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Voices of the Global Community


On Being Good Company: Cultural Considerations in Learning Partnerships for Advising

Jane Elizabeth Pizzolato, 2004 NACADA Student Research Award Recipient

Editor’s Note: The following was adapted from Jane Pizzolato’s keynote address at the NACADA Region 2 Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, April 16, 2008.

I come from a background where like everyone is like a doctor, lawyer, and if, and I guess like my culture always instilled in me that you have to be something like that. Like if I wanted to do anything lower, it was like not even an option…I wanted to be a wedding planner, and wedding planner and dentist—what I’m actually becoming—it’s like two different things, and like dentistry, I guess it’s becoming my passion, but like choosing to become a dentist, if I look back, it’s more of what they wanted for sure – Tan, a student (personal communication).

Jane Pizzolato.jpgTan’s statement here captures the pressures many college students face—parental pressure, cultural expectations, and balancing of these with personal interests. In order for college students to learn to create a balance, and do so in a way that is culturally sensitive as well as intrinsically satisfying, students likely need some help. The necessity of such help is clear from the research on college student development. Such research suggests that college students tend to enter college believing in clear right and wrong, good and bad, and dependence on authorities for determining which is which (Baxter Magolda, 1992; Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986; King & Kitchener, 1994; Perry, 1968). Furthermore, students make little progress toward more complex ways of meaning making during their college years. For example, out of Baxter Magolda’s (1992) 101 participants, only two left college able to see that right and wrong were determined by context and social construction of knowledge based on consideration of multiple perspectives. For students who are trying to cope with cultural and parental pressure, being able to see and balance multiple perspectives is an important step in aspiration identification and achievement.

Baxter Magolda’s (2001) Learning Partnerships Model (LPM) provides a three-principled heuristic for implementing interactive and engaged advising that may help advisors help students who are in need of learning to balance multiple perspectives. The three principles are: (1) validate students as knowers, (2) situate learning in students’ experiences, and (3) define learning as mutually constructing meaning. In sum, implementing the LPM means that advisors help students see themselves able to make decisions and know what might be good for them; that they learn these lessons through situating conversations about meaning making and decision making in students’ lived experiences; and that advising be conversational and focused on advisor and advisee working together, asking questions, and evaluating options. By practicing more complex meaning making strategies in advising relationships, college students may learn the skills to be able to successfully navigate competing and high stakes expectations of them.

Implementation of the LPM with diverse college students, however, requires recognition of cultural differences. Culturally sensitive implementation of the LPM is particularly important when working with students for whom traditional notions of autonomy are not salient. In other words, while separation from family and individuation are key developmental tasks for many college students (Chickering & Reisser, 1993), for some students this is not the case, and yet it still does not mean that these students should be forced to merely submit to parental or cultural expectations. Culturally sensitive revisions to the LPM for advising are outlined below.

  • Validate Students as Knowers: In validating students as knowers, it is important to consider interdependence in addition to autonomy. Learning to not just separate (autonomy), but rather to see themselves as an important player within the collective group with which they most identify (interdependence) is key. For example, some Asian students may see their role within the family unit as paramount. Validating the importance of this value while also helping students see that they are not merely cogs, but key players in the collective is useful in validating such students as knowers.
  • Situate Learning in Students’ Experiences: Here it is necessary to consider what counts as “in students’ experiences.” Typically “in students’ experiences” has been considered students’ experiences in college. Especially for commuter students, first-generation students, and students from Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Latino or Latina families, students’ experiences are broader. Family is a key context for development, and so when advising, being sure to include students’ family experiences may be useful.
  • Define Learning as Mutually Constructing Meaning: For many students who come from cultures that value authority and have hierarchies of power within families and teacher-student relationships, mutually constructing meaning may be a new concept. For students who not only expect answers and formulas from advisors, but who also see their own role as absorbing information from others rather than constructing knowledge, teaching students the skills for engaging in mutual construction of meaning may be an important starting place. For example, teaching students to begin to identify what options exist in any given situation is a first step in mutually determining the best course of action. Additionally, advisors may be able to start students engaging in mutually constructing meaning by helping them figure out the key values that they harbor and why they espouse these. Clarifying the base from which students make meaning will be useful in helping them evaluate options that exist.

Broadly speaking, academic advisors have a unique opportunity to promote culturally relevant student development. Because advisors can have 1:1 relationships with students, they can tailor interactions and instruction to the specific developmental and cultural needs of each individual student with whom they work. Although existing models such as the LPM provide a foundation for tailoring advising to promote development of complex meaning making and decision making skills, considering the cultural background of individual students is necessary in providing the most effective and relevant advice.

Jane Elizabeth Pizzolato
Assistant Professor
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
University of California – Los Angeles

From the President: Chicago, My Kind of Town!

Jennifer L. Bloom, NACADA President 


This is my kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people too
People who smile at you

And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is

Frank Sinatra’s words ring true as the countdown to the NACADA Annual Conference is well under way. I am so looking forward to returning to Illinois and to Chicago to see my NACADA friends and family. A great journey awaits us all. The Hyatt that is hosting the Conference is located right on the Chicago River and less than a block away from the famed Michigan Avenue. Great food, good shopping, and lots of fun await us, and I look forward to seeing you there. The most important thing, however, is that all of us who attend the Conference will have plenty of opportunities to learn and get re-energized.

We spend so much of our time encouraging our students to become lifelong learners that sometimes we forget to “walk the talk.” Conferences like the NACADA annual and regional conferences are just some of the opportunities we have to continue to grow and develop as professionals and people. The second edition of Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook will make its debut at the Annual Conference in Chicago. This important book that is edited by my friends Virginia Gordon, Wes Habley, and Tom Grites is a must-have for your bookshelf.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to invite you to attend a special Town Hall meeting that I have asked my fellow Board member,Terry Musser, to organize. This meeting will be held on Friday at 5:45 p.m. in the Hyatt. This not only serves as the annual membership meeting required by NACADA’s bylaws, but this year we are going to be giving you the opportunity to share your thoughts on the present strengths and future directions of NACADA. Our organization is only as strong as our membership, and we as a Board are committed to meeting your needs, so please come to this meeting so that your voice can be heard.

Finally, since this is my last President’s Column for Academic Advising Today, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of my colleagues on the NACADA Board of Directors and Council for their hard work and dedication to continuously striving to enhance the organization. It has been a pleasure and honor to work with each and every one of you. I particularly want to thank Casey Self for his outstanding leadership as Vice President and wish him the very best as he assumes the role of President for the 2008-09 academic year. I am confident that he and incoming Vice President Jayne Drake will lead us confidently in our never-ending quest to live out our strategic plan. I have appointed a number of subcommittees and task forces this year, and I want to thank all of the chairs and members of those groups. We have made a lot of progress this year and that is due to the leadership of so many dedicated members of this organization. I also want to thank the Executive Office staff for their continued excellent work on behalf of our membership. We are very fortunate to have such an amazing team of talented individuals working on our behalf in Manhattan, Kansas.

Finally, I would like to end with a quote from Nancy Twiss, former Scholarship Advisor at Kansas State University, that I use to wrap up almost all of my talks, “Most of us will not find answers to the causes of cancer, or solve the problems of homelessness, or defuse international conflicts, but we feel that through our advising, we may be able to make a small but pivotal contribution to our students’ ultimate work…It seems to me that our students represent an unequivocal reply to Margaret Mead, when she famously said: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has’” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/14/01). Please never forget how important you are to your students and to NACADA. Thank you for this opportunity to serve as your President – it truly has been one of the highlights of my life.

Jennifer L. Bloom, President
National Academic Advising Association

From the Executive Director: What an Awesome Year for NACADA!

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgAs President Bloom stated in her column, it is exciting that we will soon be heading to Chicago for our 32nd Annual Conference on academic advising, which promises to be one of our largest ever. This year’s Conference, as always, will provide the highest quality in professional development and networking opportunities. Special thanks to Ann Anderson and the 2008 Conference Planning Committee, as well as to Rhonda Baker and Nancy Barnes in the Executive Office, for the long hours and hard work they have put into making the 2008 NACADA Annual Conference the outstanding event we know it will be.

I encourage you to participate in three new exciting additions to this year’s Annual Conference. First, our annual NACADA Business Meeting will take a Town Hall format. In addition to the traditional reports, the Board of Directors plan to involve participants in a dialogue on the Association’s Strategic Goals where discussions will focus on special initiatives, member needs, and programs relating to the Strategic Goals. This promises to be an exciting discussion and a great way to become actively involved with your Association.

Second, this year’s Conference will provide an opportunity for member discussion of a common research reading on issues involving diversity in advising. Watch for information on the Conference Web site regarding the common reading, including the time and date of the discussion.

Third, the Annual Conference will debut the First Annual NACADA Silent Auction, with proceeds going to the NACADA Foundation to help fund scholarships for graduate students to attend our Regional Conferences. For more information on how to be involved with this outstanding new project, go to the Silent Auction Webpage.

Since our last Annual Conference in Baltimore in October 2007, NACADA has had an awesome year! Our Association has continued to grow in its membership, its influence in higher education internationally, and in the variety of new and innovative professional development opportunities for you. Here are just a few of the key advancements made this year:

  • Membership in NACADA has grown to over 10,750 members as of July 2008 – a 900+ increase over last year. Special thanks to Jermaine Williams and the Membership Committee, as well as Judy Weyrauch and Bev Martin in the Executive Office, for their hard work on our membership recruitment and retention efforts.
  • The 2008 Regional Conferences were outstanding, reaching a record number of participants in our ten Regions. Special thanks to our Region Chairs and Regional Conference Chairs, as well as Diane Matteson in the Executive Office, for their long hours and hard work!
  • The 2nd Annual International Conference on Peer Tutoring and Academic Advising was held in conjunction with our Region 2 Conference in Pittsburgh. International members from England, Scotland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, and the United Arab Emirates were in attendance. Special thanks to Region 2 Chair Sandy Waters and Conference Chair Steve Pajewski and their committees for their organization of the conference, as well as to our UK keynote speaker Paula Hixenbaugh for sharing research in the field of Personal Tutoring in the United Kingdom. Watch for news on the 3rd international conference to be held in the United Kingdom in late spring 2009.
  • NACADA has made dramatic strides this year in expanding our support of and commitment to research in the field of academic advising and student success. Special thanks to Josh Smith, Jenny Bloom, and  Sharon Aiken-Wisniewski, as well as members of the Research Committee and the Infusing Research Task Force, for their leadership in this area, and to Marsha Miller in the Executive Office for her assistance with these endeavors.
  • The Administrators’ Institute, Assessment Institute, and the Advising by Design Seminar were huge successes in San Diego in February. Special thanks to Pamela Marsh-Williams and Sharon Aiken-Wisniewski and their Advisory Boards, as well as the outstanding faculty members, for their hard work. Kudos to Rhonda Baker and Michele Holaday in the Executive Office for all they did to make these events so successful!
  • For the 22nd year, the 2008 Summer Institutes were outstanding. Special thanks to Rich Robbins, the Advisory Board members, and faculty members for their superb work in planning and implementing this year’s institutes. Kudos to Diane Matteson in the Executive Office for her outstanding leadership in these events.
  • This year’s NCAA/NACADA Institutes for Student Athletes helped a variety of institutions develop strong academic support programs that enhance the success of their student athletes. Special thanks to Ruth Darling, who serves as chair of the institute, and to Carrie Leger from NCAA, for their support of this partnership. Thanks to the institute faculty,and kudos to Bobbie Flaherty and Jenifer Scheibler in the Executive Office for their hard work in planning and coordinating this important event.
  • The 2007-2008 NACADA Webinar series was a phenomenal success, reaching 579 institutions internationally, with more than 14,400 participants over the course of the year’s eleven broadcasts. Special thanks to Karen Thurmond and members of the Webinar Advisory Board, as well as the numerous presenters who worked long hours developing material and presenting these innovative professional development opportunities. Kudos to Leigh Cunningham and Gary Cunningham in the Executive Office for their outstanding work in the organization and technology support that made the series so successful.
  • Again this year, the 2008 NACADA Awards Program will recognize outstanding advisors, administrators, and programs across all types of institutions. This program would not happen without the dedication and focus of Susan Fread and the members of the Awards Committee and various selection committees, as well as the outstanding organizational skills of Farrah Turner in the Executive Office.
  • The Emerging Leader Program is now in its second year with the 2008-2010 class newly selected. Special thanks to Skip Crownhart and Jane Jacobson for their work with the Diversity Committee members in planning this exciting program, as well as the implementation team of Karen Thurmond, Nathan Vickers, Jennifer Joslin, and Freda McClean for all their hard work. Kudos to Leigh Cunningham in the Executive Office for her organization and attention to detail in supporting this program.
  • This has been an exciting year for NACADA in regard to our publications and additional professional development material:
    • The 2nd Edition of the NACADA-Jossey-Bass best selling Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook will debut at the Annual Conference in Chicago. Kudos to editors Virginia Gordon, Wes Habley, and  Tom Grites, as well as the many authors featured in the text, for their outstanding and groundbreaking work. Special thanks to Marsha Miller in the Executive Office for her work with the editors and the authors in this process.
    • The 2nd Edition of the NACADA/FYE joint publication, Family Guide to Academic Advising, will also debut in Chicago. A Spanish version of the publication will be available in January 2009 for institutions that are working with a growing number of Spanish speaking families. Special thanks to authors Virginia Gordon and Donald Smith, as well as Tracy Skipper with the Center for Freshman Year Experience at the University of South Carolina.
    • A new monograph, Advising Student Athletes: A Collaborative Approach to Success, will debut at the Annual Conference in Chicago as well. Special thanks to editors Adrienne Leslie-Toogood and Emmett Gill, as well as the chapter authors and Marsha Miller in the Executive Office for their hard work on this important publication.
    • A new Advisor Training DVD series will also debut in Chicago. The DVD contains ten advising scenarios that can be utilized as part of any comprehensive professional development program on a campus. Special thanks to Jayne Drake and Stephanie Gillin at Temple University, Advisory Board members, Commission and Interest Group members, and Marsha Miller of the Executive Office for their leadership of this project.
  • NACADA’s Board of Directors has made special efforts this year to expand our collaborative partnerships with other higher education associations, such as ACPA, AAC &U, NODA, FYE, AHEAD, and NCHC.
  • NACADA and several of our members, including Susan Campbell, Lynn Freeman, Karen Sullivan-Vance, Jon Steingass, and  Seth Sykes, were featured in the Winter 2008 issue of the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ Peer Review Journal focused on academic advising.
  • As the Association has grown in so many ways, the work of the Executive Office is key to the success of the Association. Special thanks to  Cara Wohler, Julia Wolf and Maxine Coffey for all their organization and attention to detail as they focus on the work of the Executive Office and the Association’s financial oversight.

Working with our members, our Board of Directors and other leaders, and our Executive Office staff is an honor and joy each day! I look forward to seeing you all in Chicago! Do not hesitate at any time to call or e-mail if I can do anything for you or your institution.

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

Promoting Academic Advisors: Using a Career Ladder to Foster Professional Development at Your Institution

Cindy Iten, Advising Administration Commission Chair 
Albert Matheny,  Professional Development Committee Chair

CindyIten.jpgAlbertMatheny.jpgDoes your institution have a mechanism to reward advisors for their breadth and depth of knowledge and their adeptness in assisting students through complicated academic situations? Or, in order to advance, are advisors forced to take their talents to administrative posts? If your institution falls into the second category, then you are in the majority. However, some campuses have recognized that academic advising has “come of age” as a profession and is deserving of career ladders which encourage advisors to develop areas of expertise.

NACADA’s commitment to professional development is central to the advancement of career-building within the ranks of academic advising. Currently, there is no systematic understanding of, or advocacy for, career ladders for academic advisors across the range of educational institutions. To begin that discussion, several universities have developed career ladders for advising professionals and advisors within these programs have shared information from their institutions.

The University of Iowa has a large, centralized professional advising center with a caseload of 9,000 students where all advisors, regardless of their experience, were at the same pay grade. AsPat Folsom, Assistant Provost for Enrollment Services and Director of the Academic Advising Center, says, “I wanted to add an Advisor II position that would recognize the expertise advisors gain after 4-5 years on the job. While the position would carry responsibilities beyond advising, I didn’t want to force terrific advisors to become administrators in order to move up.”

“The promotion track for professional academic advisors has been in place for many decades,” reportsMark Taylor, Director of Advising in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, where all advisors are hired as “Assistant Academic Advisors.” Advisors may move up to “Associate Academic Advisor” with years of experience in the position and a clear demonstration of meeting established criteria in the areas of excellence in direct academic advising, liaison and program development with other departments, and professional development and service. For promotion to “Senior Academic Advisor,” the advisor must have five years experience advising in the college and a total minimum of seven years advising experience along with “demonstrated effectiveness with a more expansive portfolio of responsibilities and further development of a broad skill set that includes leadership, reliability, autonomy, collaboration, flexibility, and adaptability.” Taylor adds that if leadership and professional development are criteria for promotion, we must remember to provide significant opportunities for these activities. At the University of Minnesota, advancement from “Assistant” to “Associate” and from “Associate” to “Senior” carries a $2500 salary increase.

Barbra Wallace, Director of the Undergraduate Academic Advising Center, College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of California-Riverside, points to a collaborative effort at the request of both advisors and administrators in the recent establishment of career ladders. “Many advisors said they were unhappy with their lack of career progress and many of their supervisors or faculty indicated they were worried that good advisors had to leave advising to promote,” said Wallace. A task force worked from late 2004 until the first advisor was hired under the new classifications in March 2007. Their three levels are distinguished using minimum educational qualifications, professional development accomplishments, and responsibility levels. Wallace adds, “advisors now report that they have more support in their new positions, and the campus provides more resources for advisors since their positions have recently received a great deal of attention. The advisors also better understand the expectations and philosophy of advising and their role as professionals. Students comment that they better understand the advising structure and like the ‘one-stop-shop’ for all their academic advising concerns. They feel we are more responsive to their concerns and can see we have an entire team assisting them, with different talents and different levels of authority to act.”

Career ladders at the University of Louisville were ready for implementation in early 2008, but the program is currently on hold due to uncertainty with state budget cuts.Janet Spence, Executive Director, Undergraduate Advising Practice, University of Louisville, describes their three-level career ladder which “includes requirements for level of education, advising experience, and completion of the University of Louisville Master Advisor Certification program. In addition, the rank program recognizes and gives credit to advisors serving on and leading university-wide advising committees, research and publishing related to advising, and participation in on-going professional development.” At U of L, each advisor prepares a portfolio for review by the Advisor Rank Committee which makes promotion recommendations through the Associate Provost.

At the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Academic Advising Center at the University of Florida, beginning advisors are hired as “Assistant In Advising,” which are non-tenure-accruing, 12-month faculty lines. If they remain for five years and excel at advising, service to the campus community, and professional development (generally through involvement in NACADA), then they can be promoted to “Associate In Advising,” much like faculty. Another five years of excellence in all three areas leads to promotion to “Senior Associate In Advising.” Each promotion comes with a 9% raise in addition to any merit or across-the-board raises. Promotion requires the development of a portfolio demonstrating excellence in all three areas, and the portfolio includes a personal promotion statement, letters from outside UF and inside UF, as well as a Director's letter that ties everything together. The process parallels the teaching faculty’s promotion process, and advisors are judged by the Promotion and Tenure Committee of the College, the Dean, and ultimately the UF-wide Academic Personnel Board under the supervision of the Provost. This career ladder has been in place for roughly a dozen years (the third tier was added about five years ago), and has been very successful in rewarding deserving advisors. It has also encouraged many to stay in advising rather than leave for better pay elsewhere.

This article describes a few of the career ladder programs currently in existence. We hope that it spurs the development of a matrix of career ladders that are institutionally appropriate and compatible with the career paths for both faculty and professional academic advisors. In order to accomplish this goal, the Advising Administration Commission and the Professional Development Committee will work together, first, to survey a broad range of institutions to determine the nature of existing career ladders in academic advising. Based upon what is found, the end goal will be to develop model career ladders for each type of educational institution, e.g., large and small 2-year and 4-year public institutions, large and small private colleges and universities, and for faculty and professional academic advisors. The intent is to first document “best practices” in a variety of academic settings and then to refine and modify these to fit a variety of personnel contexts.

 If you receive a NACADA sponsored survey on this topic, please take time to thoughtfully complete it. It will make a difference as we proceed into this new, and critical, area for the professional development for academic advisors.

Cindy Iten
Director of Advising
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Kentucky

Albert Matheny
Director, Academic Advising Center
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
University of Florida

Vital Links: Touching the Minds of Students

Douglas W. Estry, Michigan State University

Editor’s Note: The following was adapted from Douglas Estry’s keynote address at the NACADA Region 5 Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, April 6, 2008.


A colleague recently sent me an article that focused on the Learning Partnerships Model (LPM) as a way to conceptualize the role of the advisor (Pizzolato, 2008). As I considered this article and the analogy of advisor as teacher, I recalled the article by King (1993), From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side, that led me to the way I see the role of the professional advisor. Is an advisor’s role to simply convey information to students, hoping they will retain it and somehow construct meaning from it (“Sage on the Stage”)? Or, is advising a fundamental part of the student’s discovery process as they develop into a reflective learner (“Guide on the Side”)? The answer is clear: advisors are vital members of a larger team made up of faculty and staff who collectively are responsible for creating a dynamic learning environment that is responsive to the unique understandings and goals of each student.

As guides, advisors balance complex sets of issues across the multiple working frames of parents, students, the institution, and their own understandings of student development and transition. From the frame of the student, advisors need to understand and connect to the student’s individual motivation for seeking an undergraduate degree. They must understand and, over time, help students frame and articulate goals for their education. Advisors need to articulate meaningfully the learning goals of the institution, linking those goals to the set of curricular and co-curricular activities that will comprise the student’s degree. Advisors need to understand a student’s prior knowledge, recognizing that it is contextually situated in previous experiences and plays an important role in how they perceive and make meaning of new experiences and knowledge. Importantly, advisors must assist students in constructing new meaning across the multiple dimensions of student learning.

As guides, advisors understand that there are numerous spaces and places in which learning occurs. These include classrooms and laboratories, internships and other experiential learning environments, residence halls, community environments, performing arts centers, governance, student organizations, and international settings, to name just a few. Although the set of opportunities may be finite, there are infinite ways in which they can be linked to create a learning experience that is either unique and/or uniquely perceived by each student. The challenge and primary role of the advisor is to assist students in reflecting on their learning experiences and to make meaning of those experiences in the context of their own learning goals and those of the institution.

The evidence of our collective success comes in many ways but none quite as powerful as the words of the student. I would like to quote from a student reflecting on various aspects of his learning just prior to graduation:

My ideas of education encompass not only lectures, discussion, and tests, but also life experiences that have allowed me to make social connections, experience different cultures, and help others through community service.

Each academic advisor experiences the daily challenge of working with the breadth of personal and academic issues that come with the diversity of students we collectively serve. However, advisors also know and understand deeply the dynamic nature and potential of each and every student. Advisors understand that learning occurs in different ways and in multiple spaces and diverse places. Advisors will continue to use these understandings to advance and to enhance the quality of what our respective institutions offer. Advisors witness daily the reality of the statement “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Each advisor serves as avital linkto learning for our students – making visible, and assisting them in accessing, the multiple opportunities that higher education offers totouch their minds and transform their lives. No matter the picture students paint through their learning experiences, academic advisors play a critical role in helping them see how their learning serves as the foundation for their future. Academic advisors play a critical role in helping to create the coherence and transparency we strive for in the learning environment, an environment that is mutually supported, logically connected, and user friendly.

Douglas W. Estry
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies
Office of the Provost
Michigan State University


Pizzolato, J.E. (2008). Advisor, teacher, partner: Using the learning partnerships model to reshape academic advising. About Campus, 13(1), 18-25.

King, A (1993). From sage on the stage to guide on the side. College Teaching, 41(1), 30-35.

More Than a Conversation: Using Aspects of Dialogue to Improve Academic Advising

Anna Mitchell McLeod, University of South Carolina


It’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday in late April. The stack of student files on your desk is reduced to one or two and the barrage of questions about overrides and graduation requirements has subsided. Jake, one of your advisees, pokes his head in and asks, “Do you have a few minutes to talk? I’ve been thinking about studying abroad next year, but I’m not sure what my next steps are.”

Do you: a) Hand Jake a brochure about study abroad opportunities and remind him where the Study Abroad office on campus is? or b) Invite Jake to sit down and share his ideas about the programs and locations he is considering? Maybe your answer depends on how you feel that day or Jake’s past track record with stopping by for informal chats. Discussing study abroad opportunities, career directions, and major changes ideally requires academic advisors to engage in meaningful and intentional conversations with their advisees. Our advising exchanges can be more than one-sided interactions; consider moving beyond a discussion on the conversation spectrum and closer towards dialogue. Even if we can’t engage in a true dialogue for all of our advising appointments, there are some aspects of dialogue advisors can use regularly to improve the quality of conversations with advisees.

Defining Dialogue


Dialogue has played a fundamental role in society since the earliest civilizations, including those of ancient Greece, New Zealand, Africa, and Native Americans (Isaacs, 1999). As a term, dialogue is often used interchangeably with conversation. Dialogue is much more than a conversation, however. In her book, From Debate to Dialogue, Deborah Flick (1998) highlights the basic elements of dialogue:

Dialogue…involves intentionally seeking to understand by listening deeply, inquiring and advocating in order to uncover meanings, revealing assumptions, and walking in another person’s shoes. Although dialogue is, in and of itself, outcome-free, it can enhance the effectiveness and creativity of our actions (p. 32).

Jane Vella, a long-time dialogue educator and researcher, stresses the use of open-ended questions as crucial in a dialogue process (2008). William Isaacs’ formula for a successful dialogue includes listening to yourself and others present; respecting the other person(s); suspending your own opinion; and finding/speaking your voice (1999). Does the line between discussion and dialogue still seem fuzzy? Read on.

Isaacs (1999) differentiates between a discussion and dialogue as “A discussion attempts to get people to choose one of two alternatives. A dialogue helps to surface the alternatives and lay them side by side, so that they can all be seen in context” (p. 44). Isaacs, who has written about using dialogue in business and life situations, notes many conversations could go in either direction, a dialogue or a discussion. When a decision (closure) is needed, discussion is necessary. When wanting to explore new avenues of insight, dialogue makes sense (Isaacs, 1999).

An accepting dialogue atmosphere inspires ideas to flow and be explored freely through insightful questions (Flick, 1998). Although engaging in dialogue requires you to suspend your own thoughts and focus on understanding those of the other person, it does not mean you have to give up your own beliefs and agree with the other person (Flick, 1998). Flick further explains,

When we listen in Understanding Process (dialogue) mode we accept at face value what another person is saying as being true and real for that individual. Even if it’s contrary to our own beliefs and values, we listen to understand how it makes sense to and has meaning for the speaker (pp. 22-23).

Connecting the Aspects of Dialogue to Advising

While the majority of our exchanges with advisees probably fall into the discussion category of conversations, there are times when true dialogue is appropriate, as well as instances where aspects of the dialogue process can be integrated into our discussions. An ideal academic advising relationship is supportive and interactive between students and advisors (Nutt, 2000). When I am seeing my tenth advisee of the day, however, it is easy to slip into the “Here’s what you need to do; have a good afternoon” approach without having a genuine conversation, much less anything that resembles a dialogue. Including aspects of dialogue (and if appropriate, conducting a dialogue) with our advisees can enhance our knowledge and refresh our intentional conversation skills.

Some advising situations are more appropriate for using a dialogue approach than others. Obviously an advisor would not have a dialogue about the number of hours required for graduation or what courses fulfill which requirements. But advisors could use a dialogue approach to discuss a student’s motivation to earn a particular degree or interest in a specific course or topic. Dialoguing with an undecided student about his major choice also is appropriate. Laff (1994) emphasized the use of critical thinking when working with undecided students. His recommendations of consciously raising questions, probing students’ assumptions about majors, drawing inferences and challenging conclusions could just as easily been used to describe how to have a dialogue about major choice.

Habley’s (1994) suggested tasks for advising undeclared students could also incorporate a dialogue process. These tasks include assisting students with “awareness of individual values, abilities, and interests;” “exploration of the relationships between life and career goals;” “exploration of educational combinations leading to life and career goals;” and “evaluation of experiences for confirmation or redirection of plans” (pp. 18-19). Each of these tasks could be a dialogue between the student and advisor.

Several advising techniques already use aspects of dialogue, such as Appreciative Advising and Narrative Advising. Learn about Appreciative Advising from the NACADA Appreciative Advising Interest Group. More information about the use of Narrative Theory in Advising can be found in Peter Hagen's article in the September 2007 edition of Academic Advising Today..

Take Away Points for Incorporating Dialogue into Advising Interactions

Remember Jake, the student who was considering studying abroad? Here is how your conversation with him might incorporate aspects of dialogue:

  • Use open-ended questions. Jake, what interests you most about studying abroad?
  • Remember each student is different. Approach each advisee with curiosity and ask yourself, What can I learn from the student sitting across from me? Jake, what locations most appeal to you?
  • Before jumping to conclusions with advisees or telling students what to do, take time to understand students from their point of view. Jake, we’ve talked about why you want to go abroad. What is holding you back from committing (i.e., financial considerations, major progression, relationships at home)?
  • Use your ears more than your mouth: Listen more to the student than you talk.

Anna Mitchell McLeod
Department of History
University of South Carolina


Flick, D. L. (1998). From debate to dialogue: Using the understanding process to transform our conversations. Boulder, CO: Orchid Publications.

Habley, W. R. (1994). Administrative approaches to advising undecided students in The National Resource Center for the First Year Experience, Issues in advising the undecided college student (pp. 17-23). Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina.

Isaacs, W. (1999). Dialogue and the art of thinking together. New York: Doubleday.

Laff, N. L. (1994). Developmental advising for undecided students: Rethinking the relationships in The National Resource Center for the First Year Experience, Issues in advising the undecided college student (pp. 25-35). Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina.

Nutt, C. (2000). One-to-one advising. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley, & Associates (Eds.)Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 220-227). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting the principles and practices of dialogue education into action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Making the Connections: Liberal Arts Advisors Teach Students

Julie Givans, Liberal Arts Advisors Commission Division Steering Committee Representative


In their classrooms, faculty teach students about the big questions within history, biology, and anthropology. Too often, students learn these subjects in silos, stockpiling credits towards a degree with no real thought as to how these courses fit together. It is in advisors’ offices that students learn the connections between those disciplines and how courses add up to something bigger. Academic advisors teach students not only what general studies courses are available, but why it is important to include these courses in well-rounded educational plans. Advisors teach students that these courses add up not only to a degree but to a liberal education that makes a difference. It is in advisors’ offices where students discover how that education will enrich them, not only as they start along their career paths, but in ways they never expected throughout their lives.

Great liberal arts advisors know that “a liberal arts degree is more than a checklist” (Hones & Sullivan-Vance, 2005); they teach their students why each class, each category, is important enough to include on the checklist. Great advisors explain the general education areas and what types of questions and methods of inquiry they will encounter in each while using terms appropriate for students’ levels of understanding. For example, great advisors generate interest when teaching freshmen about what they may encounter as they complete their humanities courses: “This is where we ask the big questions of life; questions that have more than one answer. Questions like: Why are we here (philosophy)? Is there a god (religious studies)? What is beauty (art history)?” Conversations like this prepare inexperienced students for what they will encounter in those classes and help them understand that these courses will be fundamentally different than courses in social or natural sciences.

New advisors or advisors with academic backgrounds outside the liberal arts may need assistance gathering such information. Good resources include, of course, the general catalog, where listings of the general education requirements usually include descriptions of each category. Another great way to learn about the liberal arts is to talk with members of the faculty committee that created or approved courses to fill these areas. Talking with faculty can help advisors learn more about the criteria used to determine which courses are included.

Great liberal arts advisors help students see the differences between academic areas and how scholars within each area view the world. In contrast, great advisors also teach students about the connections between those areas and why all are important to a liberal education. When students are left to their own devices for selecting courses outside their majors, they too often “spend four years sampling courses with little or no connection” (Kronman, 2007). Advisors are the ones who create those connections.

Similarly, students may express dismay at being required to complete courses that “have nothing to do with my major/interests/career path.” What a great opportunity to talk in depth about that major/interest/career path! Great liberal arts advisors recognize this as a chance to provide guidance that will help the student create his own coherent curriculum that satisfies his interests or shapes his understanding of the world, the major, the chosen career field. For example, help young biology students realize how religious studies and sociology have much to teach them about working with patients. Or encourage a psychology major to examine how every course she takes informs her understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. Great liberal arts advisors explain the connections and use their knowledge of the curriculum to assist students in finding courses outside their major disciplines that will enrich their worldviews and enhance their educations.

Helping students enhance their degrees requires a breadth of knowledge. Academic advisors should read the catalog and become familiar with degrees, minors, certificates, and courses outside their own departments to help students shape their degrees. Advisors should learn more about the offerings at their institutions and even those offered at nearby schools. Good resources can include campus-wide advisor meetings, presentations by faculty or administration, state conferences, newsletters, NACADA events and publications, and even local papers. There is much to be said for just reading widely – newspapers, news magazines, fiction and non-fiction – all enrich the advisor’s worldview and can provide a spark of information that can help students make connections. Great advisors bring all their knowledge to bear when working with students; they never stop learning.

Great advisors understand the value of a liberal arts education over a lifetime. Like Steve Martin, actor, writer, and philosophy major, advisors know that many students leave college and forget it all, but liberal arts majors “will remember just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life” (1978). Much has been written about, and many conference sessions have been devoted to, advising liberal arts students for careers. This is important from a practical point of view; career advising certainly has a place when advising liberal arts students. However, a liberal arts education is valuable beyond the doors it may open in the world of work. Advisors should talk to liberal arts students about: 1) their ability to learn anything, 2) the need to have a basic understanding of science when voting on issues such as those related to global warming, 3) humanities that help them comprehend others’ worldviews, and 4) the social sciences that make it possible to better navigate relationships at home and work.

Advisors whose academic backgrounds are in the liberal arts may come to the job well-versed in benefits of a liberal arts education. Those who lack this background or find it hard to put their feelings into words can find assistance through the NACADA Liberal Arts Advisors Commission. In addition, the Association of American Colleges and Universities on-line journal Liberal Education has many good articles that examine how a liberal arts education affects the lives of students.

Julie Givans
Director, Academic Advisor Training and Communication
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Arizona State University


Hones, S. and Sullivan-Vance, K. (2005). Liberal arts in the 21st century. Academic Advising Today28 (4). Online Edition available at www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/AAT28-4.htm.

Kronman, A. (2007) Education’s End: Why our colleges and universities have given up on the meaning of life. New Have: Yale University Press.

Martin, S. (1978). A Wild and Crazy Guy. Warner Brothers Records.


Association of American Colleges and Universities on-line journal Liberal Education.

Inclusive Advising: Building Competencies to Better Serve Students with Disabilities

Nikki Allen Dyer, Advising Students with Disabilities Commission Member


When someone mentions services for students with disabilities, advisors often think about what they know (or fear what they don’t know) about Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA of 1990. In our litigious society, academic advisors whose primary roles do not specifically include working with students with disabilities may feel that they do not know enough about these laws and related student rights to adequately advise students with disabilities. Other advisors may feel that they do not know enough about various disabilities to be effective when advising these students. Further complicating the issue is the notion that campuses are prone to delineating themselves into discrete entities which can be disjointed and inflexible “silos” where providing academic advising to students with disabilities can be seen as “someone else’s job.”

Disability services staff members are often seen as “disability experts,” yet these same professionals may or may not be “advising experts.” As such, it is imperative that academic advisors strive to achieve competency in advising all students, including those with disabilities. The ability to adequately advise all students – to include those with disabilities – could be termed inclusive advising. So then, where does an advisor begin the quest to become an inclusive advisor? Start by becoming aware of how students’ rights, learning outcomes, and accommodations relate to the academic advising process.

Advisors know that advising is “a teaching and learning process” (NACADA, 2006, ¶ 9). As such, academic advising lends itself to fostering student learning outcomes that are specific to what students are able to know, value, and do as a result of the advising process. Such outcomes may include advisees being able to “craft a coherent educational plan based on assessment of abilities, aspirations, interests, and values” (NACADA, 2006, ¶ 10), “[make] connections between classroom and out-of-classroom learning” (CAS, 2005, p. 2), and demonstrate “inter and intrapersonal competence” (ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACA, NACADA, NASPA, NIRSA. 2007, ¶ 1).

But what about students with disabilities? Do the same learning outcomes apply to these students? Absolutely! Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 declares that students with disabilities, who are otherwise qualified to participate in those educational programs and activities which receive federal financial assistance, must be provided access to these programs and activities (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 2005). These programs and activities include those associated with academic advising.

“A ‘qualified [student] with a disability’ is defined as one who meets the requisite academic and technical standards for admission or participation in the postsecondary institution’s programs and activities” (AHEAD, ACE, & HEATH Resource Center, ¶ 4). As such, students with disabilities must meet the same admissions requirements, demonstrate the same learning outcomes inside and outside of their courses, and maintain the same criteria for continuing their enrollment within a college, university and/or selective academic program, as those students without disabilities. Thus, it is only natural that intended academic advising-related learning outcomes remain intact, regardless of whether or not a student has a disability.

Institutions of higher education that receive federal funding must offer reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students, so that educational programs and activities are made accessible (AHEAD, ACE, & HEATH Resource Center, ¶ 6). These accommodations are designed to “level the playing field” while ensuring that the integrity of all academic programs and activities is maintained.

In order to receive academic accommodations, it is the student’s role to self-disclose to the disability support services unit, or other designated campus entity, that he or she has a disability; provide documentation of that disability; request appropriate accommodations; and communicate any and all approved accommodations to faculty and staff, as needed. Advisees with disabilities should be encouraged to self-disclose to their academic advisors that they have a documented disability and what accommodations they are eligible to receive. Encouraging this disclosure would: 1) demonstrate to the student that academic advising is indeed a teaching and learning process; 2) reiterate to the student that self-advocacy skills are needed inside and outside of the classroom environment; and 3) allow for more effective advising, to include addressing specific needs and recognizing the strengths and unique cultures of advisees with disabilities.

Building upon the notion that parallels should exist between the classroom learning environment and the academic advising learning environment, the modern academic advisor should collaborate with advisees with disabilities to identify and offer reasonable academic advising accommodations. These accommodations need not be as formalized as those within the classroom, yet they need to be offered, just the same. They may include furnishing printed materials in e-text format, securing the services of a sign language interpreter, and making arrangements for meeting with the advisee in a more accessible physical location.

Advisors should not be intimidated by the thought of offering reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities during the advising process, as these are oftentimes minimal modifications which come about quite naturally during the advising process. Academic advisors aware that their advisees receive classroom accommodations should take the time to transfer and apply those accommodations to the advising process. In other cases, when the advisee with a disability has not self-disclosed accommodations, the advisor should inquire of the advisee, just as they would any advisee, “What specific needs do you have? How can we work together to ensure that the advising process is effective for you?” By asking these questions, an inclusive relational foundation is laid for advisor-advisee rapport.

The inclusive academic advisor is one who is aware of students’ rights to access. They understand the need for keeping the learning outcomes associated with academic advising intact for students with disabilities. In addition, the inclusive advisor takes the time to ensure that appropriate accommodations are achieved in the academic advising process, thus maximizing the teaching and learning potential of the advisor and advisee.

Perhaps one day, educating students with disabilities – both inside and outside of the classroom – will not be seen as the role of “specialists” but as everyone’s role. Until then, academic advisors should be deliberate in their quest to become professionals equipped with the informational, conceptual, and relational skills necessary to be inclusive advisors.

Nikki Allen Dyer
Coordinator, Student Disability Support Services
Salisbury University


American College Personnel Association, Association of College and University Housing Officers International, Association of College Unions International, National Academic Advising Association, National Association for Campus Activities, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. (2007). Learning reconsidered, topics, developing learning outcomes. Retrieved July 6, 2008 from www.learningreconsidered.org/topics/theme.cfm?tid=4.

Association on Higher Education and Disability, American Council on Education, and HEATH Resource Center. (n.d.). Section 504: The law and its impact on postsecondary education [Brochure]. Huntersville, NC.

Council for the Advancement of Standards. (2005). Academic advising program: CAS standards and guidelines. Retrieved June 1, 2008 fromwww.nacada.ksu.edu/Research/Standards.htm.

National Academic Advising Association. (2006). NACADA concept of academic advising. Retrieved June 1, 2008, from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Concept-Advising.htm.

United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. (2005). A guide to disability rights laws. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from www.ada.gov/cguide.htm#anchor65310.


AHEAD - www.ahead.org

American Council on Education - www.acenet.edu//AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home

The George Washington University HEATH Resource Center - www.heath.gwu.edu

University of Washington, DO-IT - www.washington.edu/doit/

US Dept. of Education - www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/plan/index.html?src=pb

The Challenges of Advising Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Students

Margaret (Peg) Steele, Engineering and Science Advising Commission Chair

PegSteele.jpgOver the past year, full time and faculty advisors have had an opportunity to meet in informal settings at the state, regional and national conferences to discuss areas of concern in advising Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students. During these discussions, advisors have identified many challenges that confront them when advising this designated population. Some of these challenges will be addressed in the following discussion.

One important advising challenge is helping students make the transition from high school to college. Various theorists such as Sanford, Chickering and Reisser, Perry, Schlossberg, and others have addressed the normal psychosocial and cognitive development that students experience while making the transition. Although little research is available, anecdotal accounts have indicated that students who major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics seem to have additional transitional concerns beyond the normal developmental tasks.


One area of concern for STEM students is the gap between their basic math and science preparation and the reality of the rigors of college level work. In addition to inadequate preparation, some students simply do not have the motivation or study and time management skills to keep pace with the demands of college level coursework. When full-time or faculty advisors are aware of this disconnect, they may find the following advising approaches helpful:

  • Make referrals when appropriate to study skills classes and seminars and time management workshops
  • Encourage students to enroll in a review or remedial class when these important skills need to be strengthened.
  • Encourage and help establish study groups for specific courses.
  • Refer students when indicated to tutoring services and learning centers.

High school counselors, principals and parents must be made aware of this disparity in preparation. Advisors can help by referring them to special programs such as:

Advisors must also be sensitive to students who might be questioning their choice of major. Previous research has estimated that between 50 and 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation (Gordon, 2005). Steele and McDonald (2000) identify various reasons for changing majors: “Lack of information, outside influences, developmental issues, and academic difficulties are the main categories that provide an explanation for this frequently occurring phenomenon” (p.149). Some advisors may need to learn techniques for helping these students explore and identify new academic directions. Special advisor development programs that focus on these students and their needs can help advisors become more proficient in this area.

It is sometimes helpful to inform students about various other STEM majors. Faculty and professional advisors can learn about related options from other colleagues and professionals in the STEM fields. Professional organizations also can provide important information about their particular career fields. Some examples are:

Integrating academic advising and career advising is increasingly considered an essential part of advising. Not all advisors are comfortable with this aspect of advising, but as Gordon (2005) emphasizes, “Career concerns, whether simple or complex, should never be ignored” (p.49). According to Bates (2007), “Academic advisers with sufficient knowledge of career advising know when to refer students to a career counselor and understand what the counselor will be able to do for the student” (p. 1). It is the informed advisor who knows the extent of his or her ability for helping students with career-related decisions and when appropriate, refers them to professional career counselors.

Advisors and students would do well to realize that STEM disciplines are constantly redefining themselves since the work world continues to change due to technology, globalization, reengineering, and organizational structures. The following Web sites can provide information about STEM majors and possible occupational connections:

The Engineering and Science Commission continues to discuss many topics and issues relating to the advisement of STEM students. Since research on these students is so sparse, the Commission urges advisors to initiate research projects and report successful advising practices through the many communication opportunities that NACADA provides. Collaboration with advisors in related professional organizations can be a key factor in contributing to research for advising STEM students. A current example of collaboration is in process with the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) with advisors in each organization working to support each others’ research efforts in advising STEM students.

Margaret (Peg) Steele
Coordinator, Academic Advisement
Department of Computer Science & Engineering
The Ohio State University

Read More About It! References and Additional Reading

Bates, S. (2007). Career advising: What academic advisers need to know. The Mentor; 9 (3). Retrieved May 21, 2008 from www.psu.edu/dus/mentor.

Gordon, V.N. (2005). Career advising - An academic advisor’s guide. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Steele, G.E., & McDonald, M. (2000). Advising students in transition. In V.N. Gordon, & W. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. (p149).San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Web sites

AAC&U News

American Chemical Society

Canadian Association of Physics Careers and Jobs

National Science Foundation

American Society for Engineering Education

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology

Journal of Research in Science Teaching

Reducing New Teacher Attrition: Further Thoughts

Ranee Boyd Tomlin, Arapahoe Community College 

RaneeBoydTomlin.jpgIn the March 2008 issue of Academic Advising Today, Kem encouraged advisors to participate in “ Avoiding Teacher ‘Dropouts ' (p. 8). This article began with the same concern that sparked my recent doctoral dissertation research (Tomlin, 2008): “Weaver (2002) noted that ‘almost a third of America’s teachers leave the profession sometime during their first three years of teaching, and almost half leave after five years” (p. 8). Despite current widespread attention toward workplace retention efforts for beginning teachers, my study focused on the role teacher education programs play in training preservice students who will bring career persistence to their new profession.

Kem’s (2008) connections between attrition and teacher dispositions, inadequate content knowledge, and lack of fit for the profession were important research approaches I encountered in material that discussed challenges to teaching persistence. Yet as I considered the professional identity construction that takes place in programs of professional education, my comprehensive literature review strongly suggested a link between professional identity, persistence, and Bandura’s (1989) social cognitive framework of self-efficacy. My project became one of collaboratively constructing a narrative of professional identity that included the self-efficacy elements of personal performance accomplishments, vicarious experience and modeling, social persuasion, and physiological and affective reactions.

Over the period of 11 months, I collected in-depth stories of teacher education experiences from eight women who were either currently attending or had recently completed initial teacher licensure programs at the post-baccalaureate or graduate level. As I explored the above four sources of self-efficacy identified by Bandura (1989), I heard narratives that transcended issues of teacher dispositions, content knowledge, and fit for the profession.

In fact, consistent with Savickas’ (2002) narrative theory of career construction, the preservice or novice teachers of my research had storied their own self-understandings of teaching dispositions and professional fit. They were highly self-aware and brought to their programs a deep sense of vocational purpose and commitment. Further, their teacher education experiences were not those of inadequate functional preparation. Almost every research participant was in the process of developing or had successfully constructed a belief in her classroom-specific teaching efficacy.

Nevertheless, regardless of these women’s levels of self-confidence in the classroom, they described other efficacy gaps in their teacher education experiences that negatively impacted the formation of professional teaching identities which could contribute to career persistence. Their stories confirmed that although isolation is common to classroom teaching, the autonomy of teachers has been deeply eroded by current environmental pressures on public K-12 education. In today’s politically complex educational climate, classrooms do not exist in a vacuum. Teachers are constantly subjected to a barrage of challenges thrust upon them from both within and outside school buildings, demands that require efficacy well beyond mastery in classroom content-knowledge, management, and instruction.

My research participants thus narrated the theme that preservice education did not provide experiences of developing the highly specific career efficacy or the collective efficacy that new teachers need to survive and thrive in a profession so personally and politically perilous. Career efficacy is a crucial—yet often overlooked—contribution to professional identity construction, developed when programs of professional preparation intentionally and systematically structure self-efficacy interventions targeting vocational success. In their social cognitive theory of career development, Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994) wrote, “Long-term career adjustment requires a great variety of skills that extend beyond subject-specific competence” (p. 117).

Such domain-specific career efficacy, then, addresses organizational behavior, supervisor/employee relations, and self-management, rather than being limited to functional techniques of professional practice. Specifically, Bandura’s (1989) efficacy development model can be used to provide training in anxiety management, relaxation, self-talk, assertiveness, and seeking social support, as well as in developing effective cognitive and behavioral coping strategies (Betz, 2005). Lent (2005, p. 118) additionally encouraged deliberate “efficacy-building efforts” in the workplace issues of conflict management, decision making, and goal setting.

With regard to collective agency, my study upheld the hope that soon new teachers will rise to challenge the public education status quo and its prevailing structures of power (Kozol, 2007). However, as one professor pointed out during my research observations, resisting and reforming can come at great cost for K-12 teachers, including early career attrition.

Social cognitive theory has addressed the risks of reform and resistance by extending “the conception of human agency to collective agency... People’s shared belief in their collective power to produce desired results is a key ingredient of collective agency” (Bandura, 2001, p. 14). In facing a K-12 teaching culture of isolated-yet-not-autonomous classrooms, preservice teachers must be actively prepared to approach their careers through the empowerment and agency of intentional collective action.

I agree with Kem (2008) that advisors can help reverse the dropout rate of new teachers. However, based on my research, I would add a supplemental advising approach that incorporates aspects of Bandura’s (1989) four sources of self-efficacy.

  • First, actively listen to and participate in the stories through which teacher education students narrate self-understandings of dispositions and professional fit.
  • Next, become aware of the unique career challenges that today’s novice teachers face within the public education environment. Discuss these distinctive vocational pressures with teacher education students, and contribute to their construction of career efficacy by encouraging, facilitating, and modeling mastery experiences that will empower new teachers to face the many distinct professional pitfalls of teaching that fall outside classroom competence. In particular, emphasize the importance of knowing how to quickly build effective relationships with administrators and colleagues.
  • Finally, affirm emerging professional identities that value relationships, self-reflection, and purpose, all of which can provide a solid basis for creating a sense of collective agency. Advisors can then encourage education students to utilize this relational, reflective, and purposive foundation in deliberately designing their own preservice experiences of aggregate solidarity and collaborative effort. These shared student experiences would establish collective efficacy as integral to the professional K-12 teaching identity construction that takes place within initial teacher licensure programs.

Ranee Boyd Tomlin
Academic Advisor
Arapahoe Community College
Littleton, Colorado


Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologis t, 44 (9), 1175-1184.

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1-26.

Betz, N. E. (2005). Women’s career development. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.),Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 253-277). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Kem, L. (2008). Avoiding teacher “dropouts.” Academic Advising Today, 31 (1), 8, 18. Available online at www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/ AAT31-1.htm #8.

Kozol, J. (2007). What’s next. NEAToday, 25 (8), 27.

Lent, R. W. (2005). A social cognitive view of career development and counseling. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 101-127). Hoboken, N : John Wiley & Sons.

Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Monograph: Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45, 79-122.

Savickas, M. L. (2002). Career construction: A developmental theory of vocational behavior. In Duane Brown & Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development (4 th ed., pp. 149-205). San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.

Tomlin, R. B. (2008). U.S. Graduate Teacher Education and Early Career Persistence of Women K-12 Teachers: Co-Constructing a Social Cognitive Narrative of Professional Identity. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Denver.

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Are Academic Advisors Knowledge Workers? Yes!

David Freitag, Graduate Student, NACADA/Kansas State University Masters of Academic Advising Program 


Knowledge workers are different from other types of workers. They are recruited differently, they are managed differently, and they are retained differently. The term ‘Knowledge Worker’ was originally coined by Peter Drucker in 1959 as a person who works primarily with information or develops and uses knowledge in the workplace. He recognized that specialists would be needed in the future to make peoples’ lives less complicated. These specialists would have the most up-to-date information available and advise people about which direction to take.

Thomas Davenport (2005) defines knowledge workers simply as people who think for a living. He goes on to describe knowledge workers as having high levels of expertise, with the most important aspect of the jobs being the creation, distribution, or application of knowledge. Knowledge workers perform work that is extremely valuable to the success of an institution. Examples of knowledge workers include computer programmers, systems analysts, writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, researchers, managers, and, as described in this article, academic advisors.

While many different types of workers think during their jobs, the primary purpose of a knowledge worker’s job is the creation, distribution, or application of knowledge. Academic advisors are the type of knowledge worker who learn and distribute information. The relationship between this type of knowledge worker and the person receiving the information is critical to the success of the knowledge worker’s job (Davenport, 2005).

If we substitute a few words pertaining to academic advising in Davenport ’s description of knowledge workers, it fits academic advisors perfectly: Advisors think for a living. Advisors solve problems; they understand and meet the needs of students. Advisors make decisions, and they collaborate and communicate with other people in the course of doing their own work. Advisors have high degrees of expertise and specialized education. It might even be said this combination of knowing a large body of specialized information and being able to communicate the information effectively to others is a distinguishing feature of the field of academic advising. Few types of knowledge workers can combine high levels of education and specialized expertise with effective communication skills.

So, why does recognizing academic advisors as knowledge workers matter? It matters because in industries outside of academic environments, the way knowledge workers are recruited, managed, and retained is different from other types of workers. If advising administrators are unclear about what type of worker an advisor is, they will continue to be unclear about the type of work advisors do and how to manage them. Compare the thinking behind the title of “Advising Supervisor” to the thinking behind the title of “Advising Coordinator.” Each of these titles implies something different about the advisors in their department – one says their advisors are expected to need supervision, the other says their advisors are knowledge workers and only need coordination to be effective.

Standard questions from HR may not identify the best and the brightest job candidates for knowledge work positions. Advising administrators should be ready to explore a candidate’s life experiences, in addition to their resume, to determine if the candidate is a life-long learner. Ask how they have demonstrated intellectual curiosity during their life and in prior jobs. Ask what they are learning now. Ask what they know about NACADA and how they intend to participate in advancing the field of academic advising. Advising administrators should hire individuals for advising positions who are self-motivated to continue to learn throughout their careers.

In the past, managers could observe the output of their manual workers – ten widgets an hour produced, two carts of apples picked, one ditch dug. Work started and ended at specific times. Workers worked and managers managed. The output of knowledge work is different – a characteristic of knowledge work is that the final product of knowledge workers is not easily observed or measured by their management.

Managing knowledge workers, such as advisors, is different from managing entry level minimum wage workers, administrative staff, clerks, and manufacturing workers. Knowledge workers should be guided to use the extensive knowledge they have to produce effective results for the organization. Knowledge workers don’t want to be told how to do their work. Why would an organization hire highly educated employees and then spend time and money in further education just to closely supervise them and tell them what to do and how to do it? (Davenport, 2005). Highly educated workers should require less supervision.

Commitment is a key concept in managing knowledge workers. In an industrial economy, a worker could do his job without fully engaging his brain or his heart. Working on an assembly line does not require the worker to think deeply about assembly lines. Knowledge workers, on the other hand, can only be effective when they are mentally and emotionally committed to their job. To give this commitment of their heart and mind requires that knowledge workers be given some say in what they work on and how they do it (Davenport, 2005). Without this commitment from the organization, knowledge workers will either leave or shut down intellectually / emotionally.

Management of knowledge workers focuses not on hiring and firing, but on recruitment and retention. The most important task for a manager of knowledge workers is to recruit and retain the best knowledge workers available who are committed to their field. The most successful organizations hire the best and most talented people they can find and then work very hard to keep them. While knowledge workers are frequently the best paid employees in an organization, a high salary is not their primary motivation to stick around – knowledge workers are motivated by the work they are doing and the differences they can make in their organization and in the lives of others.

Institutions that employ knowledge workers value employee retention because of the high cost of not doing so. Institutions whose knowledge workers require an extended period of education to be productive must work hard to retain their workers since every time a worker leaves, the cost of their education leaves with them. Thus a bill arrives with the cost of replacing them.

To maximize their effectiveness, advising programs should recognize that advisors are not only teachers, but they are knowledge workers too. When the academe connects the field of advising to knowledge work, advising administrators will improve the retention and effectiveness of their advisors.

David Freitag
Academic Advisor
Tucson, AZ


Davenport, T. H. (2004). Why don't we know more about knowledge? (learn from experiments). MIT Sloan Management Review, (Summer), 17-18.

Davenport, T. H. (2005). Thinking for a living: How to get better performance and results from knowledge workers. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.

Drucker, P. F. (1959). Landmarks of tomorrow, Harper & Brothers.

Johnson, D. (2006). Skills for the knowledge worker. Teacher Librarian, 34:1 (Oct), 8-13.

White, H. S. (2003). The successful future of the librarian: Bookman or knowledge worker?Australian Academic & Research Libraries, (Mar), 1-13.

2008-2010 Emerging Leaders Class Announced


The Diversity Committee developed the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program to encourage members from diverse backgrounds to get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization, outfit participants with the skills and tools necessary to pursue elected and appointed leadership positions, increase the number of leaders from diverse groups, and encourage and assist members of underrepresented populations to attend State, Regional, or National Conferences

The 2007-2009 Emerging Leaders and Mentors, who began work at the 2007 Annual Conference in Baltimore, have been diligently pursuing their goals over the past year and look forward to reuniting at this year's Conference in Chicago, where they will assist with the Silent Auction.

2007-2009 Emerging Leader Carol Pollard (University of North Texas) says, “The ELP program has expanded my view of advising and opened so many doors for me within advising and the association. I will be Exhibits Chair for the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio. I would never have attempted to be a ‘chair’ without the wonderful mentorship and learning opportunities afforded me by this past year. The friendships, contacts, and training have been remarkable; I know this is just the beginning!”

2007-2009 Mentor Jayne Drake (Temple University) says, “Having the opportunity to cultivate the next generation of leadership in the Association is enormously gratifying for me. I am both pleased and humbled to have a role in this important program.”

The Diversity Committee and the Emerging Leaders Development Team are pleased to announce the 2008-2010 NACADA Emerging Leaders and Mentors.

Emerging Leaders
Susan Anderson (University of St. Thomas)
Joyce Ellenwood (Bethune-Cookman University)
Aura Rios Erickson (Shoreline Community College)
Darren Francis (University of the Fraser Valley)
Arnell Hammond (Indiana University Bloomington)
Brian Hinterscher (University of Southern Indiana)
Rodney Mondor (University of Southern Maine)
Les Ridingin (University of Texas at Arlington)
Christy Walker (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Jobila Williams (College of William and Mary)

Scott Amundsen (University of North Carolina - Wilmington)
Sarah Ann Hones (Washington State University)
Nancy King (Kennesaw State University)
Pamela Marsh-Williams (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Deborah Nakashima (Hawaii Pacific University)
Lisa Peck (Western Connecticut State University)
Marion Schwartz (Penn State University)
Kathy Stockwell (Fox Valley Technical College)
Stacy Woycheck (University of Maryland, College Park)
Dana Zahorik (Fox Valley Technical College)

New Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Chicago to create partnerships and begin development, conversation, and group building. Partners will develop goals pertaining to leadership in NACADA over the next six months and continue their work together over the two-year program.

Career Corner banner.jpg

Dear Career Corner,

I am a professional in higher education and would like to become an academic advisor. I have applied for a few positions but have never been offered an interview. I realize that advising experience is typically required or preferred, but how can I get experience without an advising job? I would appreciate some suggestions on getting into the field.


Catch 22


Dear Catch 22:

Thank you for submitting your question. Many individuals, like you, would like to get into the field of professional academic advising, but they are held back because of a lack of advising experience. I have several suggestions. Give them a try!

1. Ask to meet with an academic advisor. Take him/her out for lunch and ask questions. You will learn a lot about the field, plus, such a meeting is a great networking opportunity! Below is a list of questions you may want to ask during the meeting.

  • What is your typical day like?
  • What qualifications are needed to enter this field?
  • What do you like most/ least about your job?
  • I am interested in getting into the field of academic advising. Do you have any advice to share?
  • Please tell me about your career path and how you knew academic advising was something you wanted to do.

2. Get involved with NACADA and bulk up your resume!

  • Attend state, regional, national conferences on advising. List attendance at these events on your resume. You can also submit a presentation at any of these conferences, which will emphasize your interest in advising. A poster presentation is a good way to start because it is less intimidating but still demonstrates professional development.
  • Review and understand the research on students and advising by checking out the NACADA Web site and scholarly journals.
  • Rework your resume to highlight advising-related activities and your experiences working with college students. Some suggested topics include student retention, program assessment, and student learning outcomes.
  • Utilize the sample resumes, vitas, and cover letters on the NACADA Member Career Services Web site.
  • View position postings on the NACADA Web site. Use the position descriptions as possible topics to target as you pursue more advising experience. Take note of the types of experience each is looking for as well as types and levels of degrees.

3. Get experience!

  • Ask to shadow an advisor through a typical day or a busy orientation day.
  • Ask about interning or externing in an advising office.
  • Offer your volunteer services to an advising office (Focus on your specialties, like technology skills, graphic design skills, marketing skills, etc.) or offer to help during advising programs and events.
  • Ask to be involved in regularly scheduled training sessions that advising offices often provide to faculty and other advisors on campus.
  • Take an online graduate course on academic advising through NACADA and Kansas State University.
  • Ask to be added to your campus academic advisor listserv or other such advisor mailing lists.

4. Update your job search documents (resume, cover letter, reference page, etc.) and utilize proper job search etiquette.

  • Have your documents reviewed by a career counselor.
  • Put your most important information in the top half of the first page of your resume, including the many ways in which you work with a diverse student population.
  • Highlight any technical skills, design skills, marketing skills, foreign languages skills, etc. that could be an asset in an advising office.
  • Highlight how your experience meets the required and preferred qualifications in the job posting. In your cover letter, discuss why you think academic advising is a good fit for you and a professional goal.
  • Format your resume so that it looks more like an administrative resume rather than a faculty vita.
  • Try to quantify each activity you list on your resume. “Met individually with 25 students per semester to discuss issues of concern, including time management, note taking skills, choosing the right major, and the importance of getting involved on campus.”
  • Ask permission before listing someone as a reference. Try to choose references who know you as a professional and can speak highly of your potential to be an academic advisor. Always provide a resume to your references. Also, whenever the reference list is given to an employer provide your references a copy of the job description. These two documents will assist your references when contacted to speak on your behalf.
  • Do your research. Each campus and advising office is different. Be ready to address why you want to work at a certain college and within a certain department. Include this information in your cover letter and be prepared to discuss these topics in an interview.

5. For more tips, be sure to attend the 2008 NACADA Annual Conference in Chicago and attend a session on how to conduct an advising job search. I hope to see you there!

Best of Luck,Alison Hoff.jpg

Alison Hoff
Chair, NACADA Member Career Services Committee
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)



Sparkler.jpgIt takes but one SPARK to ignite the flame for an idea. Does your campus have an unusual or exceptional process or program that could spark an idea on another campus? If so, tell us about it in 350 words or less.  Send your 'Sparkler' to Leigh@ksu.edu 

This edition’s SPARKLER comes to us from the University of Hawaii-Hilo.


Jodilyn Kunimoto (in center of photo, with colleagues Jay Minert, Kurt dela Cruz, Kainoa Ariola, and  Debbie Pina) tells us that “the SPARK that brought this idea into implementation was actually a newborn baby.”  One of the advisors in the Advising Center at UH-Hilo had just become a parent and needed the flexibility to leave the office early one afternoon a week to accommodate his childcare scheduling needs. To create a winning solution for everyone, he proposed the idea that later came to be known asAdvising After Dark : one shortened workday and one lengthened workday, which would extend advising services into the evening. Another advisor responded that he would appreciate the option to flex his time as well, so that he could begin his day a little later once a week and cover a second shift of Advising After Dark. The Director of the Advising Center supported the idea, and the advising team worked together to secure a library conference room that provided a central location for evening advising services. They marketed the new program with fliers, signs, and email blasts to students. Soon, word of mouth from satisfied students spread throughout the campus community. Many of the campus Deans, Directors, and Administrators commended the Center’s efforts to extend hours and provide advising services to evening students. Jodilyn explains that “instead of just a daylight operation, we were able to provide extended hours, from 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. two nights a week. This may not sound significant on a University campus that already provides extended services for evening students, but for this campus it was, since besides the Residence halls and library, most of this campus’ operations close at 4:30 p.m.” The program was piloted in the spring semester 2008 and proved to enhance the Advising Center’s efforts to reach out to a student population that normally might not seek advising. On many evenings, more students were seen at night than the Center would see in the day. What started as a request for flexibility in work scheduling ignited a new program that is mutually beneficial for the advisors and students. An absolute Win-Win situation. For further information, contact Jodilyn at jodilyn@hawaii.edu.  


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