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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Revisiting the Four Challenges

David Spight, NACADA President

David Spight.jpgNearly a year ago, as your president I challenged you to get engaged in your profession, to get engaged in your association, to become a scholar-practitioner, and to learn multiple approaches to advising.  I was asking you to consider these challenges through a lens focused on improving our profession.  The end goal of course being that through improving our profession, we would positively affect the lives of our students.  Some of the association’s efforts, (i.e. developing a research center) are a reflection of the priority being placed on research and leadership sustainability these past few years as part of that same end goal of improving our profession.

In addition to research and leadership sustainability, NACADA has also been focused on diversity and inclusivity.  Some of the tragic events from the past year, the statements from candidates running for office, and a variety of other news stories can sometimes make it feel like we have so far to go to achieving our desired results.  It seemed timely for us to consider why the four challenges I asked of you are a necessary part of how we strive for diversity and inclusivity.

Get engaged in this profession.  Getting engaged in your profession includes becoming culturally competent.  It means learning more about the variety of student populations you advise so that you might provide the appropriate levels of support and challenge to help them be successful.  Getting engaged in your profession also means making connections with others from different backgrounds.  Those backgrounds may be based in race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, or nationality, but also may be based on geographical location, institutional type, and even role in advising (staff, faculty, administrator, etc.).  Getting engaged in your profession also means learning more about how your personal experiences and biases might be affecting your students.  Getting engaged in your profession also means sharing, presenting, writing about what you have learned or experienced so that others may learn too.  Imagine how by engaging in your profession we all can better connect with our students, support and challenge them in purposeful and intentional ways, and create an environment where they feel welcome and understood.

Get involved in this association.  If we wish to create environments at our institutions that are inclusive, then we must consider how we collectively develop such an environment in our association.  NACADA is not simply the Board of Directors and the Council, or the chairs of committees, commissions, and interest groups.  NACADA is each and every member.  As a minority, I have been asked so many times how I managed to make my way into leadership opportunities, including the presidency, by other members who are from underrepresented groups.  The simple answer: I volunteered, I ran for a position, and I did the work expected of those opportunities.  There has never been a barrier to my involvement in this association because of my ethnicity.  So I challenge you, if you want to see more diversity in the leadership, then get involved, nominate others, and most importantly come together to support each other as we continue to move this association forward.  I do also want to remind everyone that diversity is not just what we see and that we are made of an intersectionality of identities that go beyond the visible.

Become a scholar-practitioner.  Have you been reading the literature about advising? Why not read about how students from a variety of diverse backgrounds are affected by programs, practices, policies, and institutional environments? Consider this, if students are coming to our institutions from K-12 systems that not resourced equitably, how do our advising practices affect their path through our institutions and through particular programs of study? There might be some scholarly work out there to help inform us, or quite possibly you could engage in research to find out.  Our practice of advising only gets better with increasing our scholarship of advising and student success, especially for our students who come from lower socioeconomic areas, underrepresented populations, and educational systems in other countries.

Learn another approach.  When we consider that each student has an intersectionality of identities, often still developing identities, it only makes sense that no one advising approach works with every student.  Every approach has value with some students but not others.  Utilizing an intrusive approach can help get some students connected to the campus, but in some cultures, being intrusive may lead to a student avoiding their advisor.  Increasing your cultural competence in combination with having a toolbox with multiple approaches available only increases the odds of finding an approach that maximizes each student’s success.

With challenges must come support.  There is the Diversity Committee that considers issues of diversity for the association and the Multicultural Concerns Commission that focuses on issues of advising and student success.  Both of these groups, as well as many other Commissions and Interest Groups, focus on a variety of student populations.  All of these groups are available to you and can provide support and resources to assist you with engaging in your profession and your association.  They can connect you with some of the scholarship and practices to assist students from different populations.  Other members from your region may also be able to provide support based in having experience working with similar populations that may be more common in your region.  And finally, the Board and Council members are always willing to take time to provide the support you need, so do not hesitate to reach out to us.

We, as a profession, are not just about student success.  We have the ability as a profession to change society.  Finding ways to help students from under resourced K-12 systems successfully navigate their way through our institutions is not just about getting more students to graduate.  For example, when we advise students away from STEM fields because their high school did not prepare them for calculus, we run the risk of creating the majors for the haves and the have nots.  As a result, we widen the gap that has existed for a long time.  But, if we learn more about different advising approaches, become more culturally competent, and examine the scholarship about students from these under resourced areas, we may just develop institutional environments that enable these students to graduate in any field, including STEM fields, and in turn, change society.  We can change our institutional environments, affect policies, and level the playing field.  The effect we can have is immeasurable—but only if we engage in our profession and our association, become scholar-practitioners, and learn multiple approaches.  If we want to make the world a better place, then we have to be a part of that change.

I do hope, as my year as president comes to a close, that you continue to challenge yourself and your colleagues to never stop being engaged, to never stop learning, and to seek continuous improvement in what you do, long after I step down.  Thank you for taking a gamble on me this year, and for all that you each do every day for the sake of all of our students.

David B. Spight, President, 2015-2016
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Director of Undergraduate Affairs, College of Engineering
The University of California, Davis

From the Executive Director: Georgia On My Mind

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgAs “ya’ll” can imagine, I am thrilled that the NACADA 40th Annual Conference will be held in my home state of Georgia in our capital city, Atlanta. I taught high school English in the Atlanta area many, many years ago (my second teaching job) and trust me, today’s Atlanta is not the Atlanta of when I lived there in the 1980s.  For many of you, your only connection to Atlanta is finding your way through the Atlanta airport (and that can be a stressful experience).  I am excited that you have the opportunity to experience the Atlanta of history, fine dining, exciting nightlife of all types, and a wide array of diverse people who will most certainly define for you that “Southern Hospitality” you’ve heard about for years.

But Atlanta has a special connection to me as the very first NACADA conference I attended was our 16th Annual Conference in Atlanta in 1992. That conference literally changed my life as it was then that I began to understand academic advising was more than registration, that there was this profession called academic advising, and that there were college staff whose primary role was academic advising. What an awesome learning experience that first conference was for me!  But even more importantly, I learned there was this group of professionals across the world who had the same values, beliefs, and focus as I and that this group was so open, welcoming, and accepting of someone like me who was brand new to the field of study called academic advising. It’s also where I learned that NACADA gets into your blood, your soul, and your life! The 1992 Annual Conference was chaired by one of my lifetime best friends, Nancy King – it all began back then, Nancy, and having you in my life has truly been a blessing at all levels.

Just as Atlanta of 2016 very different from Atlanta of 1992, NACADA of 2016 is vastly different fromNACADA of 1992. NACADA still has the heart, soul, and belief in students and their success that our original members created and has strong and committed leadership at all levels. The NACADA of today, however, has reached out in higher education globally in ways many of us could not have imagined back in 1992.  We have been fortunate to have Presidents, Boards of Directors, a founding Executive Director, Bobbie Flaherty, and a College of Education Dean, Michael Holen, who did see the future for NACADA as an association that would have a significant impact on higher education and student and would become recognized as one of the most influential higher education associations in the world. NACADA and I personally have a huge debt of gratitude to these early leaders that we can pay forward to those coming into the field and the association.

It is such an honor to return again to Atlanta where I first encountered NACADA in 1992 and to be a part of the past and future of our association. I could spend the short time I have here to tell you all the progress NACADA has made but you can each read about our history at http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/History-of-NACADA.aspx

Instead, I am going to make some predictions for the future of NACADA as new innovative, hardworking, dedicated, and determined leaders step into our association and our executive office leadership. There is always a danger in making predictions, of course, but I have total faith in our association, our members, and our leaders that NACADA will achieve these visions for the future:

  • NACADA’s membership will continue to grow as new professionals enter the field and as we reach out to administrators and faculty who are actively involved in academic advising across the world.
  • NACADA will grow in our impact globally, reaching out across the world through our international conferences and through new partnerships with a variety of countries and regions.
  • NACADA will develop strong partnerships with other associations or groups that are focused on student success, and will play an active role in the national and international agenda for higher education. Presently we are working closely with such groups as the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, College Complete America, USA Funds, the Lumina Foundation, and a variety of entities funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focused on the IPASS project, including the Tyton Partners, with our annual survey of academic advising. We will continue our commitment to partnerships with a variety of higher educational associations as well as continued involvement with CAS.
  • NACADA will increase significantly the involvement of our underrepresented populations inthe association leadership. This will be achieved by the collaborative work of groups such as the NACADA Diversity Committee, Sustainable Leadership Committee, Membership Recruitment and Retention Committee, all NACADA Region leaders, the NACADA Council and the NACADA Board of Directors.The association has made these intentional and purposeful initiatives and programs a priority for the future.
  • NACADA will continue to host outstanding conferences and institutes but also will create new and exciting ways to deliver professional development to our members and the profession.
  • The NACADA Center for Research and Excellence in Academic Advising and Student Success located at Kansas State University will be the premier research center in the world in the areas of academic advising and student success.

It is always risky to make such bold predictions for fear of not achieving them but I know clearly in my heart we will reach these goals. I am totally committed to working with our Board of Directors to establish frameworks and  provide needed funding to make these predictions become realities. I look forward to watching NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising reach higher than ever before and will be proud to have played a small part in the best higher education association’s impact on higher education.

See you in Atlanta!!

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

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for Today’s Academic Advising

Zack Underwood, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Zack-Underwood.jpg Today’s students wrestle with a torrent of information from small decisions such as choosing the color of notebooks for each class to large decisions such as choosing a major or career.  Advisors provide assistance with large and small problems; in the case of choosing a career or major, advisors can shed light on majors and career opportunities of which students may or may not be aware. Towards helping academic advisors in the capacity of teaching, Muelheck, Smith, and Allen (2014) “propose using models that describe the ways student acquire knowledge and values as tools for understanding learning in advising” (p. 63).  Connectivism is a model of learning that can guide first year advising through “the integration of principles explored as chaos, network, and complexity, and self-organization theories” as well as an “understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations” (Siemens, 2004, para. 23).  This article examines how connectivism is useful for academic advising as a theory that links previous information to current information, incorporates technology within the realm of knowing, and guides students to look beyond their own understanding to connect information.

Connectivism combines previous information with current information to create new meanings and understandings (Siemens, 2004).  Elieson (2013) claims “one cannot learn something new without having first obtained certain prerequisite knowledge” (p. 29).  Astin (1999) believes college administrators, including academic advisors, are fighting for student time against these prerequsite or even current experiences.  Advisors are part of a “’zero-sum’ game, in which the time and energy the student invests in family, friends, job and other outside activities represent a reduction in the time and energy the student has to devote to educational development” (p. 523). The idea is that knowledge is constantly changing with multiple influences, including but not limited to peers, technology, and media.  Students find connections between their previous and current understandings.  In this regard, students bring preexisting knowledge about particular majors and even regarding academic advising.  The figure below explains how an incoming student would recognize the idea of academic advising in college.

Underwood graphic.jpg

From the model, each student views the definition of an academic advisor independently. Some students could see their advisor as a guidance counselor where others would see differences between advisors and counselors. Previous knowledge, experiences, and aspirations are driving the student’s assumptions about academic advising and advisors (Bowen, 2012).  Ellis (2014) encourages advisors to be aware that “previous high school advising experiences shape new college students’ preliminary advising expectations” (p. 47).  Siemens (2004) emphasizes the idea that knowledge is a series of interrelated webs from not only social interactions, but experiences, digital observations (commercials, websites), or even organizations.  In the end, the interconnectedness of all of the knowledge leads to learning.  These previous experiences can be positive or negative, and the advisor is at the disadvantage of knowing very little about a student’s background with advising.

Beyond defining academic advising, students use this same process for other decisions, including their majors. One day some students may want to be nurses, while others may want to be business majors.  Entering students must write a single major on their admissions application (or undecided in some cases), but in reality they have no realistic idea about what it takes to be an anthropologist, nurse, or business professional.  The students are influenced by not only their social network in real life, but their virtual world as well.

The idea of connectivism accepts the medium of technology as a part of the student’s decision-making process.  In a world of Siri, Cortana, Watson, and other robots giving individuals answers, people are influenced through technology.  Students’ constant connectedness influences their decisions and knowledge base.  For example, instead of going to the Encyclopedia Britannica for answers, today’s students simply ask an Amazon Echo, and rather than having to memorize facts about a subject, a student can Google anything.  Technologies over time have changed to a more personalized and individualized medium (McHaney, 2011).  Today’s students prescribe to the idea that “our minds need reduced clutter so new problems can be solved” since knowledge is available at one’s fingertips (McHaney, 2011, p. 53).  

Students not only process previous knowledge, but current knowledge from online articles, their best friend’s tweet about a profession, or their role model’s Instagram account. Students’ digital feeds are influencing them (Pasquini, 2013).  Connectivism admits that students can learn from devices and “decision-making is itself a learning process” (Siemens, 2004, para. 25).  This is not a new concept, but students today have access to more technology, digital devices, and social networks than ever before (McHaney, 2011).  Students are not only polling their parents, friends, or relatives to help them make decisions, but using their digital devices for decision making, as well.

Connectivism suggests that students should combine thoughts, theories, and general information in a useful manner.  Advisors should encourage students to do the same. Current students may appear on the exterior to know what they want to do, but with so many options and potential vocations, students may not see all the possible connections (Siemens, 2004).  Tinto (1998) encourages colleges and universities to create “a community model of academic organization that would promote involvement through the use of shared, connected learning experiences among its members, students and faculty alike” (p. 170).  Student connections can be created through curricular and extracurricular activities, and advisors can start these conversations by questioning students about their decisions or assumptions.

In a connectivist viewpoint, advisors are the role models and guides for students. “The fundamental purpose of academic advising is to help students become effective agents for their own lifelong learning and personal development” (Chickering, 1994, p. 50).  This change takes place by advisors guiding students through the gauntlet of college courses and empowering them toward autonomous decision-making.  Through these interactions, students are guided to interact with their world (both physically and digitally) to create new knowledge.  “The student cannot be merely a passive receptacle for knowledge, but must share equal responsibility with the teacher” (Crookston, 1994, p. 5) or, in this case, the academic advisor.  Similar to interacting with a video game, students must interact with their world to make influenced decisions using previous experiences, current digital information, and future goals.

Advisors’ roles are to question the connections behind student decisions and help students gain confidence in their decisions for vocational roles. “These connections between academic studies and ‘real’ work can have a profound impact on a student’s life.  They often give purpose and direction to their studies” (Elieson 2012, p. 6).  Students are in charge of their decisions.  “Advisors now understand that students’ academic task in college involves constructing an overall uniquely personal understanding of the how the world works, the ways by which knowledge is gained and critiqued, the meaning of these understandings in terms of students’ own lives” (Lowenstein, 2013, p. 248).  Academic advisors can ask students questions to start these connections.  This may require advisors to help students make the connections between subjects.  For example, connecting a liberal arts curriculum to future vocations.  The following are examples of advising questions that facilitate connectivism.

  • What influenced you to choose your current major?
  • Have you ever watched a film or YouTube Video and thought, “I could see myself having that job”? What was it and could you pursue it?
  • If you could have any career, what would it be? How does that connect to what you are currently studying?
  • What are your favorite subjects from college or high school? How are all of these subjects related? Are they related to a future career or goal?
  • How do you like to express your ideas (e.g. writing, music, film, etc.)? How does this connect to your future goals?
  • Happiness and success are two reasons students choose specific careers. Can you think of a career where you can accomplish both? Explain.
  • Do you enjoy quantitative subjects such as math, science, or accounting or do you prefer qualitative subjects such as English, art, or communication studies? Why?

On a more systemic level, academic advising as a whole subscribes to connectivism.  NACADA’s core values are found in a hexagon, which share boundaries and are essentially connected (NACADA, 2005).  Advisors are responsible for connecting information, people, higher education goals, and their own experiences among others.  Helping students make these connections, though not directly stated in the Core Values, is an accepted responsibility of advisors.  Lowenstein (2013) describes this idea: “each individual component not only stands on its own, but grows tentacles as subsequent experiences shed light on it, illuminating the way it can interconnect to other components” (p. 246).  Connectivism’s principles echo those of academic advisors by combining the idea of previous knowledge, accepting technology’s role in decision-making, and expecting students to grow from information they gather.  Regardless of the type of advising taking place (prescriptive, developmental, etc.), connectivism acknowledges the idea that students are using a broad number of tools and viewpoints to make academic decisions.

Zack Underwood
Academic Advisor
University College
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Astin, A. (1999). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5), -518-529

Bowen, J. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A. (1994). Empowering lifelong self-development. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 50-53.

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

Elieson, B. (2012). How to benefit from the college experience. Unpublished manuscript.

Elieson, B. (2013). A framework for considering education: Three pillars of cognition and four types of learning. University of North Texas College of Information 2013 Research Exchange Conference Proceedings. Retrieved from https://untresearchexchange.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/unt_coi_research_exchange_conference_2013_proceedings.pdf

Ellis, K. (2014). Academic advising experiences of first-year undecided students: A qualitative study. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 42-49.

Lowenstein, M. (2013). Envisioning the future. In J. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 243-258). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McHaney, R. (2011). The new digital shoreline how Web 2.0 and Millennials are revolutionizing higher education. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub.

Muelheck, J., Smith, C., & Allen, J. (2014). Understanding the advising learning process using learning taxonomies. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 63-74.

National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2005). NACADA statement of core values of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Core-values-of-academic-advising.aspx

Pasquini, L. (2013). Academic advising: Supporting online students [Webinar]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/LauraPasquini/academic-advising-supporting-online-students

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism, A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1), Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm 

Tinto, V. (1998). Colleges as communities: Taking research on student persistence seriously. Review of Higher Education, 21(2), 167-177.

Vantage Point graphic.jpgComparing Personal Tutoring in the UK and Academic Advising in the US

David Grey and Dave Lochtie, UK Advising and Tutoring Executive Committee Members

David Grey.jpgDave Lochtie.jpgUK Advising and Tutoring (UKAT), the first allied association of NACADA outside of North America, aspires to lead the development and dissemination of innovative theory, research, and practice of student advising and tutoring in the UK higher education sector.  Traditionally, the UK has provided academic advising through a pastoral model (Thomas, 2006), collectively known as personal tutoring—a term which researchers in the US (Scott, 2013) and UK (Robinson, 2012) most closely equate with faculty academic advising.  Historically, this model has its roots in the 16th century practices of Oxford and Cambridge universities in which academics acted in loco parentis for their students.  Alternative models are becoming more common in the UK, with the main alternatives being the professional model (Thomas, 2006), which makes use of professional advisors rather than faculty, and the integrated curriculum model (Thomas, 2006), which seeks to make advising a seamless part of the academic curriculum.

In early 2016, UKAT ran a pilot survey open to all 164 UK higher education institutions (HEIs) to gain some initial insight into personal tutoring and academic advising practices in the UK, prior to undertaking a more thorough study.  There were 47 respondents representing 32 different HEIs: 55% were personal tutors (faculty advisors), 21% were professional support staff working in student welfare and support services (professional, but not necessarily academic, advisors), and 21% were institutional managers (those individuals working in HE who have knowledge of the cirriculum but main responsibilities fall outside of that role).  This article addresses the results of UKAT's survey and compares them with the results of the NACADA (Carlstrom, 2011) survey to offer some comparisons of academic advising in the differing higher education environments of the US and the UK.

Who advises who and when are tutors allocated?

The NACADA survey (Carlstrom, 2011) stated that 82% of institutions have professional advisors.  No direct comparison is possible, but UKAT’s data suggests that there are fewer professional advisors in the UK, with responses indicating that only 41% of the HEIs represented have staff whose job titles are synonymous with professional advising.  Due largely to the popularity of the traditional pastoral model, academic faculty are still the primary providers of student advice and support in the UK, although over two thirds of respondents suggested that not all academic faculty serve as personal tutors.

According to 98% of UKAT's respondents, all students have personal tutors, and over one third have more than one personal tutor during their studies.  In over half the cases, students are allocated a personal tutor as they begin their initial classes but not during the summer beforehand.  This perhaps differs from practice in the US due to the way in which UK university admissions are generally dependent on nationally coordinated high school exam results that are not released until several weeks before the course commences.  The importance of building relationships and establishing a solid foundation for student success at an earlier stage is recognized in the UK (Thomas, 2012), but is perhaps less easily achieved than in the US.

What do students know about personal tutoring?

Despite almost all students being allocated a personal tutor, those tutors who responded to UKAT's survey indicated that not all students know the name or contact details of the tutor to whom they had been assigned.  In some cases, we found students were unaware that they have a personal tutor at all, echoing McCary, Johnstone, Valentine, and Berry’s study (2011) which found that this was true for 18% of students.  In contrast, academic managers responding to UKAT's survey thought that all students knew their tutor, but the sample size is too small to be significant.

UKAT's respondents also suggested that students are clearly informed at the outset, via written documentation, what they can expect from their personal tutor and from the process as well as what is expected of them as the tutee.  However, Gubby and McNab (2013) state that students are not always aware of the ways in which their personal tutor can help them, so perhaps the written expectations are unclear or students are not reading the information given to them.

It is unclear how the experience of students in UK institutions compares with the experience of students in US institutions as this data was not sought as part of the NACADA survey. It may be a relevant enquiry for future research.

What do tutors advise?

98% of respondents in the NACADA (Carlstrom, 2011) survey suggest that academic advisors help develop a plan of study for their students and 99% are involved in course scheduling and registration.  These specific aspects were not examined in UKAT's survey because UK degrees lack the general foundation subjects and students sign up to a specific major from the outset, meaning that they have less choice in terms of plans of study and less complication in scheduling and registration.  For this reason, less support is generally provided in this area unless a student considers changing major entirely, which may have length of study and financial implications.  UKAT's respondents reported that in the UK tutors provide support equally across five main areas: pastoral issues, student success, academic skill development, employability, and the creation of personal development plans.  Two thirds of respondents indicated that setting personal goals is a part of the tutoring process, but tutors do not monitor achievement of these goals.

Tutors reported feeling much more comfortable in providing academic advice or signposting than in providing pastoral support, seemingly confirming the literature (Hart, 1996; Stephen, O’Connell, & Hall, 2008).  With research supporting personal difficulties as the primary role of personal tutoring (Owen, 2002), there appears to be a mismatch between the support students may require and what tutors feel well prepared to offer.

How is tutoring structured, supported, and rewarded?

The National Audit Office suggested in 2007 that further structure was required in the organization of personal tutoring, but UKAT's research did not give the impression that significant improvements have been made.  Around half of UKAT's respondents suggested their institution advocated a planned and structured program of activities, but the majority stated that they did not have a clearly defined and documented personal tutoring policy.  Nearly half of UKAT's respondents had no minimum number of meetings required during the year, and nearly all reported the lack of a defined schedule for tutoring meetings. NACADA’s survey suggested some more structure and increased student meetings are likely in the US where professional advisors were employed (Robbins, 2013).

An issue that occurs repeatedly in the personal tutoring (and US based faculty advising) literature is the potentially high workload associated with acting in this capacity and the lack of protected time for carrying out the role.  UKAT's respondents suggested that on average personal tutors are responsible for around 30–35 students each, although in extreme cases this can rise to over 100 students.  This is higher than the 25 undergraduate students advised per faculty advisor suggested by NACADA’s (Carlstrom, 2011) survey.  The literature also suggests that tutoring is not included in timetables or the time allocated is insufficient, causing tutors to work beyond their contract often at the expense of research (Dobinson-Harrington, 2006; Gubby & McNab, 2013; Hart, 1996; Owen, 2002).  This may explain why students sometimes find the personal tutoring process hurried and disappointing (Dobinson-Harrington, 2006) or are discouraged from seeking support from a tutor that they perceive to be too busy (Owen, 2002).

UKAT's respondents indicated that tutors did not generally feel well supported by their institutions in carrying out their role.  The National Audit Office (2007) suggested that further training of personal tutors is required, yet almost 60% of respondents stated that their institution did not train their personal tutors.  Responses indicate that tutors were trained every few years at most and all training reported in the survey was provided online and not in-person.  NACADA’s survey stated that faculty advisors were largely left on their own to manage their professional development (Wallace, 2011) and this also appears to be the case in the UK as many respondents suggested training was only provided on demand.

Strong pastoral support systems have been identified as having a positive influence on student achievement and retention (Grant, 2006), yet none of UKAT's respondents indicated that a personal tutoring role is recognized in the promotion criteria for faculty.  So why do UK HEIs persist with a seemingly archaic system of student support which, if performed well, requires staff to invest significant personal effort that is neither recognized nor rewarded?

Conclusions and possible implications for future study

The results of UKAT's initial pilot echo the findings of other research studies performed in the UK over the last 25 years (Grant, 2006; Owen, 2002; Thomas, 2006).  Many UK HEIs are now reconsidering and revising their approaches to personal tutoring.  Some, which abandoned a pastoral model in favor of a (centralized but largely on-demand only) professional model, are now considering reintroducing a pastoral approach.  Following recent changes in government policy, many HEIs are revising their approaches to personal tutoring, and hybrid pastoral-professional-curriculum models are becoming more commonplace.  It seems an appropriate time to engage in a more robust longitudinal study to explore emerging models and the effect these may have in addressing the major issues of staff engagement, workload, rewards, and training, all in relation to pro-actively supporting the student experience.  Successful coordination between professional and academic roles seems vital to achieving this, as it is in the US, with the potential for valuable lessons to be learned from international comparisons made either side of the Atlantic.

David Grey, PhD
Project Leader - Academic Support Tuition project
The University of Hull
Technology Coordinator
UK Advising and Tutoring

Dave Lochtie, MA
Student Success Counselor
The University of New Orleans
Executive Committee Member, UK Advising and Tutoring


Dobinson-Harrington, A. (2006). Personal tutor encounters: Understanding the experience. Nursing Standard. 20(50), 35-42.

Carlstrom, A. (2011) National survey of academic advising (Monograph No.  25). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Grant, A. (2006). Personal tutoring: A system in crisis. In L. Thomas & P. Hixenbaugh (Eds.), Personal tutoring in higher education (pp. 11-20). Stoke-on-Trent, UK: Trentham Books.

Gubby, L., & McNab. N. (2013). Personal tutoring from the perspective of the tutor. Capture 4(1), 7–18.

Hart, N. (1996). The role of the personal tutor in a college of further education: A comparison of skills used by personal tutors and by student counsellors when working with students in distress. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 24(1), 83–96.

McCary, J., Johnstone D. B., Valentine H., & Berry H. (2011). A comparative evaluation of the roles of student advisor and personal tutor in relation to undergraduate student retention. Cambridge, UK: Anglia Ruskin University.

National Audit Office. (2007). Staying the course: The retention of students in higher education. Report by to the House of Commons 616 Session 2006-2007. London, UK: National Audit Office. Retrieved from https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2007/07/0607616.pdf

Owen, M. (2002). Sometimes you feel you’re in niche time: The personal tutor system, a case study. Active Learning in Higher Education, 3(1), 7–23.

Robbins, R. (2013). Implications of advising load. In Carlstrom, A. (2011) National survey of academic advising (Monograph No.  25). Manhattan, KS: NACADA. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Load.aspx

Robinson, P. (2012, June). Leeds for life: Preparing our students for their future. Academic Advising Today, 35(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Leeds-for-Life-Preparing-Our-Students-for-Their-Future.aspx#sthash.Zg8TIyP7.dpuf.

Scott, P. (2013, December). NACADA Director Outlines Plan for Strategic Growth. Retrieved
from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/NACADA-director-outlines-plan-for-strategic-growth.aspx.

Stephen, D. E., O’Connell, P., & Hall, M. (2008). ‘Going the extra mile’, ‘fire-fighting’, or laissez-faire? Re-evaluating personal tutoring relationships within mass higher education. Teaching in Higher Education 13(4), 449–460.

Thomas, L. (2006). Widening participation and the increased need for personal tutoring. In L. Thomas & P. Hixenbaugh (Eds.), Personal tutoring in higher education (pp. 21-31). Stoke-on-Trent, UK: Trentham Books.

Thomas, L. (2012). What works: Students retention and success. London, UK: Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Wallace, S. (2011). Implications for faculty advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Implications-for-faculty-advising-2011-National-Survey.aspx

High-Achieving Wellbeing: Partnership Opportunities for Students and Advisors

Melissa L. Johnson, Kristy Spear, and Brittany Hoover, University of Florida

Johnson, Spear & Hoover.jpgAnyone who has the fortune of working with high-achieving students knows the unique joys of engaging with this eager, exploratory, and experienced (Achterberg, 2005) population. High-achieving students are motivated by more than just academic achievement.  They are intellectually capable, accelerated in the pace in which they progress academically, and advanced in terms of coursework and standing as they enter college (Achterberg, 2005).  In addition to classroom achievements, they are likely to be engaged in countless extracurricular activities.  

These students excel academically, are willing to tackle complex problems, and balance a variety of involvement opportunities simultaneously, but too often this level of involvement comes at a cost.  In examining the positive attributes associated with high achievers, it is easy to see how these characteristics, when compounded, have the potential to be detrimental to a student’s wellbeing.

Perfectionism, simultaneity, and multipotentiality (ability to excel in multiple fields) are a few of the characteristics that drive high achievers to a level of busyness that causes them to overlook health and wellbeing.  Perfectionism is one of the most common self-reported challenges with high achievers, and research confirms that perfectionism is an issue with these students more so than their peers (Dickinson & Dickinson, 2015).  While perfectionism can be tied positively to motivation and drive, in its maladaptive form, perfectionism has been linked with stress, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, and chronic pain.  For this population, “the end of the semester and its corresponding intensified emphasis on performance might exacerbate perfectionism” (Rice, Leever, Christopher, & Porter, 2006, p. 531).  The desire to accomplish compound goals and constantly perform at a high level pushes many high achievers to excel in their academic and extracurricular endeavors, but this yearning can also cause them to sacrifice mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  In the race to perform, these students run the risk of cutting sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and general relaxation.

Through discussion, advisors have the opportunity to empower high-achievers to seek a healthy balance.  Taking the time to inquire about recreational activities and scheduled relaxation is one step advisors can take to begin conversations about overscheduling.  Another technique for supporting wellness is to encourage reflection and mindfulness.  Often, high-achievers are so consumed by their busy schedule and exhausted by their to-do list that they spare no time for creative wandering and reflection.  A third approach, which will be discussed in this article, is for advisors to model wellness.

Wellness is multi-faceted, including a focus on physical, emotional, social, vocational, financial, environmental, spiritual, and intellectual states (SAMHSA, 2016).  Not only do students need to pay attention to their wellbeing, but advisors do as well.  This concern for wellbeing, while particularly salient for high achievers and their advisors due to the challenges previously noted, is certainly not limited to those populations.  As Kem, DeBella, and Koenecke (2007) illustrated, advising is stressful, and advisors need to be mindful of staying positive in the moment and accepting that some things are out of their control.  For advisors who may spend a significant time in an office behind a desk, taking a moment to get out from behind the desk and head outside can have tremendous benefits on wellbeing.

Attention restoration theory (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989) supports these ideas.  In order to feel restored, one must be able to escape to an environment that is altogether interesting, nonthreatening, and compatible with their needs (Kaplan, 1995).  Fresh air, sunlight, and the outdoor beauty of nature can trigger the more primal regions of the brain and lead to more creative thoughts (Campbell, 2016).  Just a short trip across campus for coffee or a snack can provide an opportunity to take in the sights, clear the mind, and lift the mood.  Being outside can lead to a more positive state and can help recover from the mental stress and fatigue that some advisors may face during busy times in the term.  Regular physical activity also links to positive mental health, stress relief, and a healthy weight, which helps to boost the impact of the restoring attention throughout the day.

Advisors can further promote wellness by creating unique advising opportunities.  McIntyre (2011) provides an excellent example of modeling wellness and promoting student success with high achievers.  She posited that there are other opportunities for advising besides within the confines of an office.  By inviting her honors students to join her on walks or runs, together they could engage in conversations that could not necessarily be replicated from behind a desk.  Those conversations often created an openness, awareness, and intentionality for discussions while exploring campus together.

At the University of Florida, advisors have developed their own wellness advising initiatives for high achieving students.  Weekly sessions of yoga and walk-in(g) advising were held during the spring semester.  Both opportunities were marketed to students in the University Honors Program as a way to focus on wellbeing while also spending time with one of their advisors.  Yoga sessions were facilitated in the evenings by an honors student who had been certified to teach group fitness courses through the campus recreation department.  Students could pre-register for the coming week’s class, with participation ranging from two to 20 students and an average of five students.  An honors advisor attended the class each week as a student, demonstrating vulnerability, strength, and sometimes literal flexibility alongside the other participants.  Inevitably students sought the advisor before and after class with questions ranging from course registration to student involvement.

Walk-in(g) advising used a play on walk-in advising hours to encourage students to drop in and walk laps together with their advisor on campus.  Students were told that no technology would be available during the walk to look up answers to questions.  As such, walk-in(g) advising was best suited for bigger picture questions and conversations while trying to increase their daily step count.  Walk-in(g) advising typically lasted 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the group and how quickly they walked.  Weather was not a factor as they utilized the covered walkway around the football stadium, which is open to the public each day.  Participation ranged from 2 to 5 students, with an average of 3 plus the advisor.  In addition to talking through various scenarios about career goals, campus involvement, and their daily routines, all participants enjoyed comparing the steps they walked on their various personal fitness trackers.  The Department of Housing and Residence Education plans to implement a version of walk-in(g) advising with their living learning community residents starting this summer.

These wellness partnerships between honors students and advisors on campus have been beneficial for all parties.  High achievers who are prone to overscheduling can take an hour out of their day to focus on themselves—whether through yoga or walking laps at the stadium.  Advisors who spend a significant amount of time behind a computer and desk can escape to a more refreshing environment, even if for only an hour, while still managing to help students with their questions and concerns.

Supportive administrators and supervisors who understand the importance of both student and advisor wellness also play a critical role in the implementation of these types of programs, and their endorsement should not be overlooked.  For those advisors looking to implement their own wellness programs with students, the authors recommend demonstrating to their supervisors that wellness is an integral component in promoting student success and that the benefits to both student and advisor wellbeing far outweigh the risks of being away from the physical office for a brief amount of time.

Melissa L. Johnson
Associate Director, Honors Program
University of Florida

Kristy Spear
Advisor, Honors Program
University of Florida

Brittany Hoover
Advisor, Innovation Academy
University of Florida


Achterberg, C. (2005). What is an honors student? Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 6(1), 75-83.

Campbell, S. (2016). 7 reasons the CEO should get outside to exercise. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/273995

Dickinson, M. J., & Dickinson, D. (2015). Practically perfect in every way; Can reframing perfectionism for high-achieving undergraduates impact academic resilience? Studies in Higher Education, 40(10), 1889-1903.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182.

Kaplan, R. & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.  

Kem, L., DeBella, J., & Koenecke, W. (2007, December). The healthy advisor. Academic Advising Today, 30(4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Healthy-Advisor.aspx

McIntyre, C. M. (2011, June). Peripatetic advising: How Socrates, advising, and running shoes influence student success. Academic Advising Today, 34(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Peripatetic-Advising-How-Socrates--Advising--and-Running-Shoes-Influence-Student-Success.aspx

Rice, K. G., Leever, B. A., Christopher, J., & Porter, J. D. (2006). Perfectionism, stress, and social (dis)connection: A short-term study of hopelessness, depression, and academic adjustment among honors students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), 524-534.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2016). The eight dimensions of wellness. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/wellness-initiative/eight-dimensions-wellness

Weaving Career Advising into Academic Advising

Donna J. Menke, University of Memphis

Donna Menke.jpgRecent calls for reform in higher education and budget issues on college campuses have required staff in higher education to do more with less, leaving academic advisors feeling overworked.  In between advising on course selection, academic probation, and other campus policies, academic advisors deal with the personal issues that their students experience.  Where and how does an academic advisor add “career advising”? And should they? Implementing career advising can be a shrewd move as higher education moves to an accountability model.  Funding is increasingly dependent on student outcomes.  Policy makers are focusing not only on enrollment numbers and graduation rates, but as one policy maker claimed, how many college students “can get jobs” (Cohen, 2016).  In this culture of evidence, the career development of college students becomes critical for academic advisors. Providing opportunities for college students to develop their career interests while in college can have a positive impact on college outcomes.

By graduating students and sending them out into the world with a credential, the expectation among graduates and their families is that these graduates have the means to get a job.  For the most part this is true, though fluctuations in job market trends can cause problems.  Even when college graduates can easily get jobs, academic advisors enhance the experiences of their students when they help students find a vocation, a way of life that is congruent with their education, skills, interests, and values.  Academic advisors are in a unique position to encourage students to find what Chickering and Reisser (1993) describe as "purpose."  Career advising is one way to help students achieve this purpose.  As defined by Burton Nelson, Alexander, Martin, and Cunningham (2012), career advising helps students clarify, specify, and create a career plan and helps students identify barriers to choosing or moving forward in a major or career path.  Effective career advising guides students in using resources that aid in career exploration.  When advisors practice career advising, they provide information on the nature of the workforce and realistic preparation for career fields and help students make sound decisions that further their goals.  Some academic advisors might recognize that they already do this on a daily basis.  Other advisors may see how they can easily weave career advising into their work.

Another benefit to developing career advising strategies is to meet what recent policy makers are calling for: "on time graduations"—typically defined as graduation within four and sometimes up to six years for four-year degree programs.  This recent push, along with concerns about retention, is also tied to funding and puts pressure on students to complete degrees in a timely manner.  Studies on retention indicate that sound education and career goals can improve motivation and positively impact academic performance (Robinson & Glanzer, 2016).  Career advising can increase students’ motivation to complete degree requirements.  In a large-scale survey of students who left college, Higgerson (1985) found that students leave institutions for one of three major reasons: dissatisfaction with the academic program, unclear career objectives, and unclear educational goals.  Career advising specifically aims to help students solidify future career objectives and educational goals.

Here are three simple strategies academic advisors can develop to weave career advising into their work.

First, brush up on career development knowledge.  This does not mean advisors must become career development scholars; however, some background in how career development occurs provides a solid foundation for career advising.  Campus libraries likely have student development theory textbooks available for academic advisors to peruse. Utilize campus database resources to read up on career development theories such as Holland’s Career Typology, or Super’s Theory of Vocational Choice or career advising strategies by Gordon.  NACADA also has good resources for this purpose, including the Pocket Guide Academic and Career Advising for the Undecided, Exploring and Major-Changing Students (2012) and The Handbook of Career Advising (2009).  Either of these resources can provide the basics of career advising.  The Handbook in particular includes information about career development theory along with strategies for career advising. 

Second, get to know all of the career resources available on campus.  While most college campuses have a career center, some campuses also have a separate major and career exploration center.  Counseling services may also offer career counseling for students.  Find out:

  • What resources are available on campus and where? Are all career development needs met at the campus career center? Is there a separate major/career exploration office?
  • What can the student expect of their appointment with any of the campus career resource offices?
  • Are career assessments available? Are all students given a career assessment, or do students have to ask for one? Is there a cost for the assessment?
  • Does someone sit with the student for an interpretation of the assessment results?

Helping students understand what will happen when they visit the career center, or any other campus resources, creates a realistic expectation in the mind of the student.  When students go in blind, they may develop their own expectations for what will occur, expectations that can be far from reality.  Providing a realistic expectation can make the visit seem more successful.  Also, be sure to follow up with their visit.  Ask the student about their experience.  What did they find out? Has this clarified things for them? Has it changed some of their future goals? What resources did they use? Do they understand the results of assessments, resources, etc.? What courses can students take to further their career goals or explore their interests?

Last, weave career advising into preferred academic advising approaches.  In Appreciative Advising (Bloom, Hutson & Ye, 2013), for example, discovery about self and dreaming, or making future plans, are already part of the approach.  Adding career advising is as simple as having students design a career plan much like their academic plan.  This is appropriate for deciding and decided students alike and has the advantage of identifying career obstacles and developing strategies to meet those obstacles.

Coaching models are also well suited to career advising.  As described by Griffiths (2005), coaching offers personal transformation through a "goal directed framework of focused, planned action and facilitates both learning and results through a precise orchestration of self-regulated accountability, powerful questioning and active-listening" (p. 57).  Whether a student is decided or deciding, encouraging them to establish career goals along with academic goals can uncover some of the potential career planning issues before they become obstacles.  Perhaps the student has chosen a career field that does not match their academic interests.  Have the student brainstorm resolutions to this problem and set goals to resolve their career problem.  Brainstorms might include a referral to one of the career resources on campus or to faculty in areas of interests to gather more information about career fields in the area.

Another career advising model is the 3-I method of career advising (Gordon, 2006).  This is an efficient method to set students on the path toward their career goals.  The 3-I's are Inquire, Inform, and Integrate.  In the Inquiry phase, the advisor gathers information from the student: where are they in the career development process?  The Inform phase answers questions from the Inquire phase and fills in the career knowledge gaps.  These gaps might include an explanation of the relationship between majors and careers or where to get career information on campus.  Then Integrate this information:  help the student make connections between their major/career goals and the information they have gathered or determine what career resource can best address their career development needs and refer the student.  This process is often circular.  Answering one question frequently raises other questions, and so the process begins again.

Career advising is a process, often an ongoing one.  Career advising involves helping students understand themselves, their interests, their values and then tie that to their future goals.  When academic advisors can weave career advising into their repertoire, they can help students achieve their educational and career goals.  It can have the added benefit of improving retention and graduation rates for the institution. By solidifying that association between college and career, students set realistic career goals preventing and overcoming barriers to their chosen careers keeping them in school and on their way to earning their degree.

Donna J. Menke
Assistant Professor
College of Education/Department of Leadership
University of Memphis


Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & Ye, H. (2013). Appreciative advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to take the most of college (pp. 83-99). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Burton Nelson, D., Martin, H. E., Alexander, R. A., Cunningham, B. L. (2012). Academic and career advising for undecided, exploring and major-changing students [Pocket guide series PG13].San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Cohen, P. (2016, February 21). A rising call to promote STEM education and cut liberal arts funding. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Griffiths, K. (2005). Personal coaching: A model for effective learning. Journal of Learning Design, 1(2), 55-65.

Chickering, A. W. & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Gordon, V. N. (2006). Career advising: An academic advisor’s guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Higgerson, M. L. (1985). Understanding why students voluntarily withdraw from college. NASPA Journal, 22(3), 15-21.

Hughey, K. F., Burton Nelson, D., Damminger, J. K., & McCalla-Wriggins, B. (2009). The handbook of career advising. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Robinson, J. A. & Glanzer, P. L. (2016). How students’ expectations shape their quest for purpose in college. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 53(1), 1-12.

Faculty Advising Strategies in a Climate of Reduced Resources

Colleen A. Thompson, Quinnipiac University

Colleen Thompson.jpgIn the 2015-2016 National Student Satisfaction and Priorties Report, Noel-Levitz finds that “Advising services have long been identified as a way to connect with students, build relationships, and keep students on the path to completion. Institutions that effectively advise students may be more likely to have students who stay enrolled and make progress toward graduation” (p. 8). For many students, advising is the first personalized interaction they have with a university representative. Quality advising can enhance the value of the student’s educational experience and contribute significantly to student retention and success.  The Noel-Levitz report goes on to demonstrate the gap between students ranking of the importance of advising and their satisfaction with their institution with respect to advising (p. 8). With the recurring theme in higher education of focusing on student retention, effective academic advising has become critical. At the same time, university departments are competing for more limited institutional resources and monies directly allocated for advising-related support are often limited.  Faculty are required to teach, do scholarly work and service, leaving academic advisement to be an added responsibility unless it is considered part of service. 

The Need for Quality Advising

The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index “Great Jobs Great Lives” surveyed over 30,000 college graduates and found that where the students went to college had an insignificant effect on their future well-being and work-life satisfaction.  Rather, “feeling supported and having deep learning experiences” (p. 6) were most important.  For example, “if graduates had a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in their well-being” (p. 6).  The students went on to describe the experiences in college that helped them feel more prepared for life after college.  These included internship opportunities, active involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations on campus, and working on long-term projects (defined as projects that took more than one semester to complete).  

All of these experiences can be directly linked to academic advising.  The advisor can serve as the educational mentor if they are faculty and can offer students meaningful long-term research projects.  The advisor can be well-versed in internship opportunities and in the value of co-curricular activities.  As the relationship develops, students gain confidence in their own decision-making skills and begin to mature as adults and take responsibility for those decisions regarding their future.

Clearly there is a need for effective, intentional, and comprehensive advising.  It is well correlated with student retention, success, and satisfaction.  Curiously, in the Noel-Levitz 2009 Report, campus personnel did not rate advising as high as the students did.  This is not to say that campus personnel did not think advising was important, but it was clearly not as high a priority as it was for the students.  Campus personnel ranked fields such as recruitment, financial aid, and instructional effectiveness higher than academic advising.  This presents a slight disconnect that may need addressing with faculty advisors.  Advisors must recognize that students place a high value on the advising relationship and view this relationship as critical to their success on campus.

Strategies to Improve Faculty Advisor Effectiveness

In this current climate of reduced resource allocation and increased faculty workloads, there are still many ways that the advising relationship can be sustained and even improved.  The most common obstacle that faculty advisors identify is inadequate time due to increased workloads.  Related to the lack of time for faculty advisors is advising not being recognized as an integral piece of their faculty responsibilities, i.e. advising load/time does not factor into their faculty evaluation tool.  For all advisors, a lack of professional development heightens the advisors’ stress when so-called “advising season” is upon them.  The current climate does not allow for reduced loads at this time.  Rather, advisors can implement creative strategies that will improve the quality of advising in their offices and create additional time in spite of these pressures.

Proactive advising. Oftentimes, faculty advisors reach out to their advisees primarily during course registration time. This limited interaction can result in advising meetings that address academic progress, but yield little time spent on broader issues of career advisement and mentoring. Considerable evidence points to the value of proactive or intrusive advising, where advisors intentionally seek out students for advising contact rather than waiting for students to seek out advisors (Cannon, 2013). While face-to–face meetings are essential and effective, there are many ways to increase advising contact without directly increasing one-on-one face time meetings.

  • Begin communications as soon as the semester begins (or even over the summer). Simple emails at the start of the semester welcoming students back and reminding them of advisor availability can be viewed very positively.
  • Consider starting the semester with a group meeting offering advice and guidance (and treats). Periodic regular communication sprinkled throughout the semester can go a long way toward reinforcement and encouragement. Advisors may find the students better prepared for more intentional advising sessions when they do meet face-to-face if they have had previous communications.
  • Use Blackboard or other university courseware for regular communications. Sites can be maintained with program information, frequently asked questions, and calendars of events. Work study or peer advisors are an inexpensive way to assist with maintenance of the site.
  • Consider the use of other technology to communicate with students: virtual advising via video conferencing, blogs, and discussion boards.
  • Attend functions such as lectures, sporting events, and student award ceremonies. The mere presence of their advisor assures students that advisors are engaged and committed to the student population.

Peer advising.  Having trained upper level students (or even graduate students) meet with undergraduate or freshmen level students can be highly effective.  The trained peer advisors can answer frequently asked questions, offer advice and support, and suggest co-curricular activities of interest and use to the students as they progress in their program. Having work-study or minimally-paid students take on the more rote registration-related FAQs can free up faculty advisors to address the higher order questions and concerns of the advisees. A selective student-led program such as this could even be unpaid, as it offers students the opportunity to build their resume of leadership experiences.

Group advising.  Bringing students together in small group settings can be an effective and collaborative approach to advising that frees advisor time and still meets the needs of students.  These sessions are informative and conversational in nature.  Students can be grouped by common interest, thereby addressing common thematic questions.  Students who may be uncomfortable asking certain questions themselves may be relieved to have the question answered in a less formal setting as they listen to the questions and concerns of their peers.  “Students who participate in group advising appreciate the opportunity to interact with peers as well as with an advisor.  The feeling of not being alone is a powerful by-product of the group experience” (King, 2000). 

Advising incorporated into classes.  Many universities offer a freshmen experience course of some kind. This can be an opportunity to include advising-related topics in a group setting. Questions that can be addressed in this format include common registration-related issues, policies, and procedures. Addressing such needs early in the first semester can alleviate excessive back and forth emails with advisors on procedural types of questions.

Advisor professional development.  Development offers advisors opportunities to recognize their own biases related to the advising process and improve their advising confidence.  There are free or relatively inexpensive ways to incorporate advising into existing professional development.

  • Consider offering one or more of the many relevant NACADA webinars on your campus and inviting interested faculty to attend. Planning existing faculty development time to be held during such a webinar maximizes resources.
  • Professional advisors on campus may be willing to conduct a workshop for faculty advisors on best practices.
  • Another on-campus resource can be an existing department offering degrees in educational theory, higher education, student affairs, or counseling services. Faculty skilled in these areas may be willing to share their expertise via a workshop, training, or presentation.
  • Develop an advising workgroup on campus, with representation from the varied schools or departments. Best practices can be shared and brought back to individual departments, thus avoiding duplication of effort. Webinars and training costs can also be shared via this collaboration.


The case supporting the importance of academic advising is compelling.  Students clearly seek the guidance, support, and mentoring that the academic advisor can provide.  Students highly value the advising relationship and research tells us that advising can contribute to student retention and success.  While faculty advisors are undoubtedly aware of the need for a strong advising relationship, they are being increasingly pressured to improve upon the areas that contribute to their performance evaluations such as teaching, research, and service. Additionally, higher education institutions are facing budget constraints and may not be offering the resources that faculty need to improve upon their advising skills and/or support the additional workload that good advising demands.  Advisors can consider other creative strategies to enhance their advising and increase their frequency of contacts with advisees without a significant concomitant increase in time, workload or resources. Expanding advisee outreach through group, peer, and/or class advising can strengthen the advising relationship.  Additionally, taking advantage of established advisor training workshops such as NACADA webinars along with utilizing existing campus resources for professional development can improve advisor skill and confidence without adding significant cost to the institution. 

Evidence supports the need for effective, intentional, and comprehensive academic advising.  The outcomes will be greater student satisfaction and increased retention, both of which are part of the value-added equation in higher education’s current climate.

Colleen A. Thompson, MS, RD
Assistant Dean for Student Services
School of Health Sciences
Quinnipiac University


Gallup, Inc. (2014). Great jobs great lives: The 2014 Gallup-Purdue index report. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/galluppurdueindex-report-2014.pdf

Noel Levitz, Inc. (2015-2016). National student satisfaction and priorities report.

Noel-Levitz, Inc. (2009). National student Satisfaction and priorities report.

Cannon, J. (2013, March). Intrusive advising 101: How to be intrusive without intruding. Academic Advising Today36(1). Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/

Bentley-Gadow, J. E. & Silverson, K. (2005).The sequential advising model for group advising: Modifying delivery venues for freshmen and transfer students. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: 

King, Nancy. (2000). Advising students in groups. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley, and Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A Comprehensive handbook. (p. 236). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ryan, B. (2010, March). Integrating group advising into a comprehensive advising program. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/

Zabel, L. & Rothberger, S. (2012, June). Peer advising: Bridging the gap between professional advisor and students. Academic Advising Today, 35(2). Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/

Vantage Point banner.jpgRetention Efforts from an Academic Advising Department

Dawn Coder, The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus

Dawn Coder.jpgRetention is everyone’s job.  Or is it?  Infande (2013) believes it is.  In contrast, Dr. Weldon Jackson, Provost at Bowie State University, believes retention should be in a job description (Abdul-Alim, 2008).  The article advisors read or the institution in which they work will determine the answer to that question.  The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus, has specific goals to increase retention that are demonstrating how both Infande and Jackson may be correct. 

Academic advising at World Campus has created practices to assist with meeting retention goals that require collaboration with other departments.  However, in an online institution like World Campus, academic advisors are often the consistent person of contact while a student is pursuing educational goals.  Because of this relationship, the World Campus Academic Advising department includes retention practices in the job description for every academic advisor, making retention an academic advisor’s job requirement as well as an institutional effort.

World Campus Academic Advising Retention Practices

To assist with student persistence, the World Campus Academic Advising program meets identified areas of need for an adult online learner.  Intentional efforts to participate in meeting the identified needs assist with the overall retention initiatives at World Campus.

Outreach is key.  There are several proactive outreach campaigns that an academic advisor participates in to provide students an opportunity to give feedback.  Outreach includes soliciting feedback through an e-mail, questions during a webinar, through generated reports to target specific populations of students, a survey, or antidotal.

  • A student survey, which measures learning outcomes, is sent two times a year.
  • Academic reviews are completed for every registered student.
  • Group advising topics are offered, in real time, to assist students with common questions, such as “how do I register for courses.”
  • When natural disasters occur, academic advisors reach out to a student’s instructors to inform them of the situation.
  • The Outreach Analytics and Reporting department generates a report to identify students who have not or stopped participated in courses and an academic advisor reaches out to students to discuss options.
  • Academic advisors participate in social media to answer general questions or provide referrals to specific offices.

Partnering with others is essential.  There are several student-facing departments at World Campus that academic advisers will partner with to ensure students receive necessary resources and time-sensitive communication. Heldman (2008) writes “Whether it be registration deadline dates or details about study group meeting times, just providing information to students can make all the difference in helping them stay enrolled and eventually graduate.”

  • Academic advisors are copied each time a faculty member sends an early progress report to a student.
  • Academic advisors have a comprehensive e-mail and telephone communication plan throughout each semester to reach out to students to provide resources and support. Additionally, reports are used to inform academic advisors of students who may be at-risk and who may need additional contact.
  • Advisors refer students to resources, such as tutoring, videos on improving study skills and time management, and to developmental courses; trust is built between the academic advisor and the student which influences a student’s decision to remain at World Campus.
  • The academic advising department has partnered with consultants who reach out to students each semester to remind them to schedule courses and who make referrals to academic advisors as appropriate.

Students need to feel a sense of belonging (Schreiner, 2009).  Making an intentional effort, by providing opportunities for students to feel connected, will assist in student persistence. This is especially true for an online adult learner, who has more flexibility to transfer to another institution, compared to a residential student.

  • Many student clubs and organizations are offered for World Campus students. In most cases, an academic advisor is the advisor to the club or organization. Having an academic advisor, often the one consistent student contact, as the face of the club or organization helps students feel a strong connection to the university and provides familiarity.
  • A newly created Student Advisory Board has been created for World Campus students. Representatives from academic advising reviewed applications and assisted in the selection of the advisory group.

Online students need to identify barriers to learning at a distance.  World Campus academic advisers collaborate with academic support specialists to identify online learning barriers, as well as, to create and provide support resources.  All resources are provided virtually. Different mediums have been used to provide access to the resources, such as Adobe Connect, Skype, and Google Hangouts.

  • Academic advisors review an online readiness assessment with students to discuss areas that have been flagged as a barrier to online learning. Resources are recommended based on those flagged topic areas.
  • World Campus students have several resources available to assist with common barriers for online learners, such as orientation, technology help, remediation in math, a free course to prepare for college-level courses, and assistance from Tech Tutors. All resources are provided virtually from several different departments around World Campus.
  • Academic advisers host time-sensitive topic webinars to assist both current and new students. Most recently, there was a change in the university’s student information system. Academic advisers hosted several webinars to train students on how to use the new student information system. A common webinar provided each semester is “How to schedule courses.”

Online students need to know who to contact. Most online students do not have the option of walking into an office and asking for assistance because they are located in a different location from the institution.

  • World Campus academic advisors serve as the one consistent contact person for students. They assist students in navigating to the correct department or will provide a contact person for the student’s specific need.
  • The Outreach Analytics and Reporting department generates a report two weeks before each semester begins to identify any students who are not assigned an academic advisor and at that time one is assigned; the assigned academic advisor reaches out to the student with an introductory e-mail which includes the advisor’s contact information.
  • Ensuring there is one contact person for each department will decrease students’ frustration and give students the opportunity to get a question answered the first time. Academic advisors are familiar with the best contact person in each department and can make the best referral.
  • World Campus Academic Advising has a general phone line available to students from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday. Students who cannot get in touch with an assigned advisor can call the general advising phone line or can send an e-mail to the general advising account for assistance.

Knowledgeable academic advisors are a necessity.  Busy adult online learners need accurate answers in a timely manner. Transferring from one department to another can be a frustration for busy adult distance learners.

  • Academic advisors are cross-trained so students are not handed off to another person for a general question.
  • Adult learners (World Campus’s largest student demographic) studying at a distance are busy, so a fast answer about a general question allows for adult learners to spend more time on more important things, such as studying!
  • The World Campus academic advisors have foundational career counseling training to assist with exploring different majors. This goes a long way in building a relationship with students, thus making a strong connection for the student to the institution.

Academic advisors need to understand student experiences.  Collecting feedback from students who have dropped a course or withdrawn from the university can inform an academic advisor on how to improve messaging and on new resources to create to ensure a student understands class expectations.

  • A non-persistence survey is sent to students who drop a course or withdraw from a semester. Academic advisors are provided a summary report of the reasons a student has shared for dropping a course or withdrawing.
  • Common answers in the non-persistence survey have informed academic advisors in creating new messaging for students. Now, more often, when assisting a student with scheduling academic advisers will discuss the time dedication of a course, will refer a student to financial aid, and will discuss the rigor of taking a Penn State course. Those are the most common reasons provided from the survey.

Foundational courses need to be available to first-year students.  At times, adult learners studying at a distance have been out of the classroom or learning environment for many years.  Seats in specific foundational courses need to be available for those who have not participated in the learning environment for a period of time so that learners have a strong start and is set up for success.  

  • World Campus reserves seats in specific courses so academic advisors can ensure these students get a seat in their first semester. English is a foundational course used to prepare students for many other courses. Waiting to take a lower-level English course could create a barrier in persistence.
  • Course sequencing is very important, especially for an adult learner who has been out of the learning environment for several years. Academic advisers teach students how to identify pre-requisite courses, and discuss how to choose appropriate courses to take in the same semester. Academic advisers have detailed conversations when students share concerns on a specific topic. Two common courses an adult leaner has identified as difficult are Math and Writing. When a student shares a fear of math and writing, the academic adviser teaches the student how to identify a math and writing intensive course so they can be scheduled in different semesters. And, a discussion occurs to provide options on preparing for those courses.
  • Scheduling early can also set a student up for success. Adult learners have to prioritize all of their daily demands. It is easy to forget to schedule courses for a semester that will not begin in a few months. Academic advisers explain to students that waiting too long to schedule courses will cause a student to take a course that, potentially, will not be exactly what the student is interested in learning about. Part of retaining students is keeping them engaged and interested in the course content. Taking a course that meets requirements, but isn’t interesting to the student, may cause the student to question if this is the right program to continue in.

General efforts are important.  An important goal for World Campus Academic Advising is to support the academic advisors growth in the profession. As a Subject Matter Expert an increase in understanding valuable content and the ability to be flexible to meet student needs assists in persistence. These general efforts increase morale of a team which will directly link to better student service.

  • Academic advisors review and revise online resources and policies maintaining the most up-to-date information for students.
  • Different modes of communication are used for online learners. Academic advisers are open to communicating in a student’s preferred mode of delivery, whether that is through Skype, e-mail, Instant Messaging, or telephone.
  • Professional development participation is used to share best practices and identify necessary process changes to improve academic advising services.
  • Participating in discussions with other university academic advisors allow for idea generation and process improvements.
  • Leadership encourages a fluid academic advising program based on student needs. Academic advisers are involved in strategic planning for the World Campus Academic Advising program.

Although it is an academic advisor’s responsibility to participate in retention efforts, it is not possible without collaboration.  Nutt (2003) writes, “successful academic advising programs cannot be solely responsible for retention rates on a campus.” Sousa (2016) writes, “Since today’s incoming college students have more choices and challenges than ever when it comes to defining their college experience, stopping out or transferring has become commonplace.  Because of this, schools are finding it increasingly necessary to prioritize student retention efforts and to seek strategies that serve students more effectively.”  Analytics departments generate reports and surveys, outside consultants perform student outreach, student resource coordinators and marketing departments create resources, and purchased products help online learners identify barriers.  Prioritizing retention efforts in one person’s job description, with the collaboration of others, can assist in a retention program.

Sousa’s (2016) belief supports Dr. Jackson’s opinion that retention needs to be in a job description.  The importance of knowing which retention efforts are assisting with increasing an institution’s retention rate will inform decisions around future programming, department involvement, and job responsibilities.  Recommendations should be provided by someone who can track and analyze the data which is affecting the retention rate.  It can be everyone’s job, as shown from the information provided by World Campus Academic Advising’s practices; however, the key is to identify those efforts that are impacting an institution’s retention rate.  Fluidity in job responsibilities and support from all involved are key and will provide a greater success rate in a retention program regardless of the institution’s or individual’s philosophy.

Dawn Coder
Director of Academic Advising and Student Disability Services
The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus


Abdul-Alim, J. (2013, January 8). Institutions must invest in retention efforts, panel says. Retrieved from http://diverseeducation.com/article/50573/

Heldman, C. (2008, May). Building a student retention program – A challenge worth the effort. Retrieved from http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/building-student-retention-program-challenge-worth-effort

Infande, A. (2013, July 8). A dozen strategies for improving online student retention. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/a-dozen-strategies-for-improving-online-student-retention/

Nutt, C. L. (2003). Academic advising and student retention and persistence. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/636/article.aspx

Schreiner, L. A. (2009). Linking student satisfaction and retention. Coralville, IA: Noel-Levitz, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.noellevitz.com/documents/shared/Papers_and_Research/2009/LinkingStudentSatis0809.pdf

Sousa, T. (2016, September 9). Student retention is more important than ever [blog]. Retrieved from http://higheredlive.com/3-reasons-student-retention-is-more-important-than-ever/

Vantage Point banner.jpgSurfacing: Advising with a Mental Health Disability

Catherine Duclos, York County Community College

Catherine Duclos.jpgThere have been articles written about advisors working with students with mental health issues or a mental health disability, but not about the advisor who does their work with mental health issues or a mental health disability, so I’m coming out of the closet to talk about it, to help others who have been in the closet as I have for so long.  I am an advisor who lives with a mental health disability, bipolar to be exact, and I’ve struggled with it my entire life and as I’ve advised students of all ages.  Now I am an advisor at the college level, and everything I have learned from living with my disability informs my practice as an advisor.  This is how:

I felt lost, broken, and afraid for many years before I was finally diagnosed: much like students feel when they are struggling with their classes, their homework, or their confusion about the future that they are expected to have once they finish college.  In a unique way, I have built in empathy, compassion, and an authentic understanding of their experiences.  As an advisor then, I can go deep with them into those places of feeling lost, broken and afraid, confused and confounded.  I can help them to begin to explore the pathways to the surface where they will find their strengths, their particular gifts in living a fulfilling life, their hope, and even joy at these discoveries of self.  Surfacing, as I have come to see it in my students and as I have experienced myself, is just as it sounds: coming to the surface above the negative messages, internal and external, that have held one back from true self.  It is a way of learning to trust oneself, believing in one’s strengths, value, and unique gifts.

One of the ways I learned how to “surface” in this way was by coming to understand that my illness was a gift, not a liability.  One author in particular, Parker Palmer (2000), woke me up to this realization in his book titled Let Your Life Speak, Listening for the Voice of Vocation:

We arrive in this world with birthright gifts—then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them.  As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood, but trying to fit us into slots.  Then—if we are awake, aware, and able to admit our loss—we spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed. (p. 12)

Imagine being able to share with a student that their disability is a gift, not a curse or something keeping them from a promising future.  Instead, through the advising relationship, one can assist them to embrace their difference as a pathway to true self; discover an awareness that their particular way of being in the world is not broken; reassure them that they’re not lost or alone.  It is powerful to witness them shift their perspective so they can see that what they are facing is simply a distinct kind of challenge they can learn to accept, live with, and then actually thrive on.  Guiding students through this process is a way to help them towards self-acceptance, resilience, grit—a freedom and joy that goes beyond measure. 

This progression is part of trusting oneself and also becoming trustworthy as a person.  Sankar (2003) phrases these actions in this way: “For academic advisers, trust building begins with the adviser being trustworthy and communicating trustworthiness.  The ability to do so is largely based on one’s character, competence, and authentic way of being” (p. 50).  My own role in this unfolding is being authentic with my students through appropriate self-disclosure.  By this I mean revealing my illness or disability in what I discern as a safe and accepting environment.  For example, when I work with a student who is obviously struggling with some mental health issues, I will share with them that I have also struggled in life in a similar way.  I share with them that I have a mental health disability, but that I have been able to gain the health, stability, and competence to become successful in life as an academic advisor.  My students can witness for themselves and trust that there is a model for their own success as I share my authentic way of being with them.

It wasn’t always that way, however, as I struggled for years in my professional life in silence, feeling ashamed of my “problems” relating to bipolar.  For those who don’t know, bipolar was once called manic depression (a term I actually prefer as it is more descriptive of the experience of bipolar).  For the layman, essentially, manic depression is a mood disorder in which one has high elevated moods where one can feel quite happy, even euphoric, and have far increased energy, creativity, and productivity levels (manic).  Then, the pendulum swings the other way towards low, detached, sometimes hopeless and despairing moods where one can barely get out of bed, much less get to work or school (depression).  This of course does not fit the pattern of a regular work day/week or the pattern of a regular class load at college or university.  So, how can this be a gift one could wonder? Once I was finally able to recognize and track the patterns of my “highs” and “lows,” in other words, gain some self-understanding, I accessed all the resources available and I advocated for myself—this was the key, one I constantly share with students. 

When I was in school, doing my graduate degree, I found out about the office for students with disabilities and registered with them so they could assist me when I needed it.  Also, I talked about my disability and my patterns with all my professors so they could understand that sometimes I would be able to be in a very high, creative, and productive mode in my class work, and sometimes I would not be able to do as much, but would be able to eventually catch up with assignments with their cooperation through accommodations.  I was encouraged and actively sought counseling and psychiatric therapeutic support along the pathway of my recovery.  At times, I required inpatient hospitalization and had to take a break from school.  I admit this was challenging and discouraging, but I always returned at the encouragement of my advisor and a few faculty members.  At other times I was able to function and stay in school with outpatient clinical treatment, where I learned life-long coping skills that I still use.  This is the kind of information I share with my students who live with mental health issues or a mental health disability.  Self-advocacy and self-efficacy are crucial to their personal and academic success.  I say this to them explicitly and role model for them the deep value of taking the path of appropriate self-disclosure, using campus resources, actively seeking counseling and psychiatric care, and most of all, an acceptance of their unique gifts.   

And last in my journey, I eventually opened up about who I really am to the people in my life—my friends, my fellow students, and my co-workers.  It was frightening at first because of the stigma of mental illness.  I thought I would be ostracized, rejected because my experience was so different than theirs.  Some did turn away from me in fear and otherness, but many embraced the way I experienced the world and saw it as unique and valuable.  Today, I am fortunate to work in such an environment. Going through this process of self-disclosure and acceptance helped me to gain the self-confidence and self-esteem I felt I had lost earlier in my life.  As Palmer said, I recovered and reclaimed the gift I once possessed.  Students have this opportunity as well, given the clear guidance, the empathy, and the focused advocacy of an informed academic advisor, as I have described here. 

As an advisor, this journey of mine into brokenness, fear, shame, and losing myself through the lens of my disability has brought me infinitely closer to students who share some of the same qualities of their journey in life.  My disability is my gift in this profession; it took me a lifetime to come to my own awareness of this fact, as it may for other advisors who live with a mental health disability.  That is why I am speaking now, so that others may not feel so alone—you are not.  You are in good company.

Catherine Duclos
College Success Advisor
TRIO Student Support Services
York County Community College


Parker, P. (2000). Let your life speak, listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Sankar, Y. (2003). Character not charisma is the critical measure of leadership excellence.  Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 9(4), 45-55.

Strategically Trained – NACADA Assessment Institute

Kim Paige, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Kim Paige.jpgIn many higher education institutions, retention initiatives have become the buzz in student learning, department and program outcomes, and institutional goals.  Academic advising is one of the critical student services that is central to holistic student development and student learning in higher education.  While many institutions provide academic advising for students, little evaluation of the effectiveness of this student service has been conducted; yet, academic advising plays a critical role in the retention, persistence, and success of students in higher education communities (Drake, Jordan, & Miller, 2013).  For academic advising programs to be an effective asset to support student development, persistence, and retention initiatives,  institutions must create comprehensive assessment plans that are strategically focused in assessment.  The NACADA Assessment Institute provides many opportunities that can help align strategies for developing, implementing, maintaining, and coining best practices in assessment in academic advising.

Assessment is seen as an accountability measure and is emphasized in the NACADA Assessment Institute as a process that should be positive, ongoing, and focused on the feedback toward the improvement of services (Hernon & Dugan, 2004).  From the very basics to the most comprehensive assessment strategies, the NACADA Assessment Institute can provide the knowledge to create multifaceted assessment plans that fit specific program and institutional needs.  National research has shown that the assessment of advising services is one of the most ignored formal evaluation practices at many undergraduate institutions (Cuseo, 2008).  Specifically, five national surveys showed that only 29% of colleges and universities assess advisor effectiveness (Habley & Morales, 1998).  With an understanding that academic advising plays an essential role in the development and influence of students’ personal, academic, and societal perspectives and success in higher education, the evaluation of  advising programs and academic advisors should be a top priority.  

Participation in the NACADA Assessment Institute can help provide knowledge and skills to fill the gaps of effectiveness in advising, student learning, program outcomes, and institutional outcomes.  The Assessment Institute repertoire is an endless resource to help advising programs develop key benchmarks and practices that support the successful persistence and retention of students in post-secondary education (Drake et al., 2013).  By developing an ongoing cycle of assessment for undergraduate academic advising programs, higher education institutions can change how this accountability tool increases student learning, professional responsibility, institutional effectiveness, and the overall quality of academic advising.

Developing a Working Tool in Advising Assessment

The primary measure of understanding and improving advising services on many campus can be heavily focused on survey data that has been collected through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).  The NSSE is valuable in collecting and assessing the college experiences of students and can assist institutions in measuring effective academic practices (Pike, 2013).  However, internal, program- or department-specific assessment measures can give focus on a working tool in advising assessment.  An assessment plan is a living, working tool that serves to improve advising services, student retention, and persistence rates towards timely graduation.  The NACADA Assessment Institute provides the groundwork for developing and implementing this working tool.  Below outlines the pivotal personal learning outcomes from the NACADA Assessment Institute.

1. Develop an assessment team

Assessment is a shared venture that requires perpetual strides to improve advising services and programs, while simultaneously improving accountability and effectiveness (Walvoord, 2004). Developing an assessment team helps identify what is important in the program’s mission and values to effectively advise and support students.

2. Start with an advising mission

Every advising program should have a mission statement that provides a synopsis of beliefs, aims, and goals in supporting the purpose and priorities of academic advising (Walvoord, 2004).  Whether starting from scratch or revising a current mission statement, advising programs should start with developing a mission statement that reflects current objectives and provides future direction for advising services for the specific program and/or department.

3. Develop advising goals and objectives

Goals and objectives for every sector of advising on campus should seek to

- provide current and relevant information to students,
- promote student success with an emphasis on collaboration and shared responsibility for the student and advisor,
- promote holistic student development in advising and learning,
- reflect and review advising services to improve offerings to students, and
- evaluate and assess all advising activities and services annually.

4. Identify program and/or department-specific student learning outcomes

Academic programs and/or majors should identify student learning outcomes that are specifically mapped to academic advising goals. When student learning outcomes are strategically identified and mapped to advising goals, students are more knowledgeable of advising processes that promote student progress and facilitation towards graduation.

5. Determine the most appropriate and effective assessment instruments

The appropriate assessment instrument(s) can help gather the most effective data/information to evaluate advising services and student and program needs.  Survey instruments provide quantitative data, while focus groups can provide more detailed, qualitative data.

Closing the Gaps

Assessment can be viewed as a scary task that unveils defaults in services and programs that support student learning in higher education, especially among academic advisors.  Time and time again the old adage that “numbers don’t lie” has had advisors cringing in their chairs about what the numbers say about the many services provided to students and effects of those services on student persistence and retention.  However, advisors are seen as the one constant that touches a student’s academic and college experience throughout their college years.  For this reason, assessment of student learning as related to academic advising should not just be highly driven by outside stakeholders, such as accreditation requirements, but become a consistent practice for internal improvement.  

The NACADA Assessment Institute highlights the critical nature of advising assessment as a must-have for ongoing quality improvement and standards that support successful student learning outcomes (Campbell & Nutt, 2008).  Advising assessment is the cornerstone to effective change in promoting student persistence, retention, and completion of degree requirements.  Advising assessment also serves as the channel for continuous feedback to support assessment initiatives and goals (Campbell & Nutt, 2008) toward closing gaps in academic advising services.  To get this channel of resources flowing, sign up for the NACADA Assessment Institute . . . a strategic move you won’t regret!

Kim Paige
Academic Advisor II
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology


Campbell, S. M., & Nutt, C. L. (2008). Academic advising in the new global century: Supporting student engagement and learning outcomes achievement. Peer Review, 10(1), 4–7.

Cuseo, J. (2008). Assessing advisor effectiveness. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 369-385). San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass.

Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Habley, W. R., & Morales, R, H. (1998). Current practices in academic advising: Final report on ACT’s fifth national survey of academic advising [Monograph Series, no. 6]. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

Hernon, P., & Dugan, R. E. (2004). Outcomes assessment in higher education: Views and perspectives. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Pike, G. R. (2013). The updated National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Assessment Update25(4), 10.

Walvoord, B. E. F. (2004). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Vantage Point banner.jpgWhy We Serve on the NACADA Diversity Committee

Carol Pollard, Diversity Committee Chair 2015-2017
Michelle Sotolongo, Diversity Committee Member 2014-2016
Mark Nelson, Diversity Committee Member 2016-2018

The role of the NACADA Diversity Committee (as explained on its webpage) is “to make recommendations regarding diversity issues within the association.  The committee reviews the status of diversity within the organization, recommends methods for enhancing diversity, and advises on how the association can better meet the needs of its diverse membership.”

NACADA defines diversity from a very broad perspective, which includes (but is not limited to) diversity in regard to ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation as well as diversity in regard to institutional type, size, and employment position.  In this article, three Diversity Committee members share their thoughts on what being a part of the committee means to them.

Michelle Sotolongo.jpgMichelle Sotolongo, whose two-year term on the committee will come to an end at the upcoming Annual Conference in Atlanta this October, says:

Different can be good.  I seek out the other when most are content with the status quo.  Experiencing otherness, by witnessing it growing up and later throughout my undergraduate and graduate years of college, has made me even more passionate about embracing the other.  l came to the US at the age of three and was raised in Houston.  Spanish was my first language, and I am eternally grateful to my mother for enforcing a Spanish only rule at home to make sure I did not forget it.  Growing up in Houston exposed me to countless rich cultures that probably contributed to my appreciation for foreigners and multiculturalism.  

However, what was a normal home life was different enough from that of my classmates that I never truly felt American, Texan, or even Mexican-American.  I still don’t.  Visiting family and friends in Mexico showed me the flip side, where not being caught up on the latest slang or pop culture made me feel like an other again, stuck in between two identities that eventually shaped my perception of community, family, and the social constructs of race and ethnicity.  I learned in graduate school that otherness as an affliction was more common than I had thought.  I became very self-aware, which in turn heightened my awareness to the nuanced differences that make everyone’s experiences unique.  Advocating for those experiences to be heard became a genuine interest of mine.  I was already an advocate for my students when NACADA showed me a way to do the same for my fellow advisors.

I was not aware of many aspects of NACADA when I first joined and began presenting.  I have close friends and colleagues to thank for seeing in me what I am still not so sure I see in myself.  The exotic nature of my research topic made me worthy of introductions to multiple people with years of advising under their belts, NACADA movers and shakers.  I was encouraged to apply to the Emerging Leaders Program and suddenly found myself surrounded by a group of talented people making waves at their own institutions.  One thing immediately led to the next, and I was invited to serve on the Diversity Committee.  So really, I was thrown into the big pond and was so lucky that I could swim.

Being part of the Diversity Committee has exposed me to the contributions we all can make to NACADA, contributions of which I was not previously aware.  After a while, one’s own ability to see that something special in others becomes honed.  Whether it’s identifying issues that need addressing in publications or conferences to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, NACADA strives for excellence in the resources it provides to all kinds of educators and maintains its momentum by bringing in fresh eyes.  Everyone can contribute to the NACADA conversation, and I want to use my powers of otherness for good in spotting the fresh perspectives that go beyond the traditional idea of diversity involving gender or race.

No matter how big or small our differences are, they are what make us invaluable as leaders: someone saw something in us, and we have a responsibility to encourage other individuals who we see potential in to can share their wisdom with the rest of us.  The best way to acknowledge the differences that make life exciting and well-rounded is to encourage others to share their stories and viewpoints, expertise, techniques, and abilities through leadership.  We can all learn a lot from each other and all it takes is a little nudge in the right direction.

Mark Nelson.jpgMark Nelson, incoming committee member for the 2016-2018 term, says:

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by different cultures.  When I was in high school, I loved going to Spanish Club events.  In college, I was active in Black Student Union, homecoming, and intramurals.  Through my difference experiences, I have been privileged to see new places and become introduced to new ideas.  My favorite part about diversity, however, is interacting with new and different people.  During my junior year in college, I needed an extra hour for my schedule and decided to take a ballroom dance class.  I did not have a partner, so I did the brave thing and signed up on my own.  On the first night, I stood there quietly as my classmates congregated to the middle of the room with their pre-selected partners.  I looked in the corner and there stood an international student from Japan.  Her name was Aiko.  Like myself, she did not have a partner.  She was at least a foot shorter than me, she was very quiet, and she spoke English as her second language.  As for me, I was much larger than this young lady (which, by the way, can present a challenge in ballroom dancing), I did not know a single word of Japanese, and I wasn’t always graceful on my feet.  To this day, I think our first night in class was extremely magical because we were able to put our differences aside to come together and dance!  We scheduled one night a week outside of class where we both practiced.  When I say we practiced, I am talking 1-2 hours outside of class!  Our hard work paid off.  We actually won our Foxtrot In-class Dance exam.  To become good dancers, we had to practice, we had to communicate with each other, and we had to quickly forgive the other person when one of us made a mistake (which was more often me getting off step or stepping on her toes).

Diversity is a funny thing.  Diversity requires time and effort.  Implementing diversity is a dance that requires practice, communication, and forgiveness.  Practicing diversity is simply making the commitment to step outside of our comfort zone.  It’s something we always want to discuss but struggle to implement because it requires us to challenge ourselves.  For advisors, this could mean attending a concurrent session that we know nothing about, taking the time to have lunch with a new colleague, or venturing outside of our offices to meet other advisors on campus to learn about the culture of their offices.  Diversity and communication require having the courage to come to the table and join a discussion that may seem completely foreign.  They require a person to ask questions and answer questions without prejudice, meaning responding without the attitude of “common knowledge or practice.”  We have probably all had the experience of asking someone a question and their response implied that the answer was “common knowledge.”  Effective communication in a diverse setting requires openness and willingness to help and include all people.  Finally, there’s forgiveness.  We are all human at the end of the day.  More often than not, our intentions come from a good place but may be received differently than intended.  To be more diverse, we must aim to be positive and forgive those who may or may not be aware of their own ignorance.

When we commit ourselves to diversity through practice, communication, and forgiveness, we engage ourselves within the involvement of NACADA, our profession, and most importantly our offices and institutions.  My fraternity brother, Paris Rossiter, once told me “The greatest work is done from the inside.”  He said, “This is where you can assist in making decisions: voice your concerns but most importantly, listen to new ideas.”  Bro. Rossiter’s statement has stuck with me since 2007.  Becoming diverse means committing ourselves to actively enriching the thoughts of our students, colleagues, and superiors.  It means becoming a steward or stewardess to all we encounter.  Most importantly, it means becoming better people.  This is why I committed myself to the Diversity Committee.

Carol Pollard.jpgCarol Pollard, 2015-2017 Diversity Committee Chair, has served on the committee since 2012.  Carol says:

Diversity is a word that some may feel is over-used, but the intention of those using the term is something I appreciate.  According to Merriam Webster, diversity is a “quality or state of having many forms, types, ideas, etc.”  Because I am a member of the U.S. American majority ethnic group, many would say that I do not look “diverse,” and I do not feel “diverse” for the most part, but I care greatly about the success of diversity and inclusion efforts for the sake of NACADA as an association and for the world at large.  My involvement with this committee has expanded my horizons by helping me become acquainted with many wonderful ideas, people, and events that represent the broad diversity of our membership.

I was involved with NACADA for years before I became aware of the Diversity Committee and its goals.  However, I was pleased to learn that the needs of all our members were being considered, and I wanted to be a part of that work.  Only when the association is inclusive enough that no member ever feels slighted or unappreciated can we say that the work of inclusion is complete.  In the meantime, the trick is finding members of under-represented populations to talk about their experiences and how we can be a better organization for all of our membership.

If we consider the broadest definition of the word “diversity,” every one of us is included in that definition—we are all unique, we are all special, and we all have different feelings of belonging in different settings, times, and places in our lives.  One of NACADA’s goals is simply to have our leadership appropriately reflect our membership.  For example, in NACADA’s definition of diversity, institution type is one of the diversity areas considered; therefore, since our analytics tell us that at this time our membership includes 15% advisors at two-year institutions, a goal is that our leadership also be about 15% members from two-year institutions. Since these members are currently under-represented in our leadership, we are actively recruiting members from two-year schools to consider being involved in NACADA leadership. This “kind” of diversity is not immediately visible, but it is one of many that we are working to be sure is included in our actions and goals.

Personally, my goal is to have every person who attends a NACADA event feel comfortable and welcome.  Hopefully by seeing or meeting someone else who they feel they have commonalities with, we approach that ideal on some level.  Being a member of the Diversity Committee, and having the opportunity to work toward that goal with this dedicated group, has been both inspiring and rewarding for me.

Please add your voice to the discussion.  We look forward to meeting and talking with people in Atlanta and to helping make NACADA as inclusive as we can.  Check out our committee webpage to learn more about us (If you are NACADA member, be sure you are logged into the NACADA website to view all the available information!)

Carol J. Pollard
Senior Academic Counselor
College of Music
University of North Texas

Michelle Sotolongo
Student Development Specialist - Honors College
Campus Coordinator – Texas State University Terry Scholars 
Texas State University

Mark S. Nelson
Academic Counselor II
University College Advising
Oklahoma State University

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NACADA Emerging Leaders Program Celebrates Ten Years of Successful Leadership Development

Cecilia Olivares and Heather Doyle, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board

ELP-Heather&Cecilia.jpgNACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising is committed to ensuring that its leadership is reflective of its membership and to providing individuals the opportunity to become more involved in the association at all leadership levels. In order to assist with this goal, the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was developed in 2006, as an initiative from the Diversity Committee, to encourage members from diverse backgrounds to explore and get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization.  Each year, beginning with the 2007-2009 Class, 10 Emerging Leaders and 10 Mentors are selected for the two-year program. Leaders are matched with Mentors who have a wide range of experience within NACADA, from research and publication to serving on the Board of Directors. Leaders and Mentors work closely to connect the Leaders to the areas of the association they are interested in and develop a plan for continued involvement and growth within the association. Emerging Leaders receive a $1,500 stipend to assist them with travel to NACADA conferences, institutes, and seminars, helping to promote their engagement and involvement.

We are excited to be celebrating our 10th year of the ELP program, recognizing that many members of the Emerging Leaders classes have served in elected and appointed positions, as chairs of NACADA regions, commissions, interest groups, committees, advisory boards, and task forces.  ELPers have already made a lasting impression on NACADA and have a long list of accomplishments, including:

  • ELP-Rodney&Erin.jpgSpearheading the establishment of the Career Advising Interest Group and the Advising at HBCUs Interest Group. 
  • Presenting (some with their Mentors) at regional, annual, and international conferences.
  • Serving on region, CIG, or conference steering committees.
  • Participating in conferences, including serving as chairs or co-chairs of regional conferences. One Emerging Leader chaired our 2010 Annual Conference in Orlando. 
  • Writing for the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources and NACADA books.
  • Presenting as part of Webinar broadcasts.
  • Being awarded NACADA Research Grants. 
  • Moving on to becoming Mentors in the ELP program.
  • Serving on the NACADA Council.

Several have shared their stories in Academic Advising Today articles, which may be found linked from the Program homepage.  To learn more about the contributions of our ELP Classes, visit the Accomplishments webpage.

The 2014-2016 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured below), who began work at the 2014 Annual Conference in Minneapolis, 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 Atlanta, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

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Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Cecilia Olivares is pleased to announce the 2016-2018 NACADA Emerging Leaders and Mentors

Emerging Leaders

Quentin Alexander, Longwood University
Mehvash Ali, American University of Sharjah
Tania Alvarez. Old Dominion University
Amalauna (Amy) Brock, Young Harris College
Fabiola Mora, Colorado State University
Shantalea Johns, Wayne State University
Locksley Knibbs, Florida Gulf Coast University
Mark Nelson, Oklahoma State University
Patricia MacMillan, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Jennifer Plante, Clark University


Kathy Davis, Missouri State University
Kyle Ellis, University of Mississippi
Dawn Fettig, University of Colorado-Boulder
Sally Garner, University of Oregon
Rebecca Hapes, Texas A&M University
Theresa Hitchcock, University of Louisville
Craig McGill, Florida International University
John Paul Regalado, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Kathie Sindt, Johns Hopkins University
Jobila Sy, Zayed University

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

Cecilia Olivares
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2014-2016

Heather Doyle
Incoming ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2016-2018



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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.