloom, J. L., Mulhern Halasz, H., & Hapes, R. (2016, June). Advising strategies for
graduate student degree progression. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Advising-Strategies-for-Graduate-Student-Degree-Progression.aspx
Crookston, B. B. (1994). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 5–9. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-14.2.5
Cross, L. K. (2018). Graduate student perceptions of online advising. NACADA Journal, 38(2), 72–80. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-17-015
Freitag, D. (2015). Voices from the field: Creating a personal philosophy of academic advising. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook (pp. 91–94). Jossey-Bass.
Mulcahy, E. R. (2020, September). Timing is everything: Coronavirus and the chronosystem. Academic Advising Today, 43(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Timing-is-Everything-Coronavirus-and-the-Chronosystem.aspx
Mulcahy, E. R. (2021, June). Vectors of competence and purpose: Transmission of knowledge to prepare for an uncertain present and future. Academic Advising Today, 44(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Vectors-of-Competence-and-Purpose-Transmission-of-Knowledge-to-Prepare-for-an-Uncertain-Present-and-Future.aspx
Poison, C. J. (1999). Programming for successful retention of graduate students. NACADA Journal, 19(2), 28–33. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-19.2.28
Powers, N., & Wartalski, R. (2021). The academic advising experiences of adult learners: Preliminary findings from one department [Paper presentation. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education Conference, online. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED611624.pdf
Preisman, K. A. (2019, December). Online graduate advising: It’s much more than what class comes next. Academic Advising Today, 42(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Online-Graduate-Advising-Its-Much-More-than-What-Class-Comes-Next.aspx
Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. In New directions for student services. (pp. 50–15). Jossey-Bass.
Selke, M. J., & Wong, T.D. (1993). The mentoring-empowered model: Professional role functions in graduate student advisement. NACADA Journal, 13(2), 21–26. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-13.2.21
Vickio, C. J., & Tack, M. W. (1989). Orientation programming for graduate students: An institutional imperative. NACADA Journal, 9(2), 37–42. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-9.2.37
Using Advising Theory and Framework to Address Social Mobility of First-Year and Specialized Student Populations
Michael E. Geroux, University at Albany
Vincent J. Kloskowski, III, Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange
Using a sociological lens, advisors can begin to formulate a sense of understanding towards the concept of whether higher education promotes social reproduction or social mobility for first-year and specialized student populations. Discussion on this topic is open for debate, much of which is based on the type of institution being referenced. If examining a prestigious private liberal arts institution, the viewpoint might differ as compared to a public higher education institution or a community college, given the different types of student populations and their social backgrounds. In analyzing institutions throughout the United States, it is important to recognize some of the key themes present, particularly those of social inequality and stratification within the context of higher education. These themes play a pivotal role in the areas of college matriculation, retention, persistence, student engagement, and ultimately degree completion. Further stated by Kimball and Campbell (2013), according to Vincent Tinto (1993), effective retention programs reflect policy maker understanding that academic advising underpins student success. This highlights the importance of advising theory and framework that addresses social mobility of first-year and specialized student populations.
The emphasis on advising theory and framework within the field of higher education is in large part due to the work of advisors and their expertise as related to having a thorough understanding of students, including social context, backgrounds, motivation for attending college, the choice of attending said college, and the goals for each student. The advising profession, as an interdisciplinary field, does not profess a theoretical base; instead, advising scholars borrow key theoretical insights from other disciplines to form a current knowledge base (Kimball & Campbell, 2013). Referencing literature from across several disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy, and sociology, advisors are equipped to further understand how inequalities can impact the success of their students, leading to the design of approaches to support all students as well as the potential for social mobility. Furthermore, the foundation of advising rests on the knowledge of three essential components: conceptual, informational, and relational. Conceptual refers to the theory and approaches the advisor practices; informational is the knowledge that advisors gain through training and development; and relational student development practices are built through communication and interpersonal skills used in fostering systemic relationships.
Advising Theory and Framework in Social Mobility
Structured academic advising, offered early and consistently, will build a culture of support and growth for students as they begin to identify and work towards their personal and educational goals. Coherent first-year experience programs, which include pre-college and ongoing orientation programs, first-year seminars, and other new student advising and study group experiences, appear to be linked to a variety of positive outcomes for first-year students (Kuh et al., 2007, p. 79). The key element is the ability of all types of higher education professionals focused on student engagement to take time (throughout the semester and year) to actively listen and learn about their student’s backgrounds, including socioeconomic status, family upbringing, and their K-12 experiences. One of the key areas in the category of individual-level analysis is that of socioeconomic stratification and the influence it has on college access, matriculation, and degree completion. Supported by Wolniak et al. (2016), the most promising explanations of class-based stratification in higher education are those focused on the mechanisms employed by higher status groups to maintain their social advantages. This is more prevalent when one considers the increase of college access to students from all backgrounds.
This information will equip the advisor to then formulate a well-designed, individual-based plan of action to capitalize on the numerous campus resources that help promote student success. Understanding that a student’s experience in college will continually change both academically and socially, advisors work to address the ever-changing needs of their students. Referring to Tinto’s Model of Institutional Departure, Aljohani (2016) stated that academic integration can be measured by the student’s grade performance and intellectual development, while social integration is measured by the student’s integration with college society (peers and faculty). Not only are advisors discussing academic concerns with students, they often address the social system as well. It is here where students have the chance to broaden their horizons as they establish their niche within the institution. Student retention is also shaped, directly and indirectly, by social forces both internal and external to the campus community, especially those that influence students’ sense of belonging and membership in the social communities of the institution (Tinto, 2012).
Oftentimes, students are not aware of numerous opportunities afforded to them on campus, and as the door is opened with assistance from an advisor, the possibilities have the potential to become endless. Based on individual motivations and goals, advisors can connect students with a variety of campus resources and organizations that would be a good fit for the student. At its best, academic advising addresses the personal, intellectual, social, vocational, and psychological needs of students: academic advising practices that are designed well often communicate to students that their college or university values their holistic institutional engagement and has an abiding concern for their growth and development (Braxton et al., 2014, p. 102). Keeping this student success framework in mind, it is also interesting to note that the performance gap between underserved and wealthy students can be minimal in kindergarten but over time manifests itself by creating a deeper subset of an accumulation of advantages and wider gaps in academic achievement by the end of high school (Mullen, 2010).
In addition to building a learning trajectory focused on institutional structure and student populations, it is necessary for advisors to become well-versed in developmental and advising theory. Those who understand and apply theory in their approach to advising will discover deeper meaning in their practice, leading to a more authentic approach of advising. As stated by Roufs (2015), developmental theory makes a connection between prescribing classes to a student versus the proactive guidance given to students in helping make decisions that clarify and define an outlook centered on values, goals, and objectives. This latter philosophy provides a foundation for advisors who bring theory into practice by laying the groundwork for productive and strong advisor-advisee relationships.
One such specialized population of student learners that deserves a great deal of concentrated student support while incorporating advising theory and framework to help address challenges with social mobility includes active military and student veterans engaged in pursuing higher education opportunities. As advisors and higher education professionals, we must strive to incorporate advising theory and framework used as a holistic approach for these students both inside and outside of the classroom. This specialized population of student learners, like many others, are invaluable to the collective landscape of higher education degree attainment and promotion of social mobility. Continued systemic efforts to enhance student success initiatives for active military and student veterans must be identified as a systemic priority to help break down the barriers in academic achievement often encountered by this specialized student population and others.
Students from first-generation, specialized populations and first year limited income (FLI) communities who gain access to higher education must be supported by advisors with robust resources incorporating advising theory and framework to help students build a trajectory of new life opportunities. The ongoing discussion for social mobility within higher education needs to take into consideration the understanding of the social inequalities embedded in K-12 and higher education. Key insights into the backgrounds of students and their purpose for pursuing higher education opportunities will help affirm the understanding of a student’s background and goals towards achieving academic success along with career and life fulfillment. Higher education institutions can begin to develop and implement programming that ensures students are receiving the support and guidance needed for their success. As such, embracing and supporting the diversity of the holistic student community collective is both crucial and integral when incorporating, designing, and promoting advising theory and framework centered on actively promoting and enhancing social mobility for first-year and specialized student populations.
Michael E. Geroux, MSED
Academic Support Center
University at Albany
Vincent J. Kloskowski, III, Ph.D.
Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange
Aljohani, O. (2016). A comprehensive review of the major studies and theoretical models of student retention in higher education. Higher Education Studies, 6(2), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.5539/hes.v6n2p1
Braxton, J. M., Doyle, W. R., Hartley III, H. V., Hirschy, A. S., Jones, W. A., & McLendon, M. K. (2014). Rethinking college student retention. Jossey-Bass.
Kimball, E. & Campbell, S. (2013). Advising strategies to support student learning success: Linking theory and philosophy with intentional practice. In J. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. Miller, Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 3–15). Jossey-Bass.
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J. A., Bridges, B. K., & Hayek, J. C. (2007). Piecing together the student success puzzle. ASHE Higher Education Report, 32(5), 1–182. https://doi.org/10.1002/aehe.3205
Mullen, A. (2010). Degrees of Inequality: Culture, class, and gender in American higher education. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Roufs, K. (2015). Theory matters. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, J. Joslin (Eds), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 67–82). Jossey-Bass.
Wolniak, G., Wells, R., Engberg, M., & Manly, C. (2016). College enhancement strategies and socioeconomic inequality. Research in Higher Education, 57(3), 310–334. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-015-9389-4
Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. The University of Chicago Press.
Brimful Development at the NACADA Summer Institute
Komal Rizvi, Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
I knew that I had to attend the NACADA Summer Institute after reading the intriguing itinerary, and my experience proved me to be correct. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to virtually attend the Summer Institute in July of 2021. Applying for the scholarship allowed me to have the most beneficial, enlightening, and transformative experience that I have had in my career thus far. I have been successful in overcoming financial obstacles when it comes to learning. Receiving scholarships made it possible for me to graduate from Temple University with a Bachelor’s of Secondary English Education degree in 2016 and working in my previous position as a Program Assistant at Duquesne University enabled me to use tuition remission to graduate with my Master’s of Higher Education Administration degree in 2021. At the time I attended this conference, I was a Program Assistant at Duquesne University in the School of Education where I worked for 4.5 years. It is a private, Catholic, and Spiritan institution that sits on a bluff overlooking Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The campus and its community members promote a warm and welcoming atmosphere. I was fortunate to work with a very supportive Department Chair and Dean in the School of Education during my time there. I am currently an Undergraduate Academic Advisor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Information Systems Department, which is just minutes away from my former institution. It is an inviting private, research institution with an innovative, interdisciplinary, and diverse & inclusive campus that reflects its world-renowned programs. I am again blessed with two supportive supervisors, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Education and the Director of Undergraduate Information Systems Program.
What I admire most about NACADA is that it is inclusive of all, and the Summer Institute is no exception to that. At the event, I had the pleasure of interacting with many seasoned academic advisors, but there were also new and aspiring ones. The Summer Institute emphasizes that regardless of what your role is on campus, you can create the changes that you want to see in the future of academic advising, which left me feeling empowered and reinvigorated to make strides towards honing the facilitation of student support and success throughout their academic journeys and beyond. The four days were packed with exciting and insightful information that consisted of a combination of foundational sessions, topical sessions, group sessions, and optional engagement sessions, which allowed for attendees to discuss and build upon our individual and shared goals about advising in a variety of ways. There were several exciting topical sessions offered, so I had trouble choosing which ones to attend, but thankfully I was able to catch up on the rest later. I had the opportunity to engage with dedicated and experienced faculty with varying institutional backgrounds, who served as group faculty facilitators, consultants, and presenters.
What made this experience unique was the individualized attention every attendee received for their specific school and goals. Each attendee was part of a small group for their institution type that was led by a faculty facilitator, which were further broken down into subgroups of individuals who worked at the same institution or similar institution types. I had the pleasure of working with Rich Robbins, who shared valuable insights with the group as a whole, as well as in our subgroups. In my subgroup, I made connections with other student affairs professionals, who also worked at private institutions and together we fleshed out ideas, discussed challenges, and provided suggestions about each other’s action plans and day-to-day job functions, which we all found very supportive. In addition, there was almost an entire day dedicated to consultations, where each attendee had the opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one, fifteen-minute consultation to receive feedback on their action plan from a faculty member of their choice. Being a huge fan of flipped advising, I had to meet with George Steele, which was an amazing experience as he helped me determine concrete steps to make my action plan feasible. I found the consultation day to be very beneficial in developing and modifying my action plan because it gave me time to flesh out and reflect on my ideas during my consultation and on my own.
This experience allowed me to hone the ideas I already had and be inspired to think of new ones. There is so much I want to do to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our services to students, but the Summer Institute helped me narrow down where to start. I proposed to the leadership at Duquesne University in the School of Education to advocate for the academic advising centralization initiative to encompass the graduate level, build flipped advising modules to provide students with a 24/7 resource, and develop an advising syllabus, advising statement, and advising committee. Once I become more acclimated at Carnegie Mellon University, my hope is to use the knowledge that I gained from the Summer Institute to positively impact academic advising practices for both the Information Systems Department and the institution in the years to come.
NACADA did an excellent job making this virtual experience interactive during the pandemic. If you are considering attending, I highly encourage you to do so, even if you are not in a formal academic advising position or are new to advising! If finances are an issue, the scholarship is worth applying for. At the very least, compiling the required application materials will help you take pride in your work and accomplishments.
Information Systems Program
Carnegie Mellon University