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Voices of the Global Community


 From Newsletter to ePub and Beyond: AAT and the Technology Adoption Lifecycle

Leigh Cunningham, Academic Advising Today Managing Editor

LeighCunningham.jpgOur Academic Advsing Today (AAT) readers may not be familiar with how this publication began, how it has integrated with the association’s overall strategic goals, or how its content and format have meshed with the larger higher education literature.

Our current quarterly ezine began in the early 1980s as the NACADA Newsletter and was offered in print format for nearly two decades. In 2002, the publication, then titled Academic Advising News: Communicating Critical Issues in the Field of Advising, transitioned to electronic distribution and advising-related articles were added to reach an expanded audience. The new ePub was offered in two formats: an.htm version and a.pdf version. The electronic edition debuted in June 2002 and enjoyed immediate success.

In 2005, the ezine’s title was changed to Academic Advising Today: Lighting Student Pathways, and the article content was increased; by 2006, Region updates had been transferred to the Region websites and other news had been moved to the Monthly Member Highlights. The unsolicited submission rate grew, and an Editorial Team was formed to review and select articles for publication.

 In 2007, Brad Cunningham asked AAT readers, Digital Native or Digital Immigrant, Which Language Do You Speak? Cunningham serves as an academic advisor for students in Kansas State University’s College of Business Administration, and the verbiage in his question was inspired by the work of education innovator Marc Prensky (2001), creator of the digital native / digital immigrant paradigm. In the proceeding decade, most of us who work in academia had slowly incorporated computer technology into our daily routines and were beginning to understand the power of the Internet, but the onslaught of new tools and mediums that began in 2004 and the burst of new terms describing their use thrust many of us into a state of digital culture shock. For many of us, the term digital immigrant resonated with our struggle to comprehend the “geekspeak” and our concern that, as prophesied by Prensky (2001), we would always be strangers in a strange land, forever marked by our “accent,” with “one foot in the past.”

But even as we pondered Cunningham’s (2007) question, it was becoming obsolete, and members of the AAT Editorial Team reconsidered existing paradigms and discussed format as well as content. Cunningham’s colleague at Kansas State, Michael Wesch (2007), posted The Machine is Us/ing Us to YouTube©, sharing his thoughts about the Internet as not just a place to find information, but as a place where people are being linked in new ways. The homemade video struck a cultural chord; it “went viral” and, to Wesch’s (2008) amazement, within five days (on a “SuperBowl Sunday”!) was at the top of the charts with almost five million viewings; today it has been seen by over 11.6 million viewers. Wesch (2007) followed his initial success later that year with another YouTube posting, A Vision of Students Today, which was shared with NACADA viewers by Jennifer Joslin (NACADA President and AAT Editorial Team member) and Laura Pasquini (Technology in Advising Commission Chair) in a 2011 Webinar, Leading Forward: Technology Planning for Sustainable Advising. Wesch’s continuing exploration of the effects of new media on human interaction has raised new questions that must be considered by all education professionals and has played a role in Prensky’s re-examination of his original digital native / digital immigrant paradigm.

In 2009, Academic Advising Today was given a “facelift” with a new banner and “cleaner” layout. That year, Prensky rethought his earlier work and concluded, 'as we move further into the 21st century...the distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants will become less relevant.” He began to speak of developing “digital wisdom' that transcends “the generational divide defined by the immigrant/native distinction.” In U.S. President Barack Obama, Prensky found an example of the collapse of his native / immigrant paradigm: “Obama, who grew up in the pre-digital era, showed his digital wisdom in enlisting the power of the Internet to enhance both his fundraising ability and his connection with the American people. Understanding that his judgment is enhanced by his ability to get instant feedback from his closest friends and advisors, he has refused to give up his BlackBerry.'

By 2010, Wesch contended that the media environment had developed (and continues to develop) so rapidly that the term digital native no longer made sense, for “there are no natives here.” Many educators from “older generations” began to realize that, because the majority of media platforms have been developed within the past five years, many of us have become more fluent in their “language” than our students. Researchers like Wesch have shown us that a high percentage of traditional college-aged students are not digitally literate. They are on Facebook and exchanging instant messages, and they are highly skilled at entertaining themselves online, but most do not know how to use the tools for educational purposes. The majority have not developed the level of digital literacy they need to function in the world that awaits them.

Wesch (2008) has encouraged educators to “experiment and play” as we seek to use the continuously evolving tools and platforms “in ways that empower and engage students in real world problems and activities… [and] develop much-needed skills in navigating and harnessing this new media environment, including the wisdom to know when to turn it off.” Prensky (2009) suggests, 'As new digital tools appear, especially ones that take hold in a strong way, the digitally wise seek them out actively. They investigate and evaluate the positives as well as the negatives of new tools and figure out how to strike the balance that turns tools into wisdom enhancers.' In a 2010 TEDxTalk, Wesch noted, 'There's no opting out of new media. A new media comes into a society and changes the society as a whole, and we all are a part of those changes; it's not something you can opt out of.' And in a 2011 presentation at The New School in New York City, he exhorted us to move beyond information literacy to digital citizenship.

Clearly, the questions we must ask ourselves have changed in the past five years: What does it mean to be digitally literate? What can we do as advisors and advising administrators to help students develop the technology skills that will be crucial to their future success? How does one become a digital citizen?

Wikipedia (n.d.) defines digital literacy as “the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used,” as well as “a consciousness of the technological forces that affect culture and human behavior.” A digital citizen is a person who uses these digital literacy skills to interact with society. Digital citizens have the ability to access the Internet through computers and mobile devices, and they use their skills to create a digital identity, form a social network, develop an online voice, and take part in the digital community.

Members of the Academic Advising Today Editorial Team have been innovative digital citizens interested in advancing NACADA’s role in the larger digital community, and the current group has been discussing what changes might be needed to keep the ePub current.

 A review of the publication began in 2011, and the decision was made that beginning with the first edition of 2012, the ezine’s name would be Academic Advising Today: Voices of the Global Community in recognition of our association’s strategic goal to “address the needs of higher education globally” (About NACADA, n.d.). As the review continued, it became apparent to the Editorial Team that the publication’s.pdf version, like Prensky’s native / immigrant paradigm, had become outdated. In the decade since the publication went electronic, many are now reading the.htm version on their mobile devices. It was decided that the resources that have been used to develop the.pdf version will be put to better use in exploring opportunities to make future editions more “friendly” to today’s innovators and early adopters, such as increasing mobile device compatibility and considering potential new platforms; thus, the June 2012 edition of AAT, which marked it’s tenth anniversary as an ePub, is the final edition for which a.pdf version was produced.

It has been an honor for me to serve as Academic Advising Today’s Managing Editor for the past seven years, and a joy to work with our many authors and the Editorial Team as we have sought to share innovative ideas and best advising practices with The Global Community for Academic Advising. I look forward to a bright, invigorating future for NACADA’s ezine and the adventures that lie ahead!

Leigh Cunningham
NACADA Assistant Director –Strategic Initiatives
Kansas State University
[email protected]


About NACADA (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/AboutNACADA/index.htm

Cunningham, B. (2007, December). Digital native or digital immigrant, which language do you speak? Academic Advising Today (30)4. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/AAT30-4.htm

Digital citizen. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_citizen

Digital literacy. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_literacy

Joslin, J. & Pasquini, L. (2011, September 14). Leading forward: Technology planning for sustainable advising [Webinar recording]. Available at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Webinars/Recordings/techtalks.htm#TechTalk11_2

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky - Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants - Part1.pdf

Prensky, M. (2009, Feb-Mar). H. Sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate (5)3. Retrieved from

Wesch, M. (2007, January 31). The machine is Us/ing us [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE

Wesch, M. (2007, October 12). A vision of students today [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o

Wesch, M. (2008, July 10). A portal to media literacy [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4yApagnr0s

Wesch, M. (2008, July 26). An anthropological introduction to YouTube [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU

Wesch, M. (2008, October 21). A vision of students today (& what teachers must do). Encyclopedia Britannica Blog [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/a-vision-of-students-today-what-teachers-must-do/

Wesch, M. (2010, February 26). Using technology successfully in the classroom [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZqSTaSWU8E

Wesch, M. (2010, April 12). TEDxNYED presents Michael Wesch [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwyCAtyNYHw

Wesch, M. (2011, November 29). From knowledgable to knowledge-able: Building new learning enviroments for new media environments [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHJp3MbWAhY

The Year in Review: It's Not Just the Tasks; It's the Relationships

Jennifer Joslin, NACADA President

Jennifer Joslin.jpgWhat a year it has been for NACADA and academic advising! In this, our 36th year as a professional organization, NACADA was “Near You” to provide 10 Regional Conferences; two Summer Institutes; a Research Symposium; the Assessment, Persistence, and Administrators’ Institutes; the NACADA/NCAA Seminar; nine Web Events; two editions of the NACADA Journal; and countless articles and features via Academic Advising Today, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, NACADA list-servs and the NACADA Blog, NACADA was widely available to provide important and effective professional development opportunities.

At these events and sites, and through these important initiatives, members discovered more than up-to-date information and valuable best practices. NACADA members connected with colleagues to make a difference for each student that passed through their offices and departments. If there is a lesson I take away from my year as President of this terrific organization, it is that our work in advising focuses on so much more than completing items on our to-do lists or getting our inboxes down to zero. The relationships and skills that we build as we network, connect, share, teach, and learn from one another enrich our profession and students’ lives.“We are responsible to the individuals we advise… we are responsible to our institutions… we are responsible to our educational community…”   – these precepts from the NACADA Core Values stress the importance of developing effective and professional relationships. These words reverberate through the work we are doing in NACADA from the Board of Directors to the daily work of members around the world. 

This year, 2012, NACADA honors two very important relationships we have established. One commitment is celebrating its fifth year of existence and the other is over 22 years old. Both relationships have transformative capabilities to ensure the success of NACADA for years to come.

With this year’s Annual Conference, we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the  Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). ELP was developed by forward-thinking leaders such as Leading Light award winner Skip Crownhart, and a team of Diversity Committee members determined to grow the next generation of NACADA’s leaders. Over 100 Mentors and Leaders have participated in this outstanding diversity effort since 2007.

This year we celebrate and say farewell to a 22-year relationship with Dean Michael Holen of the College of Education at Kansas State University. In 1990, Dean Holen and NACADA formed a partnership to bring the NACADA Executive Office to K-State under the proud sponsorship of the College of Education. It is impossible to overstate the importance of Dean Holen’s leadership and vision to NACADA’s growth and financial stability. Dean Holen’s retirement has led the Board of Directors to extend our “Memorandum of Understanding” with K-State to cement NACADA’s ties to that institution and name the NACADA Pacesetter award in honor of Dean Holen’s outstanding leadership. The Michael C. Holen Pacesetter Award acknowledges critical central administrators whose leadership and vision exemplifies a commitment to academic advising.

Clearly, this has been a productive year. With the close of my term as President, I want to say “thank you” for the opportunity to serve NACADA and its members in this capacity. It has been a wonderful year; one which is sure to be the highlight of my professional career. Thank you, Josh Smith, for being a terrific Vice President! Thank you to the talented Board of Directors, NACADA Council, and all leaders throughout the Divisions. And thank you to Executive Director Charlie Nutt and the entire Executive Office team! Your hard work and dedication are inspiring. The strength of this Association is the tireless efforts from our volunteers combined with the ways in which the NACADA Executive Office complements our volunteers to further the cause of advising around the world.

As we look toward the future, I know NACADA will continue to thrive under the leadership of President Josh Smith and Vice President Joanne Damminger as well as Executive Director Charlie Nutt. I know they will move NACADA forward and that each of you will be actively involved in the work of the Association!

Jennifer Joslin, President, 2011-2012
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Director, Office of Academic Advising, University of Oregon
[email protected]

Time Flies... As NACADA Prospers

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director 

Charlie Nutt.jpgAs President Joslin says in her column, this has been an exciting year for the association in so many ways. Personally, for me, this has been an exciting year as it marks my 10-year anniversary at the NACADA Executive Office. Being a part of the best Executive Office team in all of higher education, having the chance to work with and learn from Executive Director Emeritus Bobbie Flaherty, and working with a wonderful group of NACADA Leaders have all been the best part of my professional career!

In the past 10 years, NACADA has grown to close to 12, 000 members internationally and has dramatically expanded the professional development events and resources offered to our members and to the profession. Through the work of outstanding Presidents and Boards of Directors, the association has made research in the field of academic advising a priority and has expanded the opportunity for professionals in the field to be published and become a part of the field of study. NACADA has in a short time expanded its reach beyond North America to all parts of the globe, resulting in our new tag line NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, and in June 2013 we will co-host the first fully NACADA-sponsored international conference in the Netherlands, co-hosted by Maastricht University. Our reach to advisors across North America has increased through the outstanding work of the Regions, with annual regional conferences reaching over 3,000 professionals each year and being held in nearly every one of the 50 states and many of the Canadian provinces. NACADA has also expanded its reach through a variety of technology initiatives, including Web Events as well as multiple connections through all forms of social media.

But NACADA is far from slowing down! Through the support of the NACADA Board of Directors and the NACADA Finance Committee, the association will be migrating this year to a new association management system and content management system, which will dramatically enhance the services we provide to our members as well as significantly enhance our web site and resources offered through technology to the profession. We have increased significantly the amount of funding we offer for research grants and will continue to make research in the field a priority for the association. And, as always, NACADA will continue to expand our leadership opportunities through very successful initiatives such as the Emerging Leaders Program and strong steering committees at all levels of the association.

This year’s Annual Conference in Nashville is just one more example of the outstanding work that NACADA does for the profession and for our members. Over 3,000 professionals from across the globe will gather to network and learn from each other, to recognize excellence in the field through our NACADA Awards program, and to move NACADA further with the hard work conducted by our leadership in various divisions, committees, advisory boards, and leadership levels. But the most exciting aspect is that NACADA of 2012 continues to grow and expand because of its rich tradition of leadership since our very inception. A clear sign of the success of our association is that each year we continue to see, network with, and learn from some of our very first leaders in the association. Very few other higher education associations in the world can say that they honor their history while marching forward to the future!

I look forward to seeing many of you in Nashville – please continue to let me, the Board of Directors, and the Executive Office staff know what we can do to grow even more over the next decade!

 I can’t close without, as President Joslin did, acknowledging the hard work, support, and resources that NACADA has had through our agreement with Kansas State University and the vision, leadership, and support of Dean Michael Holen. I personally thank him for his support and the association is so fortunate to continue with this level of support from our new Dean, Dr. Debbie Mercer. Both Dr. Holen and Dr. Mercer will be in Nashville, and I hope many of you will take the opportunity to thank them personally for what Kansas State University has meant to our association.

See you in Nashville!

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




Education is a Journey, Not a Commute: A Personal Philosophy of Academic Advising

Liz Murdock LaFortune, University of Notre Dame

“If I take this course, what will it count for?”

LizLaFortune.jpgStudents are fond of asking this question of their academic advisors. On the surface, the inquiry seems harmless enough, but it reflects a broader philosophy of education to which high school students have become indoctrinated. To get into a good college becomes in their minds taking the “right” classes and participating in the “right” activities. However, a university education should be about more than checklists. There is no iPad app that will calculate the “right” journey through an undergraduate’s education, but good choices can prepare students to be competent for the work world or post-graduate study while also broadening their minds and cultivating a passion for questioning and learning. My philosophy of education informs my philosophy of academic advising: Education is a journey, not a commute.

As noted by Hagen and Jordan (2008), Chickering and Reiser’s model of psychosocial development of the college student maintains that students are generally moving from developing competence and managing emotions to autonomy and interdependence in their early years of post-secondary work. As they move through college, students develop mature interpersonal relationships, establish their identities, and begin to develop a sense of purpose. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, they choose classes, pick majors, study abroad, conduct research, and decide what they want to be when they grow up. This is complicated work. This is where an advisor can make a difference.

Since advisors are responsible to the individuals whom we advise (NACADA, Exposition, 2005), we serve as teachers, guides, and companions for students on their journey of education, challenging students to ask questions and reflect on why they are making certain choices: Who are they now and who do they want to become? How do the seemingly small decisions they make when choosing a course or a co-curricular activity shed light on future choices? Why should they care about history or economics if they want to study biochemistry? How can learning in one class enhance mastery in another? What can they create from their portfolios of academic experiences? Good academic advising enables a student to think not only about how to pass the next test, but why mastering the material matters.

Equally important is an advisor’s willingness to listen to the responses to these questions and help students interpret them. Advisors must be honest, well-informed, and skilled at making a student comfortable in our presence. It is important for academic advisors to be knowledgeable about our institutions of higher learning and curricular information, as well as be a good resource for referrals based on individual student needs (NACADA, Exposition, 2005). This skill is essential not to place the advisor in the role of expert, but to gain student confidence and to build a trusting relationship between advisor and student that enriches the student’s learning experience (Brown and Rivas, 1994). Advisors should also understand basic student development theory as well as students’ diverse backgrounds, cultures, and specific academic and personal backgrounds.

The student’s role must be clear from the beginning of an advising relationship; simply put, it cannot be as a passive observer or a mere recipient of information. A student must be the driver of his or her own experience. The University of Notre Dame First Year of Studies expects its students to identify their aspirations and challenges, acquire an understanding of how to navigate the university, be aware of how to seek academic support, and eventually choose the appropriate college and department in which to continue their studies (First Year of Studies). However, the college does not expect nor encourage students to do this alone. The institution provides faculty and staff to serve as guides and companions; it provides advisors whose primary responsibility is to work closely with students to ensure that they have a coherent educational plan for their four years at the university and that they are prepared to be a contributing member of its academic community, while infusing students “with an appreciation for the intrinsic value of education and a sense of responsibility as stewards of knowledge that is created, learned, and applied” on campus (First Year of Studies).

Part of the educational journey must focus on the needs of others. “The University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice” (University of Notre Dame). What happens during the college years matters, not just in informing but in forming a contributing member of society. Academic advising makes such a lofty goal possible.

A commute from first year to graduation relies on good prescriptive advising, but advising for a journey helps students move beyond the box-checking mindset of an entering undergraduate. It challenges them to appreciate the drive, not just the destination. It teaches them to look up and around and take side trips that make the journey richer and more meaningful while still staying on the right path. As Marc Lowenstein (2007) affirms, “an excellent adviser does for students' entire education what the excellent teacher does for a course: helps them order the pieces, put them together to make a coherent whole, so that a student experiences the curriculum not as a checklist of discrete, isolated pieces but instead as a unity, a composition of interrelated parts with multiple connections and relationships.” An excellent advisor is along for the journey.

Liz Murdock LaFortune
Academic Advisor
First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame
[email protected]


Brown, T., & Rivas, M. (1994). The prescriptive relationship in academic advising as an appropriate developmental intervention with multicultural populations. NACADA Journal, 14 (2), 108-111.

First Year of Studies, University of Notre Dame (2012). First year milestones. Retrieved from http://fys.nd.edu/current-students/first-year-milestones/

Habley, T. J. Grites, & Associates. Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.), (pp. 17-35). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hagen, P. L., & Jordan, P. (2008). Theoretical foundations of academic advising. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites, & Associates. Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.), (pp. 17-35). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lowenstein, M. (2007, February 12). The curriculum of academic advising: What we teach, how we teach, and what students learn. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from http://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/proc01ml.htm

NACADA. (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising: Exposition. From the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Core-Values-Exposition.htm

University of Notre Dame. Mission statement. Retrieved from http://www.nd.edu/about/mission-statement/

 Proactive (Intrusive) Advising!

 Jennifer Varney, Chair-Elect, Distance Education Advising Commission

AdvConLogo.jpgEditor’s Note: On September 12, 2012, Jennifer will be joined by current Distance Education Advising Commission Chair Tyann Cherry in a NACADA Webinar to discuss Engaging Online Across Student Populations. Learn more about this upcoming Online Event in the Web Events section of the NACADA website.

JenniferVarney.jpgFive years ago, I wrote an article on Intrusive Advising for this publication (2007). In that article, I described the advising theory and gave some examples of how Intrusive Advising could be used, particularly with at risk students. At the time, I had no idea just how important Intrusive Advising would become in my work and how much the theory might evolve into a framework that can be successfully used with all students: traditional day, continuing education, adult learners, and even online students. Thanks to the work of some committed folks at NACADA, Intrusive Advising is now being called Proactive Advising, a name that does a better job indicating the nature of the model.

Proactive Advising began with the work of Robert Glennen in the mid 1970s. Glennen sought to blend advising and counseling into one discipline, and through the work of a group of voluntary faculty members, began the development of Proactive Advising (Glennen, 1975). The idea behind this new model was to provide students with information before they requested it, while also building a relationship with the student at the same time. Volunteer advisors were given training on advising and counseling, including pre-admission counseling, matriculation, and scheduling. They were also taught to scan new student files for signs of potential distress. Through the combination of focus on the interests, abilities, and goals of the students, the volunteer group was able to connect with students and raise the retention levels of the test group (Glennen, 1975).

Proactive Advising involves:

  • deliberate intervention to enhance student motivation,
  • using strategies to show interest and involvement with students,
  • intensive advising designed to increase the probability of student success,
  • working to educate students on all options, and
  • approaching students before situations develop.

Earl (1988) describes Proactive Advising as a deliberate, structured student intervention at the first indication of academic difficulty in order to motivate the student to seek help. Proactive Advising uses the good qualities of prescriptive advising (experience, awareness of student needs and structured programs) and of developmental advising (relationship to a student’s total needs).

As I learned more about Proactive Advising, I found that I could apply it in all areas of advising: retention, at risk student advising, critical outreach points, and student communication and difficult situations.

Proactive Advising and Retention

Di Maria (2006) observes that research has shown that the more actively engaged students are in all aspects of college life, the more likely they are to learn and stay in school. It sounds like one of the keys to retention is finding ways to engage and connect the students with the school. Proactive advising may be used to help students find these connection points, beginning with their connection to the advisor. Through the use of proactive outreach and a relationship-based approach to advising, students learn that their advisor can be their main connection to the school. Proactive advisors are able to help students determine what kind of obstacles they may be facing along the path to degree completion and help them create plans and short- and long-term goals directed toward overcoming these obstacles. Early alert systems and other methods of identifying students who are potential retention risks can be proactive ways to intervene with students before they ask for help, provide caring and thoughtful support, and give solution options for success.

Proactive Advising and At Risk Students

Molina and Abelman (2000) suggest that approximately 40 percent of students who enroll at four-year institutions fail to earn a degree and nearly 57 percent of this group leave before the start of the second term. Are there at-risk students on all campuses? Absolutely! Proactive advisors are able to work with these students through:

  • early intervention at the first sign of any type of difficulty (risk factors can be identified in the admissions process);
  • introduction of rules, policies and procedures, along with clear explanations and expectations of students;
  • monitoring progress of students to determine how well they are using information provided; and
  • customizing intervention and targeting it specifically toward student needs.

In helping students to identify potential barriers early in their academic careers, proactive advisors are able to help students build solid academic and social foundations that will help the student flourish and progress toward goal attainment.

Proactive Advising and Communication/Critical Outreach Points

An easy way to use Proactive Advising with student communication is to build a communications strategy and plan in which all communications are scheduled around school policies and events, specific supports needed at certain times in the term, and any events on campus or in the local community that might be of interest to students. Developing a communications plan involves:

  • Designing the overall communication strategy
    • What are the goals? Ex: one significant student outreach activity per week
    • Frequency and mode of communication?
    • Student target population per communication?
    • Message topics?
  • Integrating a special communications strategy for new/entering students
    • Include pre-term start, welcome messaging from the advisors
    • Send support materials, webinar recordings
    • Include a series of communications specifically targeted toward these students, with interactions that keep them informed and connected before the term begins
    • Include messaging on change management, finding balance with school and work, etc
  • Creating specific plans for other target student audiences: transfer students, etc.

Proactive Advising and Anticipating Student Challenges

Through the use of proactive advising strategies, advisors may be able to anticipate student challenges and implement plans to keep these challenges from becoming insurmountable. Academic probation, for example, is a challenge that often is pre-empted with warning signs before it becomes a significant obstacle. By monitoring student grades and attendance and keeping in close contact with faculty, proactive advisors are able to work with students to design support systems and academic safety nets, of sorts, to keep students from falling too far into an academic hole from which they cannot recover.

Could fixing academic advising fix higher education? Not completely, but advising may be a good place to start. While advising itself cannot change the curriculum and co-curriculum, it can create a vital connection between students and their education, helping them to become more reflective and strategic about the choice they are making and the learning they are involved in (Hunter & White, 2004).

Through the use of ‘whole student advising’, or taking all of the student actions and behaviors into consideration (academics, social behaviors, level of engagement with the school, interaction with peers, family relations, etc.), proactive advisors are able to intervene early with students and build strong and lasting relationships with them. These relationships form the foundation of a support system that will sustain the student from entry point to goal attainment.

Jennifer Varney
Assistant Dean of Business
College of Online and Continuing Education
Southern New Hampshire University
[email protected]


Abelman, R. & Molina, A. (2002, fall). Style over substance reconsidered: Intrusive advising and at risk students with disabilities. NACADA Journal, 22 (2).

DiMaria, F. (2006, October). Keeping our kids engaged, At-risk kids in college. Education Digest, 72 (2), 52-57. Retrieved February 28, 2007 from EBSCOhost database.

Earl, W.R. (1988). Intrusive advising of freshmen in academic difficulty. NACADA Journal, 8, 27-33.

Glennen, R.E. (1975). Intrusive college counseling. College Student Journal, 9 (1).

 Hunter, M.S., & White, E.R. (2004, March-April).Could fixing academic advising fix higher education? About Campus, 20-25.

Varney, J. (2007, September). Intrusive advising. Academic Advising Today, 30 (3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Intrusive-Advising.aspx

Academic Support for Undergraduate Nursing Students: A Proactive Approach

 Jacqueline R. Klein, New York University College of Nursing

 JackieKlein.jpgIn order to assist with the nursing shortage, it is critical that educators focus on developing strategies for academic success and retention for students who are enrolled in undergraduate nursing programs (Jeffreys, 2007). The rigor of nursing programs causes students to experience a high level of stress and thus meet with their advisors more often than other majors (Harrison, 2009). The intense academic curriculum causes baccalaureate students to experience stress related to academic, clinical, and personal issues (Del Prato et al., 2011). As a result, the interactions that nursing students tend to have with advisors are more frequent than students enrolled in other majors (Harrison, 2009) and more focused on support with academic challenges and career advisement than discussions about course scheduling (Gasper, 2009).

Bosley, Miller, and Novak (2011) discussed the additional stressors that pre-nursing college students face prior to entering their major, including the competitive admission criteria and maintaining high grade point averages. Furthermore, there are other sets of pressures that nursing students experience once they begin their nursing courses (Bosley et al.).

Undergraduate nursing students are traditionally held to higher standards than many other majors (Harrison, 2009). At a number of institutions, nursing students are required to earn a minimum passing grade of a C in all nursing courses to progress to the next semester of courses. Additionally, students who earn below a 2.0 cumulative GPA for one semester may be placed on warning or probation. Failure of a second or the same nursing course twice (Jeffreys, 2007) or earning below a 2.0 cumulative GPA for the second consecutive semester may result in dismissal from the program.

Proactive Advising Strategies

All students are able to benefit from support strategies before they begin their major courses through their professional coursework regardless of academic performance (Jeffreys, 2007). However, strategies for empowering nursing students to manage academic stress beyond typical models are needed (Del Prato et al., 2011). Bosley, Miller, and Novak (2011) describe anticipatory guidance as a means to assist pre-nursing students with being prepared to effectively manage stress prior to taking courses in their major. Students are able to learn realistic expectations before they start their major and healthy mechanisms for coping with stress when they begin their nursing courses (Bosley et al.)

A proactive advising approach is similar to anticipatory advising since it provides students with mechanisms for support prior to becoming in jeopardy. A benefit of the approach is that it can be utilized by undergraduate students who are already taking nursing courses. The goals are (1) to provide proactive academic support opportunities for success and (2) to identify students who are at academic risk early and encourage participation in support programs.

Examples of Proactive Advising

Del Prato et al. (2011) recommend numerous proactive learning strategies to decrease the level of stress that nursing students experience. The advising approach that will be discussed includes a variety of academic support programs outside of the typical one on one advising meetings. The tendency of students who enter their first semester of nursing courses to underestimate the rigor of the program may place the students at risk for unsatisfactory performance (Jeffreys, 2007). Additionally, participation in clinicals has been identified as one of the largest stressors for nursing students (Del Prato et al., 2011). One of the most valuable support programs is an orientation for students entering their first semester of clinical courses. Such an orientation allows students to feel more prepared and less anxious about attending their first week of clinicals in hospital or agency settings. The orientation may include students hearing from key individuals involved in their clinical nursing courses including deans and the director of the Simulation Center, and faculty expectations about clinicals. Students should also be reminded about the health clearance requirements needed prior to beginning their clinicals, the appropriate attire, and necessary nursing instruments. It is helpful for students to learn from advisors about grade requirements for successful academic progression in their nursing courses and learn strategies for balancing the coursework and clinical experiences from a panel of students who are further along in their program.

Tutoring has been found to be another proactive measure for nursing students (Del Prato et al., 2011; Jeffreys, 2007) to improve understanding of course content (Del Prato et al.). It is recommended that tutoring sessions be offered weekly and led by an experienced master’s prepared faculty member. The faculty member should be in continuous contact with the course instructors so he or she is aware of the content in which students need assistance.

Peer mentorship programs have been found to contribute to student academic success and retention while reducing student anxiety and stress (Dorsey & Baker, 2004; Del Prato et al., 2011; Jeffreys, 2007). A peer advising program can be used to connect students who are early on in the nursing curriculum with students who are in their last semester of nursing courses. Students often feel more comfortable addressing their concerns with a peer who has gone through similar experiences than an advisor or instructor (Del Prato et al.).

Advising centers can also support students by providing workshops specifically designed for the needs of nursing students (Jeffreys, 2007). Topics may include time management, academic study skills, test taking strategies, and career development.

The proactive advising programs provided are encouraged to be utilized by students prior to being identified as at academic risk. However, it is critical to identify students who do encounter academic difficulties early so that interventions can be implemented to assist students in being successful (Jeffreys, 2007). It is suggested that advisors work with nursing faculty members to identify students who may be struggling starting with obtaining a list of students who did not pass the first exam of the semester. Advisors should then outreach to the at-risk students to offer support. Some programs may mandate that students meet with their advisors on a bi-weekly basis as a check-in to discuss academic progress. Advisors should also encourage students to take advantage of the academic support services provided including tutoring, workshops, and peer advising programs (Jeffreys).

It is critical for advisors to implement proactive strategies for nursing students to manage stress early on in the program. The result of a proactive advising approach is that students have the opportunity to take advantage of the academic support right away rather than reactively, which leads to student success.

Jacqueline R. Klein
Director, Office of Academic Advising & Learning Development
New York University College of Nursing
[email protected]


Bosley, C. L., Miller, S. M., & Novak, A. L. (2011). Anticipatory guidance as an advising strategy for pre-nursing students. Academic Advising Today, 34 (4). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Anticipatory-Guidance-as-an-Advising-Strategy-for-Pre-nursing-Students.aspx

Del Prato, D., Bankert, E. Grust, P., & Joseph, J. (2011). Transforming nursing education: A review of stressors and strategies that support students’ professional socialization. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 2, 109-116.

Dorsey, L. E., & Baker, C. M. (2004). Mentoring undergraduate nursing students: Assessing the state of the science. Nurse Educator, 29 (6), 260-265.

Gasper, M. L. (2009). Building a community with your advisees. Nurse Education, 34 (2), 88-94.

Harrison, E. (2009). What constitutes good academic advising? Nursing students perceptions of academic advising. Journal of Nursing Education, 48 (7), 361-366.

Jeffreys, M. R. (2007). Tracking students through program entry, progression, graduation, and licensure. Assessing undergraduate nursing student retention and success. Nursing Education Today, 27, 406-419.

Assisting Struggling Students out of STEM Disciplines and Toward Success

Rachael Switalski, Probation / Dismissal / Reinstatement Issues Interest Group Member

Rachael Switalski.jpgIn September, students come back to college after summer break looking for a fresh start in the new academic year. In academia, advisors have a bit of a break during the slower summer term, but as students start returning for the fall, they are met with a slew of emails from panicked students who were put on academic probation or academically dismissed due to poor scholarship at the end of the previous year, all trying to find out: “what happens now?”

These students return to school dealing with the almost incomprehensible idea that they have failed at something academically, possibly for the very first time in their young lives. Having successfully avoided contemplating their future over the summer, they are hit with reality when it is time to move back to campus. Some students are coming up to a brick wall and realizing that maybe a particular major isn’t right for them, or maybe even that college isn’t right for them at this point in time, and some just know they need help, but not what kind or how to find it.

With guidance, academic gamesmanship workshops, and help with study skills, some students are able to get back on track, but there are a significant number of students who simply won’t be able to rally. There are always multiple reasons that students will fail: trouble at home, problems with a roommate, illness, mental health concerns, transition, academic ability, and the ever-prevalent party-itis.

In STEM disciplines, advisors often see students who have “always wanted to be” a physicist, mathematician, engineer, or another STEM major, who simply can’t do the work. As an advisor, there is very little that is more frustrating and heartbreaking than students who want to be successful, who really, sincerely try to improve their skills, but aren't successful and won’t give up the dream that they came to college with.

Most people who work in advising do so because they want to help students in one way or another. Very few advisors would take satisfaction from saying to a student “You are simply not smart enough to be in this major.” That is certainly an exaggeration of what might occur, but it is hard to be helpful to a student who insists (over and over again) that they can do it this time, because this time is ever so different than the last time they were given a second chance.

Students choose majors for varying reasons; reasons run from “my guidance counselor told me I should,” through “both of my parents majored in this” or “my friends told me I could make a lot of money with this degree” and into “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.” Rarely do students in academic difficulty say “I participated in clubs in high school, went to summer camp to practice this, and have been working a summer job for two years at X company to gain experience.” Though of course those students are out there, very rarely are they the students who are in over their heads academically.

What advisors want to do, for both retention purposes and because it’s in the very nature of being an advisor, is to help a struggling student find a new path. When a student leaves the advising office with purpose, a new goal in mind, and a plan, even if that student is changing their major or leaving a university to spend time at a community college, the advising session was a success.

With most students, the key to helping them make the transition lies in the root of their major selection. If an advisor can find the key behind the insistence that this is “the only major for me,” usually another option can be found that will satisfy the student to some degree. Does the math major really just want to teach? Does the engineering student like to work with her hands? Does the computer science major want to work in a start-up company?

Whatever is behind the student’s major choice can be used to help the student find another path. Students often have very little understanding of how broad a university’s major offerings are and because of that, they don’t see what other options there are for them. Advisors specific to one major may not know details of other majors that are offered, but with general knowledge of what other majors are available they can help a student discuss other majors and begin to lean in one direction or another.

Every advisor knows that all students won’t follow this equation. There are students who will throw themselves against the wall of calculus, physics, and chemistry until they are truly defeated and dismissed from the university with no further options. Part of what every advisor has to learn is to accept that separation from the university is really the best thing for those students. Anything that will force the student to step back and look at their intent with new eyes, or help the student come to grips with the fact that it just isn’t working, is going to help that student grow as a person. They won’t be growing in that particular major, and maybe not even at the same university, but moving on will make them a better, happier, and hopefully more successful person in their adult life.

There are ups and downs in the academic year, and while the fall every year is full of excitement and new faces eager to begin the next step in their lives, it is also often fraught with the disappointment and frustration of returning students who are trying to deal with their failure and change gears before it’s too late. Advisors ride the waves of emotions with their students; they celebrate their successes and help them deal with failure.

As advisors whose job it is to help students succeed, it is important to remember that there is actually little that is more rewarding than to see a student accept failure, acknowledge that the road they are walking isn’t the right road, and begin to look ahead in another direction with a new feeling of hope and excitement.

Rachael Switalski
Director, Undergraduate Advising Center
College of Engineering
Drexel University
[email protected]


Career Decision Making in a Brief Advising Context: Yes We Can!


Tim Kirkner and Julie Levinson, Montgomery College


Career decision making can be complicated and overwhelming for both students and advisors. How many times have we had a student drop in during walk-in advising hours hoping for a quick fix to his/her career decision making dilemma? With a sense of urgency and impatience, they want to decide the rest of their lives in the span of a half hour. To the other extreme, many appear otherwise preoccupied, seemingly unmotivated or paralyzed in making choices regarding major and/or career.

Since many students come from an environment in which they are told what to take in order to complete their high school requirements, it is no wonder that they come to us with unreasonable expectations and a desire for “prescriptive” guidance. Whether the inability to adequately resolve their decision-making predicament stems from conditioning in high school, individual temperament or from some external source (e.g., family members or institutional pressure), we need to be equipped to assist our students with moving plans forward.

Crunched for time and knowing resolution will require us to roll up our sleeves and go in deep, often our instinct is to refer to other college resources, such as a career development class or the career services office. It comes as no surprise then that many advisors express some apprehension with wandering into the realm of career counseling during peak advising times. Yet, as we all know, the process of solving career problems is intertwined intrinsically with developing sound academic plans and naturally spills over into the academic advising arena.

With added institutional pressure to have students complete efficiently, there is an even greater need to provide students engaged in career decision making with the tools to move in a more positive, productive direction. How do we go about assisting our students in their unrealistic quest to make a “right,” “best” or “lasting” decision in a brief advising session? In this article, we will highlight several career concepts and decision making strategies that are useful for working with students in this context.

Current career development theories tend to emphasize career adaptability as an essential skill since vocational planning typically does not occur in a logical or linear fashion. This construct supports what we already know about our students’ process for choosing majors and/or selecting a career path. Many start off with one program of study only to discover that they are better suited for something completely different, or with little exposure to the larger world of work, did not even know a major or occupation existed. How many pre-med students have we seen that quickly discover they have no interest in biology, blood, or staying in school for years and accruing massive amounts of debt? For that matter, how many of us knew we were going to be advisors until much later in our academic career?

Taking this into account, we can lessen the pressure for ourselves, as well as our students, by presenting career decision making not as a single decision made in a brief encounter, but instead a lifelong, developmental process. Doing so, we help students resist the urge to map out the perfect, detailed plan and emphasize the value of letting plans develop and unfold more gradually. It also buys time for students to incorporate new information and capitalize on experiences gained during their college years.

The Happenstance Learning theory provides an ideal framework for teaching this perspective on career planning (Krumboltz, 1999). Krumboltz and Levin’s book (2004) offers a quick primer on planned happenstance and includes stories, thought-provoking questions and exercises that can be incorporated into advising conversations. Using a planned happenstance approach, we can more effectively shift students’ focus from formulating plans and making a decision to being more adaptable and open-minded. As a result, we foster resilience and promote positive attitudes about the uncertainty they may be feeling about their future.

H.B. Gelatt (2003) presents a similar paradoxical approach to career planning with his notion of “positive uncertainty.” He also calls attention to the non-rational processes that underlie career decision-making. Several vocational psychologists, including Gelatt, have pointed out the important role of emotion and intuition in making significant life decisions. Researchers (Dijksterhuis, 2006) have demonstrated people make better decisions if, at some point, they stop thinking about the pros and cons and let the unconscious mind do some of the work. So in fact, “contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not always advantageous to engage in thorough conscious deliberation before choosing” (p. 1,005).

Following the same line of thinking, Sheena Iyengar (2010) noted the key to making decisions about future happiness is to use 'informed intuition,' which is where reason and the gut intersect. Malcolm Gladwell described a similar process in Blink (2007), which he termed “rapid cognition.” Similarly, in How We Decide (2009), Jonah Lehrer examined this phenomenon by looking at the inner workings of the brain as it impacts our decision making strategies. All three books offer insights into others ways we can assist students stymied by the decision making process in a relatively quick manner.

We can infer from Iyengar that students will be more successful with making significant decisions if they effectively inform their gut over time by making smaller, incremental decisions. Once we determine that a student may simply be stuck at a decision making point, but otherwise has reasonably sufficient self-knowledge to make an informed decision, we can give them the confidence to rely more on their gut. To that end, the decision grid is an exceptionally useful tool for helping students make a decision during a brief session.

The decision grid draws information out simultaneously from the logical and non-rational sides of the brain. Instead of simply asking students to list the pros and cons of a particular option they are considering, we ask them to go a step further by rating on a plus/minus scale of 0-10 how positive or negative they perceive the pro or con to be. Doing so we can account for the student's subjective experience as weighed by emotion. Completing the decision grid in concert with another person, such as an advisor or friend, gives the student an opportunity to dialogue and process in order to better explain how his/her intuitive side came to inform the decision. It also opens up the possibility for creative, out-of-the-box thinking that may lead the student to feel less stalled by either coming to a decision or generating new possibilities.

Iyengar also calls attention to another common decision making pitfall -- paralysis due to too many choices. She and many others have described the toll that too much choice can have on our students. In fact, Barry Schwartz (2004) cautions of choice overload. More opportunities for choice means: 1) decisions require more effort; 2) making mistakes is more likely; and 3) the psychological consequences of mistakes may be more severe. (Both argue that having less choice can actually have counterintuitive benefits for psychological wellbeing.)

They would also likely make the case that our task as advisors is to narrow down the options and make the process of choosing more manageable. The decision grid can again be used to help students narrow choice down to accomplish this task. Typically the first step is to simply ask the student to identify the specific decision they are trying to make. Instead of deciding on their major, we help them chunk the decision into smaller parts, such as 'which classes could you take next semester that may help you clarify interests.'

Another strategy Schwartz (2002) suggests is encouraging students to be “satisficers,” not “maximizers.” In essence, we teach them to choose something that meets the general requirements instead of searching for the “best” option. With all this in mind we can help students develop a timeline by which incremental decisions can be made. By alerting students to significant decision making milestones, we can help them resist “maximizing” tendencies and reduce the anxiety that they have somehow “missed the boat.” For example, an advising syllabus can direct students to certain key junctures, such as “where should I be after my first semester or year?” Several examples of academic advising syllabi are available in NACADA’s Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.

Hopefully we have demonstrated that it is possible to assist students even during a brief session. By pointing out to students that time really is on their side and exploration is possible and even desirable, we can help reduce stress as they plan out their futures. Showing that the “best” option in the student’s mind is not the only option, and may even be detrimental, can lead to even more satisfying selections. By encouraging decisions using “informed intuition” students can increase their comfort with the decisions they have made and will make. They will also have an explanation for others as to why they have made certain choices.

Finally, if nothing else can be accomplished in a brief session, we can at least acknowledge the difficult nature of career decision making. Peterson, Sampson, Reardon & Lenz (2003) summarize the complexity by stating “students are often faced with ambiguous information, a range of conflicting feelings, multiple options with no single correct choice, and an uncertainty about the outcome. Additionally, finding a solution or making a decision typically creates new problems.” A key aspect of their Cognitive Information Processing model is that students can be taught to solve career problems just as they can learn to solve math or chemistry problems. Ultimately, they stress the importance of teaching improved decision making skills in order to bridge “where students are and where they want to be” -- a perfect thought with which to begin our career decision making conversations with students.

Tim Kirkner
Professor and Counselor
Montgomery College
[email protected]

Julie Levinson
Associate Professor and Counselor
Montgomery College
[email protected]


Academic advising syllabi. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web Site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/syllabus101.htm.

Dijksterhuis, Ap, Bos, Maarten W., Nordgren, Loran F., van Baaren, Rick B. (2006). On making the right choice: the deliberation-without-attention effect. Science, 311, 1005-1007.

Gelatt, C. and Gelatt, H.B. (2003). Creative decision making: Using positive uncertainty. Thomson Crisp Learning, Los Altos, CA.

Gladwell, M. (2007). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. Back Bay Books: New York, NY.

Iyengar, S. (2010). The art of choosing. Twelve: New York, NY.

Jacob, M.C. (1987). Managing the internship application experience: Advice form an exhausted but content survivor. The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (1), 146-155

Krumboltz, J.D. and Levin, A.S. (2004). Luck is no accident: Making the most of happenstance in your life and career. Impact Publishers: Atascadero, CA.

 Krumboltz, J.D., Levin, A.S., and Mitchell, K. (1999). Planned happenstance: Constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling and Development, 77 (2), 115-124.

Lehrer, J. (2009). How we decide. Houghton Mifflin: Boston, MA.

Peterson, G. W., Sampson, J. P., Jr., & Reardon, R. C., & Lenz, J. G. (2003). Core concepts of a cognitive approach to career development and services. Unpublished manuscript, Florida State University, Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development, Tallahassee, FL. Retrieved from http://www.career.fsu.edu/techcenter/ designing_career_services/basic_concepts/index.html

Schwartz, B. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83 (5), 1178–1197. Retrieved from http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bschwar1/srp.html

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why less is more. Harper Perennial: New York, NY.

Pushed Across the Finish: One University's Success in Helping Students Complete Their Degrees Despite Obstacles

James Ofsink and Becki Hunt Ingersoll, Portland State University


University Context

One of the greatest joys as an academic advisor is watching students who we have guided along the way cross the stage at Commencement. But at an urban university where six-year graduation rates of first-time, full-time freshmen are only 34.8% and five-year rates even lower, a large number of our advisees may not ever get there.


After decades of low graduation and retention rates, Portland State University charged the First Steps to Student Success Committee to investigate the causes and develop strategies to improve these rates. As a result, several initiatives were put forth, including a one million dollar investment to increase advising capacity. Thirteen advisers were hired across campus, nearly doubling current advising staff and adding professional advisors in schools/colleges where there had previously been none. These additional resources would allow the university to take action and implement programs, such as mandatory orientation and first-year advising that would be critical to student success.

Identifying the Problem

Anecdotal evidence suggested that students were stopping out within mere credits of completing their degree. Many advisers could relay stories of students calling to say “I walked in Commencement, but didn’t actually finish,” years, even decades later. The reasons why may have varied, but in many cases the students mentioned the desire to come back and finish but “life got in the way.” It was as if they needed someone to encourage them, to nudge them across the finish line.

Birth of the Last Mile Committee

In June 2010, the Last Mile Committee was formed with representatives from across campus (Degree Requirements, Undergraduate Advising, Student Financial Aid, Business Affairs, academic units, and the Faculty Senate President). This cross-departmental collaboration would allow the committee to help students address both academic deficiencies and financial concerns. To that effect, the committee was granted authority to override graduation requirements which were typically approved through a university petition in an effort to facilitate the process and avoid losing the students in bureaucracy. Additionally, $50,000 in tuition remissions was offered, enough to cover one course for 100 students for whom finances were a barrier to degree completion. The committee was charged with graduating 50 students in its inaugural year.

Rubber to the Road

The committee chose to focus on undergraduates who applied to graduate in Fall 2005 or later but were not awarded the degree and had not attended for at least two quarters. (Note: Degree cancellation information was not maintained prior to Fall 2005, so the intention was not to disallow students prior to that date from being considered, but they were not easily identifiable.) Demographic information and other pertinent characteristics were provided for 768 students, and review of this information confirmed some intuitions and surprised others. Students of color (particularly African-American and Native American students) were overrepresented in the cohort. The vast majority of students were in good academic standing and most did not have financial issues with the university.

Degree audits were manually reviewed by advisors in the applicable departments. This level of deliberation and analysis gave advisors a rich and holistic picture of the student’s situation and options before making contact. Given the number of students in the cohort, initial efforts were to reach out to those who had 15 or fewer credits remaining to complete the degree -- the low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

Student Communication

Contacting students who have been gone for at least 6 months is no easy endeavor. University email addresses had been inactivated, phone numbers were often outdated, and physical mail was unreliable. Some advisors tracked down students on Facebook© or through other networks. In emails and voicemails advisors used non-specific wording and asked for the student to contact them to avoid imparting sensitive information to anyone other than the student.

Early in the process of contacting students, it became clear that a major challenge was lack of communication and information availability between offices. With many university employees engaged in the project from different physical locations and functional alignments, there was some amount of getting in each other’s way and stepping on toes. To better facilitate communication, the committee developed a simple database system to track who had contacted each student and record the content of each interaction. With this information it became much easier to provide a seamless experience to the student, even when multiple offices and individuals were required to resolve a particular issue (e.g. academic adviser, financial aid counselor, collections officer).

Early Successes

When students could be reached, the interactions with advisers were often memorable. In most cases, only minor adjustments were needed -- a change of major, dropping a minor, or taking one additional course. One student whose husband was serving overseas was contacted with this news and encouragement, and she was ecstatic (see her story at: http://vimeo.com/24244856).

Initial results varied by department, but overall were very positive. At the one year mark in June 2011, 130 students had graduated as a result of Last Mile Committee work, well above the target goal of 50 students. In addition, only $4,200 of the tuition remissions offered were spent. The success of the first year inspired media attention and prompted some students, including some who had left prior to 2005, to contact the committee. A second cohort of 221 students was added after the first year and as of August 2012, there are a total of 260 additional PSU alumni through the committee’s work.

Lessons Learned

From its inception, the goal of the Last Mile project was to not create a standing committee but to investigate what the university could do to avoid attrition close to graduation. As such, we aim to implement best practices that were discovered in the process. Where possible, departmental advising staff will work to case manage student graduations, checking for proper registration in the final term(s) of enrollment and following up afterwards to check completion. Business Affairs has hired a retention specialist to work with students who are considering dropping out due to financial concerns. A future goal is to reach out to students who have an excess of credits who have not yet earned their degree. The largest take-away from the committee’s work thus far is that the inability to navigate university bureaucracy deters student graduation. With institutional support, resources can be aligned to proactively contact students with options to overcome graduation impediments and they are willing to do so. With just this little bit of direction we empower students to finally cross the finish line.

Becki Hunt Ingersoll
Associate Director
Advising & Career Services
Portland State University
[email protected]

James Ofsink
Assistant Director
Student Financial Aid & Scholarships
Portland State University
[email protected]


2012-14 NACADA 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 Annual Conferences. 

E:PersOnYouTube.jpgMembers of the Emerging Leaders Classes currently serve, have served, or have been elected/appointed to serve as Region 7 Chair, Region 8 Chair, Multicultural Concerns Commission Chair, GLBTA Concerns Commission Chair, Two-Year Colleges Commission Chair, Advising Transfer Students Commission Chair, Small Colleges and Universities Commission Chair, Faculty Advising Commission Chair, Canada Interest Group Chair, Native American and Tribal College Interest Group Chair, New Advising Professionals Interest Group Chair, Ethics & Legal Issues in Advising Interest Group Chair, Membership Committee Chair, Diversity Committee Chair, Member Career Services Committee Chair, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair, and Webcast Advisory Board Chair. Emerging Leaders have served or are serving on the Awards Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Finance Committee, the Membership Committee, the Member Career Services Committee, the Professional Development Committee, the Research Committee, the Webinar Advisory Board, the Annual Conference Advisory Board, the Summer Institute Advisory Board, the Administrators Institute Advisory Board, the Publications Advisory Board, the AACSS Advisory Board, and the Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board. One Emerging Leader initiated the Interest Group for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A number of Emerging Leaders have presented (some with their Mentors) at Regional and Annual Conferences, and several have served on Region or Conference Steering Committees. One served as the Exhibits Chair for the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio, and another as Chair of the 2010 Annual Conference in Orlando. Emerging Leaders have written for Academic Advising Today and NACADA monographs, taken part in Webinar broadcast presentations, and been awarded NACADA Research Grants. Emerging Leaders also report that they have become more involved at their home institutions. One said, “We’ve taken what we’ve learned through the program back to our home school. This program has not only made an impact on NACADA, but also on the institutions where the NACADA ELP participants work.”  To learn more about the contributions of our first five ELP Classes, visit the Program homepage and watch the video of their accomplishments (posted above and also available on the NACADA YouTube channel ).

The 2010-2012 Emerging Leaders and Mentors, who began work at the 2010 Annual Conference in Orlando, have been diligently pursuing their goals over the past two years and look forward to receiving their Certificates of Completion at this year's Conference in Nashville, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board ChairSandy Waters (Old Dominion University) is pleased to announce the 2012-2014 NACADA Emerging Leaders and Mentors.

Emerging Leaders

Terri Baker (Drexel University)
Sonia Esquivel (US Air Force Academy)
Ana Frega (Laramie County Community College)
Amy Korthank Gabaldon (University of Iowa)
Lisa Haas (American Intercontinental University-Online)
Vanessa Harris (University of New Mexico)
Meghan Ingstrup (Brookdale Community College)
Erin Justyna Hayes (Texas Tech University)
Hyun-Soon Kong (University of Manitoba)
Scott Vaughn (East Tennessee State University)


Karen Archambault (Brookdale Community College)
Rebecca Daly Cofer (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College)
Deb Dotterer (Michigan State University)
Shelly Gehrke (Emporia State University)
Judi Haskins (Montana State University)
Laura Pasquini (University of North Texas)
Susan Poch (Washington State University)
Wanda Reyes-Dawes (Manchester Community College)
Jo Stewart (Brock University)
Bill Torgler (The University of Akron)

New Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Nashville 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.

Visit the Emerging Leaders Program website for more information.

Constructivist Foundations for Academic Advising

Philosophically Thinking

Advisors often claim to be pragmatists, always looking for practical applications to their profession. They may believe that academic advising is common sense that can be studied and learned and perfected with experience alone. Culler (1997) argues that what we might call “common sense” is in actuality “a historical construction, a particular theory that has come to seem so natural to us that we don't even see it as a theory.” (p. 4) Pragmatism is based on the belief that the human capacity to theorize is necessary for intelligent practice. A pragmatist, therefore, believes that theory is abstracted from experience but then must be reapplied to further inform practice. Thus, practice and theory are cyclical and dependent upon each other.

Constructivist Philosophy

When we share the same basic understanding of the underlying theory, it is easier to collaborate on developing strategies, techniques and resources. Although we do not yet have a unified theory of advising, we propose that constructivism offers an archetypal philosophy that influences all practice and theory. It provides us with a foundation necessary to develop exemplary advising strategies and techniques that work with our student populations as well as a framework upon which any theory of advising may be hung.

Ernst Von Glasersfeld (1990) deemed Jean Piaget as “the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing.” Piaget was an educational philosopher who believed learners create knowledge for themselves by taking a new concept or idea and linking it to something they already know, understand, or believe. The simplest definition of constructivism, which Von Glasersfeld called “trivial” or “personal” constructivism, was that “Knowledge is actively constructed by the learner, not passively received from the environment.” In other words, no matter what is provided to learners in terms of instruction, students must take that input and construct their own meaning for it or it will not be understood, learned or retained.

Constructivism and Academic Advising

Constructivism lays the foundation for the current and historical theories and practices. For example, Crookston (1972) coined the term “developmental advising” and proposed that advising is related to teaching. Crookston further proposed that the advisor and student develop the relationship together by incorporating interpretation, problem-solving, decision-making, and evaluation skills. According to Crookston, students must construct their own journey, with advisor assistance, through the academic labyrinth. Perry’s Theory of Intellectual Development (1970) influenced the early thinking about developmental advising. Perry believed that the way we think about things is shaped by how we view our past experiences. His theory describes the intellectual positions, along a continuum, through which we create and process meaning. Perry’s theory is based on a constructivist philosophy whereby intellectual development is influenced by the individual’s meaning-making process.

 Another example of a theory with constructivist underpinnings is hermeneutics. Champlin-Scharff (2010) introduced Heidegger’s theory of hermeneutics as ' .... a hermeneutically informed understanding involves recognition of the idea that meaning is not something contained “out there” in the world, but is ultimately dependent on how one makes sense of what is experienced. Meaning is not an objective property to be uncovered but the result of individual interpretation' (p. 34).

Bloom (2008) developed an approach to advising she termed “Appreciative Advising.” The advisor gathers information about the strengths, dreams, and goals of students, completely allowing them to share their own background and context for their meaning for experiences to date. The advisor applies a constructivist philosophy from the very beginning of the appreciative advising relationship.

Kincanon (2009) proposed that students come to the advising relationship with “life experiences that shape their context for interpreting and understanding their learning” and uses this theory to explain self-authorship. Although students from the same culture may come with similar, recognizable stories, the advisor must appreciate the individuality of all students’ experiences and help them construct personal meaning and how those experiences have shaped their current desires and goals.


These are just a few examples of the constructivist philosophy evident in advising approaches and theories considered foundational to the advising practice. We challenge the advising community to consider any and all theories and practices related to advising to determine if the basics of constructivism are there. A constructivist philosophy offers a common framework from which to hang the theories on advising and ultimately the development of exemplary strategies and techniques for the advising professional.

Sarah Champlin-Scharff
Chair, NACADA Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission
Director of Administration
Department of the History of Science
Harvard University
[email protected]

Terry Musser
DUS Programs Coordinator
College of Agricultural Sciences
Penn State University
[email protected]

Shannon Burton
Assistant Ombudsperson, Office of the Ombudsperson
Undergraduate Academic Advisor, The School of Hospitality Business
Michigan State University
[email protected]


Bloom, J. (2008). Moving on from college. In: Gordon, V.N., Habley, W.R., Grites, T.J. and Associates (Eds) Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook, Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Champlin-Scarff, S. (2010). A field guide to epistemology in academic advising research. Scholarly Inquiry in Academic Advising, Hagen, P.L., Kuhn, T. L. and Padak, G.M. (Eds). NACADA Monograph Number 20.

Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12 - 17.

Culler, J. (1997). Literary theory: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Kincanon, K. (2009). Translating the transformative: Applying transformational and self-authorship pedagogy to advising undecided/exploring students. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:

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

Von Glasersfeld, E. (1990) An exposition of constructivism: Why some like it radical. In R.B. Davis, C.A. Maher and N. Noddings (Eds), Constructivist views on the teaching and learning of mathematics (pp 19-29). Reston, Virginia: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Sparkler.jpg It 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 [email protected].  

TStringwell-Farr.jpghis edition’s SPARKLER comes from Amy Stringwell (Heartland Community College).

Amy Stringwell, who serves as the Coordinator of Student Recruitment at Heartland Community College, is also a graduate student in Illinois State University’s College Student Personnel and Administration program. As part of a year-long practicum experience, Amy worked closely withTeri Farr, academic advisor in ISU’s department of Sociology and Anthropology. At ISU, Amy tells us, many majors have their own careers course as a required class, designed to spark career exploration and get students thinking about how to use their transferable skills in the job search and beyond. However, Anthropology majors did not have this type of class, despite the fact that they are increasingly bombarded with an array of options: graduate school, joining the workforce, internships, and field schools. They often sought guidance from faculty and advisors, but as the major grew, Farr recognized the need for a more systematic approach to career guidance and tasked Amy with designing a series of two workshops to engage students in the career exploration process.

Amy says, “I began by researching career development strategies, including practical applications from Lindsay Pollak and also theoretical approaches from theorists such as Terry O’Banion. I looked at numerous syllabi for similar courses, and I also sought input from faculty and current students.' From what she learned, Amy designed a “Careers and Pathways with Anthropology” workshop that stresses the importance of discovering workplace values and provides helpful tips for navigating the job search process. She also engaged staff from the on-campus Career Center to create a dually-presented “Interview Skills and Resume Critiques” workshop. In her work at Heartland Community College, Amy says, “I see a large majority of students who enter college undecided (and unprepared) for the decisions we are asking them to make about a major or career path. O’Banion’s theory has influenced my advising philosophy and shown me that assisting students with developing their values and life goals should come first, the, work backward to build a plan of study.” Amy offers the following advice to advisors wishing to spark their own career exploration workshops or update existing career development curriculum: (1)Seek help:this is the perfect project for a graduate student or career center intern. Seek an individual who can be trusted to take this idea and enthusiastically run with it. (2)When and Where:The workshop format worked for this campus and this major. Can career development be injected into an existing freshman or senior seminar course? Are there other avenues that can be used to engage students? (3)Use social media:utilizing the Facebook© group page for the Anthropology majors made marketing and recruiting students to attend the workshops easy and fun. (4)Bring the career center to the students:Amy learned from the students that they feared the Career Center would not be able to assist them, and felt that traditional career services were not applicable to them, or that they would not be understood coming from a liberal arts major. By bringing a career center representative to them, the workshop assisted with the integration process between academics and career for these liberal arts majors. For more information, please contact Amy at [email protected].

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