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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Planning for Progress

Dana Zahorik, NACADA President

Dana Zahorik.jpgAs our semesters and terms come to a start, so does the preparation for NACADA’s Annual Conference, taking place this year in the beautiful city, St. Louis, Missouri.  Our Executive Office, Annual Conference Planning Committee, and a variety of association leaders have been planning for a full year, with activities coming to a full force as October closes in.  Just like planning for a successful conference, we as advisors have a plan for our new students and how we assist our students in fulfilling their own plans for academic success.  I encourage you to extend this planning beyond student success to your own growth by creating your own advising professional development plan. 

Perhaps your plan includes opportunities to get connected from the comfort of your own home or office, which could include connections through a variety of NACADA media, including etutorials, webinars, publications, and more.  If you are able to join those of us attending the annual conference, think about what you would like to accomplish and how you will go about it.  Will you attend sessions specific to your advising concerns, network with individuals from similar institutions or those who have addressed similar concerns at their own institution, or attend the Commission and Interest Group fair to learn more about ways to share and gain knowledge on a specific advising topic?

Perhaps your plan includes getting engaged in the association at a different level.  Consider getting involved by attending the Town Hall Business Meeting taking place on Friday, October 13th.  The meeting will begin with a short business discussion, followed by rotating topical feedback sessions.  Topics will include Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement in Leadership; Core Competencies; Research Center Initiatives; External Partnerships; Strategic Goals; and Global Initiatives.  Members will have the opportunity to share input on each of the topics, leaders will gather the information, summarize, and share with the Board of Directors, along with other leaders, to assist in future planning.  This feedback will be shared with members post-conference through a variety of venues.  Please mark your itinerary for 5:45 p.m. in Hall 1 and help us meet our goal of 250+ attendees.

If your plan includes additional opportunities for engagement in the association, consider getting interested in writing; chairing a committee (or simply becoming a member of a committee); or leading at the state, regional, or global level.  If you are not ready for leadership yourself, consider taking the time to nominate someone you feel has great leadership skills. You can do so by visiting this LINK or a paper copy of the nomination forms will be available in the program at annual conference.

Finally, the Board of Directors has been working throughout the year to fulfill their plans from the 2016 Annual Conference Board of Director meeting.  We are closing in on our plan to complete the strategic goals measurements and benchmarks and have completed the groundwork for an internal evaluation of the association.  We are also welcoming our newly elected and appointed leaders and including them in conversations as they prepare to take on their new positions beginning at the close of the 2017 annual conference.  Please join me in welcoming our new leaders and also promoting a slate of diverse leaders by nominating a leader for our 2018 election cycle.

Regardless of what you are interested in, having a plan can make the journey more meaningful and productive.  Knowing your goal, determining potential barriers, creating a plan to overcome barriers, and setting up support systems to succeed can all be part of your own professional development plan.  Sound familiar?  It is what we as advisors do for our own students daily while serving in the advising field and it is what we do best.  Plan for your own future and let NACADA be part of that plan to help you get there.  Have a great fall start and I hope to see you all at Annual Conference in St. Louis!

Dana Zahorik, President, 2016-2017
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Counselor/Academic Advising Council Chair/Peer Advising Co-Chair
Counseling and Advising Services
Fox Valley Technical College

From the Executive Director: Impacting Student Success, the Profession, Institutions, and the Globe

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgEach year, the impact of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising grows on our members, the profession, institutions, and the globe.  What is exciting about this impact is how so many of our members are actively involved in the work that the association is doing, which clearly demonstrates that our association continues to be a grassroots association that works closely with the NACADA Board of Directors and Executive Office in changing the face of academic advising in higher education.  I want to outline for you just a few of these collaborative efforts.

For the past two years, the Professional Development Committee with the leadership of Chair Teri Farr and the Core Values Revision Task Force with the leadership of Jayne Drake and Joanne Damminger have both worked diligently and for many hours to produce the NACADA Core Competencies for Academic Advising and a revision of the NACADA Core Values.  What is very important is that both of these groups spent a great deal of time at the NACADA annual, regional, and international conferences as well as at the NACADA institutes and special open webinars to gather insights and recommendations from members across the profession and the globe on these important documents. So not only were the members of the groups involved in these projects, but also thousands of NACADA members and members of academic advising communities worldwide had an active role in the development of these core competencies and core values.  These will now have significant impact on professional development programs across higher education and on the success and degree completion of students across the globe.  The outstanding work of NACADA Executive Office Staff Liaisons Leigh Cunningham, Maxine Coffey, and Cathy Swartz provided the needed support to each of these important projects.

As President Zahorik stated in her article, the NACADA Board of Directors (Dana Zahorik, Nathan Vickers, Dawn Fettig, Amy Sannes, Brody Broshears, Shannon Burton, Karen Archambault, Kerri Kincannon, and Patti Griffin), has taken very seriously its primary responsibility of guiding the association for the future by working closely with the NACADA Council in focused work on the association’s strategic goals.  The Board has created benchmarks to be achieved in five to ten years for each goal and strategies to measure the achievements of these goals.  The Board will now communicate the goals, benchmarks, and measurements to our leaders of the NACADA units, such as our regions, commissions, interest groups, committees, and advisory board, who will be actively involved in assuring we as an association meet these important strategic goals.  Once again, this ensures that leaders and members will work together to move our association forward with the help of the NACADA Executive Office Staff who all serve as liaisons and support to our various leadership units.

NACADA has continued to expand our partnerships with other associations and entities focused on student success, completion, and academic advising.  During the past year alone, NACADA has worked with groups such as the Achieving the Dream, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Complete College America, The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, The Reinvention Collaborative, and Tyton Partners.  This work has resulted in joint projects such as webinars, important publications on student completion and graduation, shared professional development activities, and other efforts supporting academic advising across higher education.  Once again, these partnerships have included many of our members and leaders, including our President Dana Zahorik and leaders Brett McFarlane, Karen Sullivan-Vance, Theresa Hitchcock, and Vanessa Harris just to name a few of the many individuals actively involved in these partnerships.  In addition, the collaboration and support of our Executive Office Staff members Jennifer Joslin, Wendy Troxel, Marsha Miller, and Maxine Coffey has been instrumental in these growing partnerships.

I am particularly excited about our continued work with the Tyton Partners on the Drive to Degree Survey.  In its third year, the survey reached more NACADA members as well as other academic advising leaders in the field to provide data on the academic advising experiences of students at institutions across the US.  This survey has ensured that NACADA is an active partner in reaching out to institutions concerning the status of academic advising and has involved hundreds of NACADA members and leaders who reviewed questions and gave valuable input to the survey’s development as well as were involved in the pilot of the survey administration.

Last, our association’s strength has its foundation in the amazing work being done in our regions, CIG and administrative divisions, and the NACADA Journal Editorial Board.  The work of these divisions represents thousands of members across the globe who are providing quality professional development, research, publications, and networking that strongly impact our profession and student success.  With leadership of Vice President Nathan Vickers and Council Members Nicole Kent, Rodney Mondor, Erin Justyna, Rebecca Cofer, Brett McFarlane, and Cecilia Olivares, the growth of NACADA in all ways is truly from these grassroots leaders and members.  Additionally, the partnership and support of the Executive Office Liaisons is instrumental to those groups, including Rhonda Baker, Maxine Coffey, Leigh Cunningham, Peggy Goe, Michele Holiday, Jennifer Joslin, Dawn Krause, Dayna Kuhlman, Diane Matteson, Marsha Miller, Jennifer Rush, Elisa Shaffer, Cathy Swartz, Wendy Troxel, and Farrah Turner.

Clearly, NACADA is growing in our impact across the world that is directly connected to the work of thousands of members, leaders, and the partnership with the Executive Office Staff.  Thanks to all of you across the world.

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

Cite this article using APA style as: Nutt, C. (2017, September). From the executive director: Impacting student success, the profession, institutions, and the globe. Academic Advising Today, 40(3). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Survival in the Face of Stress and Fear: How the Advisor Can Respond to Fight or Flight in Student Behavior

Christina Curley, Georgia Southern University

Editor’s Note: For further conversation on ways to combat fears that can affect an advising situation, join us for the September 12th webinar, Building Advisor Competency: Facing Fear and Creating our Best Professional Selves.

Christina Curley.jpgAdvisors are tasked with helping students succeed, yet every semester there are students who disengage, avoid obligations, refuse help from advisors and other campus resources, and suffer academically as a result.  While there may be several reasons behind a student’s choices, it is also possible this avoidance behavior is a matter of instincts.  Perhaps when students disengage and procrastinate, they are merely trying to survive in the face of stress and fear.

When faced with a perceived threat, the body has an acute stress response, releasing cortisol and certain hormones, activating what is known as the fight or flight response (Chancellor-Freeland, Chang, & Szabo, 2015).  Flight is often the reaction to fear, in which case, the body attempts to flee from danger—whether it be physical or psychological (Lebel, 2017).  Students who are struggling in classes may feel their self-worth is being threatened by difficult tasks or concepts (Doménech-Betoret, Gómez-Artiga, & Lloret-Segura, 2014).  They could be afraid of confronting the disappointment of their professors or advisor, and therefore do not schedule or attend meetings.  Students who were always successful previously may simply be afraid of trying and failing, uncertain of what that might mean for their identity (Dweck, 2006).  For these students, the flight response may translate to skipping classes, not asking their professors questions, not scheduling an advisement appointment, procrastinating on important tasks, or giving up entirely.  Unfortunately, while this may be a short-term solution to escaping danger, it ultimately is only harming the students more and preventing them from reaching their goals.

The release of stress hormones does more than create a choice of fighting or fleeing.  There is a physical response to heightened cortisol including, “increased heart rate, suppressed immune function, and inhibited digestion” (Chancellor-Freeland et al., 2015, p. 226).  In other words, students may actually become physically ill.  Students who are ill often skip class or put off studying in an attempt to rest and recover.  This is actually counter-productive as their actions put them even further behind and increase their long-term stress.  Moreover, many students do not recognize the link between their illness and their situation and therefore make no efforts to rectify it with different actions.

This pattern of behavior can be destructive.  While students are trying to protect themselves from perceived threats, they are only perpetuating the threatening situation.  Perhaps they miss so many classes that it is difficult to catch up.  They miss out on available resources such as tutoring centers, their professors, and their academic advisor.  Their grades may suffer.  Their lower GPA may mean they do not qualify for their majors or graduate school.  They may lose scholarships or financial aid.  They may face academic probation or suspension.  Situations get worse and, naturally, the threats become even greater.

How can advisors help students out of this self-destructive spiral? First and foremost, by being supportive and modeling confidence and composure.  When presented with a stressful situation, people look for cues from others on how to respond.  Panic and fear can be contagious, whereas calm and supportive cues can minimize paranoid thoughts and actions (Lebel, 2017).  When discussing problems with students, advisors should maintain a calm demeanor.  Simple cues such as relaxed shoulders, an open posture, and a smile can set the student more at ease in the moment.  Once the student is more at ease, advisors can begin asking open-ended questions and making observations to facilitate more self-awareness in the student.

While a complete shift in mindset might require more extensive counseling than is appropriate in a regular advisement appointment, simply providing a quick explanation of the link between a student’s actions and the fight or flight response could provide just enough enlightenment to spark that shift. Students may be relieved to hear an explanation such as survival instinct, rather than laziness or apathy.  Once they see their responses as natural, even biological, and not just a character flaw, they could be more confident in finding solutions.  Advisors should be careful not to label these responses as unavoidable, but rather, understandable.  This explanation for their choices should not serve as an excuse, but as encouragement to make changes.  Once students understand the reason they are naturally inclined to procrastinate, avoid challenges, and withdraw from undesirable situations, they can begin to rethink their responses.

When people have confidence in their abilities, they are less fearful in tackling obstacles.  If they are less fearful, they are less likely to have a flight response (Lebel, 2017).  Advisors can lead students to discover their own strengths and abilities by practicing strengths-based advising.  This approach increases student confidence and motivation and gives them a better sense of direction by focusing on positive attributes and abilities rather than weaknesses and past failures (Anderson & Schreiner, 2004).  Advisors need not fully adopt a new model of advising to implement pieces of this approach.  Just taking the time to ask a few open-ended questions focused on student strengths can provide the affirmation and encouragement a student needs to feel more confident and less likely to flee from a problem or perceived threat.

Another way to increase confidence and minimize the flight response is by meditating on past successes (Lebel, 2017) and practicing positive self-talk (Mansson, 2016).  This helps with emotion regulation and can prompt students to act rather than disengage or withdraw in times of stress (Lebel, 2017).  Again, an educational approach can be beneficial.  Advisors can take the time to explain the power of these techniques so that students are equipped to use them.  Advisors can also help students remember successes by reminding them of things they have already accomplished, such as passing certain classes, earning scholarships, or even having been accepted to college in the first place.  The student and advisor can work together to create mechanisms for documenting success, such as journaling, blogging, or creating folders for saving success stories.  Developing mantras and affirmations students can repeat to themselves in times of stress is also useful.  The best approach will vary by student, so advisors should be flexible in how they provide support to each student.  They should gauge what the student is most receptive to and move forward with that technique.

Even in the face of highly stressful circumstances, students are capable of managing negative emotional experiences so that they respond in proactive ways, rather than avoiding or withdrawing from the situation.  Being proactive can protect from harm by making a threat less likely to occur, rather than having to face it directly (Lebel, 2017).  Advisors can help students reappraise their situation to see the bigger picture and the long-term consequences of their actions, so that they understand the value of a more proactive stance.  They may need help realizing that their actions are actually exacerbating their circumstances.

Advisors can then initiate the brainstorming process for new ways to approach the academic threats students are facing.  For example, if a student is worried about failing a test, rather than trying to ignore the problem, meeting the professor to ask questions can alleviate the fear.  Essentially, advisors can guide students to use their fear to direct positive action (Lebel, 2017), such as asking questions, seeking feedback from professors, and getting an earlier start on completing tasks.  In this way, students are far more likely to be academically successful and less fearful in the future.

Goal-setting is one of the most effective ways to combat procrastination and other flight-like responses (Fries, Grunschel, Schwinger, & Steinmayr, 2016).  Detailed plans which include ways to handle difficulties that might arise can provide a roadmap for handling stressful situations (Lebel, 2017).  With a path and plan mapped out, students can more confidently choose to respond productively, rather than fleeing and hiding from their problems.  Advisors can work with students to create academic success plans that identify goals, action plans, possible obstacles, and steps to overcome them.  While this may not be a new practice for many advisors, pairing this with a discussion of the fight or flight instinct and the need for proactive responses could yield better results.  Students may be more receptive to the entire concept if they understand the value of it.  Goal-setting can also give value to a student’s efforts, illustrating the connection between unpleasant or threatening tasks and the student’s long-term success.  This practice will emphasize the importance of addressing avoidance behaviors, as it is shown to be in direct conflict with accomplishing goals.

The fight for flight instinct is not unique to students or academic stress, but it might not be a connection the students have previously made.  When advisors recognize the link between this biological instinct and student behavior, they can better educate, mentor, and guide students to a healthier and more productive response to stressful situations.

Christina Curley, M.Ed.
Academic Advisor
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Georgia Southern University


Anderson, E. C. & Schreiner, L. A. (2004). Strengths-based advising. The Gallup Organization. Retrieved from: http://strengths.southmountaincc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Strengths-Based-Advising.pdf

Chancellor-Freeland, C., Chang, A., & Szabo, Y. Z. (2015). Locus of control predicts cortisol reactivity and speech performance in response to acute stress in undergraduate students. College Student Journal, 49(2), 225-236.

Doménech-Betoret, F., Gómez-Artiga, A., & Lloret-Segura, S. (2014). Personal variables, motivation and avoidance learning strategies in undergraduate students. Learning and Individual Differences, 35, 122-129.

Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Fries, S., Grunschel, C., Schwinger, M., & Steinmayr, R. (2016). Effects of using motivational regulation strategies on students’ academic procrastination, academic performance, and well-being. Learning and Individual Differences, 49, 162-170.

Lebel, D. (2017). Moving beyond fight and flight: A contingent model of how the emotional regulation of anger and fear sparks proactivity. Academy of Management Review, 42(2), 190-206.

Mansson, D. (2016). Exploring college students’ expressed concern about their academic performance. College Student Journal, 50(1), 121-129.

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Online Training for New Advisors

Megan Wuebker and Angela Cook, NACADA Advisor Training & Development Commission Members

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in advisor professional development may want to consider joining NACADA Advisor Training & Development Commission and Professional Development Committee members as they discuss Building Advisor Competency in this season’s Webinars.

Angela Cook.jpgMegan Wueber.jpgAs with any profession, academic advising requires training, but institutions often struggle to identify a centralized resource or approach for implementing advisor training.  With obstacles of limited financial support, workloads stretched beyond capacity, and autonomous centers with disparate advising structures, advisor training has been a challenge for many institutions.

Some examples of new advisor training programs exist.  For example, Utah Valley University (UVU) offers a comprehensive in-person training plan that includes technical competency, best practices, and effective student interaction (Moser, Nuttall, & Wade, 2014).  The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a face-to-face training series for their new advisors (Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 2013).  Other institutions utilize new advisor checklists to help advisors become acclimated to both the institution and the profession.  As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff at the University of Cincinnati, we completed a thorough search for online advisor training programs, but we were unable to find an existing model that met our institutional needs.  So, we built one.

At the time this training was developed, our job responsibilities included dedicated support to advisor training and professional development for the entire undergraduate advising community at the University of Cincinnati (UC).  Though we have different professional backgrounds—student affairs and instructional design—together we possess a combination of knowledge and skills that creates a perfect storm of online training development.


Our approach centered on NACADA’s (2017) Core Competencies for Academic Advising, which includes three components: conceptual, informational, and relational.  The conceptual component provides advisors with ideas and theories of advising, while the informational component includes institution-specific knowledge for accurately advising students.  The relational component connects the conceptual and informational components to effectively communicate and build rapport with students (NACADA, 2017).  It is worth mentioning that the NACADA model is reflective of Habley’s (The National Center for the Advancement of Educational Practices, 1987) framework for effective advisor training.  Our training development process at the University of Cincinnati also utilized Knowles’ (1973) theory of andragogy, which posits that, for adult learners, information must be timely, relevant, and contextually appropriate with opportunities for reflection, self-evaluation, and application.

Course Development

As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff, we knew the desired framework for our New Advisor Training (NAT) would be based on the NACADA Core Competencies (2017) structure; we also needed to address where it would be located online.  The logical solution was to build the training in Blackboard, our learning management system (LMS).  This afforded the opportunity to monitor enrollment and activity in the training course while also ensuring that advisors have an easily accessible resource.  Using the LMS also provides access to collaboration tools (e.g., discussion boards) to facilitate engagement with the training and other new advisors.

The development of the training itself began with a general outline of eleven modules, ensuring they aligned with the Core Competencies framework (NACADA, 2017).  Table 1 shows these modules and their descriptions.  The next step included creating learning outcomes for each module to guide content acquisition, which included book chapters, NACADA articles, institutional websites, and public resources.  Each module includes a Training Materials section of text-based materials and a Media section for video- and audio-based materials.  Some modules include a More to Explore section, where advisors can access optional resources for further engaging with the topic.  Several modules provide a Resources section for specific on- and off-campus resources.  Each module concludes with a Theory to Practice section, where advisors complete a journal entry to reflect on the module content and integrate it into their daily work with students.  This reflection process adheres to Knowles’ (1973) theory for adult learning, ensuring that new advisors immediately apply the content to their advising practice.

Table 1
NAT Modules and Descriptions

Module Title


NACADA Competency

Student Development

Learn more about theories related to student development in college.  An understanding of student development theory will serve as important context for our work with students.



Theories and Philosophies of Academic Advising

Learn more about the research foundations that inform academic advising.  Different advising philosophies and approaches exist, so find the ones that work best for you!



UC Context and History

Understanding UC's history, reputation, mission, and values will not only help you as an academic advisor, but also help you to connect to and understand your students' experiences.  This module will assist you in fitting your daily work into the bigger picture at University of Cincinnati.



Advising as a Profession

Learn more about local, state, and national professional organizations for academic advising.


Academic Advising at UC

Learn about UC advising tools; program, college, and degree requirements; and UC academic resources.


Interpersonal Skills in Academic Advising

Develop communication skills and apply counseling strategies to your academic advising practice.



Enhancing Your Professional Development

Take personality assessments to better understand your personality traits, communication style, and work preferences.  Use these resources, along with the material covered in previous modules, to begin articulating your professional advising philosophy.

Conceptual Relational


Tools and Resources for Your Daily Advising

This module is your toolkit for many advising resources: organizational skills information, daily resources, tips and strategies from experienced advisors, advice on working with parents, and more.

Conceptual Informational

Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit

Combining what you have learned about student development theory and advising techniques, this module will explore the role of identity in a student's experience.  The module provides tools and strategies for approaching advising with inclusion in mind.



Crisis Management

You might occasionally face a student who is in distress or crisis. You might also encounter a student who is belligerent or hostile.  This module will help you recognize warning signs and give you the tools to address students’ needs effectively.




Legal and Ethical Issues in Advising

Academic advising is subject to the same legal and ethical guidelines as the rest of higher education.  Learn more about how these regulations may influence your work with students.

Informational, Relational


The LMS journal feature was utilized to promote reflection and communication in the course.  This feature provides space for individualized writing without relying on other participants (a replacement for discussion forums which may not be successful without a substantial number of participants).  The training encourages new advisors to discuss their journaling with their supervisor, and likewise encourages supervisors to ask probing questions.  To help facilitate this, a supervisor section in the training program offers a high-level overview of the training content, list of the journal prompts, and additional discussion questions.  Table 2 provides an example of a journal prompt and its corresponding supervisor questions.

Table 2
Sample Journal Prompt and Corresponding Supervisor Questions

Module: Interpersonal Skills in Academic Advising

Journal Prompt

Reflect on the following in your journal entry:

  • What was your own experience with academic advising when you were a student? What were the positives and negatives of your experience? How did interpersonal skills influence your relationship with your advisor?
  • What is your communication style? What do you see as your comfort level with talking to new people, responding to sarcasm or humor, and building relationships with challenging students?
  • What are your strengths and potential challenges in interpersonal skills? How will you work to grow in this area?

Supervisor Questions

  • What do you see as the most important interpersonal skills for your advising practice?  
  • What do you consider to be your strengths in this area?  
  • What goals do you have for improving your interpersonal skills, and how can I support you?


Deployment and Assessment

At UC, we developed the NAT online course over 6 months.  At the time of deployment, the university had two new advisors who could pilot the training.  As part of our training role, we also met individually with the advising administrators in each college so that we could demonstrate the NAT, gather buy-in, and solicit feedback.  When new advisors join the UC advising community, we meet with them in-person to explain the training and to conduct a pre-training self-assessment.  The self-assessment questions, modeled after the learning outcomes in each module, use a four-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree).  After the advisor completes the training, we meet with them for the post-training self-assessment.  The results from both self-assessments will be used to evaluate the training’s effectiveness and identify any needed improvements.

We as the program’s developers have met with the advising administrators and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about NAT.  While we had anticipated that new advisors would benefit from the training program, we also received consistent feedback that experienced advisors and even advising administrators would find the content very helpful in their professional development.  Some advising units have also started using selected content and journal prompts as discussion topics in their weekly staff meetings.

At UC, we anticipate that NAT will continue to progress as both advising and the university evolve.  As the Advisor Training and Professional Development Staff, we are regularly adding new materials and features, including a section on collaborating with parents and a keyword search for ease of navigation.  We will also continue to collect the pre- and post-training self-assessments to determine the effectiveness of the training, making revisions as needed.


Prior to the creation of NAT, each advising unit developed their own approach to onboarding new professionals, leading some advisors to feel underprepared for their new roles.  Now, our advising community at UC has access to a university-wide tool that not only helps prepare new advisors, but also enhances the knowledge and skills of experienced advisors, alleviates the responsibility of advising units to create their own trainings, provides consistency across independent advising offices, and enables advising administrators easy access to resources for staff development.  We hope that our UC advisor training can serve as a model for other institutions.

Megan Paxton Wuebker
Instructional Designer
University of Cincinnati

Angela Cook
Assistant Director, MBA Program
University of Cincinnati


Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. (2013). Advising resources for faculty and staff. Retrieved from https://advising.wisc.edu/facstaff/?q=content/training-new-advisors.

The National Center for the Advancement of Educational Practices (ACT). (1987). Academic advising conference: Outline and notes. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Portals/0/Clearinghouse/advisingissues/documents/AcademicAdvisingConferenceOutlineandNotes.pdf

Knowles, M.  (1973).  The adult learner: A neglected species.  Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.

The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA). (2017). NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/About-Us/NACADA-Leadership/Administrative-Division/Professional-Development-Committee/PDC-Advisor-Competencies.aspx

Moser, C., Nuttall, S., & Wade, O. (2014, October). The ultimate adventure: Developing an advisor training and certification program. Pre-conference workshop presented at the Annual Conference of the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), Minneapolis, MN.  

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From the Ground Up: Creating In-House Professional Development Opportunities

Michael Harper and Andrew Smith, INTO University of South Florida

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in advisor professional development may want to consider joining NACADA Advisor Training & Development Commission and Professional Development Committee members as they discuss Building Advisor Competency in this season’s Webinars.

Michael Harper.jpgAndrew Smith.jpgThree years ago, the authors started a committee (and became its co-chairs) to fill a gap for the lack of professional development opportunities available to the academic advisors at INTO University of South Florida (USF).  INTO is a partner institute consisting of an English language program (ELP) and a university bridge program (Pathway) for international students on the campus of USF.  The Council on Academic Advising (CAA) helps cultivate professional development and growth of academic advisors at the university; however, since INTO is an auxiliary unit, its employees are not usually included in the notification of events.  Because of this, the above-mentioned committee was created to allow academic advisors in the auxiliary unit the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other to hone their craft.  Givans Voller (2012) posits that the “development of academic advisors is important because all students, regardless of major or luck of the draw, deserve to have access to advisors who are knowledgeable and up-to-date on the policies, procedures, theories, and resources that help them succeed” (para. 3).

The premise is simple.  Following a model by Bryant, Changi, Endres, and Galvin (2006) in which they suggest that, “formalized staff development can be structured into regular one or two hour brown bag sessions” (para. 7), the academic advisors of both the ELP and Pathway programs come together as a unit once a month for two hours to discuss topics directly related to academic advising, with one member having previously volunteered to be the leader.  Since this was a new project, we as co-chairs sent a Qualtrics survey to gain interest and gather topics on what the advisors at INTO were interested in learning more about or where they felt that their own professional development was lacking.  Knowing that a group needs structure, we then designed a sample lesson plan that outlined the format that the meetings would follow.  We tried to be very careful when giving this guidance because, while we knew that structure was important, it was important for the meetings to have an organic feel, allowing each leader to structure the session in a way that suited them best.  Then a sign-up list was created for members to volunteer to lead and provided a list of suggested topics gathered from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources that volunteers could choose from if they could not come up with anything on their own.  Of course, as the creators of the committee, it was only appropriate that we led the first presentation as co-chairs. 

According to NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt (2010), professional development allows academic advisors to “build collaborative partnerships across campus to support student success” (para. 2).  Collaborating among colleagues has been one of the most positive aspects of the entire process, allowing advisors to share knowledge from their areas of interest and personal experiences.  Each advisor has come to the table with a different educational background and schema from which they approach advising.  The diversity of the committee has allowed for members to be flexible and adaptable when selecting the topics they want to present on instead of being assigned a topic or having to focus on a certain area.  For example, one advisor presented her master’s thesis entitled Negotiating Muslim Womanhood, appropriate since a large percentage of INTO students are Muslim.  Another advisor with training in neuro-linguistic programming led a session on stress reduction and conducted a group guided meditation.  There was also a session about building rapport with our students as advisors.  During our time together as a committee, we have valued the knowledge that each member has, allowing us to broaden our own knowledge.

On a daily level, each department is separate, managing different students, each enforcing its own policies.  Bryant et al. (2006) believe that “joint meetings across offices build effective networks” (para. 9).  Creating this professional development opportunity has allowed INTO committee members to bridge the gap between the ELP and Pathway programs.  From day to day, we may chat between programs while getting coffee, but once a month we become respected colleagues, appreciating what we have to offer the profession.  Even though we represent different departments on the committee, our commonality is that we are all advisors.  We have endeavored to instill a sense of collaboration among colleagues, making everyone feel equally responsible for adding value to the committee.  As founders, we have kept the committee open and not forced anyone to participate.  The goal of the committee has been every month to have one advisor volunteer to be presenter.  There have been times when we have had to ask several times for a volunteer.  At times, one of us co-chairs has volunteered to present because no one else has.  A couple of times, we have had to cancel the meeting due to lack of participation.

The format of the meetings has proven to be useful: first is the presentation (usually based on NACADA or other professional resources, which has allowed committee members to become more familiar with the organization), then group discussion, role play, or group work on how advisors at the meeting can apply the topic to daily advising sessions.  The conversations that arise organically are stimulating and thought-provoking.  Having a stimulating session once a month on quality topics was educational and valuable, but we as committee participants realized that we needed more than this once-a-month meeting.  We needed some type of takeaway—something concrete to show for our time.  We knew that it was important to demonstrate to our supervisors that our time spent on the committee was productive.  It took a while, but we finally got into the rhythm of writing takeaways from each presentation to be used as a resource for advisors.  We decided to meet weekly to write summaries of each presentation and work on our list of takeaway resources. These summaries are added to a Google Docs folder created specifically for this committee and shared with all participating academic advisors and supervisors.

Scheduling, finding time for all members to attend, and maintaining motivation have proven to be our biggest challenges as a committee.  Working with two understaffed teams occasionally has made it somewhat difficult to find a time when all members were free from team meetings and other obligations, such as student appointments and administrative tasks.  During peak times, advisors had to shift priorities to more pertinent and time sensitive issues and put this committee on the back burner.  That made it challenging to not only find time for everyone to come together, but also to find volunteers to present.  The use of the Doodle online scheduling software proved quite valuable in finding available times.  The use of a sign-up sheet helped keep the group on track as well.  The co-chairs also provided topics and ideas to help create jumping off points when advisors had difficulty deciding on topics and were not as willing to volunteer to present.

It has been extremely beneficial to have both ELP and Pathway management give positive feedback and encouragement to us as co-chairs. They have continuously pushed us to develop this into a respected training and professional development opportunity for future advisors.  When the idea was first conceived, as the founding co-chairs, we had to approach our managers and sell them on the idea.  They had to be convinced of the value and importance, since they were allowing us to take the time to develop a new initiative.  Further, Bryant, et al. (2006) believe that “leaders need to see how supporting advising networks will relate to educational outcomes such as greater diversity, improved graduation rates, and institutional excellence” (para. 16).  The managers were excited that we were showing initiative and a desire for self-improvement.  While we were able to design the layout of the committee, our managers subtly hinted at ways we could implement what they saw as improvements to our original idea.  Everyone finally agreed that we could do it our way as long as they were included in the distribution list for the monthly meeting minutes.  Being able to design our own professional development experience from the ground up was a very liberating feeling that has helped us feel trusted, believed in, and cared about by both the Pathway and ELP management.

Having attended many professional development opportunities previously, the idea behind this committee was to bridge the gap by bringing two teams together to create organic learning opportunities.  While the road was bumpy at the start, over time, the validity of this committee illuminated the importance of having an in-house opportunity for advisors to share their experiences and learn from one another.  Getting buy-in from management and being able to show the fruits of the partnerships which were created proved extremely beneficial in allowing the committee members to continue to expand their horizons.

Michael Harper
Academic Advisor
English Language Program
INTO University of South Florida

Andrew Smith
Academic Advisor
Pathway Program and Study Abroad with English Program
INTO University of South Florida


Bryant, R., Chagani, A., Endres, J. and Galvin. J. (2006). Professional growth for advisors: Strategies for building professional advising networks. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Building-professional-advising-networks.aspx

Givans Voller, J. (2012). Advisor training and development: Why it matters and how to get started. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-training-and-development-Why-it-matters-and-how-to-get-started.aspx

Nutt, C. (2010, March). From the executive director: Your professional development is the key to your students' success. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-the-Executive-Director-Your-Professional-Development-is-the-Key-to-Your-Students-Success.aspx

Web Resources

Doodle Scheduling Tool http://doodle.com/

NACADA Clearinghouse http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse.aspx

Qualtrics Surveys https://www.qualtrics.com/

Charting the Course: Ten Attitudes and Behaviors Essential to Assessment Success

Jaimie Haider and Ashley Moir, Texas State University

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in learning more about planning and implementing a successful assessment plan may want to consider attending NACADA’s focused Assessment Institute. Learn about available scholarships here.

Ashley Moir.jpgJaimie Haider.jpgImplementing a successful outcomes assessment plan, particularly one that assesses learning and performance across campus units, is a big undertaking.  Institutions often develop well-written plans and seek out the highest quality data collection software and methods in their efforts to implement such a plan.  As institutions chart the course toward assessment success, knowledge and resources are certainly essential, but they are not foundational.  Without employing the proper attitudes and behaviors when planning outcomes assessment, success may elude even the best funded and well-intentioned projects.  Consulting outcomes assessment literature and experts yields consensus around ten essential, intangible elements of any successful outcomes assessment endeavor.

In the earliest stages of academic advising outcomes assessment, practitioners should scan the horizon for current literature, data, and practices to build a strong foundation in assessment.  Linda Suskie (2009) suggests “review[ing] published literature, search[ing] online, contact[ing] relevant professional associations, attend[ing] assessment conferences, and talk [ing] to colleagues on your campus and elsewhere” (p. 104).  Outcomes assessment can feel like an unknown entity with its own language and terminology.  Consulting the literature can answer many introductory questions advisors may have in the early stages of planning outcomes assessment.

For outcomes assessment to be successful and impactful, it must be not only well informed but also brave.  Those performing assessment must be willing, at all turns, to embrace new approaches and ideas.  Asking critical questions of an institution’s most valued programs and processes is both the challenge and opportunity of outcomes assessment.  Assessment scholars Peter Hernon and Robert E. Dugan (2006) argue, “One of the challenges of outcome assessment has been to acknowledge that something that you have long done could benefit from new approaches and a different emphasis” (p. 391).  Pursuing meaningful assessment results requires taking those things held in high esteem, opening them up to scrutiny, and producing results that either bolster that esteem or create an opportunity for improvement.

When reflecting on what is of most consequence to assess, scholars suggest using mission statements to craft learning outcomes.  Keith Powers, Aaron Carlstrom, and Kenneth Hughey (2014) emphasize that “the mission statement serves as the guide to determine advising program learning outcomes” (p. 71–72).  Through their research, these scholars have found “that this first step in programming leads to greater assessment activities” (Powers et al., 2014, p. 72).  Practitioners can compare the assessment process to a road trip in this instance: the mission statement defines the end destination, and the learning outcomes provide the directions and stops along the way.

Bringing a campus community to consensus around establishing a common mission and interrogating valued programs may not be an easy feat.  Often, incorporating a neutral party in the process is the best way to move forward.  Karen Boston, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs for the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, remembers that “having someone to facilitate and mediate from the outside—with expertise—was important” to her own campus (K. Boston, personal communication, January 3, 2017).  Boston suggests taking advantage of NACADA’s Academic Advising Consultants and Speakers Service (AACSS) in the earliest stages of outcomes assessment planning, especially when multiple units are involved.  For smaller projects, or when resources are low, assessors can consult faculty and staff members from peer or neighboring institutions.  Neutral faculty or staff members with expertise in facilitation and assessment can help move assessment projects from ideation to action.

Assessment projects often involve many actors.  For this reason, it is vital to remain flexible and compromise with stakeholders.  Outcomes assessment requires cooperation and buy-in from stakeholders, so keeping them in mind is key.  According to Michael Nava, Associate Dean for Student Services in University College at Texas State University, “assessment has to be beneficial to all stakeholders” (M. Nava, personal communication, January 3, 2017).  Being flexible with assessment outcomes to ensure that the process is beneficial to everyone involved will help foster an amiable and collaborative environment.  Furthermore, stakeholders feeling valued and appreciated can benefit the assessment project as a whole, especially when discussing data and possible programmatic changes to implement as a result.

Macro-level advising assessment will require frequent stakeholder conversations.  Installing adequate leadership in the assessment project is essential to moving meetings from conversations to action.  Charles Evers, the 2014-2015 chair of Texas State University’s Advising Assessment Team, advises, “Be aware [that] you will rarely have a situation where everyone agrees on the best course of action” (C. Evers, personal communication, January 4, 2017).  Rather than focusing on pleasing everyone involved in the assessment project, practitioners should assure project leaders are in place to listen to stakeholder opinions, build coalitions, and maintain focus on the project’s ultimate philosophy and goals.  Evers reminds, “Sometimes you just need to make a decision and move forward” (C. Evers, personal communication, January 4, 2017).  When mindful and effective leadership is in place, those decisions are possible and productive.

Even with a firm foundation and strong stakeholder relationships established, project managers should avoid early overzealousness.  Rich Robbins and Kathy Zarges (2011) recommend assessors “start small and have some successes” by “identify[ing] one or two desired outcomes to start” (para. 20).  Practitioners can compare starting small to learning to ride a bike with training wheels.  Once assessing one to two outcomes has been mastered, then it is time to remove the training wheels and take on additional outcomes.  Practitioners should remember that starting small is not only safe; it is also strategic.  Early assessment successes can increase buy-in from stakeholders and cultivate a culture of assessment.

Assessing learning outcomes often requires many small steps, including planning multiple methods, developing multiple instruments, and evaluating diverse data.  Being intentional about inclusivity and transparency in these day-to-day assessment tasks is essential in maintaining buy-in from practitioners and hearing stakeholder positions throughout the project.  Bailey Verschoyle, the 2016-2017 chair of Texas State University’s Advising Assessment Team, recommends maintaining a detailed outcomes assessment timeline and sharing it with all practitioners (B. Verschoyle, personal communication, January 4, 2017).  Together with stakeholders, project leaders can create a timeline that includes all of the small, important tasks involved in an assessment project—for instance creating a website survey, purchasing survey incentives, and producing a report of survey results and analysis for stakeholders.  Reviewing this timeline regularly and updating it at the beginning of each new assessment cycle assures assessment is decentralized, at best, and transparent, at least.

In the process of completing data collection and reporting results, Michael Nava recommends assuring “assessment results are equally disseminated to all units” (M. Nava, personal communication, January 3, 2017).  This is key in fostering an environment where stakeholders feel involved and valued.  Additionally, this practice establishes a common ground for meaningful and productive conversation.  Providing results equally to all stakeholders ensures that everyone is in the same book and on the same page so that productive conversations about the data and its implications can occur.

Finally, outcomes assessment programs should prioritize regular conversations with one key group of stakeholders: academic advisors themselves.  Wendy Troxel (2008) argues that, in order for program assessment to be “transparent and all-revealing” (p. 394), academic advisors need to be involved in the process.  Involving advisors in the process, according to Troxel, ensures that they know that assessment is an essential part of doing the advising job well.  In order to keep advisors involved in an assessment project, those directing assessment should provide opportunities for advisors to stay educated about outcomes assessment.  Leadership can encourage advisors to attend assessment themed professional development workshops.  Project directors can invite advisors to meetings and/or events designed to discuss institutional advising assessment.  Directors could distribute an Assessment 101 module, for example, to provide advisors with key assessment terminology and institutional processes in their toolboxes before attending a meeting designed to allow them to dig deeper.  Ensuring the advising community at-large has adequate outcomes assessment education keeps the conversation robust; provides meaningful contributions from the grassroots; and could bring new, talented advisors into the assessment.

Outcomes assessment is vital to the growth of academic advising.  Nevertheless, establishing an assessment practice brings challenges, including resource allocation, advisor education, and stakeholder buy-in to name a few.  Project managers and practitioners should employ these ten attitudes and behaviors when embarking on the assessment journey to ensure that they are charting the course toward success.

Jaimie Haider
Academic Advisor II
University College
Texas State University

Ashley Moir
Academic Advisor I
PACE Advising Services
Texas State University


Hernon, P. & Dugan, R. E. (2006). Future directions in outcomes assessment. In P. Hernon, R. E. Dugan & C. Schwartz (Eds.). Revisiting outcomes assessment in higher education (pp. 367-396). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Powers, K., Carlstrom, A., & Hughey, K. (2014). Academic advising assessment practices: Results of a national study. NACADA Journal, 34(1), 64-77

Robbins, R. & Zarges, K. M. (2011). Assessment of academic advising: A summary of the process. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Assessment-of-academic-advising.aspx

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Troxel, W. (2008) Assessing the effectiveness of the advising program. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites, & Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 386-395). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Vantage Point.jpg

Data: Fast, Easy, and Transformative

Joshua M. Larson, University of Utah

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in learning more about planning and implementing a successful assessment plan may want to consider attending NACADA’s focused Assessment Institute. Learn about available scholarships here.

Johsua Larson.jpgGathering data for outcomes assessment or for research does not have to be complicated, mysterious, or difficult.  Everyday advisors have conversations with students.  Every one of these interactions is a source of data, and the process of recording this data is transformational for advising.

A few years ago, an advising administrator asked a group of us, “Are we getting things done for our students?  Are they getting their needs met?” I was confident that I was doing this, but I had no proof.  To support my assumption, I started asking a question at the end of every appointment, “Did you accomplish everything you came here to do today?”  Depending on the response, I circled yes or no.  I am happy and proud to report, and to prove with data, that nearly 99.995% of students that have visited my office during the last three years have answered, “I accomplished everything I came here to do today.”

However, being able to report that information with supportive data is only a small measure of the impact it has on the activity of advising.  As other researchers or assessors have said before, the activity of researching is rewarding and enriching in of itself.  Going through the process of answering this question for an administrator transformed the activity of advising along the way.

The transformation began with creating a worksheet.  To answer the question posed by my advising administrator, I created a worksheet that I now use to record every advising interaction.  It contains a list of specific information that I gather from each student.  My worksheets have three types of questions: (1) Basic data questions that are required such as names and identification numbers; (2) Questions aimed at assisting the student with specific concerns or questions like, “Can student generate degree audit?” or “Has student chosen a major, a schedule, or post-bach plan?”; (3) Questions aimed at a specific goal or topics that interest me as an advisor.  These questions might be, “Did you feel like you belonged in this program?” “Would you choose this university again?” “What have you done that makes you distinctive?” or “Did you accomplish everything you came here to do today?”

My advising was transformed by the process of having to ask each student, “Did you accomplish everything you came here to do today?” It forced me to be sure that everything a student came to accomplish, got accomplished.  It was nearly impossible to get a no response because if students had more that they wanted to get done we simply got it done.  By the end of an appointment, I cannot circle no.  Why would I?  So having to ask the question for data collection transformed the experience for both student and I.

There are some instances when circling no nearly became a reality.  If I had run out of time, and a student really wanted to accomplish more, I would need to circle no.  This, however, is an excellent way to track that students may need more time with advisors.  So, even if no is circled, it provides data that supports advising sessions are too short.  Keeping this in mind, I also catalogued the activities for the advising session.  This would allow me to evaluate all the times the advising session ran too short and to compare that to the types of topics that were addressed.  Whatever the reason, the ability to review the sessions, especially in comparison to other sessions or other advisor’s sessions, is a terrific way to begin to understand the factors which may impact advising session time.

While I have not had to circle no because of a time constraint, I have circled two no responses because of student dissatisfaction.  Both of these occurred because a student came to my office for something that I do not have the authority to do.  This provided me the opportunity to discuss the role of the advisor, why I would not be able to carry out the request, explain how I as an advisor can advocate for or assist the student, and share where and how the student should proceed.  After explaining this, I would then ask the question again.  Now students have to decide if we accomplished what they came to do.  I have given a route, a method, offered assistance, and counsel.  Is that adequate for the student?  In my experience, I always get a yes after explaining these matters (except for those two times).  However, if I got a no, this again provides information for those assessing advising.  If I received numerous no responses related to withdrawing from a course, it may be worthwhile for my campus to investigate if the advisor role should include more power or more assistance from the advisor in withdrawing students from courses, illustrating that one question can provide an enormous amount of data.

Finally, asking the question also accomplishes a goal that I have for advising: I expect students to be assertive and even demanding of their education.  This means that they should be asking this question in all of their interactions.  It may be difficult for some students to say no during our interaction, but I do expect that my question may prompt them to either find a way to overcome the difficulty or to understand how to address the missed opportunity.  Students sometimes answer in surprising ways.  I have had students contact me after the session with things they remembered or did not address.  Perhaps they were afraid to say no during the appointment but the question sat with them for a while and they realized that they did have more to accomplish.  Either way, this serves my advising goal to empower students to successfully navigate academic interactions related to higher education.

Whatever one chooses to do, assessment and potential future research questions can be a part of an advising protocol.  Many occupations record numerous data points on interactions precisely for the purposes of research and assessment.  Many of these data points are standardized and mandated.  Recording this information is invaluable for the occupation of advising and recording this information also transforms the interaction for both the advisor and advisee.  Advising work is a valuable contributor to higher education and is able to record numerous data points that might be used and shared with others for quality improvement, quality assurance, and future research.  I am not specifically advocating for worksheets, even though this is common practice for many professionals that serve people and it can be helpful for data collection.  I am advocating for thinking about the potential for research in every interaction.  What would we find if we all asked the question, “Did you accomplish everything you came here to do today?”  Imagine if the 20,000,000 students enrolled in higher education answered this one question and all 20,000,000 worksheets were uploaded.  What a strong statement for advising to make.  “Twenty million students accomplished what they came to do.”  What other data could we collect?

If you have other great questions, please share.  And, if you are ready to begin researching this question or others, let me know and we can do it together!

Joshua M. Larson
Physical Therapy & Athletic Training
University of Utah

Adapting Solution-Focused Questioning into Advising

Kyle Ross, Washington State University

Kyle Ross.jpgThis article introduces solution-focused advising, a framework built and adapted from solution-focused counseling theory, as another tool for advisors to utilize within their approaches.  Solution-focused advising empowers the student to make their own decisions through a series of intentional questions by the advisor.  It also is designed to be brief and maximize the limited time advisors have with their students in very few appointments (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).

Overview of Solution-Focused Counseling

During the late 1970s, Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg opened the Brief Family Therapy Center (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  The Brief Family Therapy Center team’s following statement outlines how they developed solution-focused counseling:

We discovered that problems do not happen all the time.  Even the most chronic problems have periods or times when the difficulties do not occur or are less intense.  By studying these times when problems are less severe or even absent, we discovered that people do many positive things that they are not fully aware of.  By bringing these small successes into their awareness and repeating successful things they do when the problem is less severe, people improve their lives and become more confident about themselves. (Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association, n.d., para. 2)

De Shazer and Kim Berg emphasized the notion of exploring exceptions to clients’ problems in solution-focused counseling (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  Exceptions allow clients and counselors to identify client strengths and sometimes how the problem can be fixed.  Most importantly, counselors and clients do not spend the entire session focusing on the problem (Tarragona, 2008).  While clarity is important, it is a higher priority that time is spent on exploring exceptions, strengths, and solutions.

Suggested Steps for Solution-Focused Advising

Solution-focused advising follows five steps that each have specific techniques to accomplish that step and move on to the next.  This outline adapts De Jong’s and Kim Berg’s (2002) counseling framework and Burg’s and Mayhall’s (2002) article that articulated the purposes of each questioning technique.  

Solution-focused advising follows this process:

1. Define the Problem: Open-Ended Questions.

Advisors should spend time on understanding the student’s problem not only so they can have clarity, but also for the student to feel listened to, valued, and connected.  Here, the basic counseling techniques of open-ended questions, reflections of feelings and thoughts, paraphrasing, and summarizing are ways of defining the problem and connecting the student and advisor (Barnett, Roach, & Smith, 2006).  These techniques foster a positive student-advisor relationship from which they can collaboratively work to help the student.

2. Set Goals: The “Miracle Question.”

Once advisors establish a positive relationship and acquire a clear understanding of the student’s problem, the advisor and student set goals for how they might want to address the problem.  While the student clearly wants to overcome the problem, goals help define what the student would like to see in place of the problem (Tarragona, 2008).

One method that De Shazer and Kim Berg developed to help students set goals and describe ideal solutions is through the “miracle question” (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  Miracle questions allow students to think without restriction on what they would like their solution to be.  An example of a miracle question is the following:

Suppose that while you are sleeping tonight and the entire house is quiet, a miracle happens.  The miracle is that the problem which brought you here is solved.  However, because you are sleeping, you don’t know that the miracle has happened.  So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, what will be different that will tell you that a miracle has happened and the problem which brought you here is solved? (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002, p. 85)

In this format, it is important to preface the miracle question with a statement like “I am going to ask you a question that sounds a little silly, but allows you to think freely on your situation.”  Advisors can tailor a miracle question to the student, the presenting problem (the concern the student brings into the appointment), and their own advising style.  The miracle question can be as simple as “If your problem was suddenly fixed, how would you know it was fixed, and what would your situation look like without the problem?”  If the student cannot identify a realistic scenario, the advisor could provide a few options they are aware of that can help overcome the problem.

3. Exploring Exceptions and Identifying Strengths: Presuppositional Questions.

Once the problem is defined and the ideal solution is described, the advisor and student work toward understanding the student’s strengths that will help the student toward the ideal solution.  By exploring with the student when the problem was less intense or absent, it demonstrates that the student took some positive action to ameliorate the problem (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  Exceptions to the problem highlight student strengths.  Those positive steps can be repeated to continue resolving the problem.  Oftentimes, students completely forget they have done those steps in the past or did not recognize it.  For example, a student may have difficulties staying organized, but a few years ago, had adopted a color-coding system for their planner and forgot that was useful. 

One way to help students explore exceptions in the past is by asking presuppositional questions (Burg & Mayhall, 2002; Mayhall & Burg, 2002).  Presuppositional questions are formatted in a way that assumes there is an answer and the answer is implied in the question.  For example, when working with exploratory students, advisors can ask the presuppositional question “At what times have you felt confident in the past about making a decision?” instead of “Have you ever felt confident making a decision?” (Mayhall & Burg, 2002, p. 78).  The difference is the first question assumes there were times when the student was confident rather than asking a closed question that can easily yield a “No.”  Instead, students have to think about their previous situations and find at least one time the problem was improved.

4. Develop Steps: Scaling Questions.  

Developing steps toward the goal solution helps students feel empowered to overcome their problems.  Instead of perceiving the problem to solution process like a cliff face to climb, steps make the problem seem much more resolvable.  In an advising setting, the student must make their own decisions about what steps to take.  Advisors can offer information or steps that the student may not be aware of, but it is ultimately the student’s responsibility. 

Scaling questions help make objective and tangible steps.  Scaling questions ask where the severity of the student’s problem lies on a spectrum and what it would take to move it one notch closer in the spectrum toward the ideal situation (Tarragona, 2008).  Advisors can also incorporate a timeline into a scaling question.  An example would be the following: “If you are at a 3 in your organizational skills out of 10, what would need to happen within these next two weeks to bring you to a 4 in your organizational skills?”

Not every situation is an opportunity to utilize solution-focused advising.  One example is students who are not ready to take responsibility for or control of their problems.  The purpose of solution-focused advising is for the student to develop steps they can personally do, not to expect other people to carry out steps to overcome the situation (Tarragona, 2008).

5. Follow-Up: Assigning Tasks and Providing Feedback.  

Once the student has a set plan for the next step to take, it is essential that advisors follow-up and confirm whether the student did or did not accomplish that step.  If students did, advisors can encourage students to continue with their process and perhaps identify a new step.  If they did not, advisors can take that moment to encourage them to try again. 

Assigning tasks is a valuable strategy in solution-focused advising (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  Because students are addressing their own problems, they are likely to be motivated to carry out an assigned task.  Providing feedback is also an important technique for advisors (De Jong & Kim Berg, 2002).  Supportive and encouraging comments help students feel like they can overcome their problem.  Sometimes when students reach a point where the problem has diminished enough for a minimally satisfactory situation, they stop trying to overcome the problem.  Advisors need to encourage them along to continue working toward that ideal solution.

Adaptability to Advising

Solution-focused advising is an ideal framework for advisors with limited time for each student appointment.  De Jong and Kim Berg (2002) conducted a study where they found 77% of clients improved after solution-focused counseling with a median of two sessions.  This was compared to 66% of client improvement after other treatment modalities and a median of six sessions.

This framework also allows advisors to continue with their advising practice and incorporate a few of the presented techniques.  Solution-focused techniques can be implemented throughout the six phases of Appreciative Advising (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008).  For example, presuppositional questions help discover past solutions, while the “miracle question” and scaling questions can help design a plan.  This model also fits well with strengths-based advising (Schreiner & Anderson, 2005), as it is adopted from a strengths perspective (Tarragona, 2008).  Many topics can be addressed with solution-focused advising, from exploring majors to health and wellness (Lamprecht et al., 2007; Mayhall & Burg, 2002; Smock et al., 2008).  Because it is not normative, this model can also be incorporated into advising various cultures and diverse populations (Gingerich & Eisengart, 2000; Roeden, Bannink, Maaskant, & Curfs, 2009; Seidel & Hedley, 2008; Shin, 2009).  This framework is not the answer to every advising situation, but it is adaptable enough to fit within many advisors’ practices, even if it means only utilizing one or two of the techniques mentioned in this article.

Kyle Ross
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University


Barnett, S., Roach, S., & Smith, M. (2006). Microskills: Advisor behaviors that improve communication with advisees. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 6-12.

Bloom, J. L., Huston, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

Burg, J. E., & Mayhall, J. L. (2002). Techniques and interventions of solution-focused advising. NACADA Journal, 22(2), 79-85.

De Jong, P., & Kim Berg, I. (2002). Interviewing for solutions (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.

Gingerich, W. J., & Eisengart, S. (2000). Solution-focused brief therapy: A review of the outcome research. Family Process, 39(4), 477-498.

Lamprecht, H., Laydon, C., McQuillan, C., Wiseman, S., Williams, L., Gash, A., & Reilly, J. (2007). Single-session solution-focused brief therapy and self-harm: A pilot study. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 14, 601-602.

Mayhall, J. L., & Burg, J. E. (2002). Solution-focused advising with the undecided student. NACADA Journal, 22(1), 76-82.

Roeden, J. M., Bannink, F. P., Maaskant, M. A., & Curfs, L. M. G. (2009). Solution-focused brief therapy with persons with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 6(4), 253-259.

Schreiner, L. A., & Anderson, E. (2005). Strengths-based advising: A new lens for higher education. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 20-29.

Seidel, A., & Hedley, D. (2008). The use of solution-focused brief therapy with older adults in Mexico: A preliminary study. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 36, 242-252.

Shin, S. (2009). Effects of a solution-focused program on the reduction of aggressiveness and the improvement of social readjustment for Korean youth probationers. Journal of Social Service Research, 35, 274-284.

Smock, S. A., Trepper, T. S., Wetchler, J. L., McCollum, E. E., Ray, R., & Pierce, K. (2008). Solution-focused group therapy for level 1 substance abusers. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(1), 107-120.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association. (n.d.). About solution-focused brief therapy. Retrieved from http://www.sfbta.org/about_sfbt.html

Tarragona, M. (2008). Postmodern/poststructuralist therapies. In J. L. Lebow (Ed.), Twenty-first century psychotherapies (pp. 167-205). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Collaborative Note Writing

Bret Hirsch, University of Louisville

Bret Hirsch.jpgEffective documentation of advising appointments is critical to building strong relationships with students, but is also important for the advisor to provide documentation of the advising encounter.  Folsom (2008) states, “Advising-session notes create a history of advisors’ interactions with students.  Notes enable advisors to recall salient discussions, actions, and decisions from previous student sessions, and protect both students and advisors by providing documentation of important decisions, actions, and referrals” (p. 337).  Academic advising notes have traditionally been the advisors assessment of the student’s progress, goals, and notes of importance that can later be used to validate or invalidate a student’s claim of misadvising as well as highlighting certain aspects about a student for the advisor to mention during the next encounter.  Additionally, the documentation process competes with the time advisors have available for students as advisors are using the end of the day or lunch hours to catch up on appointments for the day.

Unfortunately, advisor’s notes are often limited to a one directional analysis.  The use of collaborative note writing changes the one directional aspect of advising notes while staying true to the original purpose.  Bill Schmelter of the National Council for Behavioral Health (as cited in Claireb2013, 2014) argues that collaborative documentation benefits both the client and counselor.  He argues that notes written after an appointment, away from the client’s eyes, separate treatment and documentation.  Schmelter says the same is true for advisors and students: “Our ‘paper life’ is divorced from our ‘clinical life’” (para. 11).  This division causes notes that lack real meaning and are used to meet minimum requirements rather than provide a valuable resource.

Collaborative note writing is rooted in the mental health profession but can easily be transferred to academic advising.  One of NACADA’s guiding principles is that advising is “a teaching and learning process” (NACADA, 2006).  Collaborative documentation is a way to expand on that concept.  According to Crookston (as cited in Appleby, 2008), “The similarities between the instructional paradigm and prescriptive advising and between the learning paradigm and developmental advising are clear.  The learning paradigmatic teacher interacts dynamically with students to create opportunities for them to actively discover, evaluate, and synthesize knowledge” (p. 90).  Ramos (1994) provides the most succinct advice, “Think of academic advising as a course offered to your advisees.  You are the instructor or facilitator; the student is a learner; your office is the classroom; [and] facilitating growth along several dimensions is the curriculum,” (p. 90).  To add to Ramos, collaborative documentation is one assessment of that curriculum.  

Collaborative note writing is a process of asking the student to be engaged in the writing of their notes while being guided by the advisor.  Collaborative note writing provides students the opportunity to share their input and perspectives on advising services and the progress they make while also allowing them to focus on outcomes.  This does not mean that the advisor has less responsibility in the documentation process, rather it creates more responsibility on the student and serves as an effective way to know what students receive from their appointments.  As an example, a student and advisor discuss the process for repeating a course for a better grade but when the student is writing their notes they do not mention this process.  This serves as indication to the advisor that they may need to review that conversation so the student is certain that they understand.  Collaborative note writing is also important in that it makes the documentation process transparent for students.  The notes are no longer secret, rather the student is aware of what goes into the notes and thus serves to create a stronger sense of trust in the advisor and the process.  As advisors seek to develop partnerships with students it is important that students be involved at every level of the encounter and follow up.

Collaborative note writing can be initiated in a variety of ways depending on the preference of the advisor.  In many instances, students do not know that documentation of the encounter exists, so the approach must be one for educating students on the purpose of notes as well as seeking to obtain the necessary information.  Some advisors may find that the easiest way to engage the student is giving them the keyboard and asking the student to type a summary of the encounter.  The advisor could then review the note and offer additional information about areas that were not recorded or provide clarification if a note was inaccurate.  Other advisors may find that the better process for collaborative note taking is for the advisor to ask the student to sum up the encounter and then type the note in their preferred, or institutionally required, format for better flow among all students in the advisor’s caseload.

For the student, collaborative note writing can be empowering.  No longer should they feel as though a mysterious file is kept, rather an open and honest body of information that serves to put responsibility for actions back on the student.  It can be a reminder for the student: “I will complete a petition for a waiver,” instead of the current practice of, “Student will complete a petition for a waiver.”  Allowing students to see the information and write it down stimulates the visual learning mechanism as well as repetition for longer memory storage.   Also, effective collaborative notes do not have to be long!  They should be succinct and helpful in supporting the advising process and relationship.

For collaborative note writing to work, the student must be present and engaged in the process.  According to Hirsch (n.d.), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has shared that collaborative documentation can improve engagement and involvement, focus on change and positive outcomes, improve compliance, and save time.  It is important when introducing this concept that advisors remind the students that it is their note, that their advisor wants to be sure to accurately state what they are saying, indicate what they as students are getting out of the time together instead of what the advisors thinks or hopes they are getting, and get valuable feedback about the interaction with them as a student.  This process allows advisors to know what they can do to better their service to that individual student, supporting a person-centered and person-driven approach to advising.  Further, it allows for any other advisor to read the notes and know exactly where the student is in meeting goals and what they understand from previous advising encounters.  When advisors are using the collaboration method, they do not have to rely on numerous quotes to show involvement of a client.

It is important to remember that students will only take away from the advising appointment what advisors are giving.  If they believe that advisors see collaborative note writing as a valuable and interactive experience, they will too!  This is just one more step in ensuring students see their relationship with their advisor as a partnership and are invested in the experience.   

Bret Hirsch, M.S.
Academic Counselor, Sr.
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Louisville


Appleby, D. C. (2008). Advising as teaching and learning.  In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 323-341).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Claireb2013. (2014, June 13). Could collaborative documentation be the next big-and-effective-thing in behavioral healthcare? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://ireta.org/2014/06/13/could-collaborative-documentation-be-the-next-big-and-effective-thing-in-behavioral-healthcare/

Folsom, P. (2008). Tools and resources for advisors. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 323-341). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hirsch, K. (n.d.). Collaborative documentation: A clinical tool [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/mai-coc-grantees-online-community/Breakout4_Collaborative_Documentation.pdf

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2006). NACADA concept of academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Concept-of-Academic-Advising-a598.aspx

Ramos, B. (1994). O’Banion revisited: Now more than ever. National Academic Advising Association Journal, 14(2), 89-91.

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Design a Sustainable Online Advising Option

Darcie Anderson Mueller and Amy L. Meyer, Winona State University

Amy Meyer.jpgDarcie Anderson Mueller.jpgMany higher education organizations are experiencing dramatic demand and growth in online course offerings, enrollments, and services.  According to Allen and Seaman (2010), the number of students who enroll in at least one online course has increased 250% from 1.6 million in 2002 to over 5.6 million in 2009.  This growth is expected to continue with estimations of over 8 million students taking college courses online by December 2015 (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006).  In addition to this demand for online courses and services, there is also significant data to support the connection between student support services, student satisfaction, and retention (Dahl, 2004; Tinto, 1999).

Although some advising can be provided via email or the phone, research supports the need for advising that goes beyond the dissemination of information.  Nonverbal communication is an integral part of an advising appointment, as it helps both parties understand the meaning or intention of a conversation (Pentland, 2008).  In other words, it is important to provide high quality online advising services that allow for comprehensive, face-to-face interactions with students, even when those students are off campus.  With limited resources and demands on time, it is also critical to design an online advising option that is sustainable long-term.

Meeting the needs of students is important to the overall health of any university.  According to Pullan (2011), the most important online student services sought by students are related to online, real-time academic advising.  With many colleges facing budget constraints and other resource limitations, a quality online advising program can provide low-cost and user-friendly services for all constituents.

Winona State University is a mid-sized, public university in Minnesota, serving approximately 8,000 undergraduate students.  In fall of 2015, the university offered innovation grants to explore strategies to improve student services and increase summer enrollment.  Academic advisors Anderson Mueller and Meyer were awarded a grant to develop online advising services.

Phase One: Stakeholder Advising Group

The online advising program was implemented in three phases.  The first phase was the creation of a stakeholder advising group.  Members were full-time, professional advisors recruited from both academic colleges and student support departments such as Diversity and Inclusion, Adult Continuing Education, and TRiO Student Support Services.  This group was organized for three key reasons: to represent the diversity of advising needs throughout campus, to help identify best practices for online advising, and to test online advising tools and procedures. 

The stakeholder group was brought together in a program kick-off to draw on the diverse knowledge of the members—how services are provided now, what works and what does not, and whether similar services were being offered.  The team began by reviewing literature on best practices for online advising and discussing various technology platforms.  The group considered alternative web conferencing tools and chose Adobe Connect as the most versatile and practical platform. 

After the meeting, Anderson Mueller and Meyer developed two audience-specific websites, one student-focused and one faculty-specific.  Both sites included step-by-step directions for use, as well as important links to advising and technology support services.  Once the online advising protocols were clear and the support tools were created, it was time to test the new online advising option.

Phase Two: Launching the Program

Phase two began by launching online advising in summer 2016.  As part of this launch, Anderson Mueller and Meyer provided online advising training for interested advisors and recommendations for marketing this new service.  This option was promoted via email to all students enrolled in at least one online summer course.

From May 9 through August 5, 2016, there were 142 academic advising appointments, 19 of these (7.47%) were completed online.  A review of the participants showed a diversity of users (Table 1).  The students who participated in online advising were emailed a satisfaction survey.  The survey response rate was low (n=4) but those who responded said they chose online advising because they were off campus in the summer.  In addition, all four respondents were satisfied with online advising and said they would use this option in the future.

After online advising was fully implemented, the stakeholder group met for a second time to discuss successes and challenges.  One clear success was increasing services by offering a webcam and voice-enabled advising option at little or no cost.  One identified challenge was self-described anxiety among advisors.  Stakeholder members shared feelings of uncertainty when using Adobe Connect for the first time.  They were concerned about the possibility of having to troubleshoot technology issues. 

Table 1

Online Advising Pilot Program Participants































































Graduate Special





























Phase Three: Ongoing Training

Reflection from the stakeholder advising group led to phase three, ongoing training for all faculty and administrative advisors.  Training sessions were offered throughout the year in a workshop format, in collaboration with the faculty development committee and other campus advising stakeholders.  The workshops were 60–90 minutes each and were hosted in a classroom environment.  All faculty and administrative advisors were asked to bring laptops, but sessions could also be held in a computer lab.

The first portion of each workshop included a review of online advising best practices, web resources, and the technology needed to be successful.  The second portion was an interactive practice session. Participants were given an advising topic, assigned a partner, and instructed to take turns in both the advisor and advisee role.  The opportunity for role playing allowed participants to become comfortable with the technology from both the advisor and student perspective. These practice sessions were informal and allowed attendees to share advising strategies that translated well to the online environment.  A member of the technology support staff also attended to address and resolve any technological questions or issues.  

Further Recommendations

Any organization interested in launching online advising should consider a number of variables before moving forward.  First, what platform would work best based on technology options and student demographics?  Adobe Connect was chosen for this project because it provides a user-friendly, web and voice-enabled experience.  It requires no software installation by the student, is easily accessible with a single click, and was already licensed and supported by the university.  Adobe Connect also allows for screen sharing, chat, and group advising sessions.  New online advisors need to consider where they will facilitate any session.  Advisors must ensure the space is quiet and provides confidentiality.  This could be a private work area or even a home office. The advisor-advisee relationship should also be considered.  What advising model or best practices will be incorporated into the online appointment?  How will students be put at ease or encouraged to share relevant information?  Based on the campus and student dynamic, this project integrated the Appreciative Advising approach into online advising best practices (Bloom, Hutson, & He, 2008).

Creating and launching an online advising program can be a relatively low-cost option for growing student services.  For the initiative at Winona State University, instructions and various resources will be updated and maintained on the website as needed, and Adobe Connect will remain a resource for facilitating student appointments.  In addition, academic advisors have been trained on using Adobe Connect for online advising and will be invited to future training.  Online advising will not replace in-person advising on this campus, but it has become a practical and useful option as our students’ needs, online programs, and campus services continue to evolve.

Darcie Anderson Mueller
Academic Advisor
Warrior Success Center
Winona State University

Amy L. Meyer
Academic Advisor and Career Counselor
Warrior Success Center
Winona State University


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the course: Online education in the United States, 2008.  Retrieved from https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/

Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, L. (2008). Appreciative advising revolution.  Champaign, IL.: Stipes Publishing LLC.

Dahl, J. (2004). Strategies for 100% retention: Feedback, interaction. Distance Education Report, 8(16), 6-7.

National Center for Educational Statistics. (2006). Number and percentage of students enrolled in postsecondary institutions, by level, disability status, and selected student characteristic: 2003-2004. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d05/tables/dt05_210.asp

Pentland, A. (2008). Honest signals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pullan, M. (2011). Online support services for undergraduate millennial students. Journal of Higher Education Theory & Practice, 11(2), 66-83.

Tinto, V. (1999). Taking retention seriously: Rethinking the first year of college.  NACADA Journal, 19, 5-9.

Chickering’s Seven Vectors and Student Veteran Development

Coby W. Dillard, Tidewater Community College

Coby Dillard.jpgWith increasing numbers of student veterans entering the nation’s colleges and universities, it is critical that professionals in higher education understand the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to the campus and that appropriate models to support their academic success are developed.  Today’s student veterans are entering colleges with the stresses of a decade-plus of military conflict, in addition to the stresses that come with transition and readjustment to life as a civilian.

In their work, Education and Identity, Arthur Chickering and Linda Reisser described the use of psychosocial theories in education as “a series of developmental tasks or stages, including qualitative changes in thinking, feeling, behaving, valuing, and relating to others and oneself” (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 2).  Chickering’s vector model examines seven directions in which individuals advance during their educational experiences.  For advisors, faculty, and staff, an understanding of these vectors and their applicability to the student veteran can better inform their work as they seek to serve our nation’s heroes.  How do advisors help guide student veterans through the work of each vector and aid in the successful transition from service member to student veteran?

Developing Competence: moving from low to high levels of intellectual, physical, and interpersonal skills.

As service members transition out of the service into the civilian world, those veterans may experience diminished levels of interpersonal competence and a reluctance to share their experiences.  The reluctance to speak to anyone “who wasn’t in the AOR (Area of Responsbility)” (Lafferty, 2008, p. 9) robs both the student veterans of the therapeutic experience of telling their story, and classmates of the benefits of their perspective.  Advisors can build on the interpersonal deficit, leveraging the strengths of the student veterans’ intellectual and physical abilities as supports for their interpersonal growth.  Advisors can also transition the sense of competence resulting from student veterans’ membership in their former team of fellow service members to an equally strong sense of power in their individual abilities in themselves and their new team of classmates.

Managing Emotions: increasing awareness and acceptance of emotions, improving control and appropriate expression of feelings.

Some student veterans arrive on campus with the repressed anger of seeing their fellow service members killed or wounded in combat.  Student veterans may have unhealed physical and mental wounds and inflated senses of invincibility from surviving attacks that present as inappropriate uses of alcohol and drugs, a willingness to take excessive personal risks, and survivor’s guilt (Kilgore, 2008).  The trauma of broken homes and weakened familial relationships during a career containing multiple deployments can also adversely affect their integration into the classroom and campus community (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 1997).  Advisors can help their students increase awareness of their emotions, provide opportunities for them to share their stories, and teach them to accept their feelings as normal reactions to life’s experiences.  When working with military-related students, advisors can give them opportunities to share their backgrounds in a mutual exchange that both disarms the veteran and forges a sense of respect.  This allows the student to move from unhealthy and inappropriate releases toward the ability to exercise adjustable control in a way that adds depth to their self-expression.

Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence: moving away from needs of continual reassurance and recognizing the necessity and benefits of interdependence.

Often, student veterans seek camaraderie with those students who are still on active duty, other veterans, spouses, or dependents (Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 1997).  This disengagement with the larger campus community is not conducive to developing the sense of interdependence they need, especially in roles where their status as veterans delineates them as a minority.  Interdependence cannot exist without a sense of independence: the ability to function outside of the military structure while learning to live with the new realities of physical and mental limitations and a recognition of the student veteran’s place in the campus, community, and global society.  Advisors can find ways to bridge the gaps between student veterans’ emotional and instrumental independence and channel them into a sense of responsibility to their fellow students and the larger society.  Advisors should encourage veterans to reach outside their normal circles and take leadership roles in student organizations that afford them the opportunity to build leadership skills and engage with their campus community.

Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships: developing appreciation of individual differences and a capacity for intimacy.

Student veterans develop interpersonal relationships with their fellow veterans and other service members; the fraternity of duty unites those who have and are currently serving (Lafferty, 2008).  As they transition, they are severed from the relationships they once had and thrown into an environment that views them as an other.  Advisors can help the student veteran redefine their sphere of influence as larger than just those with whom they shared the uniform, helping them to adapt to their new place in a larger society.  Advisors are cognizant of tensions that may arise in their peer and intimate relationships and can encourage resilience with the goal of developing relationships based on equality and genuine caring.

Establishing Identity: developing a sense of self-acceptance and self-esteem in addition to stability and the ability to integrate with others.

As service members transition to veterans, many preexisting and unresolved identity questions can manifest themselves as unhealthy behaviors (Kilgore, 2008).  Advisors can recognize the emerging identities of their student veterans, allowing them to develop their individuality while helping them to identify any unhealthy actions that could adversely affect their academic performance.  They can also assist the student veteran to see and accept the validation from their facilitators and classmates as healthy and learn how to channel that validation into the development of their self-acceptance as civilians.

Developing Purpose: having strong interpersonal and family commitments and clear vocational goals.

Many student veterans face the decision between staying in their military career field or striking out in a new direction while pursuing their education.  Advisors can work to develop and maintain the student veteran’s focus, recognizing their interests and goals and helping them to build their academic plan around those goals.  They can aid the student veteran in properly understanding and evaluating their military experience while keeping the focus on their long-term goals rather than the short-term inconveniences of the educational process.  Assisting some student veterans with varied interests or college credits from their military service, advisors can appropriately discuss and recommend individualized or interdisciplinary study plans that make the best use of the student veteran's previous experiences and educational benefits.

Developing Integrity: maintaining a set of individual values while respecting the beliefs and values of others.

Developing integrity is a process of reviewing personal values in a questioning environment that emphasizes diversity, critical thinking, the use of evidence, and experimentation (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).  The concept of integrity is ingrained in the service member’s mind from their first day of initial training until they leave the service.  Advisors can aid the student veteran in recognizing that the same values exist and are expected of the campus community and that they must honor those values as though they were still in uniform.


Seven out of ten student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill have either earned or are completing a certificate or degree, showing that they are among a highly persistent group of non-traditional students (Cate, Lyon, Schmeling, & Bogue, 2017).  The strengths of the modern student veteran-discipline and self-motivation among them-are best leveraged by advisors who are willing to devote the time necessary to inform and educate their student veterans on the processes of higher education.  By this work, advisors assist in a developmental journey that will aid in the transition from service member to student veteran and ultimately into society and further contributions to the community and nation.

Coby W. Dillard, MA-HSC (USN Veteran)
VERITAS Veterans Resource Liaison
Center for Military and Veterans Education
Tidewater Community College


Cate, C., Lyon, J., Schmeling, J., & Bogue, B. (2017). National veteran education success tracker: A report on the academic success of student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Washington, DC: Student Veterans of America. Retrieved from http://nvest.studentveterans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/NVEST-Report_FINAL.pdf

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

Goodman, J., Schlossberg, K., & Anderson, M. L. (1997). Counseling adults in transition: Linking practice with theory. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

Kilgore, W. D. (2008). Post-combat invincibility: Violent combat experiences are associated with increasd risk-taking propensity following deployment. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 42, 1112-1121.

Lafferty, C. L. (2008). "Did you shoot anyone?" A practioner's guide to combat veteran workplace and classroom integration. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 73(4), 4-18.

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Parental Involvement in Higher Education: A Perspective from United Arab Emirates

Mehvash Ali, American University of Sharjah

Parents of college students today are more involved than ever before.  Ninety-three percent of student affairs professionals reported an increase in interactions with parents over the previous 5 years in a 2006 study (Merriman, 2007).  Higher education has seen a significant increase in the number of programs and initiatives to educate and involve parents (Johnson, 2004; Savage & Petree, 2009) including orientations, councils and advocacy groups, hotlines and listservs, parent weekends and other social events, and handbooks, newsletters, and liaison offices (Watson, 2007).

Kennedy (2009) explains this trend, sharing that the family dynamic now is more child-centered.  As tuition costs increase at a higher rate than inflation (98.1% increase in tuition costs at 4-yr institutions from 1995–2004), parents and students are increasingly viewing college as a service rather than an opportunity.  Daniel and Scott (2001) note that parents see themselves as consumers of higher education.  Since higher education is very expensive, parents feel they have a right to express their opinions as consumers.  Kennedy (2009) notes that an average college student communicates with their parents about 1.5 times per day and that more than half the time, this contact is initiated by the student.  Parents typically follow the student’s social media and students more frequently reach out to parents for help with social and academic issues (rather than going to friends).  Kennedy notes that as institutions become more responsive to parents, it reinforces the idea that parents voicing concerns is an effective tool for making change happen.

An increase in parental involvement is not without benefits.  NSSE data correlates parental involvement with greater student engagement, personal competence, social development, and academic engagement (Shoup, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2009).  Grasgreen (2012) also links parental involvement to increased student autonomy and future planning.  Similarly, other research has also identified family support as a significant positive contributor to academic performance (Canavan & Dolan, 2000; Whittaker & Garbarino, 1983).  Cheng, Ickes, and Verhofstadt (2012) differentiated between economic and social familial support as related to academic performance and found that the level of perceived social support from families had a significant positive impact on GPA.

Increase in Parental Involvement: Parent Characteristics

The increase in parental involvement in higher education has also been spurred by changing characteristics of students and parents reflected by generational changes (Johnson, 2004; Keppler, Mullendore, & Carey, 2005; Sweeten & Davis, 2004).  Baby Boomer parents of today’s college students were typically born between 1946 and 1964.  They reshaped higher education by challenging in loco parentis and wanting to be regarded as independent adults.  They are highly educated, demanding, savvy, and affluent.  In addition, they have fewer children, wait longer before having children, and have more resources available for their children. Menezes (2005) notes that members of Generation X were born between 1961 and 1981.  They experienced single parent homes or homes with both parents working.  Generation X is focused on individual freedoms and self-advancement.  As parent characteristics change, so do their parenting styles.  Carney-Hall (2008) notes that parents of students today have been engaging in protective parenting since before birth and serve not just as parents but also as advocates for their students.

Increase in Parental Involvement: Student Characteristics

It is important to also consider the change in student characteristics.  As noted by Keppler, Mullendore, and Carey (2005) and Howe and Strauss (2000), Millennial students were born between 1982 and 2000.  They are considered special due to the intellectual expectations placed on them.  They are typically confident, team oriented, achieving, and pressured individuals.  They view parents as advocates and look to them for assistance in getting the services they want.  College students are also more diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, physical abilities, etc.  Many of the students in colleges today are first generation students and students from single parent families and mixed families.  More students with mental health issues are attending college now with improvements in support services available.  Students are also more socially plugged in than ever before.

Increase in Parental Involvement: Cultural Factors

Culture is another important factor in exploring the role of parental influence on college students. Research on parental influence on Asian students encourages parental involvement as a positive factor for academic performance.  Alnabhan, Al-Zegoul, and Harwell (2001) looked at factors related to the academic performance of students in a Jordanian university and found that perceived family support has a significant positive relationship with GPA.  Peng and Wright (1994) explored the factors impacting the academic achievement of Asian American students and found that home environment is important for academic achievement.  They assert that Asian parents tend to be more supportive of learning and provide students with not only more learning opportunities but also more pressure to achieve.  This pressure to perform well in academics can certainly have negative impacts.  Yoon and Lau (2008) looked at parental contributions to maladaptive perfectionism among Asian American students and found that while perceptions of strong parental expectations and criticism was linked to depression, parents can serve as a protective factor from the distress.  Their research found that parental support buffered against the negative aspects of high expectations as it relates to depressive symptoms and that Asian American students who perceive demands from parents as a function of parental care and investment in their education are not vulnerable to the distress associated with maladaptive perfectionism. Furthermore, they advocate for the mobilization of parental support for academic achievement concerns.  In 2012, Brannan did a study comparing college students in US, Iran, and Jordan on perceived social support on subject well-being and found that high levels of perceived support from family predicted well-being in all 3 countries.

These culturally based differences are evident at American University of Sharjah (AUS).  AUS is an American curriculum university in United Arab Emirates.  It is accredited by regional and international accrediting bodies. Although AUS is an American institution, it is not bound by FERPA laws. However AUS does have to meet the international best practice standards for accreditation purposes for disclosure of student information.  At AUS, approximately 60% of the faculty are from the US, Canada, or the UK.  The student population is predominantly Asian (middle-eastern and south Asian).  This difference between faculty and students creates an interesting dynamic in terms of expectations for parental involvement.  Though most of the faculty at AUS have a very western perspective of parental involvement, for the Asian students and their families, the university is serving not just them, but the family as well.  Students and families expect full transparency of student performance and show high level of involvements with an in loco parentis approach.  Requested information includes not just grades but also class attendance, course selection, adherence to conduct policies, quality of interactions with faculty and peers, and involvement in athletics, support services, and organizations.  This familial expectation of access to educational information about the student extends to older siblings/cousins and other relatives.

Furthermore, AUS has several students from the Middle East who are sponsored by government or private agencies that fully or partially pay for their education and provide jobs after graduation. The sponsored students are expected to maintain certain standards of performance.  Therefore they routinely request performance updates.

These factors create challenges in how the university handles disclosure of student information.  The policy at AUS (as noted in the undergraduate catalog) is that the university reserves the right to disclose students’ records to the parent, immediate guardian of the student, and to the private or public authority sponsoring the student.  Students can request non-disclosure, within the extent of UAE laws. However, each department has policies regarding how this disclosure is handled.

In practice, parents and students are informed at AUS orientation of the level of access to student information parents can expect.  Parents are urged to request information directly from the students and are informed of the types of information pertaining to grades that the student can access online to share with the family.  University officials stress the value of open communication between parents and students and encourage students to provide parents with accurate information about their progress.  For the sponsored students, any requests for disclosure of performance go through the sponsorship liaison at the university.  The sponsored students are aware of the disclosure they can expect and the sponsorship liaison provides sponsors with required information regarding student progress.  The university limits contact between faculty and parents.  Requests for student progress within specific courses go through the student’s associate dean.  The associate dean communicates with the parents providing the minimal information with student knowledge. 

If a student gets on academic probation, parents are involved as part of the advising efforts to mobilize all support systems and to work with the family to ensure timely progression towards graduation, in line with the research noted above.  Parents are encouraged to attend at least one advising session along with the student so that advisors, students, and parents can identify multiple means of supporting the student at this critical stage.  The advisors observe that parental involvement for probation students increases extrinsic motivation of students, galvanizes family supports for the student, and pushes students to utilize the support services available at the university.

Mehvash Ali
Academic Support Center
American University of Sharjah


Alnabhan, M., Al-Zegoul, E., & Harwell, M. (2001). Factors related to achievement levels of education students at Mu’tah University. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(6), 593-604.

Brannan, D. (2012). Friends and family: A Cross-cultural investigation of social support and subjective well-being among college students. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(1), 65-75.

Canavan, J., & Dolan, P. (2000). Refocusing project work with adolescents towards a family support paradigm. In J. Caravan, P. Dolan, & J. Pinkerton (Eds.), Family Support: Direction from Diversity. London, UK: Jessica Kingsley.

Carney-Hall, K. C. (2008). Understanding current trends in family involvement. New Directions for Student Services, 122, 3-14.  

Cheng, W., Ickes, W., & Verhofstadt, L. (2012). How is family support related to students’ GPA scores? A longitudinal study. Higher Education, 64(3), 399-420.

Daniel, B. V. & Scott, B. R. (2001). Consumers, adversaries, and partners: Working with families of undergraduates [Special issue]. New Directions for Student Services, 2001(94), 1-89.

Grasgreen, A. (2012, March 28). Parents: Help or hindrance? Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/28/naspa-survey-finds-parental-involvement-isnt-always-bad-thing

Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials rising: The next great generation. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Johnson, H. E. (2004). Educating parents about college life. The Chronicle Review, 50(18), B11.

Kennedy, K. (2009). The politics and policies of parental involvement. About Campus, 14(4), 16-25.

Keppler, K., Mullendore, R. H., & Carey, A. (2005). Partnering with the parents of today’s college students. Washington, D.C.: NASPA.  

Menezes, M. D. (2005). Advisors and parents: Together building stronger advising relationships. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/114/article.aspx

Merriman, L. (2007). Managing parents 101: Minimizing interference and maximizing good will. Leadership Exchange, 5(1), 14-19.

Peng, S. S., & Wright, D. (1994). Explanation of academic achievement of Asian American students. Journal of Educational Research, 87(6), 346-352.

Savage, M., & Petree, C. (2009). National survey of college and university parent programs. Retrieved from http://www.parent.umn.edu/ParentSurvey09.pdf

Shoup, R., Gonyea, R., & Kuh, G. (2009). Helicopter parents: Examining the impact of highly involved parents on student engagement and educational outcomes. Paper presented at the national meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Atlanta, GA.

Sweeten, N., & Davis, J. (2004). The evolution of in loco parentis. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

Watson, A. (2007). Parental involvement in higher education: Using the perceptions of parents and administrators as the basis for improving institutional policy and practice (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI.

Whittaker, J. K., & Garbarino, J. (1983). Social support networks: Informal helping in the human services. New York, NY: Aldine De Gruyter.

Yoon, J. and Lau, A. S. (2008). Maladaptive perfectionism and depressive symptoms among Asian American college students: Contributions of interdependence and parental relations. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14(2), 92-101.

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The Winding Road: How Today's Student Consumes Higher Education

Sandra Avalos, Kelly Briggs, and Mechelle Martinez, Kansas State University

Avalos, Briggs & Martinez.jpgProblem

Today’s college students are engaging in a variety of enrollment patterns.  At Kansas State University (K-State), the Center for Student and Professional Services (CSPS) noticed a significant number of students transferring hours into K-State’s College of Education from other institutions.  Because of this, the CSPS academic advising team started to look at data in an attempt to determine specific enrollment patterns.  Several questions guided the search: How many students are transferring credits?  From how many institutions?  Of the credits they bring with them, how many are applied to program requirements?  What classes are most often transferred?  From which institutions are students most frequently transferring credits?

Sample Student Enrollment Patterns

There are many overlapping terms used to describe the different enrollment patterns identified by CSPS.  The terms and definitions used in this study were first introduced by De Los Santos and Wright (1990) and then expanded by McCormick (2003).

A transfer student is a student who has 24 or more accumulated credit hours when that student leaves his or her home institution to graduate from a different institution.  Swirling refers to a pattern in which a student will take credits at two or more institutions without leaving their home institution.  Swirling can take several forms.  For example, double-dipping (also known as concurrent enrollment) occurs when a student is enrolled at two or more institutions during the same semester.  Supplemental enrollment is when students enroll at another institution for a term or semester to accelerate progress in their program at their home institution.  Serial transfer is when students transfer several times on their way to a final destination. The following examples illustrate how students exemplify these different patterns.

Student A is a traditional college student from Louisburg, Kansas, whose parent(s) also attended K-State. She started at K-State in Fall 2009 and graduated in Fall 2013.  While enrolled at K-State, she took six credit hours from Fort Scott Community College in Spring 2009, six hours from Johnson County Community College in Summer 2012 and three hours from Highland Community College in Fall 2012. She shows a classic swirling pattern of enrollment.

Student B is a first-generation, transfer college student from St. George, Kansas.  He started at K-State in Fall 2012 and graduated in Fall 2015.  He transferred 53 credit hours from Washburn University, accumulated from Fall 2010 to Spring 2012.  He took six hours from Highland Community College (three in Fall 2008 and three in Summer 2011) and three hours from Baron County Community College in Summer 2013.  He swirled at both home institutions.

Student C is a non-traditional, first-generation, serial transfer college student from Toledo, Ohio.  She started at K-State in Fall 2013 and graduated in Spring 2015.  She transferred 38 hours from Owens Community College from Fall 2007 to Spring 2009, 24 hours from Gulf Coast Community College from Spring 2010–Fall 2010, and 18 hours from Barton County Community College from Spring 2013 to Summer 2013.


Of the 1,437 students enrolled in the COE in Fall 2013, 1,180, or 82.1%, had transferred hours from one or more institutions.  Of these, 14.9% had transferred more than 24 hours from one institution, 14.4% had transferred over 24 hours from two institutions, 8.5% transferred over 24 hours from three institutions, and 2.1% transferred over 24 hours from four institutions.  Another 42.5% transferred fewer than 24 hours from one institution, 14.1% transferred fewer than 24 hours from two institutions, 3.2% transferred fewer than 24 hours from three institutions, while 0.08% transferred fewer than 24 hours from four institutions.

Freshmen in Fall 2013 overwhelmingly transferred fewer than 24 credit hours from either one (79.1%) or two (10.4%) institutions.  On average, they brought 13.57 credits hours to the COE when they enrolled for their first semester of classes, 12.57 (92.63%) of which counted towards their degree program. Transfer students in Fall 2013 typically transferred more than 24 credit hours, also usually from either one (30%) or two (42%) institutions.  On average, transfer students brought 48.24 credit hours into the COE, 31.99 (66.31%) of which counted towards their degree program.

Freshmen most often transferred general education courses that apply to a lot of different programs.   Expository Writing 1 (36.7%) and Expository Writing 2 (27.7%), College Algebra (31.9%), and Public Speaking (27.1%) with them when they first started at K-State.  Other common freshman transfer courses included U.S. Government (15.4%), U.S. History 1 (11.7%) and U.S. History 2 (14.4%), and Psychology (12.8%).  Like their freshman counterparts, transfer students tended to bring Expository Writing 1 (88%) and Expository Writing 2 (76.1%), Public Speaking (77.2%), Psychology (68%%), and College Algebra (65.1%) with them to K-State.  These were followed by Fine Arts Appreciation (55.4%), Sociology (50%), Literature (47.8%), Biology, (43.5%), and other sciences with a lab (41.3%).  In the College of Education, many programs are highly prescriptive.  As a result, transfer students lose a greater percentage of courses entering the College of Education.


There are several issues that arise from the increase in these enrollment patterns.  Institutional transfer credit policies may restrict the number of credits students can transfer and when the credits can be transferred.  The Higher Education Act uses antiquated policies for calculating completion rates and distributing financial aid, which may result in institutions pressuring students to take courses simply to complete degrees rather than supporting transfers.  In addition, financial aid policies include limits on consortium agreements and satisfactory academic progress requirements, which are intended to prevent students from accumulating excess hours (American Council on Education, 2013).  Advisors need to ask themselves how they can support their students as they negotiate these complex and restrictive regulations.

In addition, a rising number of institutions are offering classes online, which dramatically increases accessibility for students.  Students now have more options, which encourages them to look for the best deal.  This can lead to a lack of brand loyalty (Seligo, 2012), resulting in students who do not feel connected to their institution.  Without that sense of connection, students may lack persistence if they encounter obstacles.  Advisors are essential figures in helping students connect to their campus and in encouraging perseverance through challenges.  In addition to serving as a personal connection point with the institution, these university faculty and staff are typically knowledgeable about extracurricular activities and other ways students can get involved on campus.

Finally, if students piece together a program of study, they are not truly participating in a coherent, meaningful education path.  This means that even though students may have taken the same courses by title, they may not have had the same focus (McCormick, 2003; Smith Bailey, 2003).  If advisors have a list of courses from other institutions that they know not only fulfill requirements, but also contain information relevant to furthering the degree-granting institution’s program objectives, they can help students choose the best courses to maintain the integrity of their own institution’s program.  Without this guidance, students are likely to choose where they want to take courses based on what seems easiest.

At an institutional level, it is important to create a culture of transfer.  To most effectively support today’s college students, it is important to create policies that are student-centered, not institution-centered (Clemetsen, Furbeck, & Moore, 2013).  One area in which this is particularly important is improving transfer processes to simplify movement of credits.  This can be done by supporting transfer and reverse-transfer agreements.  These partnerships are becoming more common.  Some even allow students to take classes at any partner institution, while institutions share information about mutual students.  To fully reap the benefits of these partnerships, however, it is important to invest in sufficient numbers of academic advisors.

First and foremost, advisors recognize that students with different enrollment patterns may have different goals and need different types of support.  Knowledge of these enrollment patterns can influence conversations with students to help create both short- and long-term plans.  Dual- or pre-transfer advising can be one key strategy to help students ease their transfer process if they plan to transfer to another institution or even a different program at the same institution.  One way to achieve this goal is to encourage better communication and collaboration between partner institutions (Smith Bailey, 2003).  Those relationships are also beneficial when students need to find classes at other institutions to help them progress through their own program.

Future Research Considerations

  • Which students are swirling? Are there demographic implications?
  • Where do these students transfer from? How many institutions do they attend? How many hours do they take? What kind of credits are they taking? How often do they take courses from other institutions? When are they most likely to swirl?
  • Does swirling have implications for graduation rates and time to graduation?
  • How do military-connected students’ enrollment patterns differ from swirlers and other transfer students?
  • Do swirling students and traditional transfer students encounter the same barriers to graduation? Do they have the same advising needs?

Sandra Avalos (savalos@k-state.edu)
Kelly Briggs (kbriggs10@k-state.edu)
Mechelle Martinez (mefema@k-state.edu)
Academic Advisors
Center for Student and Professional Services
College of Education
Kansas State University


American Council on Education (2013). Comments on Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Retrieved from http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Pages/Comments-on-Reauthorizing-the-Higher-Education-Act.aspx

Clemetsen, B., Furbeck, L., & Moore, A. (2013). Enabling student swirl: Understanding the data and best practices for supporting transfer students. Strategic Enrollment Mgmt Quarterly, 1, 153–165. doi:10.1002/sem3.20018

De Los Santos Jr., A. & Sutton, F. (2012). Swirling students: Articulation between a major community college district and a state-supported research university. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 36(12), 967-981.

McCormick, A. C. (2003). Swirling and double-dipping: New patterns of student attendance and their implications for higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 121, 13-24.

Seligo, J. (2012, March 8). The student swirl. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/next/2012/03/08/the-student-swirl/

Smith Bailey, D. (2003, December). 'Swirling' changes to the traditional student path. Monitor on Psychology, 34(11). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/dec03/swirling.aspx

Assessment: It is a Process

Heather D.S. Anderson, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Editor’s Note: Readers interested in learning more about available Assessment Institute scholarships can find information here.

Heather Anderson.jpgAttending the NACADA Assessment Institute in Daytona Beach, Florida, this year was an excellent time to pause, take a breath, and take a break from the everyday rigmarole to focus on the macro view of advising.  Coming from George Mason University (Mason), a large public research institution in Northern Virginia with a decentralized advising model, the institute gave me the opportunity to learn how other institutions practice, assess, and improve their advising processes.

My journey to advising is unique but not unusual.  My educational background is in fine arts and design and, much like other advisors I know, I came to the field with a desire to support students in their learning and in achieving their educational and career goals.  Similar to the general decentralized structure of advising at Mason, my unit, the Honors College, also has a decentralized structure, which can make assessment of advising fairly complicated.  This is especially true as the college continues to grow and the academic departments take on the more prescriptive aspects of advising.  What the Assessment Institute offered me is the understanding that laying the groundwork for a solid advising process and sticking with what you can assess is the way to begin when you are not able to implement comprehensive advising assessment all at once.  That, and a reminder that marketing matters (one would think that coming from a design field I would have already figured that one out).

The Assessment Institute, in its new format, offered a choose-your-own-adventure type structure which allowed me to tackle different assessment topics as I better came to understand what was possible in assessment and, in turn, what was then possible at my institution and in my unit.  Assessment is clearly an essential function of an educational institution and advising assessment is a clear process to reinforce sound advising practices and processes and to identify areas of improvement.  However, you can assess advising all you want but without articulating the findings out to the university, or the even the advising community at the institution, the assessment process does not reach its full usefulness.  I also have a hunch this is especially important at a large institution with a decentralized advising structure (thus my interest in the topic).  Because each college and department runs their advising process a little differently, from who advises to how advising is practiced, assessment does become a challenge.  However, the advantage to this process is that each of the units and advisors have the opportunity to learn from the successes and challenges of others.  The university as a whole can become a microcosm of the national advising community, but that is only true if we are communicating our findings to each other at the university.  This is where marketing comes in.

Marketing the information gained through assessment (such as successes and planned improvements) is something I do not see very often in an advising assessment cycle.  However, this was included in multiple sessions that I attended at the Institute.  Marketing assessment results range from the basics of just making sure that the information has a home (i.e. a website) that is easily accessible to designing and disseminating engaging information handouts for carefully identified stakeholders and constituents.  The marketing of assessment results and future improvements is an integral part of the assessment process.  It solidifies the results of an assessment cycle, but it also keeps the advising and university community aware of how advising is working and how it is going to continue to grow to support student success, which is really what this is all about. 

Returning from the institute, my fellow Directors of Advising and I plan to revisit our advising student learning outcomes to make sure they are clear, assessable, and developmentally scaffolded to meet students’ needs at critical times during their educational experience at Mason.  My goal in this process is to make sure we are communicating our successes and improvements to the wider Mason community as we implement advising assessment and to leverage our diverse advising structures as a way to learn from each other.  The NACADA Assessment Institute experience will inform every aspect of this process.

My time at the NACADA Assessment Institute solidified my understanding of the process of advising assessment and added nuance and depth to aspects of assessment that I had not previously considered. The faculty’s engagement with each attendee was especially useful as we worked through some of the more unique challenges of individual institutions.  I appreciated the opportunity to learn from the faculty and from the experiences of other attendees as they worked through their assessment plans.  The institute was a really great opportunity for individuals working at institutions, no matter the level or point in the assessment process they are.    

Heather D.S. Anderson
Honors College
Director of Academic Affairs & Advising
George Mason University

NACADA Emerging Leaders Program Promotes and Celebrates Successful Leadership Development

Heather Doyle, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Leigh Cunningham, Emerging Leaders Program Coordinator

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising is committed to providing opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for our diverse membership (Vision and Mission).  Association strategic goals include developing and sustaining effective leadership, as well as fostering inclusive practices within the association that respect the principle of equity and the diversity of advising professionals across the vast array of intersections of identify (Strategic Goals). To support these goals, the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was developed in 2006, as an initiative from the (then) Diversity Committee (now the Inclusion & Engagement 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.

With more than a decade of successful leadership development now behind us, we are excited to recognize the many members of the Emerging Leaders classes who have served in elected and appointed positions—as chairs of NACADA regions, commissions, interest groups, committees, advisory boards, and task forces—as well as those who have stepped up to leadership in other service, scholarship, and research areas.  ELPers have already made a lasting contribution to NACADA and have a long list of accomplishments, including:

  • Spearheading 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 and serving as reviewers for NACADA publications.
  • Presenting in NACADA Webinar broadcasts.
  • Being awarded NACADA Research Grants, completing research, and publishing the results in the NACADA Journal
  • 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 2015-2017 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured below), who began work at the 2015 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, 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 St Louis, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

2015-2017 ELP Class.jpg

Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Heather Doyle is pleased to announce the 2017-2019 NACADA Emerging Leaders and Mentors

Emerging Leaders

Ivette Barbosa (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis)
Rhonda Christian (Durham College)
Twaina Harris (Claflin University)
Brittany Hoover (University of Florida)
Sarah Maddox (Colorado State University)
Matthew Markin (California State University-San Bernardino)
Tara Maroney Pickett (University of Bridgeport)
Shanna Pendergrast (University of Tennessee-Knoxville)
Wendy Schindler (Gateway Community & Technical College)
CJ (Chris) Venable Schaefbauer (Kent State University)


Jennifer Joslin (Kansas State University)
Amy Korthank (University of Iowa)
Brandan Lowden (Pikes Peak Community College)
Amanda Mather (Texas A&M University at Qatar)
Leah Panganiban (University of Washington)
Nancy Roadruck (Kent State University)
Kyle Ross (Washington State University)
John Sauter (Niagara University)
David Spight (University of California-Davis)
Wendy Troxel (Kansas State University)

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

Heather Doyle
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2016-2018
Dalhousie University

Leigh Cunningham
ELP Coordinator
NACADA Executive Office


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