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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Core Values—Why We Do What We Do

Amy Sannes, NACADA President

The following was adapted from a presentation to the Council of Academic Advisors at Arizona State University.

Amy Sannes.jpgWhy am I an academic advisor?  Why do we do what we do?  There are many reasons that, as advisors, we do what we do.  But I would venture to guess that for most of us, we do this because we believe in our students.  We do this to support, guide, and help our students find their passions and leave our institutions in a better place than when they entered our lives.

NACADA’s recently revised Core Values for Academic Advising really are at the heart of why we do what we do.  The NACADA Core Values provide guidance to academic advisors in their professional lives and exemplify their commitment to the students they advise, their institutions, their professional practice, and the broader advising and educational community.  The Core Values provide us guidance in our hiring practices and are a great tool in explaining expectations with newly hired advisors.

The remainder of this article will review the description of each of the seven core values and reflect on how the value plays out in the words of actual students.  The core values also address how advisors interact with their peers, institutions, and our profession, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Core Value: Caring.  Academic advisors respond to and are accessible to others in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach.  Advisors build relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, colleagues, and others (NACADA, 2017).

“You take the time to talk with me and don’t just tell me courses and send me on my way.  You know me. Thank you.” 

We talk about helping students find their passion; I believe caring is the advisor’s passion.  I have seen this core value exhibited every day, and I hear it in advisors’ voices when they talk about their students.  We care without asking for anything in return.  Our students deserve this unconditional care.  And yes, even when we are tested by hearing our student tell us their grades are much better this term and they are attending class, and we proudly watch them leave only to turn to our early alert system and see an alert pop up for lack of attendance for that very student, even then, we still care.

Core Value: Commitment.  Academic advisors value and are dedicated to excellence in all dimensions of student success.  Advisors are committed to students, colleagues, institutions, and the profession through assessment, scholarly inquiry, life-long learning, and professional development (NACADA, 2017).

“My advisor knew to ask questions I hadn't even thought about yet.”

That passion that we have to care for our students spills over into commitment.  As advisors, we are committed to the success of our students, our institution, and our profession.  We look beyond the basic class registration questions and try to anticipate the needs of our students and what we as advisors can do to help them succeed.  We remain committed to treating each student like they were our first student of the day.

Core Value: Empowerment.  Academic advisors motivate, encourage, and support students and the greater educational community to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect and express individuality (NACADA, 2017).

“My advisor believes in me and I know it.  That is the most important thing an advisor can do for a student.”

We cannot do it for them, but we can be there to push them to do it for themselves and support their dreams and goals.  As an advisor, never underestimate the power of your actions.

“I was about to give up, I felt so worthless, I kept going down the same path and my grades kept getting worse to the point I was about to be suspended.  I couldn’t face my family.  My advisor helped me see that I was chasing a dream that really wasn’t my own. She helped me realize I never really wanted to be a doctor and that there are other ways to help people. She helped me find the courage to talk to my parents, change my major, and be proud of doing what I love—teaching. Life is beautiful when you live your life.”

Core Value: Inclusivity.  Academic advisors respect, engage, and value a supportive culture for diverse populations.  Advisors strive to create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, institutions, and colleagues through openness, acceptance, and equity (NACADA, 2017).

“You look beyond my status. You helped me feel like I belonged, that I deserved to be here.”

This is a tall order, but it is our responsibility to help all of our students feel like they belong and are safe on our campuses.  Belonging can take different forms for our students, and as advisors, we can take the lead in having continuing conversations around inclusivity and engagement on our campuses.

Core Value: Integrity.  Academic advisors act intentionally in accordance with ethical and professional behavior developed through reflective practice.  Advisors value honesty, transparency, and accountability to the student, institution, and the advising profession (NACADA, 2017).

“A mistake was made: I’m not sure by who, but my advisor explained the error to me and worked out a compromise that helped me meet the requirement.  Was I happy, not really, but I did understand I needed to meet the academic requirements to get my degree.”

Our job is not to always say yes to the student.  We have to maintain the integrity of the degree and sometimes this means helping students understand that a mistake was made and we cannot just ignore a requirement.  However, sometimes we can compromise, if there is no risk to the integrity of the major.  We try to honor what is told to a student as we know trust is important to the advising relationship.  A more complex issue here is when what is right for institution occasionally conflicts with what is right for the student—a sort of ethical dilemma.

Core Value: Professionalism.  Academic advisors act in accordance with the values of the profession of advising for the greater good of students, colleagues, institutions, and higher education in general (NACADA, 2017).

“She knows her stuff man—go see her!”

This may not be an obvious quote for professionalism, but it is the story behind it that has meaning.  This specific student was struggling and avoiding his advisor, but after being put on probation, was required to meet with his advisor.  To shorten a long story, the advisor connected with the student and helped him not only get back on track but find a major in which he was much more engaged.  This student became the advising office’s biggest recruiter—he told all his friends to go see his advisor.  Professionalism in our field includes knowledgeable, helpful, and committed advisors who put student success at the forefront.

Core Value: Respect.  Academic advisors honor the inherent value of all students.  Advisors build positive relationships by understanding and appreciating students’ views and cultures, maintaining a student-centered approach and mindset, and treating students with sensitivity and fairness (NACADA, 2017).

“He treated me like an adult.  Like I had something to say.”

Respect is the utmost gift we can give our students.  Even when we have those days when we feel a bit challenged ourselves, we never let it affect our students.

So, why do we do what we do?  Or why are we academic advisors?  We do this to ensure we provide an inclusive environment where all voices can be heard, where individuals are treated with integrity, where we remain professional in all our actions, and above all, where there is respect for our students, each other, and our institution.

This is why we are academic advisors.  This is why we do what we do!

Amy Sannes, President, 2017-2018
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Director, Academic Services Natural Sciences
Arizona State University
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
[email protected]


NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

From the Executive Director: NACADA Continues Moving Forward for the Future

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgI know that speed of time has much to do with my age, but for NACADA it has more to do with all the outstanding work that has been completed in one short year.  We continue to move NACADA into the future as the premier association for academic advising and student success and work to ensure that NACADA has a strong role in enhancing higher education and student success globally.

So much has been accomplished since this time last year, and so much is in the planning stages because of the outstanding leadership of our 2017-2018 president Amy Sannes and the Board of Directors.  NACADA has a powerful history as a member-driven association, and the outstanding work of President Sannes and the Board has focused on achieving our strategic goals and leading our members in making great strides for the future of our association!  While I run the risk of leaving something out, I want to take this opportunity to outline just a few of those accomplishments and progress toward future achievements.

NACADA has hosted a very successful series of Virtual Town Hall Meetings this year after the Board of Directors noted the value of the information gathered at the Town Hall meeting that took place during our 2017 Annual Conference in St. Louis last October and recognized that many members were not able to be at that meeting.

President Sannes, the Board of Directors, and the Finance Committee have recently approved the funding to hire an outside consultant to conduct a diversity/inclusion study of our association.  This has occurred directly because of President Sannes’s and the Board’s careful analysis of the information gathered at the Town Hall meeting in St. Louis.  The Board has spent this year working on a variety of initiatives to encourage underrepresented members to become involved in NACADA leadership, as well as other issues regarding the inclusiveness that were voiced at the Town Hall.  This issue is of utmost importance to the future of the association, and the Board has decided that an independent study is needed.  I applaud President Sannes and the Board of Directors for their hard work, determination, and courage in moving purposefully on this very important opportunity.  It will create solutions that have long term-impact on the association.

With the Board’s focus on research in the field of academic advising and student success as a key to the future of our profession and association, the following steps were taken this year:

  • The Grand Opening of the NACADA Center for Research was held in early spring after extensive renovation to a space procured by Debbie Mercer, Kansas State University College of Education Dean.  Renovations were supported financially by the Dean and the Board of Directors.  The NACADA Research Center director, Dr. Wendy Troxel, coordinated the grand opening, which was video streamed live on Facebook.  I am extremely honored that NACADA President Amy Sannes took time from her busy schedule at Arizona State University to attend the event and officially cut the ribbon to open the center.
  • The NACADA Center for Research will be hosting a series of Writing Support Group Sessions in fall of 2018 and spring of 2019.  We presently have over 150 advising professionals who have registered for these sessions for the fall.  For more information on these outstanding opportunities go to the Support for Writers webpage.
  • A new electronic journal, the NACADA Review: Academic Advising Praxis and Perspectives, will debut this fall.

The Board of Directors is deeply committed to ensuring the most comprehensive and inclusive professional development for our members and the academic advising profession. Therefore, President Sannes charged the Professional Development Committee with creating a plan for a comprehensive analysis of any gaps in professional development.  The committee has submitted that plan which the Board will review during Annual Conference meetings in Phoenix this October, and it will be a part of this year’s Town Hall meeting discussions in Phoenix.

As the Board is deeply committed to our Strategic Goal to develop and sustain effective association leadership, they have worked closely with the NACADA Sustainable Leadership Committee on the creation of a strong leadership training and development program for potential leaders, incoming elected and appointed leaders, and present leaders.  This new program, the NACADA Leadership Engagement Program (NLEP), will be approved and implemented this year.

The Board of Directors and the Executive Office are deeply committed to expanding our partnerships with other higher education associations, both to make a significant impact on student success in higher education globally and to have a seat at the table for important conversations that will impact higher education.  The partnerships supported by the Board of Directors include but are not limited to the following:

  • our partnership with the Gardner Institute for the new EAA – Excellence in Academic Advising – program, which is an aspirational two-year self-study process developed by NACADA and the Gardner Institute.  The first 12 charter institutions have been selected and work with this cohort will begin this fall.
  • our partnership with NASPA for the Academic Advising Solutions Network project.
  • our continued partnership with Complete College America on their game-changers and the role academic advising plays in those important initiatives.
  • our continued partnership with the Reinvention Collaborative in reaching out to Research 1 & Tier 2 institutions and their administrators on the important role academic advising plays at their institutions.
  • a new partnership with the Assocation of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) on developing training material for new faculty at higher education institutions who have academic advising responsibilities.

The Board continues its deep commitment to our globalization efforts which has resulted in the very successful NACADA International Conference in Dublin, Ireland, as well as team of NACADA members led by President Sannes who were invited to speak at the Beijing Institute of Technology.  This team addressed representatives from across China on the role academic advising plays in various countries and gave an introduction to NACADA and our role in excellence in academic advising across the world.

There are many more accomplishments this year and many efforts that will continue into the future.  It is a joy to continue to work with such a strong, member-driven and member-led association, and the role that President Sannes and our Board of Directors have played this year in moving so much forward has truly been exciting and invigorating for our future.

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

Advising Communities: From CIGD to ACD and Into the Future

Rebecca Cofer, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2016-2018
Kyle Ross, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2017-2019
Rebecca Hapes, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2018-2020
Dawn Krause, Advising Communities Division Liaison

ACD team.jpgAt the 2017 Annual Conference, the Commission and Interest Group Division (CIGD) proposed a restructure that was approved by the CIG Chairs, Council, and Board of Directors of NACADA.  The Division is now the newly restructured Advising Communities Division (ACD).  The division has successfully merged commissions and interest groups into the same unit to provide consistency, foster sustainable leadership, and better address the needs of the association’s entire membership.  In the ACD, we are excited to officially roll out our Advising Communities at the 2018 Annual Conference in Phoenix!

What does this mean for NACADA members? 

  • The group names are different.
  • Expectations of all groups are now the same.
  • Elected chairs will eventually be in place for all groups.
  • Every group will have the ability to sponsor sessions at annual conferences.
  • All groups will have more opportunities for voting and engagement.
  • Groups will be reviewed annually for relevance to members and the field of academic advising.

Why restructure (again)?  Why Advising Communities? 

Members were confused with the two types of groups in the CIG Division, and inadvertently, the commissions were being viewed as higher level than interest groups.  In fact, an interest group was an opportunity for members to informally gather around an advising topic or population and could be a stepping stone toward becoming a commission if there was enough engagement, scholarship, and active leadership in place to work toward the commission status. However, the disparity remained and negatively affected leadership overall.  Managing the division with two sets of requirements spread among 44 groups was cumbersome.

With the new ACD, there is alignment of the mission and requirements of both commission and interest groups under one umbrella.  Members will simply choose a group that aligns with their primary student population(s) and institutional types, rather than wonder about the differences between group types.  While Advising Communities address members’ professional interests, they are not designed as support groups. Leadership in the division was viewed as inequitable, which impacted the ability of some groups to attract and retain dynamic leaders that could move the unit forward in delivery of topically relevant resources to members. The term community is more inclusive and better encapsulates the mission of the division moving forward.

A Timeline of Restructuring

  • From the inception of commissions in 1992 and then interest groups in 1994, the CIGD allowed a large association to become smaller for the members, as these groups offered a more intimate outlet for involvement.
  • Clusters and the Steering Committee Members overseeing these groups (now termed Cluster Representatives) were formed in 2011 under Council members David Spight and Lisa Peck.  Clustering groups with similarities under the guidance of an experienced CIGD leader provided more direct engagement with chairs and enhanced communication.  An added benefit of the Clusters, with their representative Cluster Representatives, was the active development of future division leadership.  This is still very much a part of ACD!
  • Following the 2016 Annual Conference, Board and Council members met to discuss the needs of the association and overwhelmingly voted that the CIGD needed rethinking.  The CIGD evaluation process began when Erin Justyna and Rebecca Cofer submitted their Division Unit Report in November of 2016.The restructure concept centered largely on the need for equality and transparency in the division.
  • From December 2017 to August 2017, the division worked on various elements of the restructure process using mini task forces of member volunteers and stakeholders to work on specific details.  Task forces researched, analyzed, and then refined proposals for target areas of analysis of the CIGD and outlined necessary changes.
  • In August of 2017, the CIGD leaders sent this document to the Division for feedback and then brought it up for vote at the Annual Conference in October of that same year.  The Division Chairs, Council, and Board of Directors all unanimously voted in favor of the proposed restructure at their respective Annual Conference meetings in October of 2017.
  • At the mid-year meeting of the Board of Directors and Council held in March of 2018, further approval of funding for all ACD leaders to attend the Advising Communities Division meeting at Annual Conference was approved and the decision then went for final approval by the Finance Committee in May of 2018.  All Advising Community Chairs, as well as all incoming chairs within the ACD, were approved for future travel fund reimbursement.

Current Restructure Processes

While the initial proposal to create the ACD was approved at the 2017 Annual Conference, there is still work to be done following the restructure.  The ACD Steering Committee has been working diligently on several critical issues this year:

  • A new process has reduced the time it takes for members to establish a new Advising Community, but there are now more requirements.  As members of the ACD steering committee, we encourage members to review the following documents: Thinking about Creating an Advising Community? and Process to Become an Advising Community.
  • The division is large, consisting of over 40 Advising Communities.  To ensure consistency, we created a rubric for self-evaluation of chairs and a rubric to monitor the activity of each Advising Community.  As topics fluctuate in the field of advising, the need for an Advising Community around that topic can also change.  Therefore, there is now a system in place to archive Advising Communities to better address the fluctuating needs and interests of the membership.
  • Under the CIGD, commissions were responsible for evaluating session proposals for annual conferences and each Commission Chair could sponsor up to three sessions to guarantee their acceptance.  Now that all Advising Communities will be responsible for evaluating session proposals for annual conferences, it is no longer realistic for each chair to sponsor three proposals.  Starting with the 2019 Annual Conference, Advising Community Chairs can sponsor up to two sessions after all proposals are reviewed and accepted.  They will continue to be highlighted in the conference program.
  • Interest Group Chairs could serve in that capacity indefinitely, while Commission Chairs were elected to their positions in two-year terms.  Going forward, half of Advising Communities that were formerly interest groups will enter the 2019–2021 election cycle, and the remaining half will enter the 2020–2022 election cycle.  The ACD Steering Committee encourages eligible members to consider running for these positions, as it is a great way to give back to the association and step into a formal NACADA leadership role.Information on the 2019–2021 election cycle can be found here.

Moving Forward

So what do all of these changes mean for members moving forward?  As members select Advising Community choices on their NACADA membership and/or renewal forms, the names will now appear with community in the title.  This change also means there will be additional opportunities for elected leadership within all of these groups.  All Advising Communities will have elected chairs, and members of the groups will be engaged in the voting process.  As such, the ACD Steering Committee encourages members to please be intentional about selection of the four groups allotted upon membership (or renewal).  Members may log in to their myNACADA site to make modifications to choices if their job functions or interests necessitate a change.

Participation in the NACADA Annual Conference and Beyond

Some suggestions for engagement in the upcoming NACADA Annual Conference relative to these division changes include the following:

  • Go to Advising Community business meetings!  Each Advising Community has a brief description of their business meeting in the Annual Conference program.  Some even post the agenda as a handout prior to the event.  Here members can become more engaged in their four chosen groups and as a member, maybe put up a hand to join an Advising Community Steering Committee or put forth an idea for a future goal for the group.  Attending a meeting is the best way to stay engaged with the work of Advising Communities.
  • Go to the ACD Fair.  This is the only time at the NACADA Annual Conference when all Advising Communities are in one room and members can look for groups to join.  Each Advising Community describes their mission, resources for members of their group, and current goals/projects.  If members want to learn more about any of the existing Advising Communities, this is the place to be!
  • Subscribe to an Advising Community LISTSERV (each community has one!) or join their social media platform.  Though members are limited to choosing four Advising Communities for voting purposes, the LISTSERVS and social media accounts are open to anyone interested.
  • Pursue leadership within an Advising Community.  There are opportunities for individuals to engage within each Advising Community in various ways including steering committees, workgroups, and proposal readers for annual conferences, just to name a few.  Additionally, all Advising Communities will now elect their chair every two years, providing additional opportunities for elected leadership positions.  Additional information on getting involved within the ACD can be found here.

The ACD believes that members will have a better experience as a result of this restructure process.  We are very appreciative of the Division leaders, Council, Board of Directors, and Executive Office in their support of these processes and flexibility through this transition.  Particularly, none of this would have been possible without the tremendous foresight, vision, leadership, and efforts of past Division Representative Erin Justyna and outgoing Division Representative Rebecca Cofer.  Many thanks to these dynamic and dedicated leaders! 

Regardless of how members choose to become engaged within the Advising Communities, in the ACD, we are excited to share these changes and move forward with everyone!

Rebecca Cofer, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2016–2018
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Coordinator, Campus Tutoring Services
Academic Support
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
[email protected]

Rebecca Hapes, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2018–2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
[email protected]

Dawn Krause, Advising Communities Division Liaison
Content Program Coordinator
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
[email protected]

Kyle Ross, Advising Communities Division Representative, 2017–2019
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University
[email protected]

Recharging Our Emotional Batteries: The Importance of Self-Care for Front Line Advisors

Elizabeth Harman, Western Oregon University

Elizabeth Harman.jpgAdvisors connect with students through stories, experiences, and expressions of emotion while promoting the benefits of self-care.  What is not often recognized is that advisors and student success coaches also have a vital need for self-care.  Although the promotion of self-care is now being discussed at institutions, plans for adaptation are not consistent or well-developed (Thomas & Morris, 2017).  Advisors and student success coaches who consistently use critical thought, empathy, and problem solving skills are, at times, not aware that this can impact their well-being and lead to burnout.  The psychological impact of lacking self-care plans can affect not only the professional, but also the personal lives of advisors; identifying the need for self-care and implementing it into daily life is imperative to getting back on track and maintaining a sense of balance.

To define self-care is challenging; it is a construct that is individualized and influenced by personal factors.  Bradley, Whisenhunt, Adamson, and Kress (2013) describe self-care as any actions or experiences that maintain or enhance the well-being of counselors or, in this case, advisors.  Actively pursuing strategies to maintain well-being are highly personalized and relevant to each advisor and student success coach.  Bradley et al. (2013) also identify that counselor (or advisor) wellness is imperative to being supportive and helpful; the absence of this wellness can lead to unintentionally psychologically harming students.  While counseling training programs often stress the importance of self-care to students, few programs address the issue in practice.  As a result, practitioners often do not fully develop the ability to detect their own need for self-care (Newsome, Christopher, Dahlen, & Christopher, 2006).  The CAS Standards for Academic Advising Programs (CAS, 2013) identify its mission as assisting students as they define, plan, and achieve their educational goals.  Failing to engage in self-care behaviors as advisors can compromise the process of assisting and supporting students in the pursuit of their academics (Farr & Cunningham, 2017).

Who takes care of the advisor?  Burnout, a term introduced by Freudenberger in 1980, refers to a slow, corrosive process that ends with the professional staff member being unable to provide empathy and support (Lancaster, 2015).  Stebnicki (2007) defines empathy fatigue, another phenomena for counselors and other care-providing professionals, as experiencing occupational exhaustion when students share experiences, mental health diagnoses, loss, grief, and other emotions.  Empathy fatigue can lead to feelings of reduced professional efficacy, making it more challenging for advisors to manage tasks and assignments that once seemed simple.  Advisors frequently have students who share their lives during the advising relationship, and when this is a constant occurrence, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion as empathy stores are depleted.  While there are some advisors with smaller caseloads who may not have the experience of burnout and empathy fatigue as often, other colleagues might have caseloads upwards of 1500 to one, with immense amounts of enervation.  Without appropriate self-care, burnout and empathy fatigue can set in quickly, compromising the advisor’s ability to support the next student.

In a field where connection is vital to the success of the appointment, empathy and support on a daily basis can place a strain or stress on the advisor or student success coach over a period of time (Newsome et al., 2006).  When burnout approaches, one response a provider may have is to anesthetize their feelings in an attempt to continue daily routines in a cut-off way.  The danger of such a response is that there are often maladaptive ways of anesthetizing these emotions.  Brené Brown (2012), one of the leading researchers in shame and vulnerability, commented that the current adult cohort in the United States is the most medicated, addicted, obese, and in debt cohort in history.  Especially in a profession that does not explicitly require or encourage self-care, learning how to respond to difficult or stressful situations is vital to long term management and efficacy on the job.

Developing appropriate self-care strategies is like building a tool kit; each approach can impact advisor well-being in a different way.  To address experiences such as burnout and empathy fatigue, advisors and success coaches should develop methods that promote resilience.  Essayist Briana Weist (2017) discusses self-care as actions or activities that are built into everyday life.  Looking ahead to stressful or busy points of the year and planning around them may reduce the impact on advisors and success coaches (Thomas & Morris, 2017).  Stebnicki (2007) highlights that most strategies involve components of individual self-awareness of burnout or empathy fatigue, wellness and lifestyle modifications, and connections, both personally and professionally.  While it may feel natural to provide assistance and empathy for students, advisors often do not have a space to express vulnerability, debrief difficult appointments, or share emotional stories (Brown, 2012).  Creating a supportive space for front-line advisors to express difficult thoughts, emotions, and experiences fosters connection and promotes productive self-care. This can be built through regular time during staff meetings to discuss difficult appointments or by encouraging advisors to debrief tough situations with another on an individual level.  By doing so, advisors are aware of the impact these stories may have and are connecting with peers and colleagues for support in an attempt to combat the empathy fatigue or burnout (Stebnicki, 2007).

Advisors who are looking for a way to cope with empathy fatigue or burnout in a more individual setting may find value in the therapeutic use of creativity.  In various mediums, this creativity can be used to express grim thoughts or produce an alternative form of communication or exploration of emotions (Bradley et al., 2013).  The process of creation can be cathartic or may even energize advisors while reducing the amount of emotional stress that has been experienced.  Expressive arts may include, but are not limited to, various creative arts, cooking, movement, writing, photography, and music.  Developing a consistent routine of expressive self-care can act as maintenance and prevention, if done at smaller intervals.  When more wellness rejuvenation is needed, these actions can be done for an extended period of time to address the increased stress or demands of the term (Thomas & Morris, 2017).  Through creative expression, advisors become self-aware and are able to identify true emotions or frustrations.  By engaging in individual forms of self-care consistently, advisors may find ways to prevent burnout and express thoughts and feelings in a more private setting.

Academic advisors serve a vital and integral role in student success.  As advisors address appropriate self-care strategies for students in order to be successful, it is important that these same advisors engage in activities or actions that can combat burnout and empathy fatigue.  Learning how to identify appropriate self-care strategies will provide support to advisors and model good self-care habits to students as well as colleagues.  Intentionally creating self-care plans, either with peers or individually, can lead to professional and personal growth and address burnout and empathy fatigue before they occur.

Elizabeth Harman
Academic Success Advisor
Western Oregon University
[email protected]


Bradley, N., Whisenhunt, J., Adamson, N., & Kress, V. E. (2013). Creative approaches for promoting counselor self-care. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 8, 456-469.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.

CAS. (2013). Academic Advising Programs: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.  Retrieved from http://standards.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0

Farr, T. & Cunningham, L. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies guide. Manhattan, KS: NACADA, The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Lancaster, D. L. (2015). Burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma: A brief for administrators, physicians, and human service workers. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Newsome, S., Christopher, J. C., Dahlen, P., & Christopher, S. (2006). Teaching counselors self-care through mindfulness practices. Teachers College Record, 108, 1881-1900.

Stebnicki, M. A. (2007). Empathy fatigue: Healing the mind, body and spirit of professional counselors. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 10(4), 317-338.

Thomas, D. A., & Morris, M. H. (2017). Creative counselor self-care. American Counseling Association. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/creative-counselor-self-care.pdf?sfvrsn=ccc24a2c_4

Wiest, B. (2017, November 16). This is what ‘self-care’ really means, because it’s not all salt baths and chocolate cake [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/11/this-is-what-self-care-really-means-because-its-not-all-salt-baths-and-chocolate-cake/

Eat the Dessert: A Narrative to Encourage Campus Resource Utilization

Sarah Forbes.jpgSarah A. Forbes and Michael S. DeVasher, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

In their seminal work on student success, McNair, Albertine, Cooper, McDonald, and Major (2016) aptly noted:

There has never been a time when all students enrolled in college were academically prepared, when no students required additional supports to promote their college success, or when the transition from high school to college was seamless for all students. (p. 13) 

Michael DeVasher.jpgAs a result, institutions of higher education invest in a diverse set of resources to aid student transition and success.  While not exhaustive, some of the common resources are libraries, learning centers, writing centers, testing centers, counseling services, health centers, student success offices, student accessibility services, diversity centers, recreation centers, academic advisors, and resident assistants.  It is not surprising that students who utilize these resources are (directly or indirectly) more likely to be successful in their college pursuits (Brown & Malenfant, 2016; DeStefano, Mellott, & Petersen, 2001; Swecker, Fifolt, & Searby, 2013).  This is the reason why advisors tell students over and over, “Go visit [name of resource].”  Yet, few students heed that advice.  Instead, here is the typical conversation: 

Student:  I am having trouble keeping up with the material.
Advisor:  Have you been to the learning center to arrange tutoring?
Student:  No.
Advisor:  Why not?
Student:  I don’t know.  I should probably do that.

Follow-up meetings highlight the fact that students did not take advantage of the suggested resources, but merely responded in a socially desirable way to please the advisor.  To further exacerbate the problem, many colleges and universities tell prospective students and parents that support services are free.  Oftentimes no additional costs are incurred, but promoting the services as free is misleading.  Students, and their families, have invested money, via tuition and fees, to pay for these resources.  Not only is it misleading, but students might not perceive the full value of these resources when they are labeled as free.

Bandura (1986) posited that learning and performing were two separate events, noting that “people do not enact everything they learn” (p. 68).  Most orientation programs and first-year seminars will lay the foundation for what resources exist on campus, where they are located, and when to use them.  Thus, the issue appears to be one of motivation to seek out help (i.e., performing).  How, then, can advisors convince students to take advantage of campus resources?  One solution to this challenge is to leverage a co-created narrative called “eat the dessert.”  This illustration allows advisors to personalize the conversation by connecting the idea of utilizing resources with something the student already enjoys. 

Here is the conversation using the narrative:

Student:  I am having trouble keeping up with the material.
Advisor:  Have you been to the learning center to arrange tutoring?
Student:  No.
Advisor:  Ok.  Let’s say that you and I went to dinner at a nice restaurant.  At the table next to us, there is a couple, clearly on a date.  At the end of their meal, they order dessert.  What’s your favorite dessert?
Student:  A brownie with ice cream.
Advisor:   Great.  So this couple orders a brownie with ice cream.  The waiter sets it on the table, and it looks delicious.  It’s a perfect mound of brownie covered with a perfectly spherical dollop of ice cream.  Do you like almonds?
Student:  Sure.
Advisor:  Ok, it’s also got shaved almonds and whipped cream with hot fudge drizzled over the top and around the plate.  It is a work of art.  Immediately after the dessert arrives, the couple leaves the restaurant.  The dessert is left untouched.  What would you think if you saw that?
Student:  How long do we have to wait until we eat that dessert?!
Advisor:  Yes, but we would look at the untouched dessert and think, “Wow, that’s weird.  Why would anyone pay for dessert and then leave without eating it?”  Right?
Student:   Yeah.
Advisor:   So let me ask you this, how much does it cost to go to the Learning Center or the Counseling Center?
Student:  Nothing.
Advisor:   How much does it cost to go talk to a faculty member?
Student:   Nothing.
Advisor:  It costs nothing now, but it’s not free.  You hear people talk about all of our free resources, but the truth is the resources are not free.  You have paid good money to attend our institution, and thereby have paid for the resources.  Since you’ve paid for them, why wouldn’t you use them?  Eat the dessert!
Student:  Oh, you’re right!  I hadn’t thought about it like that.

There are three distinct differences between these two conversations.  First, the co-created narrative engages the student in a dialogue.  The narrative does not require the student to reflect on any failures to get started or continue the conversation.  All that it requires is for the student to have a favorite dessert and be willing to name it.  Personalizing the discussion in this manner can also help develop a rapport with the student.  Second, the typical conversation puts the burden on the student, essentially demanding that the student offer an excuse on the spot.  While the student must take responsibility for his/her actions, or lack thereof, the narrative accomplishes the same goal without the pressure, the need to make excuses, or the desire to respond in a socially desirable way.  Finally, the emphasis is shifted from free to pre-paid.  By illustrating the fact that the student has made an investment, motivation has been created.  No one wants to waste money, especially in light of the rising cost of higher education.  Further, if a student is going to feel a sense of entitlement, it might as well be leveraged for a positive outcome.

Advisors have a responsibility to their students to ensure that they have accurate and timely information about the services offered; however, the scope of their duties does not extend to following the students around to ensure compliance with the given advice.  By engaging in this co-created narrative, a paradigm shift is created.  The original beliefs students held are called into question, and they have a more difficult time finding an excuse to avoid the offered resources.  The co-created narrative sparks student attention, which is the first step toward action.

Sarah A. Forbes, Ph.D.
Director of Student Academic Success
Academic Affairs
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
[email protected] 

Michael S. DeVasher, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management
Enrollment Management
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
[email protected]


Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Brown, K., & Malenfant, K. J. (2016). Documented library contributions to student learning and success: Building evidence with team-based assessment in action campus projects. Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/value/contributions_y2.pdf

DeStefano, T. J., Mellott, R. N., & Petersen, J. D. (2001). A preliminary assessment of the impact of counseling on student adjustment to college. Journal of College Counseling, 4(2), 113-121.

McNair, T., Albertine, S., Cooper, M. A., McDonald, N., & Major, T., Jr. (2016). Becoming a student-ready college: A new culture of leadership for student success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Swecker, H. K., Fifolt, M., & Searby, L. (2013). Academic advising and first-generation college students: A quantitative study on student retention. NACADA Journal, 33(1), 46-53.

There is Power in Numbers: Utilizing Group Advising to Promote Student Success

Shantalea Johns and Helen H. Wilson, Wayne State University

Helen Wilson.jpgShantalea Johns.jpgAs new standards develop to meet the changing needs of higher education, group advising has become an essential component of student success.  Relationships among students often develop through groups; some occur naturally, while others form intentionally.  Group advising offers avenues of support that help students adjust to college life, reinforce and improve skills vital to persistence in college, and develop skills that are increasingly essential in the professional world.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (2018), employers seek job candidates who possess problem-solving skills, communication skills, teamwork skills, and interpersonal skills.  Interactive group advising sessions give students a chance to practice these skills employers seek in job candidates.  Equally, the conceptual component of the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (2017) stresses the importance of advisors learning new academic advising approaches and strategies to improve student success. Effective group advising is one strategy advisors can use to create learning experiences that can boost student success and provide skills to prepare students for the job market.

Applying Theoretical Framework to Group Advising

Social Learning Theory.  Bandura's Social Learning Theory (SLT) has been a prominent theory that explained the impact of learning on behavior.  Specifically, social learning theory contends that peer groups help to create social norms (Bandura, 1977).  In applying social learning theory to group advising sessions, learning takes place when advisors bring various students together to discuss their experiences in higher education.  In sharing their experiences, more seasoned students help to socialize new students to college and their future career in a social context on campus.  Within this social context, at-risk students can be socialized with more experienced students who can offer a broad range of knowledge and skills useful for success in college.  Light (2001) stated that “to learn from one another, students with different backgrounds and from different racial and ethnic groups must interact" (p. 190).

Developmental Advising.  Developmental advising is useful for advisors who are interested in helping students accomplish personal and educational goals (Crookston, 2009).  An advisor who leads a group session can help students accomplish their goals by fostering a close student-advisor relationship.  A close student-advisor connection can occur when advisors share their own successes and barriers encountered while achieving a college degree.  Advisors can share what steps they took during their academic journey and encourage students to seek resources on campus if they find themselves in similar situations.  This technique can help both students who are having difficulty following through on an educational goal and others who are forming their college identity.

How Group Advising Promotes Student Success

Academic advising is an integral part of student success (Ellis, 2016; Light, 2001).  In a group setting, advisors can promote success by having students, pursuing the same major, interact with one another to learn about their degree requirements.  King (2000) stated that a powerful result of the group experience is for the student to not feel alone.  During these interactions, students within the same major learn that others may share similar feelings, thoughts, or questions.

Equally important, research supports that students are more successful when they connect early to the university.  Nutt (2000) explained that connecting students to a mentor and peer group is invaluable in establishing a student's connection to an institution.  Effective group advising provides students a connection to a peer group and an advisor.  Advisors that use group advising facilitate problem-solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting with their students, as outlined in the relational component of the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (2017).  Examples of group advising that form connections to a university are orientation programs, freshman seminars, capstone courses, learning communities, pre-enrollment meetings, and workshops.  Successful group advising utilizes the power of the group cohesion to help students reach their academic goals.

Ways to Be Effective with Group Advising

  • Decide if group advising is right for you. Some group advising will require more of a facilitator role, while other types will need more of an instructional approach.  It is essential to decide if your advising style fits with group advising.  For a group advising event to be successful, advisors need to give an honest assessment of their own personality to see if it fits with group advising (Ryan, 2010).

  • Decide if group or individual advising is appropriate for student(s).  Advisors need to think about whether an individual or group advising approach would be more appropriate for their specific students.  For example, an individual advising approach would be more appropriate when an advisor needs to discuss confidential information with the student.  On the other hand, a group advising approach allows students to interact with each other to understand themselves better or listen to a presentation in a group where other students can support the understanding of the material through questions and comments.

  • Plan appropriately.  Group advising requires planning in the following ways: locate a space that is functional for group advising; inform students of the session using multiple means of communication, such as e-mail, social media, and flyers; prepare engaging materials and handouts that students can take with them to refer to later (e.g., worksheets, curriculum guides, lists of important dates, and information on campus resources); and develop a clear agenda for the meeting (King, 2000).

Another item in planning for group advising is cost considerations.  For example, advisors or advising administrators can do a cost-benefit analysis to determine the strengths and weaknesses of individual verse group advising sessions.  A cost-saving analysis helps to determine the best approach to benefit the students while preserving savings for the university.  Research showed in some cases group advising responds creatively and intentionally to the issue of budgetary constraints on college campuses (King, 2000; Ryan, 2010).

  • Be aware of strategies for successful group facilitation.  Icebreakers, introductions, and problem-based learning experiences are essential to establishing a climate in which students feel comfortable.  Equally important, at the beginning of the group, it is helpful to discuss the broader purpose of advising as a means of assisting students in establishing appropriate and meaningful educational plans.

  • Be familiar with campus resources to make appropriate referrals when necessary.  Students attending group advising sessions may have some specific needs beyond the scope of the session.  In these instances, it is essential that an advisor be well-connected on campus and understand campus resources to make appropriate referrals when necessary.

  • Evaluate student experiences with group advising.  Assessment and evaluation certify that students are getting the most out of the sessions.  In writing assessment questions, advisors need to create questions that evaluate the student's experience in the group as well as assess the attainment of the learning outcomes for the group.  If the questions for the assessment are written well, the evaluation results will be more relevant to advisors.

In closing, there is indeed power in numbers.  Group advising provides a necessary service that offers respect for the dignity and uniqueness of each student.  It gives the opportunity for students to ask questions among a group of peers, which pushes students toward a cohesive understanding of the college experience.  It also acts as a safeguard against misinformation and misrepresentation by presenting material in a group setting.  Finally, group advising sessions give advisors a chance to deliver services more efficiently and effectively at a reduced cost.  In essence, group advising is an excellent way for academic advisors to promote student success!

Shantalea Johns, L.M.S.W.
Academic Services Officer III
Wayne State University School of Social Work
[email protected]

Helen H. Wilson, L.M.S.W.
Academic Advisor IV
Wayne State University Pre-Med and Health Science Center
[email protected]


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Crookston, B. B. (2009). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 29(1), 78-82. doi:10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.78. Retrieved from http://www.nacadajournal.org/doi/abs/10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.78

Ellis, K. (2016). It takes a campus. Oxford, MS: The Nautilus Publishing Company.

King, N. (2000). Advising delivery: Group strategies. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, and Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (p. 279). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2018). Job outlook surveys 2018. Bethlehem, PA.

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

Ryan, B. (2010). Integrating group advising into a comprehensive advising program. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Integrating-Group-Advising-into-a-Comprehensive-Advising-Program.aspx

Common Factors: A Meta-Model of Academic Advising

Steve Schaffling, Syracuse University

Steve Schaffling.jpgCurrent approaches to advising (e.g. developmental, teaching, appreciative, and intrusive) are well researched and practiced across a diversity of institutional types.  Additionally, the academic advising field widely accepts that the advisor-student relationship is key to the success of advising.  In King’s (2005) definition of developmental advising, she cites Winston et al. (1984) who state, “Developmental academic advising is defined as a systematic process based on a close student-advisor relationship intended to aid students” (p. 19).  NACADA (2017) lists the relational component as one of the three areas of Core Competencies of academic advising and suggests that it is foundational to the profession and core to the existence of advising.  Hughey (2011) articulated how advisors can enhance interpersonal skills in advising, which are required for the application of appreciative advising.  Hughey also enumerated how advisors can influence student retention through the relational dynamic.  In today’s state of higher education, it can be argued that persistence and retention are the reasons why the advisor-student professional relationship must be more than simply transactional.

Scholarly and theoretical underpinnings of academic advising acknowledge the importance of the relational component of advising.  Importantly, a key outcome of the relationship is student persistence, which begs consideration that the relational competency of advising practice today be based in persistence theory.  A common factors meta-model of academic advising suggests that several factors can be applied to the advisor-student interaction to increase student persistence, regardless of specific advising theory or practice.  Such a model, drawn from the field of psychotherapy, offers an opportunity to adapt advising relational practice, regardless of ascribed theory, to achieve this goal.  Mehvash Ali (2017) spoke about the common factors of psychotherapy in her keynote address at the NACADA international conference and followed up that presentation with an article (Ali, 2018) in this publication.  Dr. Ali’s presentation was seminal to the development of a common factors meta-model for academic advising.

Student Persistence and Attrition

Tinto’s (1993) theory of student departure suggests that university professional staff can affect student integration levels.  Tinto’s (2006b) updated theory is inclusive of the academic advisor as a key piece of the student’s academic integration into an institution.  Academic integration or engagement acts as a lever for increasing student persistence and retention (Pascarella, Edison, Nora, Hagedorn, & Terenzini, 1982; Tinto, 1993).  According to Tinto (2006a), an advisor can increase student integration through their professional relational interactions with a student.  Therefore, these interactions between the student and the advisor make the difference in student persistence and not necessarily the theory of advising being practiced.  Tinto’s (1993) model, displayed in Figure 1, suggests that a student’s interaction with an advisor fits directly into the interactions with the staff component of academic integration. 

Schaffling Fig1.jpg

Figure 1. Tinto Model of Student Departure. From Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.), by V. Tinto, 2003. University of Chicago Press Reprinted with permission.

Common Factors

The common factors model of psychotherapy suggests similar elements of therapy in every therapist-patient relationship, regardless of the specific type of therapy that is being practiced (Goldfied, Panchankis, & Bell, 2005).  Some authors (Garfield, 1995; Wampold, 2001, 2015) have argued that these common factors lead to the outcomes and changes seen in the patient.  Specifically, the following four factors  form the basis of a common factors model of academic advisingpsychotherapy:

Alliance: The bond between the therapist and the patient.

Empathy: Assessing the reasons for another person’s state of mind and identifying with the other person by adopting their perspective.

Goal Setting: Agreement about the goals, tasks, and outcomes for the relationship and agreement that the actions taken are going to remediate the problems presented by the patient.

Therapist Allegiance: The degree to which the therapist delivering the treatment believes that the specific therapy is efficacious. 

Common Factors Translated to Academic Advising

When considering these four common factors as a required part of the relationship in psychotherapy, they are easily translated to the advisor-student relational component.

  • Alliance in the psychotherapy relationship means that both parties are in this together; they agree on what the goals of the professional relationship are, and they trust that both parties are there to achieve those goals.  In translating alliance to the advisor-student relationship, both the student and the advisor must reach a state in the professional relationship where they are both working together to achieve the same goals.  For instance, if a student comes to their advisor and wants to explore a curricular area, the student must know that the advisor is going to use their expertise to guide him/her towards attainment of that goal.  If this state is achieved, it is a step towards increasing the integration level of that student. 
  • Empathy, like alliance, is easily translatable to the advisor-student professional relationship, and indeed, advisors agree that they must be empathetic in their student relationships.  In particular, empathy constitutes a critical difference between a common factors model and appreciative advising.  While appreciative advising acknowledges that empathy can directly influence an advisor’s effectiveness in the relational dynamic, a common factors model would suggest that it is a primary requirement of the model to be brought into every interaction.  The difficult task of translating empathy to advising rests in training advisors on what empathy truly means.  Empathy should be thought of as necessary to achieve everything else within the relationship.  Empathy means taking on the student’s perspective and identifying with their feelings without judgement and, sometimes, this means not being able to offer the student a direct solution to their problem.  The common factors theory would suggest that empathy lies in simply taking the student’s perspective and identifying with their feelings.  This action alone, even in the absence of being able to offer a direct solution, is enough to aid in the formation of the professional relationship.  Brene Brown, a professor at the University of Houston, defined empathy in this three-minute video (The RSA, 2013) with extreme eloquence.
  • Goal Setting (expectations) as translated to the advisor-student professional relationship are easy to understand when considering the example of a student who is on academic probation.  Academic contracts for students on probation essentially outline what the student is going to do differently to be a better student and ultimately raise themselves back into good standing.  Broadening this concept, goal setting should be a part of every student meeting, as outlining these goal setting and tying them to outcomes, such as returning to good academic standing, are a key part of the advising relationship.  Another example would be the concept of an advising syllabus, which outlines the expectations for both the student and the advisor in the professional relationship.  In contrast, a common factors model of advising suggests that goals and expectations do not just broadly govern the relationship, but rather they should become part of the advisor-student interaction to strengthen the outcomes.
  • Finally, the concept of the therapist allegiance translates directly to advising because it suggests that the advisor’s level of commitment to a chosen theory is more important than the theory being practiced.The key is that advisors need to bring this level of commitment into the relational dynamic and use it to create goals and expectations for interactions and alliance with the student.This concept allows any advising theory to fit within a common factors model.

A Common Factors Model of Academic Advising

Formulating a visual model can aid in the understanding of how the common factors of psychotherapy can be translated to the professional advising relationship (Figure 2).  The common factors exist within advisor-student interactions and it is within these interactions that Tinto (1993) would argue student persistence could be influenced.  This is done by increasing student integration with the university through the formulation of a positive professional advisor-student relationship.  Additionally, the common factors model separates what happens within the student interaction from what triggers the interaction.

Schaffling Fig2.jpg

Figure 2. A Common Factors Meta Model of Advising

To accomplish this, advisors must bring the common factors of empathy and their ascribed advising theory into the interaction with the student.  Bringing empathy and advising theory into student interactions allows the advisor to create the common factors of an alliance with the student and set goals and expectations for the relationship.  These four common factors will lead to goal achievement for both the student and the advisor.  For the student, the purpose of these interactions is to achieve their personal goals or to overcome a hurdle that they have encountered, whereas for the advisor, increasing the student integration level with the university through development of a trusting professional relationship is the goal.  This outcome can be measured by the creation of a new meeting trigger where the student has questions that do not surround only an immediate transactional need.  These types of interactions mean the student is moving beyond their informational need and into the consultation realm (Creamer, 2000) and the advisor is considered a trusted university guide for these questions.


A common factors meta-model for academic advising offers simple, tangible factors that can be implemented in parallel with any ascribed advising theory or institutional advising model.  One of the largest possible strengths of a common factors meta-model is that its tenets can be implemented in high caseload situations or for advising offices that are non-caseload based with no assigned advisors.  Implementation of this meta-model will improve the relational component of academic advising and lead to increased student integration.  Of equal importance, this model suggests that it will also increase the effectiveness of assisting students in achieving their educational goals.  A common factors meta-model of academic advising asks that an advisor bring empathy and their personal theory of advising as a baseline into every advising interaction.  Using these, advisors should work to create an alliance with the student concerning goals and expectations for their interactions and larger relationship.  This will allow the advisor and student to achieve their respective goals for the professional relationship, which can be measured by the movement of future meeting triggers from transactional to consultation-based.

Steve Schaffling, Ed. D.
Assistant Dean of Student Success
Syracuse University
[email protected]

In Collaboration with:
Mehvash Ali, Ph. D.
Director, Academic Support Center
American University of Sharjah


Ali, M. (2017). NACADA 2017 International Conference keynote address. Presentation at the NACADA International Conference, Sheffield England.

Ali, M. (2018, June). Common factors: Cultivating the relational component of advising. Academic Advising Today, 41(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Common-Factors-Cultivating-the-Relational-Component-of-Advising.aspx

Creamer, D. G. (2000). Use of theory in academic advising. In V. N. Gordon & W. R. Habley (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Garfield, S. L. (1995). Psychotherapy: An eclectic-integrative approach (2nd ed.). Oxford, England: Wiley.

Goldfied, M. R., Panchankis, J. E., & Bell, A. C. (2005). A history of psychotherapy integration. In J. Norcross & M. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (2nd ed., pp. 24–60). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hughey, J. K. (2011). Strategies to enhance interpersonal relations in academic advising. NACADA Journal, 31(2), 22–32. doi:10.12930/0271-9517-31.2.22. Retrieved from http://nacadajournal.org/doi/pdf/10.12930/0271-9517-31.2.22

King, M. C. (2005). Developmental academic advising. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/tabid/3318/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/264/article.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Pascarella, E. T., Edison, M., Nora, A., Hagedorn, L. S., & Terenzini, P. T. (1982). Influences on students' openness to diversity and challenge in the first year of college. The Journal of Higher Education, 67(2), 174–195.

The RSA. (2013, December 10). Brené Brown on empathy [video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2006a). Enhancing student persistence: Lessons learned in the United States. Analise Psicologica, 1, 7–13.

Tinto, V. (2006b). Research and practice of student retention: What’s next? The Journal of College Student Retention, 8(1), 1–20.

Wampold, B. E. (2001). The great psychotherapy debate: Models, methods, and findings. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Wampold, B. E. (2015). How important are the common factors in psychotherapy? An update. World Psychiatry, 14(3), 270–277. doi: 10.1002/wps.20238

Winston, R., Miller, T., Ender, S., Grites, T. & Assoc. (1984). Developmental academic advising. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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Advisors as Cultural Navigators: A Strategy for Student Success

Shea Ellingham, Mount Royal University

Shea Ellngham.jpgThe transition to post-secondary education is challenging, which is why so many post-secondary institutions are focused on student engagement.  The first years of post-secondary are critical to a student’s long-term engagement in the learning environment.  The emergence of retention as a focus area for student affairs is indicative that not every student who starts university will graduate.

Student success can be broadly defined as retention, graduation, and educational attainment (Kuh, 2004).  For an institution to be focused on student success, effort must be invested in programming to help students graduate.  But there is much more to student success than simply graduation.

Students are not blank slates that arrive at institutions fully prepared to be engaged in the learning process.  They bring with them educational skills, cultural expectations, and the emotions around the transition into adulthood that post-secondary education represents.  And our job as academic advisors is to develop a relationship with these students to help them understand their expectations of both themselves and their institutions and guide them to a successful experience.  For some students, the transition to post-secondary education is an easy one: they are fully supported by their families, they know exactly what they want to study, and they are well prepared academically.  But for other students, their transition to post-secondary is not seamless at all, and for many of these students, it is not their fault.  These are the students who may not be as well prepared academically, or they are unsure of what they want to study, or their family is struggling to support them financially, or they have to work long hours just to be able to afford to go to school, or they are the first one from their family to pursue a post-secondary degree, or perhaps they are the first one from their family to go to a North American post-secondary institution (Miller & Murray, 2005).  Each of these factors adds to the challenges of transition to post-secondary education.

Academic advisors are strategically positioned to help students, and perhaps especially at-risk students, make a successful transition to post-secondary education.  Academic advisors can make a difference in their advisees’ lives (Miller, 2016), and their work is essential in student persistence and success (Klepfer & Hull, 2012).  As Drake (2013) writes, academic advisors may be the only person students encounter who demonstrate a genuine interest in their success.  Good academic advisors take the time to make connections with their advisees, to dig through the layers of expectations and challenges that students present, and to help students find their path through post-secondary education.  The work of academic advisors contributes to students’ development of their self-awareness with respect to their education, career, and personal goals and objectives. Through a developmental approach based on a close advisor-advisee relationship, advisors can help students achieve educational, career, and personal goals (Grites, 2013).

Nash and Jang (2013) agree that student affairs professionals, and among them, academic advisors, are central to helping students engage in the meaning-making process as it relates not only to their education, but to their life.  To accomplish these goals, advisors must be aware of the needs of their advisees, which can be gained through a grounding in student development theories (Jordan, 2016); the institutional requirements students must meet; and the institutional services and resources available to help students accomplish their goals (Grites, 2013; Miller 2016). 

Strayhorn (2015) challenged advisors to become the cultural navigators responsible for educating advisees about the culture of higher education.  Academic advisors, and by extension all student affairs professionals, are uniquely positioned to guide students in the culture of higher education and help them to make the transition to their new environment.  It is not enough to simply admit the students to post-secondary institutions, there is also an implied obligation on the part of the post-secondary institution to provide supports and services to help these students succeed. 

Post-secondary education has its own traditions, policies, systems of organization, regulations, and in short, its own culture.  Academic advisors have the opportunity to share this knowledge with their advisees and help them understand this new culture of post-secondary education. The reward for taking on this role is witnessed through student retention and ultimately success.  "[T]he moment students feel they belong, they stay in college” (Strayhorn, 2015).  The advisor-advisee relationship is critical to student retention and persistence and has been well documented (Habley, 1983; Klepfer & Hull, 2012; Light, 2001; Tinto, 1993).

Advising at Mount Royal University (MRU) has evolved over the years into a hybrid, decentralized model where some program advisors report through a central academic advising office and others report through to their own departments.  With a decentralized approach to advising, there is no unified approach to the roles and responsibilities of advising across the institution.  When I joined MRU in 2009, one of my first projects was to work on a communication plan to raise awareness of the roles and responsibilities of academic advisors with the goal of educating students, faculty, staff, and administrators about the work that advisors do.  The relationship building process with internal stakeholders is a dynamic process where shared information not only informs but also creates a common ground for understanding and conversation about the importance of academic advising within the realm of student success.

In order for advisors to be able to take on the role of cultural navigator, they must be aware of what services are available on campus and also how and when students can and should access these services.  In response to the ever-changing environment in higher education, new campus services are being implemented and it is critical for advisors to be aware of changes to student services.  Through a campus advising community, all advisors at MRU, no matter their program or reporting structure, are invited to gather and learn about student services at the university in order to better equip themselves when working with their advisees. Representatives from campus departments and related services are invited to present to the campus advising community. The benefit is twofold in that internal stakeholders also learn about the important work that advisors do at these community meetings.

By establishing a community for advising at MRU regardless of reporting lines, my goal was to establish a common language and foundation for a professional approach to academic advising on our campus.  The three components of advising practice as established by Habley (1983) and developed in the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (2017), namely the conceptual, informational, and relational components, are the foundation upon which the campus advising community at Mount Royal has been intentionally established.

A solid foundation begins with information: the specifics of the job that advisors must know in order to do their jobs competently.  A core component of the campus advising meetings is the communication of policies and procedural updates that are critical to an advisor’s role.  It is the what of the job of advising that becomes a focus of the campus advising community meetings, because only an informed advisor can truly be of service to advisees.

The second key component of advising is the relational aspect of the interaction between advisor and advisee.  It is often the case that a student may be afraid to talk about the issue at hand, and the real reason for the visit to an advisor’s office might be revealed in an off-hand comment at the end of the appointment.  It is only through establishing rapport with advisees that the advisor may be able to discover the real reason for the appointment.  Every advisor has a different way of connecting with students, but not every student will respond the same way to the same approach.  A skillful academic advisor uses a variety of approaches to develop rapport with their advisees.  Adding a variety of approaches to one’s own advising toolkit requires a level of interest, and an opportunity to explore and develop.   Through our campus advising community meetings at MRU, we explore different advisor-advisee scenarios and discuss different approaches to working with students to establish rapport and add to the relational component of the advising relationship.

The final component of advising is the conceptual aspect, which really demands that the advisor take a broader view of the field of advising and understand how advising fits within their institution and the importance of the work that advisors do overall.  In higher education, we all work within organizational structures which will, from time to time, be a challenge for students to navigate and find their way through.  This is where the advisor can work for the greater good, helping their advisees work through a challenge, but also bringing those challenges back to the advising community on their campus and work towards minimizing the barriers on behalf of their advisees (Miller, 2016).  This is the greatest challenge for us at MRU in our campus advising community discussions.  How can we effect real change that will help our students achieve success and minimize the challenges they encounter?  To me, this is the role of the advisor as cultural navigator, where the advisor can see that there may be barriers in place, but for the sake of their advisees, will work to enhance the student experience.

Building upon these three components of academic advising, knowing how to build rapport with students through different approaches to advising, understanding the higher education culture of the institution, and working to address and remove barriers to student success aligns with the concept that an academic advisor is the cultural navigator: directing, educating, and providing insight into the path through higher education.  Acting as the hub of the wheel (King & Kerr, 2004), the academic advisor can help their advisees adapt to the culture of their higher education environment and empower them to take an active part in their journey to success.

Shea Ellingham
Manager, Academic Advising Services
Mount Royal University
[email protected]


Drake, J. K. (2013). Advising as teaching and the advisor as teacher in theory and practice. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 17–32). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Grites, T. J. (2013). Developmental academic advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 45–59). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Habley, W. R. (1983). Organizational structures for academic advising: Models and implications. Journal of College Student Personnel, 24(6), 535–540.

Jordan, P. (2016). Theory as the foundation of advising. In T. J. Grites, M. A. Miller, & J. G. Voller (Eds.), Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor (pp. 21–42). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

King, M. C. & Kerr, T. J. (2004). Academic advising. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first‐year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey‐Bass.

Klepfer, K., & Hull, J. (2012). High school rigor and good advice: Setting up students to succeed. Retrieved from the National Association of School Boards’ Center for Public Education website.

Kuh, G. D. (2004). Student engagement in the first year of college. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first‐year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college (pp. 86–107). San Francisco, CA: Jossey‐Bass.

Light, R. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Miller, M. A. (2016). Building upon the components of academic advising to facilitate change. In T. J. Grites, M. A. Miller, & J. G. Voller (Eds.), Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor (pp. 43–64). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Miller, M.A. & Murray, C. (2005). Advising academically underprepared students. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web Site: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academically-underprepared-students.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Nash, R. J., & Jang, J. J. (2013, September/October). The time has come to create meaning-making centers on college campuses. About Campus, 18(4), 2–9.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2015). Reframing academic advising for student success: From advisor to cultural navigator. NACADA Journal, 35(1), 56–63.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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Cultivating a Sense of Belong in First-Year Seminars

Jana Renner, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Jana Renner.jpgThe sense of belonging or university connectedness and its impact on student retention and persistence has been well documented in higher education literature.  Strayhorn (2012) defines sense of belonging as “students’ perceived social support on campus, a feeling or sensation of connectedness, the experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, valued by, and important to the group (e.g. campus community) or others on campus (e.g. faculty, peers)” (p. 3).  This feeling of belongingness is best supported by perceived faculty and peer support on campus (Hoffman, Richmond, Morrow, & Salomone, 2002; Morrow & Ackermann, 2012; O’Keefe, 2013).  Wilson and Gore (2013) agree that “connectedness to the university is defined as students’ subjective sense of overall fit within the university and the perception that they are personally accepted, respected, included, and supported by others at the university” (p. 178).  In other words, students feel like they belong when they believe they are not just a faceless number and that they matter to someone on campus.

Developing a sense of belonging in the first year is critical to whether or not a student will be retained as over half (56%) of all student departures occur after the first year (Morrow & Ackermann, 2012). Therefore, it is imperative to begin cultivating a sense of belonging in a student’s first year, and the ideal place to begin this development is during orientation and the first-year seminar.  According to Hoffman et al. (2002), first-year seminars “facilitate the development of relationships . . . and help to create meaningful bonds between students that are characterized by support” (p. 252).  The focus on support provides an opportunity for the advisor in a first-year seminar to develop strategies to encourage students’ connections to each other, faculty, staff, their major, and the institution.

While the literature is rife with research on the importance of a sense of belongingness, few offer strategies in order to foster that connectedness.  Below are five strategies that were created to nurture belongingness for first-year students in the School of Health & Human Sciences (SHHS) (formally the School of Physical Education & Tourism Management [PETM]) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).  These strategies can be applicable to a wide range of academic programs, institutions, and advisors.  The best part is that most of the strategies can be implemented at no cost!

Strategy #1: Visual Identity.  Allowing students to show and represent their belonging to a group is an easy way to promote connectedness.  At SHHS, all incoming freshmen at summer orientation receive a “Class of” t-shirt with the School of Health & Human Sciences logo on the front.  At the end of their orientation experience, students wear the t-shirts and take a group picture that is shared on the SHHS social media accounts and website.  This visual identity helps students realize that they are a part of a cohort of students and are not alone on campus.  After orientation, students get a link to meet their classmates on the school website.

Strategy #2: Bonding Activities.  Icebreaker activities implemented in first-year seminar courses help students let their guards down and interact with one another and the instructional team. These activities range from name games to get to know one another to trust activities including a blind trust walk led by a student.  These bonding activities promote connectedness to each other right at the start of the semester and are led by a peer mentor.

Strategy #3: Assignments in First-Year Seminar.

  • “Who Am I” Presentations. Students prepare a one-slide presentation with pictures representing who they are (their major, where they are from, what their interests are, what they were involved with in high school, etc.).  Students are then paired with another student in class and then introduce each other to the class in a short presentation.  Students are given class time to meet and get to know each other prior to their presentation which in turn prompts connections and belonging in the classroom.  The Who Am I presentations allow students to identify and share what is most important to them and also presents the opportunity for students to find commonalities among varied experiences.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Campus scavenger hunts are a fun way to get students to find out what resources are available to them.  Students participate in small groups and are given clues to find various campus resources.  At each stop, students are presented with a challenge they work through as a group before moving on to the next campus resource.  This activity gives students a fun way to learn about campus resources while connecting them with other students in a game format.
  • Social Media Assignment. As a part of a weekly assignment in the first-year seminar, students are asked to submit an “insta-tweet” which is a picture of themselves or with a group and a short caption of what that picture represents.  Many insta-tweets show students and their new friends in the class out at sporting events, volunteering, or studying.  These snapshots can be shared out on social media if the student desires, but all include the hashtag #mySHHS and #jagsROAR, connecting them to both their academic school and institution.  This also allows the advisor and instructor of the course to gain a sense of how the student is connecting to others and what is important to them.
  • Digital Story. The final project in the first-year seminar is a digital story/video that includes a collage of pictures and videos set to a voice-over of the student describing their first semester. Students must include details about their orientation, first-year seminar class, extra-curricular involvement, community involvement, experiences in the classroom, and anything else they feel was important to their first semester at IUPUI.  This video allows students to make meaning of their first semester and provides insights to the connections they have made to students, faculty, and staff as well as to the Indianapolis community and IUPUI campus community.

Strategy #4: Group Advising.  The first-year seminar is also a great place to hold group advising for registration of the upcoming term.  In the group advising session, the advisor encourages students to interact and ask questions of each other in regard to their current coursework.  What classes and/or professors have they enjoyed?  What is the class really like?  How much homework is involved with the class?  Students are encouraged to share their experiences with their fellow students to gain new insights and make connections.

Strategy #5: Student Mentor and Faculty Interaction.  As a part of the first-year seminar, students are also required to meet with a student mentor who is an upperclassman in their field of study.  The students meet with their mentors twice (once in the first half of the semester and once in the last half of the semester).  This provides incoming students with another resource, in addition to the faculty and advisor, that they can turn to if they encounter problems or questions regarding campus resources.

In addition to the student mentor interaction, faculty interaction is important to weave into the first-year seminar and orientation experiences.  SHHS faculty members are present during summer orientation to introduce themselves and answer questions from the students and guests/families.  This establishes a good foundation of a relationship that continues throughout students’ first-year seminar when faculty are invited back to serve on a panel.  As the sense of belongingness is best supported by perceived faculty support (Hoffman et al., 2002; Morrow & Ackermann, 2012; O’Keefe, 2013), it is vital to have first-year students interact with their faculty early and often.

Due to these efforts, the School of Physical Education & Tourism Management (now School of Health & Human Sciences) saw an 80.1% one-year retention rate, higher than the IUPUI campus average of 75.9% for the 2016 cohort (IUPUI Institutional Research, n.d.).  These five strategies also realized a true sense of belonging for first-year students as 89.7% of students in an in-class survey indicated on their first-year seminar course evaluations that “this class helped me feel like I belong to the IUPUI community and the School of Physical Education & Tourism Management” (J. Renner , personal communication, July 17, 2018).  Continued work on efforts in increasing student belonging will only help to bolster student retention as well as the student experience of college.

Jana Renner
Senior Academic Advisor
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
[email protected]


Hoffman, M., Richmond, J., Morrow, J., & Salomone, K. (2002). Investigating “sense of belonging” in first-year college students. Journal of College Student Retention, 4(3), 227–256.

IUPUI Institutional Research and Decision Support. (n.d.). Retention and degree numbers. Retrieved from https://tableau.bi.iu.edu/t/prd/views/RetentionbySchool/Retentionand?%3Aiid=1&%3AusingOldHashUrl=true&%3Aembed=y&%3AloadOrderID=0&%3Adisplay_spinner=no&%3Adisplay_count=no&%3AshowVizHome=no#1

Morrow, J. A., & Ackermann, M. E. (2012). Intention to persist and retention of first-year students: The importance of motivation and sense of belonging. College Student Journal, 46(3), 483-491.

O’Keefe, P. (2013). A sense of belonging: Improving student retention. College Student Journal, 47(4), 605–613.

Strayhorn, T. (2012). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all. New York, NY: Routledge.

Wilson, S., & Gore, J. (2013). An attachment model of university connectedness. Journal of Experimental Education, 81(2), 178–198.

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Relationship-Oriented and Task-Oriented Advising: Balancing Skillsets

Lynsey Thibeault, University of Southern Maine

Lynsey  Thibeault.jpgAdvisors often have to find balance between building relationships with students and ensuring students have the tools to successfully meet major and institutional requirements.  As advisors, we know how important a relationship connection can be to a student in helping them progress to graduation, but we also know we have limited time with our students and often feel the weight to focus on the tasks at hand: i.e. artfully navigating tricky major requirements, maneuvering through dense catalog policies, and manipulating the semester schedule to fit the student’s needs.  Undoubtedly, this balance is easier said than done in part because we may feel stronger at one set of skills over the other.

The NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies Model (NACADA, 2017) guides professional development and practice among advising professionals.  The model is based on three foundational components for “effective advisor training programs and advising practice—the conceptual, informational, and relational” (Farr & Cunningham, 2017, p. 4).  The conceptual component includes concepts advisors should understand, including relevant advising theory, advising strategy, and the role of advising within higher education.  The second and third components closely relate to the aforementioned relationship-building and task-related skillsets.  The informational component, i.e. institutional knowledge, curriculum comprehension, familiarity with campus resources, etc., aligns well with focusing on important advising tasks.  While the relational component, i.e. creating rapport, effectively communicating, goal setting, etc., clearly ties into the relationship building skillset.

While I love building relationships and probably wouldn’t be an advisor if I didn’t, the balance of my skillset leans ever so slightly to the task-related components of the job.  I know I would not enjoy the job without the relationship building aspects; however, I have found that I need to work more diligently to maintain those competencies.  Problem and puzzle solving engage my strengths and interests and come quite naturally to me when working with students.   They do, however, use a different part of my brain and can take me out of relationship-building mode.  I think whether, as advisors, our balance leans towards naturally building advising relationships or toward the tasks involved, advisors have to be able to transition between these two skillsets in order to meet the diverse needs of students.

Looking Toward the Leadership Field

Relationship and task orientations have been discussed heavily in the field of leadership.  Fiedler (1967) was one of the first to define this dynamic as a leader’s motivational structure.  That is, whether the leader’s goal is to build a relationship with those they are leading or their goal is to accomplish the task at hand.   While Cowsill and Grint (2008) report that a review of the literature shows that this inclination toward task or relationship orientation is a preference, they then go on to argue that there is more to this dichotomy than simply preferring one style over the other.  When applying task and relationship orientation to advising, creating balance between the two perspectives may be the most effective option.

Advisors as Leaders

One of the often overlooked roles that advisors take on is that of a leader.  Leadership appears in our relationships with students as we help them meet their academic goals and ultimately the goal of graduation (Paul, Smith, & Dochney, 2012).  Knowledge, authority, experience, etc. are among the many reasons that students come to advisors for support in working towards their aspirations.  A task-oriented leader may rely on the completion of certain tasks to determine whether a goal has been met, whereas a relationship-oriented leader may focus more on the individual performing the tasks.

In an advising meeting where an advisor prefers a task orientation, the discussion may include a credit count to review requirements met and remaining requirements and a discussion of course options for the upcoming semester.  In an advising meeting where an advisor prefers a relationship orientation, the discussion may include open-ended questions about the student’s hopes and dreams.  Advisors might prefer one orientation over the other but ideally see the need for and can tap into both perspectives.  Our goals as advisors for a student meeting are likely the same, to make sure the student is set up for success and to help them progress to graduation; however, the styles we use to help lead the student there may be different.


At the University of Southern Maine, our advising office utilizes assessment to identify areas of strength and opportunities for growth within our department.  While most of our assessment is based on student learning outcomes, we also assess certain outcomes for advisors.  For example, USM’s Advisor Learning Outcomes document outlines expectations for advisors including “recognize each of my advisees as a whole, unique individual” and “use the advising relationship and proactive intervention to encourage student success” (USM Assessment Committee, personal communication, 2007).  One of the ways in which we qualitatively measure ourselves against these outcomes is through our Peer Partner Program where we pair up to each observe a student advising meeting with a colleague.  After the student meeting is complete, advisors meet to talk about observations and reflect on the experience.  The experience is not reported to a supervisor nor is it a part of any performance review.  The exercise is truly meant to be an opportunity to learn from each other.

This year’s Peer Partner experience unexpectedly helped inform my own views on task and relationship orientation, as I was unintentionally partnered with an advisor who is a natural relationship builder.  Our biggest observations of each other’s meetings were the differences associated with these two approaches.  My meeting was focused mostly on what I refer to as graduation math, where we reviewed how many credits per semester my senior-level business student planned to complete and how many general electives he would need in order to meet minimum graduation requirements.  My partner’s meeting with a sophomore-level psychology student included a discussion of how her classes related to one another and took on a very academic tone.  The differences within our conversations certainly arose from the students’ different personalities and needs within those meetings.  Undoubtedly though, some of it was due to the differences in how my partner and I utilized our relationship and task orientations.  In the end, my partner decided to incorporate a version of graduation math into her next meeting and I got some great ideas for some more open-ended questions to help my next student reflect on his learning.

Strengthening Balance Between Skillsets 

As stated earlier, both relationship building and tasks to achieve graduation are important regardless of a preference towards one or the other.  An advisor can expand their skill set with the following strategies.

To develop the relationship building orientation:

  • Observe an advising meeting with a colleague who is especially strong in building relationships.
  • Ask students open-ended questions to get the student talking and reflecting on their experiences.
  • In addition to asking how classes are going, also ask students about what they are learning to bridge academics into the advising conversation.
  • Build trust with students by completing any follow-up within 24 hours.
  • Acknowledge when the advisor has learned something from the student.  Their experiences in and outside the classroom can help to inform the advising practice.

To develop the task orientation:

  • Observe an advising meeting with a colleague who is especially strong in the task-oriented parts of advising.
  • While preparing in advance for appointments, a lot of the task-oriented items can be prepped ahead of time so that they are then simply being reviewing with the student during the meeting and not created on the spot.
  • When unsure or uncomfortable about confirming requirements, let the student know that follow-up will occur within 24 hours.  This will allow a check and recheck of the graduation math and even allow time to run the requirements past a colleague or their major department if needed.
  • Write down any goals for a particular advising meeting and check the list before the student leaves to make sure the goals have been accomplished.
  • Create systems that allow staying on top of tasks: i.e. to-do lists, bookmarking frequently visited websites, and committing to writing meeting notes during or immediately following the student meeting.

The diversity of advisors’ styles and skillsets, not only in relationship and task orientation, but in other aspects as well, can only serve to help other advisors to learn and grow.  It is important to connect with each other to learn from our strengths.  The growth and development of advisors is key to our success in ultimately helping our students meet their goals.

Lynsey Thibeault
Academic Advisor
University of Southern Maine
[email protected]


Cowsill, R., & Grint, K. (2008). Leadership, task and relationship: Orpheus, Prometheus and Janus. Human Resource Management Journal, 18(2), 188–195.

Farr, T. & Cunningham, L. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies guide. Manhattan, KS: NACADA, The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Fiedler, F. E. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

Paul, W. K., Smith, K. C., & Dochney, B. J. (2012). Advising as servant leadership: Investigating the relationship. NACADA Journal, 32(1), 53.


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Advisor Training to the Core: A Case for a Web-Based Core Competency Training Model

Kyle Bures, Neosho County Community College

Kyle Bures.jpgRecently, all the necessary components for a perfect storm materialized to create a prime opportunity to design and implement an advisor certification program at Neosho County Community College.  A shift of responsibilities within our advising organizational structure synchronized with a growing need for more formalized training, an influx of new advisors, and a timely article in the September 2017 issue of Academic Advising Today all culminated in the inspiration to develop and facilitate an in-house advisor certification for our college.

Many parallels exist between the approach taken by Wuebker and Cook (2017) and the Neosho model discussed here: including the goal of creating a “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” (para. 13).  In addition, the Neosho model was similarly housed within our institutional learning management system and focused on the NACADA Academic Advising Core Competencies (NACADA, 2017) as a guiding framework.

Institutional Climate

At Neosho, the model of advising best represented in practice is the split model: divided between a central advising area focusing on specific populations (undecided, developmental, transfer) and academic subunits (i.e. by major/program), which Habley (2004) tells us is represented in 27 percent of institutions surveyed.  Over 2000 students attend Neosho each semester.  With enrollment across two physical campuses, an online campus, and 22 outreach sites, training of advisors has historically presented a challenge.

Recent trends in institutional surveys also suggested a need for more dedicated advising resources to address this challenge.  A four year review of results from the Noel-Levitz survey administered to students consistently revealed students rated Neosho above the national average in “academic advising effectiveness” compared to like-sized institutions, while the annual employee survey raised a concern for whether “adequate resources existed for academic advising” over that same period.  A clear disparity existed between the students’ perception of advising and how employees perceived the state of advising at Neosho.

Establishing Stakeholder Buy-In

With a concept mapped out from my final portfolio requirement of the NACADA sponsored graduate program in academic advising, the first step in tailoring our certification design to meet the needs of the institution was to garner feedback from key stakeholders.  This included personnel from student learning, academic program directors, student services, the faculty professional development committee, athletics, operations, and the online campus.  Suggestions for items to include in certification were also solicited from current advisors.  Information about the course was released beginning in October of 2017 and periodically in increasing detail until the February 2018 start date to build interest.

Rationale for Core Competencies

Campus trainings often focus primarily on informational components: reviewing policies, procedures, and resources.  Although informational aspects of advising carry a lot of importance, to ignore any one component places the effectiveness of an advising program in jeopardy.  Therefore, any academic advising training must give proper credence to each of three key components in order to be effective: informational, conceptual, and relational (NACADA, 2017).  The importance of each should be reflected in on-going training and development programs.

An advisor who incorrectly informs a student of a college policy may inadvertently delay a student’s graduation.  An advisor with limited knowledge of student development theory may not be cognizant of how their actions are creating barriers to a student’s success.  An advisor with poor relational or interpersonal skills may damage or hinder any rapport building opportunity with their advisee.  Although an advisor may be outstanding in their knowledge of two of these components, deficiency in any one area can greatly impact the success of students and the overall mission of the college.

Course Design

The advisor certification course at Neosho was designed to benefit any employee who works with students in an advising capacity and was open to all advisors, both new and seasoned alike.  The initial course was offered on a 12-week timeline to avoid semester start/end dates, and available to participants on a voluntary basis.

Information covered in the course was grouped into eight separate outcome based modules (shown below).  Assignments within each module were directly correlated with a core competency, and participants would need to demonstrate proficiency at 80% in each respective competency in order to achieve certification.

Most assignments fell within three coursework types.  Discussion forums were used to reflect on assigned readings (mostly for conceptual); quizzes were developed with automated feedback (designed for most informational assignments); and uploaded assignments were designed for more individualized feedback (for most relational assignments).  Due to the volume of original interest, two facilitators were used to moderate the forum discussions.

Though all assignments were due at the conclusion of the 12-week period, suggested timeframes were provided for each module, and an email introduction to each module was released on that schedule.  Table 1 shows the related outcome and core competency area for each respective module.  Modules that show multiple competencies associated were divided at the assignment level.

Table 1  Modules used for Advisor Training with Related Outcome and Associated NACADA Core Competency


Related Outcome

Assignment Association with NACADA Core Competency


Demonstrate an understanding of the guiding principles of academic advising



Demonstrate an understanding of the structure of academic advising within the institution




Demonstrate the ability to adapt an academic advising approach to a specific population




Demonstrate an understanding of interpersonal communication skills and their impact on academic advising



Demonstrate the ability to locate and utilize campus advising tools and resources



Demonstrate an understanding of legal and ethical concerns in academic advising



Demonstrate an understanding of academic advising as a profession and the ability to engage the professional community




Demonstrate the ability to contribute to the advising profession



Participation and Completion

Just prior to the start date of the course, 45 employees were registered for the advisor certification course.  Of those, 20 participated in the course by actively completing assignments.  Activity was monitored throughout the duration of the course, and individuals were withdrawn periodically by request or based on inactivity.

Although the course was initially intended to be an all-or-nothing completion, progress was evaluated at the eight-week point.  Though many of the active remaining participants were off pace for completion, the majority were within reach of completing individual competencies (for example, nearly all conceptual based assignments were complete).  It was determined at that time to announce the opportunity for participants to lock-in completion of individual competencies, which would allow them to complete only the remaining competencies in future participation.  At the eight-week point, six of the remaining 15 participants had completed the conceptual component, one of which had also completed the informational component (and was nearing overall certification).  An additional seven participants were within one assignment from completing the conceptual component.

At the conclusion of the course, eight participants were able to successfully achieve Neosho’s Advisor Certification.  An additional six completed the conceptual component successfully.  Each participant who completed certification will receive both a printed and a digital certificate.  Notification will also be made to their supervisor and respective administrators by email as well as presented as a formal recognition during the awards section of in-service.

Considerations for Future Advisor Certification

At the conclusion of the course, a survey was administered to all active participants to gather feedback and make revisions prior to the next scheduled offering of the course.  One concern thus far is that the amount of content in the 12-week course may be too cumbersome for most participants’ schedules to accommodate.  One consideration to address this concern is to redesign the advisor certification as three smaller, independent courses organized by core competency, with the certification being awarded upon completion of all three.  Though this might allow for a more manageable course load that could better coexist with a participant’s workload, the outcome based modules often include assignments from multiple components and would be difficult to separate out by component.

Alternative possibilities include extending the course length to 16 weeks or making an exclusive section available in the subsequent semester for partial completers.  This would allow component completers to focus only on the remaining components toward certification.


As the inaugural advisor certification course draws to a close eight months from the beginning of this journey, the participation and feedback received thus far is encouraging.  It is reflective of the institutional need for a unified approach to advisor training and affirms that the modality of the course is attractive to participants across all campus locations and departments.

Institutions considering a more formalized, web-based, advisor training should carefully consider their own institutional climate and collect feedback from stakeholders before departing from their current practices.  Though implementation of a college-wide advisor certification can be a laborious process, it is most effective when input and buy-in is gathered in advance.  It is hoped that the Neosho model for advisor certification, which drew inspiration from the Wuebker and Cook (2017) approach, can in a similar way help advance the professional advising community and provide impetus for other institutions to improve their advisor training programs to better meet the needs of their advising communities.

Kyle Bures
Director of the Teaching & Learning Center
Neosho County Community College
[email protected]


Habley, W. R. (2004). The status of academic advising: Findings from the ACT Sixth National Survey (NACADA Monograph No. 10). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (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

Wuebker, M., & Cook, A. (2017, September). Online training for new advisors. Academic Advising Today, 40(3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Online-Training-for-New-Advisors.aspx


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Lessons Learned on Mandatory Advising: From Basic Survival to Streamlined Efficiency

Megan Terawaki, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Megan Terawaki.jpgThe concept of mandatory advising is simple: at least once per semester students are required to complete a suitable advising option, be it a face-to-face meeting or participation in a workshop.  To enforce the mandatory component, offices may employ multiple measures to ensure that students complete their advising, including the use of registration holds.  One exploratory advising office’s success in mandatory advising can be attributed to allowing students choices to fulfill advising and sending multiple reminders to facilitate the flow of students throughout the semester.  This is their story, growing from basic survival to streamlined efficiency, cultivated by nearly ten years of experiences and lessons learned.

Survival as the Status Quo

The Mānoa Advising Center (MAC) was established at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Fall 2008, the same semester in which the university implemented mandatory advising for all first-time, first-year students.  At that time, there were three full-time academic advisors at MAC who were responsible for 4,500 exploratory and pre-major students.  Although not all 4,500 students fell under the mandatory advising directive, it was still a significant portion of MAC’s population.  Knowing that it would be logistically impossible to advise both the mandatory and non-mandatory populations on their own, the advisors created a list of options that would fulfill the mandatory advising requirement with the assumption that each student would choose the option that best fit their needs.  This list of options included meeting with a MAC advisor, meeting with an advisor in their intended major, attending a workshop or panel, or completing an online assignment.

For the online assignments, students could either learn about a career, learn about the sophomore slump, or explain which classes they wanted to take in the upcoming semester.  The online assignments were popular with students, possibly because 1) students were not required to meet with an advisor and 2) students could complete an assignment at the last minute and have their registration hold removed during times when all advising appointments were booked.  For the advisors, it was a tedious process to review and comment on the high volume of assignments received during busy advising periods.  Unfortunately, there were some students who repeatedly completed assignments semester after semester, and thus did not meet with an advisor for mandatory advising for more than a year.  Additionally, the assignment questions did not change over time; therefore, students were not necessarily learning anything new.

Beginning to Thrive:  Review and Consolidation of Options

As MAC hired additional full-time advisors and its pre-major student population decreased, the advisors decided to eliminate the online assignments.  This change was aligned with MAC’s goal of creating multiple touch-points per semester.  From that point forward, all advising options required individual contact with an advisor, either in-person or over the phone.

MAC also allowed students to attend workshops to fulfill mandatory advising.  Though this happened in smaller numbers, this created an issue similar to the online assignments: several students attended the same workshop semester after semester.  However, using workshop attendance for mandatory advising meant that students did not benefit from meeting one-on-one with an advisor.  This was especially problematic for first-semester students who may have felt disconnected from campus.  Acknowledging that “academic advisors offer students the personal connection to the institution that the research indicates is vital to student retention and student success” (Nutt, 2003, para. 4), MAC changed its mandatory advising policies to allow workshops as an option beginning in students’ second semester but requiring all first-semester students to meet with an advisor.

Lesson learned: It is important for students to have face-to-face contact with someone on campus during their first semester.  This is an opportunity for students to meet their advisor, familiarize themselves with their advising office, and learn about the university culture.  Once students have transitioned to their new campus, they may participate in group advising options (workshops), but students must never be anonymous digital submissions (online assignments).

Spreading the Word: Consistent and Persistent Messaging

For many years, MAC students received an initial notice of mandatory advising via email.  The next communication they received was an automated message that a hold had been placed on their accounts.  Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the computer system, the message did not state that it was for mandatory advising.  Students often overlooked the initial email and did not know that they needed to satisfy their mandatory advising requirement before registration.

Realizing that students can easily forget or ignore a single email, MAC began emailing students multiple times throughout the semester to remind them about their mandatory advising requirement.  These email campaigns are called Proactive Reminders for Student Efficiency (PROSE).  Strategically spaced out during the semester, PROSE emails serve several purposes: 1) they remind students that they must complete mandatory advising; 2) they inform students of important dates (e.g., last day to withdraw, registration, etc.); and 3) they regulate the flow of student traffic in MAC.  Each semester, MAC sends out three to five PROSE emails.  Once students complete mandatory advising, they are removed from the mailing list.  For a detailed account on the format and tone of PROSE emails, please see the related AAT article, Lessons Learned on Mandatory Advising: It’s All in the Way You Say It (Makino-Kanehiro, 2018).

In the semesters before PROSE, MAC saw an influx of requests for appointments at three times only: immediately after the initial email, after registration holds were placed, and when registration began.  There was minimal demand for appointments in the intervening three weeks between the initial email and the holds, while during registration (about five weeks after holds were placed), all same-day appointments were filled within an hour of the office opening.  The timing of PROSE was designed to encourage students to complete their mandatory advising early, during periods of low demand.  When PROSE was initiated (Spring 2016), MAC still had a population of students that were not required to do mandatory advising, and these students also requested appointments leading up to registration.  As the chart below illustrates, there was a corresponding spike in mandatory advising completion following each PROSE email blast.

Megan Terawaki Fig1.jpg

Now, when students are new to MAC, either as new students on campus or students who change their declared majors to exploratory, they are informed that they will have mandatory advising.  This verbal reminder builds the expectation that they will have mandatory advising in the future.

Lesson learned: Consistent and persistent messaging is a method of due diligence—students who have yet to complete mandatory advising are reminded at periodic intervals throughout the semester.  This helps MAC regulate the flow of students, matching the supply of appointments with the demand.

Daring to Go Beyond: Expansion to All Students

The official mandatory advising mandate at the university is limited to first-time freshmen for their first four semesters of enrollment.  This excludes transfer students as well as students who do not declare their major within their first two years.  As a result, some students who aged out of mandatory advising did not seek advising and MAC had no means to require it of them.

The hiring of additional advisors at MAC allowed for the expansion of its mandatory advising population.  MAC began by including select groups of students, such as at-risk students beyond their first four semesters and first-semester transfer students of freshman or sophomore standing.  This evolved into all transfer students and the addition of students who had reached senior standing without declaring a major.  This slow roll out allowed students as well as other advising offices in the university time to adjust to MAC’s changes in policies.

Fall 2017 was MAC’s first semester of requiring mandatory advising for all of its students.  This required a shift in students’ perceptions, as some students—namely juniors and seniors—thought that they no longer had a mandatory advising requirement.  MAC now includes the following information in email and the advisors verbally remind students: “You will have mandatory advising with us every semester until you declare your major.”  Previous semesters with the limited mandatory advising population resulted in completion rates of 90–92%; MAC advisors expected the completion rate for Fall 2017 to be lower, due to the sheer number of students involved.  However, MAC’s advisors were pleasantly surprised by Fall 2017’s completion rate: 95%.

Evolutionary Efficiency

The idea of mandatory advising for all students was little more than an unattainable wish in Fall 2008, but all impossible dreams take time to develop into a feasible action plan.  Over time, MAC has reviewed, revised, and streamlined its mandatory advising requirement by consolidating options and initiating new messaging.  Once the process ran smoothly, the advisors knew that they were ready to make mandatory advising all-inclusive.  The advisors look forward to replicating their completion success in Spring 2018.

Megan Terawaki
Academic Advisor
Mānoa Advising Center
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
[email protected]


Makino-Kanehiro, M. I. (2018, June). Lessons learned on mandatory advising: It’s all in the way you say it. Academic Advising Today, 41(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Lessons-Learned-on-Mandatory-Advising-Its-All-in-the-Way-You-Say-It.aspx

Nutt, C. L. (2003). Academic advising and student retention and persistence. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-and-Student-Retention-article.aspx


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The Career Identity Program: Helping Students Successfully Choose their Major and Create a Purposeful Career Pathway

Lori Nero Ghosal, Marcy Bullock, Courtney G. Jones, North Carolina State University

Marcy Bullock.jpgLori Nero Ghosal.jpgFirst-year programs support students in many ways throughout their transition to college.  They positively impact students’ sense of belonging, facilitate a smooth transition to college academics and social life, while increasing first year success.  With this encouragement and support, first-year students are buoyed up and usually progress to sophomore year—only to be met with new struggles.  Research shows that students make decisions in their sophomore year that include choosing a major and career path, decisions that significantly impact their future success.  While major and career exploration are significant academic goals during sophomore year (Graunke & Woosley, 2005), a fundamental building block in this decision is clarifying a sense of identity and a sense of purpose (Gahagan & Hunter, 2008; Lemons & Richmond, 1987; Tobolowsky, 2008).

Courtney Jones.jpgAt North Carolina State University, students are encouraged, with a few exceptions, to enter the University with a declared major.  The College of Engineering accepts approximately 1,500 first-year students each year.  Some students know exactly what they want to study.  Others are less directed and choose engineering because of a skill or interest in science and math.  After two semesters of gateway courses, students must apply to their preferred major.  As each engineering major is highly competitive, it is important for students to choose wisely, based on their abilities, interests, skills, and career goals.  As engineering majors’ coursework diverges during sophomore year, students know that if they do not declare their major by end of first year, they are likely to fall behind, pushing back their graduation date.

In the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, first-year students usually begin with their major program of study from their first semester.  However, understanding how to apply a subject interest to a career field is more difficult, and often, students change their majors as they progress through their coursework.

With students making major and career-related decisions earlier, students do not have the luxury to wait until sophomore year to declare a major but must commit to their major within their first year.  Yet, many first-year students have limited knowledge of the vast distinctions in career fields.  Additionally, their developing sense of identity, combined with oftentimes underdeveloped career goals and lack of career-related work experience, further complicates students’ ability to make informed decisions about their major.  Given this, it is not surprising that 30% of all college students change majors at least once within three years and in fact, nearly 10% of bachelor’s degree students change their major more than once over the course of their college career (Leu, 2017).  These students face serious consequences: increased time to degree, additional financial burden, anxiety and doubt about major and career choices, and the potential loss of relevant internship experience.

People are motivated by work that is personally meaningful and fulfilling.  Students, too, search for a sense of purpose and meaning and want to apply these attributes to their career.  However, developmental stages come into play and the 18-year-old is oftentimes lacking in experience, global awareness, and a sense of identity.  Tobolowsky (2008) states that it is critical that students become more self-aware and develop a sense of purpose and life direction that informs both their decisions on choice of major as well as their career path.  How do we, as higher education professionals, help these freshmen navigate their most important choice in college, find their purpose and passion, and apply it to a major and career path by the end of their first year?

In 2016, the Career Development Center (CDC) at NC State University developed the Career Identity Program (CIP).  The CDC initiated a collaboration with two academic units, The College of Engineering and The College of Humanities and Social Science.  These partners work together to help successfully navigate students toward their academic and career goals while also increasing the percentage of students who are confident in their choice of major, reducing numbers of major changes and time to degree and increasing career readiness upon graduation.

This program combines personal exploration along with career exploration to help students learn more about their interests, skills, passions, purpose, and values and shows students how to apply all of these components to their career pathway.  As shown in Figure A, the Career Identity Program utilizes student development theory, along with a series of interconnected, activity-based workshops that build on each other to help students increase self-knowledge and gain knowledge on majors and careers.

Bullock et al, Fig1.jpgCareer Identity Coaching takes place in the intersection between all of these components of the program and moves the student forward through personalized, one-on-one coaching.  Through all of these activities, the CIP helps students design meaningful, values-driven careers.

The structure of the program is to introduce students to a concept through group workshops.  Students have an opportunity to interact with each other and participate in an activity based in self-exploration.  The workshops build one upon another to provide the students with a comprehensive experience of moving through different stages of self—academic—career—life exploration.

Fall and spring semesters include three core workshops each and one to three elective workshops from which students can choose.  Two of the electives are panel discussions with upperclassmen speaking from first-hand experience to students about high-impact experiences, student involvement, and pathways for exploring other majors and complementary minors.

Students meet with their Career Identity Coach individually, twice per semester, for customized, intensive career coaching.  Coaches review students’ progress and discuss students’ thoughts, concerns, and decisions.  Students review and extend their workshop materials with their coach, allowing the student four opportunities to have a personalized, in-depth exploratory conversation.  Coaches also serve as supplemental advisors and are able to help guide students in coursework selection and supplementary classes.  Coaches help students in

  1. self-exploration (interests, skills, and motivations);
  2. career exploration (understanding of career pathways and related majors); and
  3. high-impact activities (career-related activities and experiences and how to maximize those experiences in becoming career ready).

Workshop topics include:

  • Personal & Professional Values Exploration
  • Focus2 Assessment
  • Visioning Your Future
  • High Impact Experiences to Support Your Vision (Panel Discussion)
  • Developing Your Master Academic Plan (MAP)
  • Complementary Majors & Minors (Panel Discussion)
  • The Career Competencies
  • Roadmap to Your Career (Re-visioning Your Future)
  • Plus Diversity & Inclusion and Communication Styles

All students are invited to an end-of-year celebration and those students completing seven workshops and four meetings with their coach will receive a certificate signed by their coach and college dean.

Workshops progress students through an academic-to-career pathway that begins with self-exploration and builds upon that foundation.  The last workshop is a culminating activity where students integrate all the core workshops together to finalize their career plan, write their mission statement, and set their career goals.

Bullock et al Fig2.jpg


Prior to their participation in the program, students took a pre-assessment survey on their confidence in major and career choices and other metrics.  Upon completion of the program, students were given a post-assessment, with the same questions and additional questions.  The results show an overwhelming support and satisfaction for the program.  Students related that participation in the program helped them to find answers sooner, relieve anxiety around not knowing, and make better informed decisions regarding their choice of major and career path.

The CIP served 93 engineering students and 66 humanities and social science students in the first year (2016–17).  With overwhelming support from students and advisors alike, the CDC sought ways to increase reach to more students.  The second year (2017–18) saw an increase of engineering students to 124 and a continuation of 66 humanities and social science students a pilot group of 8 sciences and 2 natural resources students.  In August 2017, the first Career Identity Coach Training Program was launched and a group of 9 advisor/staff partners were trained as coaches and program advocates to help accommodate the increased student interest.

Assessment Results

At the conclusion of each year, CIP participants were asked to complete a post-assessment survey to determine their level of satisfaction in the program and their sense of confidence in their major and career plan.  Results indicate an overwhelming positive response from students over the first two years.  Students’ responses from pre-assessment to post-assessment showed the following results:

  • 97% felt confident or extremely confident in their choice of major
  • 94% said the CIP helped them create a comprehensive academic plan to prepare for their career pathway
  • 94% said CIP helped them identify and choose a major that reflects their interests, skills, abilities and passions and relate them to a meaningful career path
  • 98% said CIP helped them connect their values, interests, talents, purpose, and passions into their work
  • 100% would recommend this program to other students

Lori Nero Ghosal, Ed.D., ACC
Career Identity Coach - Engineering
Career Development Center
NC State University
[email protected]

Marcy Bullock, M.S.
Director of Professional Development
Career Development Center
NC State University
[email protected]

Courtney G. Jones, M.S., NCC, LPC-A
Career Identity Coach - Humanities & Social Science
Career Development Center
NC State University
[email protected]


Gahagan, J., & Hunter, M. S. (2008). Engaging sophomores: Attending to the needs of second-year students. College and University, 83(3), 45–49.

Graunke, S. S., & Woosley, S. A. (2005). An exploration of the factors that affect the academic success of college sophomores. College Student Journal39(2), 367–376.

Lemons, L. J., & Richmond, D. R. (1987). A developmental perspective on the sophomore slump. NASPA Journal, 24(3), 15–19.

Leu, K. (2017, December). Beginning college students who change their majors within 3 years of enrollment.  National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2018-434. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434.pdf

Tobolowsky, B. F. (2008). Sophomores in transition:  The forgotten year. New Directions for Higher Education144(Winter), 59–67. doi:10.1002/he.326

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Partnering to Build the Transfer Pathway from the Community College to th University

Jennifer L. Brown, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Shannon K. Sakaue, Kapiʻolani Community College

Shannon Sakaue.jpgJennifer Brown.jpgTransfer programs are of increasing importance on college campuses, because transfer has become the norm for undergraduate students in the U.S. (Koch, Raymond, & Nutt, 2014). As student mobility and transfer increases, it is imperative that advisors work to effectively serve this student population through the challenging transition between two institutions. Although more than 80 percent of community college students report that they intend to earn a bachelor’s degree, only 17% of these students do so within six years of transferring (Jenkins & Fink, 2015). Collaboration between both the sending and receiving institutions can transform the transfer process and improve the success of the shared students. Connecting a transfer-sending culture on the community college campus to a transfer-receptive culture on the university campus can ease the transfer process through active efforts to improve the transfer between partner institutions.  

According to Herrera and Jain (2013), a transfer-sending culture actively normalizes the transfer function at the community college, while a transfer-receptive culture alters the conception of the transfer function at the four-year institution to develop a shared responsibility for the success of transfer students.  This article will discuss the transfer-focused partnership between Kapiʻolani Community College and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM).  This collaboration has been enriched by the focus on our shared responsibility for transfer students and the development of a transfer-sending culture at Kapi‘olani CC and a transfer-receptive culture at UHM.   

Institutional Partners

As the leading transfer community college in the University of Hawai‘i System, Kapi‘olani CC has developed a strong partnership with UHM over the years to best support the nearly 80% of all intended students who plan to transfer to UHM.  Kapi‘olani CC and UHM are not only close in partnership, but also in physical space, as the institutions are only three miles apart.  Students who attend Kapi‘olani CC with the goal of transferring to UHM are able to take advantage of a wide breadth of courses in the arts and sciences division that are articulated to meet general education and pre-requisite requirements for baccalaureate degrees at UHM.  The small class sizes of a maximum of 35 students allow for transfer students to take several lower-division courses in a small classroom environment, allowing for a strong ratio of instructor to student, in addition to having the feeling of a small college environment while preparing to transfer into a larger university.

The goal of intended transfer students at Kapi‘olani CC is to meet the majority (if not all) of the lower-division requirements of the baccalaureate programs at UHM.  Due to the wide breadth and depth of arts and sciences courses, students are often able to complete general education and pre-requisite requirements while simultaneously earning the required 60-credits to graduate with an associate degree in Hawaiian studies, liberal arts, or natural science.  Although Kapi‘olani CC offers much to the incoming transfer student, navigating the requirements of a baccalaureate degree can be intimidating and overwhelming.  Also, students sometimes assume that if they follow the curriculum options in liberal arts, they are taking the courses they need for transfer.  While this can be true, it is not the case for all baccalaureate programs, and it is imperative that students are aware of how to plan their coursework to minimize the number of classes they take and maximize their time at Kapi‘olani CC.

The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa is a land-, sea-, and space-grant public research university with a student enrollment of approximately 17,500.  Each year, about half of the incoming students have transferred from another institution (Lassner, 2017).  As such, transfer student needs are at the forefront of advising and retention efforts.  In 2014, the Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center (MTCC) was founded to implement and manage the Kaʻieʻie Degree Pathway Program on multiple community college partner campuses and to advocate for and assist transfer students at UHM.  Kaʻieʻie was developed initially as a partnership between Kapiʻolani CC and UHM in 2008 as a way to address transfer between the two campuses.  This program has formalized the transfer partnership between the two campuses and has allowed for development of a variety of transfer-sending and transfer-receptive practices on both campuses.

Pathway Partnership

The Ka‘ie‘ie Program Transfer Specialist has an office within the Maida Kamber Center (MKC), and spends approximately 60% of her time at Kapi‘olani CC.  This arrangement between the two colleges has been instrumental in serving as an in-house resource that has direct contacts within the UHM institution.  As a result, MKC counselors receive timely updates about UHM baccalaureate programs, which results in providing students more accurate information and ultimately leads to providing better academic advising to students interested in transfer.  The physical presence of a university advisor on the community college campus provides greater access to students and signals the university’s commitment to transfer.

This structure is beneficial for both institutions as Kapi‘olani CC can better equip students to transfer and UHM receives students who are more prepared for their baccalaureate programs.  A transfer sending culture is only as strong as the partnership between both the sending and receiving parties.  It creates a smoother transition for students and more effective communication for the professionals who work to support these students.  Providing a physical space for the university transfer specialist within the transfer center at Kapiʻolani CC sends a strong message of support for transfer.  It also allows for closer collaboration and the development of transfer focused efforts on the part of faculty and staff at the community college.

Partnership Strategies

To normalize transfer on the Kapiʻolani CC campus, an MKC counselor and the transfer specialist developed a joint liberal arts and transfer workshop for New Student Orientation (NSO).  This workshop is co-presented by the Ka‘ie‘ie transfer specialist and a Maida Kamber Center counselor and highlights the importance of academic planning by encouraging students to begin thinking about transfer from the beginning of their higher education experience. The workshop also introduces new Kapi‘olani CC students to the structure of their associate degree program, the necessary components of transfer to a four year institution (with UHM as the primary focus), and the resources available to students—inviting them to engage on campus early and often.

One strategy that has successfully increased communication between MKC and the baccalaureate programs at UHM is regular workshops offered by the Manoa Transfer Coordination Center.  The workshops are on the Mānoa campus and are incredibly valuable, as academic advisors are able to visit with department contacts, learn helpful information about the various baccalaureate options departments offer, and better understand the goals of the programs, which in turn allows for advisors to assist students with finding a program that is a good fit.  These workshops help bring the majors to life by providing a well-rounded experience for academic advisors.  Further, these workshops highlight the transfer student population to the UHM school and college presenters and increases the focus on transfer needs at the university.

Transfer partnerships require an investment of personnel, resources, and time, but can greatly improve the experience of students who transfer between campuses.  Beyond improving articulation agreements, the relationships built between faculty at both institutions greatly increases communication and collaboration.  The regular physical presence of a university advisor on the community college campus both increases joint efforts with faculty members and signals to students that the university values their needs.  “Transfer works most effectively in those instances in which four-year institutions are fully engaged partners with community colleges” (Handel, 2013, p. 11).  This partnership has deepened over time due to the commitment and interest in improving the transfer function between the two campuses at both institutions.  Additional support and effort is required to address the needs of an evolving student body that will include increasing numbers of transfer students. 

Jennifer L. Brown
Transfer Specialist
Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
[email protected]                                                                             

Shannon K. Sakaue
Maida Kamber Center
Kapiʻolani Community College
[email protected]


Handel, S. J. (2013). Recurring trends and persistent themes: A brief history of transfer: A report for the initiative on transfer policy and practice. New York, NY: College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. Retrieved from http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/advocacy/policycenter/recurring-trendS-persistent-themes-history-transfer-brief.pdf

Herrera, A., & Jain, D. (2013). Building a transfer‐receptive culture at four‐year institutions. New Directions for Higher Education, 2013(162), 51–59.

Jenkins, D., & Fink, J. (2015). What we know about transfer. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, Community College Research Center.

Koch, A. K., Raymond, D., & Nutt, C. (September 9, 2014). Advising and the completion agenda: Key voices in higher education [webinar]. NACADA Advisor Connect Web Events. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Events-Programs/Events/Web-Events.aspx

Lassner, D. (September, 2017). Welcome address given at the Academic Advising and Transfer Network Annual Conference, Honolulu, HI. 


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Degree Completion Programs for Returning Undergraduate Seniors

Shannon L. Johnson, University of Hawaii at Mānoa
Nathan Hendrickson, SUNY College at Brockport
Deanna Donaugh, Kent State University
Gregg Heinrichs, Eastern Michigan University

Nathan Hendrickson.jpgShannon Johnson.jpgOnly a handful of institutional-level degree completion programs currently exist responding to senior attrition, which is a missed opportunity for many colleges and universities.  A national movement of college completion agendas began in 2008 with encouragement from the Obama administration and funding from major foundations.  While the different initiatives took varying approaches, they all share the goal of increasing the number of individuals in the US with postsecondary degrees.  Initiatives can range from providing networking opportunities among different programs, examining the P-20 (preschool to bachelor’s degree) educational pipeline, organizing non-partisan policy agendas supporting college completion, and working with multiple colleges to identify students who have met degree requirements but not graduated as well as students close to finishing their degrees (Russell, 2011).  Recognizing the societal and institutional value of such initiatives, a few universities have established their own institutional programs to help students who stopped out of school to return and graduate.

Gregg Heinrichs.jpgDeanna Donaugh.jpgIn an effort to gain a better understanding of these degree completion initiatives, four different programs are discussed and compared: Eastern Michigan University, Kent State University, SUNY College at Brockport, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.  The coordinators of these programs are working to understand similarities and differences between the programs and to, ultimately, conduct collaborative assessment.  Three of the programs were established in 2014 and developed, specifically, to reach out to students who stopped out in their senior year.  These three programs help students return to their previous major (if so desired) or into one of three interdisciplinary majors.  In contrast, the fourth program shifts students to an individualized major leading to a Bachelor of General Studies degree.  In addition, three programs focus on students who have earned 90 or more credit hours, while one program allows for students who have earned at least 85 credit hours.  Three of the four programs restrict the amount of time a student must have been out of school, ranging from the current semester to two years.  Moreover, each institution requires at least a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for participation.  While differences do exist between the four programs, there are more similarities among them.

By comparing these programs, several key strategies emerged that may be helpful in thinking about developing a degree completion program for stopped-out students.  The first approach is to provide outreach to this targeted population.  Many students want to return to school but do not know where to start, so letting them know about the program and their options is imperative.  Second is to streamline the readmission process and application timeline.  This can be accomplished by designating a single point of contact in key offices such as financial aid and records and registration.  The third critical element is to have one designated advisor who is available to work with and assist these students in thinking about returning to school and to show them their academic options.  These strategies may help get former students back to campus initially, but the work must continue in understanding the barriers that can prevent them from enrolling or persisting through graduation.

All of these programs work to reduce barriers to graduation.  The very limited research on senior attrition looks at why students left but not why they want to return or challenges to them returning (see Hunt, Boyd, Gast, Mitchell, & Wilson, 2012; Ma & Cragg, 2012; Mohr, Eiche, & Sedlacek, 1998; Neumann & Finaly-Neumann, 1989), so this information is primarily based on the coordinators’ interactions with returning seniors.  In an attempt to start collecting such data, UH Mānoa administered an IRB-approved survey in 2016 to all former students eligible to participate in the program with whom communication had been established (e.g., responded to outreach efforts, were referred to the program).  A total of 63 individuals out of 190 responded, yielding a 33% response rate (Johnson, in press).

Johnson’s (in press) survey results indicate that the primary obstacles to students returning and completing their degree were lack of funds and insufficient time due to working full time while the secondary challenges amounted to their needed courses only being offered on campus during the weekday.  Both coordinators’ interactions and survey results suggest that supplemental financial support helps to reduce impediments to returning and graduating by paying off a prior balance or providing grant opportunities.  As mentioned above, providing one advisor for the student to contact with any questions or concerns gives the students peace of mind and helps them feel connected to the university, instead of just feeling like a number.  Finally, flexibility in how students can earn their degree is needed.  This includes offering online courses for individuals who are now working full time or moved away, but flexibility could also mean thinking creatively about how students can meet various graduation requirements such as course substitutions, transient coursework, or interdisciplinary majors.  One survey respondent stated, “I think knowing my options was the biggest thing in giving me clarity.  [My advisor] did an excellent job as looking at all possibilities and laying out what was possible” (S. L. Johnson, personal communication, August 13, 2016).

Recruiting dropped-out and stopped-out students for these programs can be challenging for institutions.  A question often asked by other institutions is how to find student participants.  Students are discovered in a variety of ways.  One approach is to run a query in the campus student information system for individuals who have earned a certain number of credit hours and who are not registered for the upcoming academic term.  This action provides a list of students for possible outreach.  If needed, the initial query or data set produced can be narrowed down by additional factors such as academic year, credit hours, grade point average, or account holds.  Furthermore, the list can be made more accurate by being submitted to the National Student Clearinghouse and the National Change of Address databases.  Another way to locate students who meet the criteria for a program is via referrals.  These referrals can come from faculty, advisors, or even other students.  UH Mānoa has gone as far as beginning a marketing campaign in conjunction with the university’s communications office, producing a short video, sending out news releases, and sponsoring radio ads (see “Second time’s the charm for students to complete their degree at UH Mānoa,” 2018).

Regardless of how a student and their situation is discovered, it is the advisor who will aid and provide guidance for the student along their journey to degree completion.  Indeed, academic advising is integral to a student’s success and even more true for the populations targeted by these programs.  A critical element of advising degree completion students is to not judge them by their past academic performance or for stopping out.  Many of these students already feel guilty about any bad grades on their transcript and for giving up and not completing their degree.  Using such models as proactive and appreciative advising, the academic advisors provide encouragement and support, helping them navigate the challenges of returning to school and the university system.  The advisor can also assist students in thinking about time management strategies for adding schoolwork back into their ongoing life commitments.

Each student decides to return for his or her own reasons.  Some students return to successfully achieve this major life accomplishment: earning a bachelor’s degree.  Other students need a degree in order to obtain a job promotion or raise.  The advisor's strategy is to listen to each student's unique story, to discover each student's individual goals, and to assist each student in achieving those goals.

The impact of these programs can be seen not only with the students’ distinct stories but also through graduation numbers, additional institutional credits to overall enrollment numbers, and increased financial revenue.  One program offers scholarships of $500 per semester that can be used to pay an outstanding financial obligation to the institution or future tuition.  Another program partnered with their institution’s advancement office to establish a fund with alumni donations that pays up to $1,000 to cover a prior balance or future costs.  Students having funds to pay outstanding balances becomes important, allowing them to register and use financial aid to cover future costs since financial aid only pays going forward.  Table 1 summarizes significant positive outcomes for three institutions with degree completion programs as of July 2018.  Another UH Mānoa survey respondent declared, “Put it this way . . . if it wasn't for this program, I would not have my degree right now” (Johnson, in press).  The bottom line is that these degree completion programs change lives when institutions reach out and help students graduate.

Table 1.  Impact of Degree Completion Programs


Graduation Numbers

Total Enrolled Institutional Credits

Institutional Tuition Dollars Brought In

Student Financial Obligations Resolved

Eastern Michigan University

560 since 2014

14,538 since 2013


(since 2013)

Not tracked

Kent State University

239 since 2014

1,673 (average)


Not tracked

(but awards scholarships)

SUNY College at Brockport

355 since 2014


$428,900 (since Summer 2016)

$39,000 (some covered by scholarship)

University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa

124 since 2014





Shannon L. Johnson
Program Coordinator, Come Back to Manoa
Outreach College
University of Hawaii at Mānoa
[email protected]

Nathan Hendrickson
Completion Specialist
Academic Affairs
SUNY College at Brockport
[email protected]

Deanna Donaugh
Associate Director
Academic Engagement and Degree Completion
University College
Kent State University
[email protected]

Gregg Heinrichs
Academic Advisor
University Advising and Career Development Center
Eastern Michigan University
[email protected]


Hunt, P. F., Boyd, V. S., Gast, L. K., Mitchell, A., & Wilson, W. (2012). Why some students leave college during their senior year. Journal of College Student Development, 53(5), 737–742. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2012.0068

Johnson, S. L.  (in press).  Why seniors leave and why they return: An exploratory case study.  Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.

Ma, Y., & Cragg, K. M. (2012). So close, yet so far away: Early vs. late dropouts. Journal of College Student Retention, 14(4), 533–548.

Mohr, J. J., Eiche, K. D., & Sedlacek, W. E. (1998). So close, yet so far: Predictors of attrition in college seniors. Journal of College Student Development, 39(4), 343–354.

Neumann, Y., & Finaly-Neumann, E. (1989). Predicting juniors’ and seniors’ persistence and attrition: A quality of learning experience approach. The Journal of Experimental Education, 57(2), 129–140.

Russell, A. (2011). A guide to major U.S. college completion initiatives (Higher Education Policy Brief). Washington, DC: American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from http://www.aascu.org/policy/publications/policymatters/2011/collegecompletion.pdf

Second time’s the charm for students to complete their degree at UH Mānoa. (2018, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.hawaii.edu/news/2018/02/05/come-back-to-manoa-program/


The Foundation of Advising: Real Outcomes at the NACADA Assessment Institute 2018

Marita Labedz Poll, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship recipient

Marita Labedz Poll.jpgMy first job in higher education was as an academic advisor.  I was a graduate student and was delighted to have the opportunity to learn in my courses and on the job working with students who had been admitted to a bridge program during the summer before their first year.  I enjoyed helping students, not much younger than me, navigate their courses, connect with faculty, and establish their lives at the university.  It was an exceptional introduction into the work of supporting student development.  After graduate school, I worked mostly in student affairs, occasionally taking on the role of academic advisor when I was teaching a first-year studies course.  After taking some time away from a full time role in higher education to support my own children’s student development, I accepted a new but familiar role with a unique opportunity to develop a new advising model.

The Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University had spent a year studying traditional faculty advisors and professional staff advisors and was in a position to examine this a bit further.  I was hired as the first professional staff academic advisor, charged with the task of not only advising a portion of the students in our department, but also assessing the success, nature, and outcomes of advising our students.

Assessment is not a new concept to any of us who work in higher education; we all have to demonstrate our ability to impact.  However, assessment specifically designed for academic advising was something I needed to master, and quickly.  I turned to NACADA and began to pour through the rich resources available online and learned about the Assessment Institute.  The timing was perfect, and as I became familiar with the Institute offerings, I was convinced this would be an important professional development experience that would provide me with the tools and resources necessary to successfully advance my work.

I found the pre-institute preparation to be extremely helpful in that it outlined very specifically what I needed to bring with me to allow for maximum benefit.  Pre-institute introductions to the working groups helped me to frame my needs, establish my position in the assessment process, and develop a plan to come away with as much information as possible.  It was helpful to know that I could spend as much time as needed in each working group and move from one group to another depending on my interest, level of program development, and needs.

Bringing key pieces of information to the institute such as vision, goals, and objectives, as well as student learning outcomes and advisor outcomes, provided the opportunity to connect with Institute faculty during the working groups to develop a plan during the Institute.  This completely set the Institute apart from previous workshops and meetings I have attended in that I was able to carefully construct an assessment plan, informed by my department’s mission and objectives and guided by the faculty, while I attended the Institute.  It was tremendously encouraging to learn from faculty and fellow advisors in the work groups, and in the end, have a plan to share with my colleagues as I returned to my campus.

The plenary and concurrent sessions provided a comprehensive overview of assessment.  Starting with the purpose of assessment and including stakeholder buy-in, institutional expectations, NACADA tools and resources, as well as student and advisor learning outcomes, the sessions provided a road map for development and further discussion in the work groups.  Sessions also covered specific topics such as the use of focus groups and the development and implementation of an advising syllabus.  The Institute workbook includes information and resources from every session, so even though I could not attend every concurrent session, I was able to access materials from the sessions.

As I reflect on my experience at the Institute, I am struck by the practical and immediate application of my learning.  An assessment plan that provides a clear way forward to gather and apply what we as advisors know and want to know about our work with students is an authentic outcome.  The Institute provides an unmatched opportunity to develop, implement, and further advance an advisor’s assessment efforts.  Now that the first phase of assessment has been completed and we have constructed our assessment framework for the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences Department at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, I hope to return to the institute in the future to further develop and refine our efforts.

Marita Labedz Poll, Ed.D.
Academic Advisor
Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences
McCormick School of Engineering
Northwestern University
[email protected]


NACADA Emerging Leaders Program Promotes and Celebrates Successful Leadership Development

Heather Doyle, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Amy Korthank, Incoming Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Cindy Firestein, Incoming Emerging Leader (2018-2020 Class)
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 $2,000 stipend to assist them with travel to NACADA conferences, institutes, and seminars, helping to promote their engagement and involvement.

2016-2018 ELP Class.jpgWith 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, advising communities, 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.

The 2016-2018 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured here), who began work at the 2016 Annual Conference in Atlanta, 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 Phoenix, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Heather Doyle is pleased to announce the 2018-2020 Class:

Emerging Leaders

Kelly Briggs (Kansas State University)
Lindsey Byrd (Pensacola State College)
Domonique Carter (North Carolina State University)
Mary Etienne (Hofstra University)
Neena Fink (Southern New Hampshire University)
Cindy Firestein (Simmons University)
Jill Putman (Colorado State University)
Jessica Staten (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Comfort Sumida (University of Hawaii-Hilo)
Leonor Wangensteen (University of Notre Dame)


Sara Ackerson (Washington State University)
Jared Burton (Emporia State University)
Joanne Damminger (Delaware Tech Community College)
Kathy Davis (Missouri State University)
erin donahoe-rankin (University of North Texas)
Tracy Griffith (University of Central Florida)
Sarah Howard (Ohio State University)
Cecilia Olivares (University of Missouri)
Pamela Stephens (Fairmont State University)
Kevin Thomas (Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville)

Incoming Emerging Leader Cindy Firestein shares about her journey into the Program: 

Cindy Firestein.jpgAs an actively involved NACADA member for almost eight years, I applied to the Emerging Leaders Program in hopes of further evolving as a leader within the organization.  My preparations to apply for the program took over a year, including writing responses to essay questions for the application and gathering letters of support.  Since it’s such a competitive program, submitting a strong application is critical.  I attended an information session at the Region 1 conference to learn more about the program, and I then developed a plan for myself with a timeline.  I spoke with colleagues who were already involved with the program to learn about their experience, and their willingness to proofread my application essay proved extremely helpful.  I strove to have each piece of my application completed, reviewed, and ready for submission by a certain date in advance of the submission deadline. 

I believe my involvement in Region 1 helped me stand out as a strong candidate for the 2018-2020 Emerging Leader class.  Being the state liaison for Massachusetts for slightly over two years allowed me to network with many NACADA members in Region 1.  This role allowed me to spearhead several state drive-in conferences and smaller professional development events for NACADA members.  Being involved with NACADA for several years helped to show the application reviewers that I am dedicated to NACADA and have contributed to the association and the profession.  Involvement in NACADA is also a great way to grow personally and professionally. 

When I submitted my application, I was very nervous. It took me several minutes to gain the courage to actually hit the submit button!  Then came the wait.  I had to wait several weeks for a decision, which felt like an eternity.  Supportive colleagues checked on me every week to see how I was doing and if I had received a response.  Having a strong NACADA support system was very helpful during the waiting period.  When the decision finally came, I jumped up out of my seat and screamed “YES” in excitement!

Now, I am in the next phase of preparing for our Orientation meeting in Phoenix.  I am putting a lot of effort into our summer pre-meeting “get acquainted” assignments, and I am thinking deeply about potential leadership development goals for my first year in the program.  I am very excited about being paired with my Mentor during Annual Conference and looking forward to working with my Mentor to refine and solidify my goals.  I can’t wait to get started on steps to achieving those goals!

My advice to anyone looking to apply for the Emerging Leaders Program is to take yourself out of your comfort zone and get involved in NACADA before applying.  Consider getting involved at your state or regional level.  I started getting involved by volunteering a few hours at the registration table during regional conferences before I took on a position within my region.  Begin networking now, and any support you receive from NACADA leadership—pay it forward.   Strive to support new professionals entering the profession.  Some of my most rewarding moments in NACADA are from supporting new professionals.  Lastly, develop a plan to have the application completed in advance of the deadline to ensure it has been proofread and allows you the ability to highlight who you are as well as what you hope to achieve by being accepted into the Emerging Leaders program.  Good luck.

Cindy and the rest of her Class of new Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Phoenix 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 and consider applying for the 2019-2021 Class!

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

Amy Korthank
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2018-2020
University of Iowa

Cindy Firestein
ELP Class 2018-2020
Simmons University

Leigh Cunningham
ELP Coordinator
NACADA Executive Office
Kansas State University


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