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Voices of the Global Community


Iana L. Williams, Patrice W. Glenn, and Felecia Wider, Edward Waters College


In recent years, many scholars and academics have questioned the legitimacy of the Historically Black college and university (HBCU) system in America. While many black colleges struggle to compete with the larger universities, historically black institutions accomplish what many large institutions cannot -- they take struggling students and promote significant gains. Some black students who elect to attend an HBCU enter with low scores and remedial skill levels. At an HBCU, these students make significant gains; they can move from the 50th percentile to the 70th percentile. Consequently, not only is the HBCU necessary, it establishes an unprecedented level of academic augmentation among struggling students. Brown (2007) notes that “HBCUs don’t just provide students with a better chance; they provide them with every chance” (personal communication, October 19, 2007). Many agree that historically black colleges provide a necessary service to black students.


Most historically black institutions are small and intimate. Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) is one of the nation’s largest HBCUs. FAMU currently has approximately 11,000 students, but even FAMU has a small-campus spirit. At many historically black institutions, professors and staff members know students by name. At these institutions, many students look upon instructors and college personnel as “family.” The students develop a territorial protectiveness and appreciation for college personnel who show them they care. For many HBCU employees, their career is more than a job; it is a service to the black community. Black colleges nurture black students.


One of the essential services historically black institutions provide to their students is a specialized form of advising focused on nurturing. This goes beyond Intrusive Advising, as described by Varney (2007), and allows the advisor to simulate a maternal or paternal influence that can help shape the student’s life. The Nurturing Advisor expects the students to do well and consistently reiterates that expectation to students.

When a student believes an adult cares about him and has his best interest at heart, the student is more prone to heed instruction. Begley (2003) notes that expectation has a profound effect on student outcome (p. B1). Therefore, if caring adults, who take the time to nurture and insist on excellence, guide the students, then students perform better.

At many institutions, a number of students can lack direction for their academic and professional lives. From 2002-2006, 41 percent (annual average) of the students at Edward Waters College (EWC), the oldest historically black college in Florida, were undecided about their majors (EWC Fact book, 2007). EWC is an open enrollment institution. Ninety-five percent of students entering EWC need remediation in at least one area: reading, math, English (EWC Fact book, 2007). These students enter college clinging to the hope that a college degree will provide them with a better opportunity to live productive lives. Nevertheless, these students often do not know the steps necessary to succeed. Therefore, advisors must provide care and guidance.

Nurturing Advisors extend their role as an advisor outside of the confines of their offices; they engage in street advising. Street advising is a term used at HBCUs to describe the active Nurtured Advising that takes place anywhere and at any time, including but not limited to the basketball court, the student union, the cafeteria, and in building corridors. Nurturing Advisors take extra care to ensure that students comply with school policies, faculty expectations, and fulfillment of requirements. The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) core values (2004) state that “advisors are responsible to the individuals they advise. Academic advisors work to strengthen the importance, dignity, potential, and unique nature of each individual within the academic setting” (p.1). Nurturing Advisors extend the core values of advising into teachable moments, using life lessons to prepare students for academics, college life, and other expectations or demands placed on students in the college environment. Likewise, when a student fails, the Nurturing Advisor views this as a personal failure.

This type of student-advisor relationship simulates that of a concerned family member. This relationship can improve the student matriculation processes and provides students with a sense of security. The relationship also provides a sense of connectedness where students feel that they belong to the school and that the school belongs to them. Concerning the advising he receives at EWC, sophomore Tremel Grant stated, “This is the department that smiles throughout the day. It makes me feel more comfortable with EWC; I feel like someone is on my side” (personal communication, November 7, 2007). Grant’s response is typical of students who receive Nurtured Advising.

Nurtured Advising can benefit students at many colleges and universities, but it is essential at HBCUs. Although originally established to educate descendents of African slaves, historically black institutions have become a gateway of opportunity for black students to compete in today’s society. When the relationship between the student and the advisor is such that the student knows that the advisor cares for him as an individual, the student feels he has support.

The Academy must focus on student success; Nurtured Advising is an essential part of this process.

Iana L. Williams
Director of Advising
Edward Waters College

Patrice W. Glenn
Edward Waters College

Felecia Wider
Edward Waters College


Begley, S. (2003, Nov.). Expectation may alter outcome far more than we realize. Wall Street Journal-Eastern Edition, 242 (92), B1. Retrieved November 2, 2007, from the EBSCOhost database.

Brown, T. E. (personal communication, October 19, 2007).

Edward Waters College. (2007). EWC Fact book [pamphlet]. Office of Planning, Research, and Institutional Advancement: Author.

Grant, T. (personal communication, November 7, 2007).

NACADA. (2004). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved November 7, 2007, from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values-Exposition.htm.

Varney, J. (2007). Intrusive advising. Academic Advising Today 30 (3). 

Cite this article using APA style as: Williams, I., Glenn, P., & Wider, F.  (2008, March). Nurtured advising: An essential approach to advising students at Historically Black College and Universities. Academic Advising Today, 31(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2008 March 31:1


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