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Voices of the Global Community


From the Executive Director: Celebrating the Past, Present, and Future: NACADA's 40th Anniversary

Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director

Charlie Nutt.jpgThis year, our association, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, celebrates its 40th Anniversary. There had been two national academic advising conferences held in 1977 (Burlington, Vermont) and in 1978 (Memphis, TN). It was at the 1978 conference that the new association was officially named the National Academic Advising Association prior to its charter being legally adopted in May 1979, with a charter membership of 429. The first conference as a legal association occurred in October 1979 in Omaha, Nebraska. While the National Academic Advising Association had long recognized the importance of our Canadian members and institutions by including them in our 10-region structure, in 2006 the NACADA Board of Directors made a strong commitment to becoming a global association by officially changing the association’s tagline to NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, with our legal name changing a few years later.

There are so many important historical steps in our association’s growth and influence in higher education that in my short article it will be easy to leave something out, so I want to focus on some important themes that we are celebrating in our Past, our Present, and our Future.

  • NACADA has from its very beginning been a member-driven association. All decisions concerning the association’s strategic goals and services for our members are made by volunteer leaders who are elected by the membership at large or appointed by the NACADA President or Board of Directors. This is very important because in our 40 years as an association it has been the membership who has decided what our association will be and how the association advances student success through its focus on academic advising.
  • From our very beginning, our association has been focused on contributing to the field of academic advising through the creation of important publications such as Academic Advising Today, the NACADA Journal, and the NACADA Review. Through these publications and the creation of the NACADA Research Committee, our leaders and members have demonstrated a strong desire for the association to be not only a networking group but also to be a group focused on changing higher education significantly through providing evidence of the impact that quality academic advising has on students.
  • Our association has celebrated the diversity in the field of academic advising in higher education. Our membership reflects the broadest constituencies of members in any higher education association, including primary role advisors, teaching faculty who advise, administrators of all levels including presidents and chancellors, counselors, career advisors, student success personnel of all types, and graduate students. Just as academic advising touches all aspects of a student’s life, our association has reflected the various types of academic advisors across higher education globally and worked to bring them together to enhance the academic advising experiences of all students.
  • Our association has recognized that we are strengthened by providing our members the opportunity to be very active in our 10 regions and in our over 40 Academic Advising Communities. The very strong regions and academic advising communities do not divide or dilute our association but instead make our association more connected to those in the field across the globe.
  • Regardless of its structure and size during our history, the NACADA Board of Directors has always been focused on providing our members and leaders with the best support possible to build a strong and effective association while at the same time recognizing that our volunteer leaders have full-time jobs at campuses across the world. In 1990, the NACADA Board of Directors partnered with Kansas State University’s College of Education under the leadership of Dean Michael Holen to create the NACADA Executive Office. This unique and highly collaborative partnership has enabled the association to have an Executive Office staff charged with implementation of the association’s varied programs, resources, and events while still ensuring the association is led and governed by our members. The first Executive Director, Roberta “Bobbie” Flaherty, worked tirelessly for nearly 20 years to build a strong and effective Executive Office staff who work diligently each day to ensure the association meets the needs of our members as determined by leaders and members themselves. “Bobbie” Flaherty’s work in ensuring the association’s finances were managed effectively was instrumental to the successes our association has had in membership growth and financial growth and also laid the foundation for collaborative work between NACADA and the College of Education, which resulted in the creation of the first on-line Graduate Certificate and Masters Degree in Academic Advising.  More recently, the NACADA Research Center was open, based at Kansas State University, and the Ph.D. program with an academic advising focus will begin with its first cohort in Summer 2020. The relationship between NACADA and Kansas State University has enabled our association to continue to be member-driven and governed while at the same time provide the support needed to grow and move into the future.

In a relatively short span of 40 years, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising has grown into a large association that is having significant impact on the academic success of students across the globe. From our original 429 charter members to our nearly 15,000 members today, NACADA is building upon a strong past and present created by the hard work and dedication of our members and leaders and the strong foundation built and cultivated by the NACADA Boards of Directors, founding Executive Director “Bobbie” Flaherty and College of Education Deans Michael Holen and Debbie Mercer. What an exciting time for NACADA to celebrate our past 40 years and our present achievements, as we continue to move toward a future clearly defined by our strong mission, vision, and strategic goals. 

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

NACADA Emerging Leaders Program Promotes and Celebrates Successful Leadership Development

Nathan Vickers, ELP-AB Past Chair (2008–2010) and Mentor (2015–2017), Past NACADA Vice President
Erin Justyna, Emerging Leader (2012–2014) and Mentor (2015–2017), Incoming NACADA President
Cecilia Olivares, Emerging Leader (2009–2011) and Mentor (2018–2020), Incoming NACADA Vice President
Melinda Anderson, Emerging Leader (2011–2013) and Mentor (2015–2017), Incoming Board of Directors member
Michelle Smith Ware, Emerging Leader (2013–2015), Incoming Board of Directors member
Kyle Ross, Emerging Leader (2015–2017) and Mentor (2017–2019), Incoming Board of Directors member

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) of NACADA was created in 2006 to accomplish the following goals:

  • Encourage members from diverse groups to get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization.
  • Outfit participants with the skills and tools necessary to pursue elected and appointed leadership positions.
  • Increase the number of leaders from diverse groups.
  • Encourage and assist members of populations who are under-represented in the association's leadership to attend state, regional, or annual conferences.

2007-2009 Class.jpgSince the first class in 2007, ELP graduates have contributed to nearly every aspect of the association, from serving on committees and advisory boards to writing book chapters. It was not until 2015 when graduates were elected/appointed to Council positions and not until 2017 for the Board of Directors. This year, however, is a once-in-a-lifetime moment when numerous graduates and current Emerging Leaders have been elected/appointed to roles across all Divisions, to the Council, and to the Board of Directors. While this is a strong indicator of the program’s successful efforts, it more so demonstrates the widespread involvement of all ELP graduates and their significant impacts on the association and on the advising profession, which are collectively summarized on the Emerging Leader Accomplishments page.

As ELP graduates and supporters, we decided to write this article to celebrate the efficacy of ELP through reflections of those leaders who have been elected as President, Vice-President, and Members of the Board of Directors, along with Nathan Vickers, who was the first ELP Advisory Board Chair.

Looking back from when you were a part of founding this program to today, what are your thoughts on what ELP has turned into?

Nathan Vickers.jpgNathan: It seems surreal, looking back, that the 2019–2021 class of Emerging Leaders is the program’s thirteenth. What a phenomenal accomplishment. The program’s impact is remarkable and is one of the highlights of my career in NACADA. I had the good fortune to be on the team tasked to write the proposal for the Emerging Leaders Program. Creating a program like this took a lot of work and a lot of people, and our approach was intentional, focused, and practical, while shooting for the stars. I imagine all of us on the development team for the Emerging Leaders Program wanted and hoped that the program would be as successful as it has been but could not imagine the scope of its success. As the first Chair of the ELP Advisory Board, I learned so much: the selection process improved; the orientation of both Emerging Leaders and Mentors improved; and we all sailed into this big blue sea of uncertainty, wanting, so much, to see where it would go. Looking back, the program has become everything that I hoped it would be and more. Its scope and impact are enormous, and I’m so proud to have been part of it. When I read the email about new members to the Board of Directors, Council, and other elected/appointed positions, I beamed with pride as a number of the newly elected/appointed officials are graduates of the Emerging Leaders Program. What a feather in the cap of this exceptional program.

What was the most impactful experience from being involved in the Emerging Leaders Program?

Erin Justyna.jpgErin: As a fiercely independent, busy human, I do not always keep up with relationships as well as I wish I did. The ELP was transformative for me because it connected me to the leaders and mentors in my cohorts in a very intentional, consistent manner. When normally I might have said, “I am too busy,” I said, “I have this commitment.” Perhaps the biggest gift the ELP gives participants is the time and space to talk through NACADA leadership—whether discussing our own leadership paths, increasing the diversity of leaders, or sustaining leadership over time. In my time as a leader and mentor, and since, I have been able to connect—through Zoom, FaceTime, e-mail, Facebook—not only with a cohort of 20 colleagues, but to their colleagues and the entirety of past ELP participants as well. The program’s influence extends long past the graduation days of its Emerging Leaders.

Cecilia Olivares.jpgCecilia: The highlight of my Emerging Leaders Program experience was the development of the “Women Thriving: Not Just Surviving a Career in Academic Advising/Higher Education” series of annual conference panel presentations with my ELP Mentor, Sandy Waters. The idea was born from bonding over the complicated balancing act of personal and professional obligations. We invited a panel of female leaders in NACADA to share their triumphs and struggles while trying to manage competing priorities, and the participant response was incredible and well beyond what we ever imagined it could be. To me, these experiences (Women Thriving and ELP) are about the power of human connections—intentional or unexpected and everything in between—and creating opportunities for shared successes and challenges.

Melinda Anderson.jpgMelinda: My relationship with my ELP Mentor was a turning point for me in my growth and development as a NACADA leader. Peg Steele was encouraging, supportive, and knew when I needed a nudge out of the nest. She is a great listener because she heard the things that I was not saying out loud. Fear, lack of confidence, and limited knowledge of NACADA pathways spoke volumes as I worked through my goals. When she heard what I was not saying, she took action and helped me develop in ways that allowed me to take steps towards positions and roles in which I never saw myself serving. I use the word serving intentionally, because the other lesson I learned was to pay it forward. Everything that was given to me by my mentor I give back to NACADA members, colleagues, and friends that I have met in the organization. This work has allowed me to support the growth and development of others in our profession, and ELP provided an amazing foundation in which to grow.

Michelle Ware.jpgMichelle: In reviewing my Emerging Leaders statement (submitted in 2013), I reflected on seeing few minoritized candidates on the 2013 NACADA Leadership Elections ballots and envisioned myself on a future ballot as a member of the Council and/or Board of Directors. I also listed many goals I wanted to accomplish on my leadership path, including being “involved within the Administrative Division as a member of the Diversity Committee [now the Inclusion & Engagement Committee], ELP Advisory Board, and NCAA Advisory Board.” But, how was I going to make it happen?

Mentors have played (and continue to play) important roles throughout my life. Building support networks has aided in my personal and professional development. ELP provided the mentorship I needed. More specifically, being matched with my ELP Mentor, Heather Doyle, was life changing in so many ways. Almost immediately after connecting with Heather, we co-designed a two-year plan that provided a framework for achieving my goals within and outside of NACADA (e.g. pursuing my doctorate and publishing an article). She continuously encouraged me to dream, supported me in discovering my passions, and reminded me, “Don’t settle for good enough—be great.” The ELP structured mentoring and focus on leadership gave me the motivation I needed to make my leadership goals a reality and gifted me with the knowledge to guide others on their leadership journeys.

Kyle Ross.jpgKyle: My most impactful learning experience through participating in ELP was that even when I did not feel qualified to run or to apply for leadership positions, I needed to just try anyway. My mentor was Nathan, and he consistently advised me that I would always feel like I am not adequately prepared to take on a role, no matter how much experience I had. He also reminded me that I would not win every election or would not be appointed to every position, and that is okay, as long as I keep trying. However, it also took many other colleagues and friends to encourage me to step up and put my name in the hat each time, and I will always be grateful for having that network that extends beyond my cohort that ELP helped me develop.

The 2017-2019 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured below), who began work at the 2017 Annual Conference in St. Louis, 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 Louisville, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

2017-2019 Class.jpg

Current Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Amy Korthank is also pleased to announce the 2019–2021 Class:

Emerging Leaders

Julia Bedell, Northern Kentucky University
Brantley “Banks” Blair, Virginia Polytechnic & State University
Jessica Camp, Texas Woman's College
Danielle Flores Lopez, Michigan State University
Amber King, Delaware Tech Community College-Owens
Margaret Mbindyo, Millersville University
Stephanie Morawo, Auburn University
Leslie Ross, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jacob Rudy, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Billie Streufert, Augustana University


Karen Archambault, Rowan College at Burlington County
Ross Hawkins, Missouri State University
Dana Hebreard, Aquinas College-Grand Rapids
Amber Kargol, Iowa State University
Stephanie Kraft-Terry, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Alex Kunkle, Nevada State College
Karen Lewis, University of Maryland-College Park
Brandan Lowden, Pikes Peak Community College
Kyle Ross, Washington State University
Calley Stevens Taylor, Cedar Crest College

New Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Louisville 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 2020–2022 Class!

Nathan Vickers
Academic Advising Coordinator
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of the Core Texts and Ideas
College of Liberal Arts
The University of Texas at Austin
[email protected]

Erin Justyna
Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences
Texas Tech University
[email protected]

Cecilia Olivares
Transfer Center
University of Missouri
[email protected]

Melinda Anderson
Interim Associate Vice Chancellor
Academic Affairs
Elizabeth City State University
[email protected]

Michelle Smith Ware
Academic Advisor
Co-Director of the Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars Program
The First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame
[email protected]

Kyle Ross
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University
[email protected]

Mind Over Matter: The Intersection of Mental Health and Academic Advising

Angelia Lomax, Tennessee State University

Angelia Lomax.jpgRegardless of one’s professional title in higher education, the ultimate goal is the same—student success. Academic advisors are uniquely positioned to contribute to the goal of student success due to the nature of their work and their relationship with students. While several different theories and approaches permeate the field of advising, there are universal outcomes that undergird the interventions and techniques advisors employ. What some theoretical approaches fail to address are the non-academic factors that impact student success. Developmental advising integrates non-academic characteristics in its conceptualization of best practices and student experiences. Academic advising is described by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising as extending “beyond campus boundaries” (NACADA, 2006). As such, students benefit from being supported holistically as opposed to exclusively focusing on academic support (McGill, 2016).

Mental Health Considerations

According to Bostani, Nadri, and Nasab (2014), mental health and academic performance are positively correlated. The authors offered a definition of mental health that included phrases such as “psychological maturity,” “positive feelings towards self and others,” and “progress towards self-actualization.” Mental health concepts impacted the academic performance of university students and their ability to navigate the college experience; these concepts included academic stress, self-efficacy, anxiety, depression, sense of belonging, distress from financial hardship, and more (Ahmed & Julius, 2015; Bostani et al., 2014; Parveen, Sibnah, Vishnu, & Tirupati, 2015). The authors cited the transition to college, developmental challenges, and expectations as factors that impacted students’ mental health and negatively affected student performance. These non-cognitive aspects of the college experience tend to weigh heavily on students’ concentration, attendance, integration, and overall success (Ahmed & Julius, 2015; Parveen et al., 2015).

Psychological Processes

In order for a student to be successful in completing college, they must first decide to persist. College persistence and retention are the building blocks that eventually result in graduation. In their seminal research, Bean and Eaton’s (2001) psychological model of college student retention posited that students enter college with certain psychological attributes that interact with the college environment, initiating psychological processes that result in attitudes which lead to a particular behavior (persisting or not). The three psychological processes they identified were self-efficacy assessments, coping processes, and attributions.

Self-efficacy was described as one’s belief in their capability of completing the necessary tasks to achieve an outcome (Baier, Markman, & Pernice-Duca, 2016). According to Bean and Eaton (2001), when a student engages in self-efficacy assessments, they ask themselves questions such as “am I capable of succeeding academically here?” Bandura (1994) offered that individuals answer the presented question by examining stored information related to (a) social persuasion, (b) social modeling, (c) mastery of experiences, and (d) psychological and emotional states. When students answer in the affirmative to the self-efficacy assessment, it results in positive self-efficacy, which positively correlates with retention. Coping behaviors are the ways in which students learn to adjust to being in a new situation, allowing them to effectively integrate into the university (Bean & Eaton, 2001).

The primary attribute of Bean and Eaton’s (2001) model was the student’s locus of control. An internal locus of control indicated that the student believed they were in control of their success; as a result, the student would integrate academically, engaging in behaviors such as studying and attending class. It is important to remember that students do not navigate these psychological processes in a vacuum. The outcomes of the processes are influenced by the students’ environmental (campus) interactions.

Implications for Academic Advising

Students are typically encouraged to have multiple interactions with their academic advisor throughout each semester. While treating students for mental health concerns may be beyond advisors’ scope, there are some ways in which they can address the issues. One of the roles of the academic advisor is to provide appropriate resources that support student success (Ohrablo, 2018). This would be an opportunity to refer students to the university counseling center, success coach, or disability services depending on the student’s particular presenting problem.

Mental health and psychological issues are rarely explicitly communicated by students, as they may not be aware of the true nature of their experiences. Students tend to imply that they are struggling by making statements such as, “I tried to study but my mind kept wondering,” “I couldn’t get out of bed,” or “I usually just go to class and back to my room.” Declarations like this can be resultant of any number of things, but they are worth exploring further. Even if an advisor is focusing on academically supporting students, in-depth exploration could very well lead to these types of statements. An advisor who operates from a holistic approach will address academic, social, and personal concerns in order to support the development of the whole student (McGill, 2016). Due to the institutional interactions influencing the students’ psychological processes, advisors have the opportunity to positively impact their advisees’ self-efficacy, coping processes, and attributions.

Although self-efficacy is based on one’s perception of self, it is influenced by external factors such as a student’s social modeling, social persuasion, mastery of experiences, and physiological and emotional state (Bandura, 1994). An example of social modeling includes making students aware of people like them who have accomplished a similar task. Maybe the advisor and student have some shared characteristics. The advisor disclosing their similarities to the student and sharing their success would serve as social modeling. Social modeling also includes having pictures and anecdotes available of successful people who are in some way representative of the students, whether they share gender, race, socioeconomic history, major, or hometown.

Social persuasion comes in the form of simply encouraging the student and using strengths-based language (Drake, 2015). The latter can be used for both social persuasion and identifying mastery experiences, which are the seemingly small victories that often go unnoticed. Using a strengths-based approach reinforces student potential by intentionally focusing on what the student has done well (Drake, 2015). Physiological and emotional states are the way students perceive they will react to and how they feel about the issue or task at hand. Due to the complexity of higher education, being explicit about requirements and recommendations can be powerful in improving the student’s reactions and emotions (Ohrablo, 2018). Demystification can decrease confusion, frustration, and feelings of being overwhelmed.


Ultimately, it is important that students know that advisors are concerned with both their well-being and success (Ohrablo, 2018). As advisors review students’ transcripts, it would be beneficial for them to consider why the students earned the grades they did. It could have been related to academics, but it could also be the result of a psychological issue or mental health concern. Student success and retention are the products of a multifaceted mosaic of student experiences, impacted not only by their internal processes but the interactions they have with the institution. Advisors are not expected to provide mental health counseling to students, but they would be remiss to ignore the impact of psychological issues and mental health on students’ experience, performance, and success.

Angelia Lomax, M.S.
Professional Advisor
Student Success Center
Tennessee State University
[email protected]


Ahmed, Z., & Julius, S. H. (2015). Academic performance, resilience, depression, anxiety and stress among women college students. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(4), 367–370. https://doi.org/10.15614/ijpp%2F2015%2Fv6i4%2F127155

Baier, S. T., Markman, B. S., & Pernice-Duca, F. M. (2016). Intent to persist in college freshmen: The role of self-efficacy and mentorship. Journal of College Student Development, 57(5), 614–619. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/csd.2016.0056

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71–81). New York, NY: Academic Press. Retrieved from http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1994EHB.pdf

Bean, J., & Eaton, S. B. (2001). The psychology underlying successful retention practices. Journal of College Student Retention, 3(1), 73–89. Retrieved from http://www.se.edu/dept/native-american-center/files/2012/04/The-Psychology-Underlying-Successful-Retention-Practices.pdf

Bostani, M., Nadri, A., & Nasab, A. R. (2014). A study of the relation between mental health and academic performance of students of the Islamic Azad University Ahvaz Branch. Procedia- Social Behavioral Sciences, 116, 163–165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.186

Drake, J. K. (2015). Academic advising approaches from theory to practice. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Josling (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 231–246). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McGill, C. M. (2016). Cultivating ways of thinking: The developmental teaching perspective in academic advising. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 28(1), 51–54. https://doi.org/10.1002/nha3.20131

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2006). Concept of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/Concept.aspx 

Ohrablo, S. (2018). High-Impact advising: A guide for academic advisors. Denver, CO: Academic Impressions.

Parveen, B., Sibnah, D., Vishnu, V., & Tirupati, R. (2015). Perceived academic stress of university students across gender, academic streams, semesters, and academic performance. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, 6(3), 231–235.

Advisor Impact on Nontraditional Students' Perception of Mattering

Genta M. Stanfield, Auburn University

Genta Stanfield.jpgNontraditional Student Characteristics and Enrollment

Nontraditional students, or adult learners as they are commonly described, are typically defined by specific characteristics, and they may have one or multiple of these characteristics to identify them as nontraditional. The first and easiest to measure is generally age; other characteristics include a delay in entering college after high school completion or completing a GED, having dependents other than a spouse, and having part- or full-time employment to which the importance of their educational pursuits is secondary (Astin, 1977; Benshoff, 1993; Bergman, 2012; Choy, 2002; Chung, Turnbull, & Chur-Hansen, 2014; Compton, Cox, & Laanan, 2006; Goncalves & Trunk, 2014; Graham & Donaldson, 1999; Kasworm, 2010; Schlossberg, Lynch, & Chickering, 1989; Tannehill, 2009; Wyatt, 2011).

Nontraditional student enrollment continues to make up a large portion of undergraduate student populations on both traditional college campuses and in the distance-learning sector across the U.S. With nontraditional students making up nearly 41% of the postsecondary student body, institutions of higher education should be aware of the unique demands of this population. Four-year, public, nonprofit, degree-granting institutions need to research the needs of their nontraditional students as, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% of the part-time student population and 11% of the full-time students were aged 25 or older (McFarland et al., 2017).

Anderson’s (2003) study revealed that over the previous 30 years, the number of older students increased by 144%, whereas the number of traditional students increased by only 45%. This student population is even surpassing the traditional student population at some institutions (Choy, 2002). Research by Bergman, Gross, Berry, and Shuck (2014) indicated that by 2025, over half of the jobs in the United States will require a college degree, and in the eight years after 2010, the U.S. would experience a three-million-person gap between college graduates and jobs requiring a degree (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010; Lumina Foundation, 2011).

Marginality and Mattering Affect Retention

Despite this need for workers with postsecondary degrees and the trend of more adults returning to complete degree programs over the last 20–30 years, many nontraditional students may feel under-supported by academic resources and marginalized by their institutions (Kasworm, 2010; Markle, 2015; Schlossberg, Lynch, & Chickering, 1989). Sissel, Hansman, and Kasworm (2001) theorized that “adult students are often viewed as invisible and of lesser importance to the traditional core student group, as evidenced by higher education mission statements, publicity and image, and exclusion of adult requirements in the shaping of policies, programs, and outreach” (p. 18). Graham and Donaldson (1999) argued that “educators and administrators often rely on earlier research on how college affects traditional students and assume the same things are true for adults—even though they may intuitively know better” (p. 147), and Kasworm (2001) cautioned that “many adult learners need more time to dedicate to their academic life than they have available. In these circumstances the academic responsibilities shift to the bottom of the priority list, and the guilt and frustration related to this balancing act often lead to departure decisions" (p. 93).

Given Kasworm’s assertion, institutions who wish to retain and help their adult learners be successful will need to be aware of the nontraditonals’ time and effort limitations and provide ways to support them academically to facilitate completion. Nontraditional students face more barriers to completion and “nontraditional students have significantly lower retention and graduation rates when compared to their traditional counterparts” (Grabowski, Rush, Ragen, Fayard, & Watkins-Lewis, 2016, p. 3). Many nontraditional students face three types of barriers as described by Fairchild (2003): situational barriers of family, employment, and finances; dispositional barriers of role strain including role conflict, role overload, and role contagion; and institutional barriers caused by colleges and universities that are “ill-equipped to deal with the career orientation of adults” (p. 13) and are “often not structured to accommodate adult students” (Fairchild, 2003, p. 13). Despite this, Fairchild argues, “adults persist against difficult odds in an institutional system that does not recognize them for who they are and is not designed to meet their needs” (p. 14). However, when a student feels connected to the institution, that they matter, the retention rates improve as feeling a sense of value helps engagement in the learning process and experience (Schlossberg, 1989).

What Can Advisors Do?

Brown (2002) suggested that academic support professionals need to be specifically trained in the needs of adult learners, specifically in adult development and learning theories, family systems theories, and on the challenges of sense of community and belonging to the institution. Universities should develop specific orientations and workshops geared towards the nontraditional student for academic support (Brown, 2002). Baird (2005) argued that in advising interactions with nontraditional students, the advisor must encourage positive involvement that “should add to, not compete with, nonacademic involvements, and create a culture in which adult learners sort out their own commitments and integrate their outside and academic demands synergistically” (p. 610). It is the role of the academic advisor to advocate for the “students’ point of view, since students have relatively little power on most campuses” (Baird, 2005, p. 611). For nontraditional students who are used to having control over their work, families, finances, etc., this feeling of helplessness can often be discouraging and frustrating.

Advocating for the adult learner and adopting an “early and often approach” (Tokpah, Padak, Baycich, Trehan, & Turnidge, 2006, p. 77) is imperative for an advisor. While advisors hope to instill self-advocacy and self-reliance in their students, nontraditional students often already have these attributes due to their maturity. However, Marques and Luna (2005) assert that advisors should act as mediators between faculty and nontraditional students in order to allow “both parties to be open without affecting the mutual trust relationship” (p. 5). Nontraditional students expect their advisors to keep them updated on new tools, policy changes, and curricula as well as promoting their school-work-life balance and finding creative solutions to course conflict issues that result from the time restrictions of nontraditional students (Marques & Luna, 2005).

Most nontraditional students report that their main interactions and engagement with an institution’s staff are due to their need for advisement (Wyatt, 2011). Previous studies of the population indicated that it is important for nontraditional students to feel important, connected, and valued by the institution and its faculty and staff (Schlossberg, 1989). Moody’s (1996) findings further suggested that a developmental approach to advising had a positive effect on the nontraditional student’s perception of mattering, suggesting that the process of academic advising and the interactions with the advisor “can be highly influential” (Moody, 1996, p. 123) in how a nontraditional student feels about the institution and their own scholastic journey. Lowe and Toney (2000) cited five sources ranging from 1980–1993 supporting the correlation of the effect of academic advising on student retention rates, making the acceptance of this idea as “the now proven correlation between good academic advising and student retention” (Marques & Luna, 2005, p. 5). Marques and Luna (2005) also observed that adult learners are less in need of the advisor’s aid in motivation and goal setting, but are “seeking a peer-like relationship with their advisors and looking for identification points rather than looking to their advisors as examples” (p. 6).

Therefore, it is essential in advising nontraditional students that the advisor seeks to create a spirit of partnership with the student in their educational journey in order for the adult learner to feel they have an ally and advocate in their corner. Hayter (2015) discovered “when relationships developed, the tenacity to stay the course also increased, solidifying the need to make sacrifices with a determination to complete the program together” (p. 94). Sometimes the best practice in advising this unique population is simply being the sympathetic ear to their academic and non-academic situations alike.  Other times it is imperative to help adult learners navigate the intersection of their academic life and their real lives and to direct to relevant support services both on and off campus. No matter what interaction occurs, advisors have a significant impact on nontraditional students and their perception of their value on campus.

Genta M. Stanfield, M.Ed.
Academic Advisor
Department of Biosystems Engineering
Auburn University
[email protected]


Anderson, E. L. (2003). Changing US demographics and American higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 2003(121), 3–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/he.97

Astin, A. W. (1977). Four critical years: Effects of college on beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Baird, L. L. (2005). New lessons for research on student outcomes. In S. R. Komives, D. B. Woodard, & Associates (Eds.) Student services: A handbook for the profession (4th ed., pp. 595–517). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Benshoff, J. (1993, November). Educational opportunities, developmental challenges: Understanding nontraditional college students. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Association for Adult Development and Aging, New Orleans, LA.

Bergman, M. J. (2012). An examination of factors that impact persistence among adult students in a degree completion program at a four-year university (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. (UMI No. 3531455).

Bergman, M., Gross, J. K., Berry, M., & Shuck, B. (2014). If life happened but a degree didn’t: Examining factors that impact adult student persistence. Journal of Continuing Higher Education62(2), 90–101. https://doi.org/10.1080/07377363.2014.915445

Brown, S. M. (2002). Strategies that contribute to nontraditional/adult student development and     persistence. PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning2002(11), 67–76. Retrieved from https://www.iup.edu/ace/paace/v11-2002/

Carnevale, A., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2010). Help wanted: Projections of jobs and education requirements through 2018. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Retrieved from https://georgetown.app.box.com/s/ursjbxaym2np1v8mgrv7

Choy, S. (2002). Nontraditional undergraduates: Findings on the condition of education 2002 (NCES-2002-012). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002012.pdf

Chung, E., Turnbull, D., & Chur-Hansen, A. (2014). Who are 'non-traditional students'? A systematic review of published definitions in research on mental health of tertiary students. Educational Research and Reviews, 9(22), 1224. https://doi.org/10.5897/ERR2014.1944. Retrieved from https://academicjournals.org/journal/ERR/article-full-text-pdf/FE9A0F748686

Compton, J. I., Cox, E., & Laanan, F. S. (2006). Adult learners in transition. New Directions for Student Services, 2006(114), 73–80. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.208

Fairchild, E. E. (2003). Multiple roles of adult learners. New Directions for Student Services, 2003(102), 11–16. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.84

Goncalves, S. A., & Trunk, D. (2014). Obstacles to success for the nontraditional student in higher education. Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research, 19(4), 164–172. https://doi.org/10.24839/2164-8204.JN19.4.164. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.psichi.org/resource/resmgr/journal_2014/Winter14JNGoncalves.pdf

Grabowski, C., Rush, M., Ragen, K., Fayard, V., & Watkins-Lewis, K. (2016). Today's non-traditional student: Challenges to academic success and degree completion. Inquiries Journal8(03). Retrieved from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=1377

Graham, S., & Donaldson, J. F. (1999). Adult students' academic and intellectual development in

college. Adult Education Quarterly, 49(3), 147–161. https://doi.org/10.1177/074171369904900302. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1087330.pdf

Hayter, S. M. (2015). Study of the theory of mattering and marginality in relation to nontraditional college students in a private, midwestern, single-purpose college. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. (UMI No. 3732102).

Kasworm, C. (2001, April). A case study of adult learner experiences of an accelerated degree program. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, Seattle, WA.

Kasworm, C. E. (2010). Adult learners in a research university: Negotiating undergraduate student identity. Adult Education Quarterly, 60(2), 143–160. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713609336110

Lowe, A., & Toney, M. (2000). Academic advising: Views of the givers and takers. Journal of College Student Retention, 2(2), 93–108. https://doi.org/10.2190/D5FD-D0P8-N7Q2-7DQ1

Lumina Foundation. (2018, March). Lumina fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/lumina-fact-sheet-2018-03.pdf

Markle, G. (2015). Factors influencing persistence among nontraditional university students. Adult Education Quarterly, 65(3), 267–285. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713615583085

Marques, J. F., & Luna, R. (2005). Advising adult learners: The practice of peer partisanship. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 19(6), 5–6.

McFarland, J., Hussar, B., de Brey, C., Snyder, T., Wang, X., Wilkinson-Flicker, S., Gebrekristos, S., Zhang, J., Rathbun, A., Barmer, A., Bullock Mann, F., & Hinz, S. (2017). The condition of education 2017 (NCES 2017- 144). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2017144

Moody, D. C. (1996). The relationship between academic advising philosophy and mattering for adult undergraduate students. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. (UMI 9722442).

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Schlossberg, N. K., Lynch, A. Q., & Chickering, A. W. (1989). Improving higher education environments for adults: Responsive programs and services from entry to departure. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Sissel, P. A., Hansman, C. A., & Kasworm, C. E. (2001). The politics of neglect: Adult learners in higher education. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education2001(91), 17–28. https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.27

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Tokpah, C., Padak, N., Baycich, D., Trehan, D., & Turnidge, D. (2006, Spring). Learning about students with general education development diplomas on college campuses: Implications for academic advisors. NACADA Journal, 26(1), 77–88. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-26.1.77. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

Wyatt, L. G. (2011). Nontraditional student engagement: Increasing adult student success and retention. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education59(1), 10–20.

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An Online Course for Faculty Advisors: Promoting Excellence in Academic Advising

Dawn Coder, Julia Glover, and Terry Musser, The Pennsylvania State University

Glover, Musser & Coder.jpgAcademic advising is one of the few places available for students to engage in sustained discussions about their academic plans, share the broader experiences of their college education, and find support as they navigate the various challenges and opportunities of higher education. Developing strong, meaningful academic advising programs requires institutional support that acknowledges advising as central to the teaching and learning mission of higher education. It requires sufficient capacity within academic advising for students to cultivate meaningful and sustained relationships with their academic advisors. All too often, academic advising is construed as scheduling classes and checking-off graduation requirements.

Faculty members fill many roles at the institution, but while they are experts in their field of study, they typically receive little training or preparation to serve as mentor, coach, or advisor to students. According to Wallace and Wallace (2015), there are a couple of myths about academic advising that can color the perceptions faculty have about their role as academic advisor. One myth is that advising is easy, that all one needs is a caring attitude about students and an ability to dole out basic information. The second myth is that because faculty members can teach, they can also advise. Yet anyone who has faced that student across the desk who asks about their major, careers, their academic performance, or their emotional and mental health concerns knows academic advising is no easy task. Faculty engagement provides a unique and valuable opportunity for students to develop meaningful relationships with experts in their fields of interest, therefore faculty advisors are critical to positive educational journeys for students.

In the fall of 2017, a team of primary-role advisors and advising administrators at Penn State developed a foundational online course designed to help the faculty advisor understand the advising role. The goals were to develop skills, knowledge, and theoretical underpinnings to successfully guide students. A non-credit course was developed using Canvas, the Penn State Learning Management System most faculty utilize in their teaching. It is a self-paced, one-month course with a facilitator in place of an instructor; however, there is flexibility for participants who need additional time. Participants enroll in the online course through Penn State’s World Campus Faculty Development team who manages online, non-credit courses available to all stakeholders at the University.

The team developed five foundational modules, based on NACADA’s Core Competencies (2017), which incorporate the conceptual, informational, and relational components of academic advising. A technical component was also incorporated into each module to teach the use of student information systems at Penn State.

The five modules are:

Building a Solid Academic Advising Foundation, which includes Penn State’s Advising Mission and Policy, the history of academic advising, the role of the faculty advisor, and informational pieces about Penn State’s curriculum and privacy of student records. According to Cate and Miller (2015), “Advising is an intentional activity; therefore, a well-crafted advising mission statement helps advisers discern the level to which their efforts contribute to student and institutional success” (p. 43).

The Relational Component and Academic Advising Approaches, which includes an introduction to three approaches to academic advising, building relationships with students, and utilizing the student information system.

Understanding and Working With the 21st Century College Student, which discusses diversity, equity, and inclusiveness; understanding the changing student population; as well as effective communication skills. Blane Harding (2008) writes:

Over the past few decades, the make-up and diversity of students arriving on our campuses has changed drastically and requires new and innovative approaches to academic advising. All students, regardless of their preparedness and background, could be classified as special and deserve the very best our advising systems have to offer. However, there are several groups of students who present additional needs or who require advising services designed to address the specific characteristics that define them as special. (p.189)

Legal and Ethical Issues in Academic Advising discusses both ethical and legal issues to consider when advising students and provides case studies for study and discussion.

Creating A Personal Philosophy of Advising provides participants with prompts for creating their own advising philosophy based on the information provided in the course. Philosophies can be submitted for team members to critique and send the participants feedback. The advising philosophy is a great assessment tool for the team to gauge the level of learning acquired by the participant. 43 personal advising philosophies have been submitted from the three course offerings thus far.

Each module has its own learning objectives and activities. The desire of the team was to encourage as much engagement and participation as possible within the constraints of a self-paced course. Some of the learning activities offer feedback to the participant as well. An advising tool kit was designed to be a valuable future resource. It provides advising resources and learning aids to help the advisor in practicing advising skills, knowledge, and attributes introduced throughout the course. Required readings were included, as well as additional readings for the participants to dig deeper into the topic areas. It is noteworthy that the provost provided a welcome video for the course that speaks to the importance of faculty involvement in academic advising at Penn State.


During the design and development phases of this project, various faculty participated in the preliminary development and offered valuable feedback. Professional course editors assisted with the language of the content and an instructional designer put the content into Canvas and designed the look and feel of the course. Several faculty piloted the first iteration of the course in the fall of 2018 and the team made suggested improvements to the course in early 2019. Finally, the university-wide faculty/staff newsletter announced the course offering for February, March, and April 2019.

Outcomes to Date

150 individuals enrolled in the course in February. While there is no way to know how much time each participant spent in the course modules, the course evaluation revealed that 67% of the respondents strongly agreed that their knowledge about academic advising increased and 100% plan to apply what they have learned to their advising practice. Those who submitted their personal advising philosophy represented a diverse group of faculty and staff at the institution. Besides faculty advisors, there were also primary-role advisors, student affairs professionals, librarians, and others. Some revealed in their philosophies that they wanted to learn more about academic advising and how it intersects with their own role at the university, while others disclosed that they took the course as they were considering a career change. There were 137 participants enrolled in the March offering and 63 in the April offering.

One participant shared, “Thank you for a great course—your commitment is clear and appreciated. I found this quite valuable.” Another participant shared valuable constructive criticism: “I would also stress to the audience that you will get out of it what you put into it. I could have invested 3 hours skimming all five modules, or I could have invested 40 hours diving into the additional reading materials that were included in the links. I'd be up front with the audience about the optional reading that is provided that would most certainly make this a much lengthier course.”


Over 54% of participants in the February course were engaged in faculty roles at the institution with academic advising staff and unit or office directors, coordinators, or managers at 23% of the total participants. The team was pleased with this outcome.

Surprisingly, nine administrative support assistants enrolled in the course, demonstrating the desire for academic advising support and training by staff who interact with and provide information to students on a regular basis.

Participants represented 16 of the 21 campuses at the university. Perhaps most reflective of the diversity of participants, 26 administrative areas were represented. Every college at University Park, Penn State Law, the University Libraries, Schreyer Honors College, and World Campus had staff and faculty enrolled.

Next Steps

Due to the outstanding positive feedback and participation in this course, starting May 2019, the authors have begun to develop a second course that continues to build academic advising skills for those around the university. It is exciting to see the support and encouragement provided to continue to educate all university employees on the field of academic advising.

Dawn Coder
Director of Academic Advising & Student Disability Services
The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
[email protected]

Julia Glover
Academic Adviser & Liaison of Academic Advising & Student Disability Services
The Pennsylvania State University, World Campus
[email protected]

Terry Musser
Associate Director of Division of Undergraduate Studies
The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
[email protected]


Cate, P., & Miller, M. A. (2015). Academic advising within the academy: History, mission, and role. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 39–53). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Harding, B. (2008). Students with specific advising needs. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook, pp. 189–203. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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

Wallace, S. O., & Wallace, B. A. (2015). The faculty advisor: Institutional and external information and knowledge. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook (pp. 125–139). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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Setting the Stage: Onboarding Using NACADA's Core Competencies

Kelsey Bannon and Judi Brewer, University of Southern Maine

Judi Brewer.jpgKelsey Bannon.jpgFirst impressions are critical. For new employees, a first impression may catalyze their decision to continue with a position and grow within a department or quickly seek employment elsewhere.

We were fortunate to begin our experience as academic advisors at the University of Southern Maine (USM) on the same day. Together, we navigated an intensive two-week long new-hire process, characterized by abundant meetings with personnel from a variety of university departments and trainings. The process was overwhelming as our schedule did not permit much time to absorb new information, actively apply that information, or confer with our supervisor and colleagues. While the process was beneficial, we were certain that it could be improved, particularly given our background in the training and development of new employees: Kelsey in the hotel management industry and Judi in the insurance and retail fields.

In order to revamp the onboarding experience at USM, we first organized our perspectives on the current system, discussing among ourselves what worked and what did not. We then surveyed other advisors to understand their perspectives, researched onboarding best practices, and familiarized ourselves with the core competencies of academic advising (NACADA, 2017).

What is Onboarding and Why is it Important?

First, it should be noted that onboarding is not training. It goes without saying that all new employees require some degree of training in order to be successful in their role. Onboarding, meanwhile, refers to the process by which new employees are integrated into an organization and its culture (Maurer, n.d.). Through this process, an employee acquires the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to be successful within that organization. While most of the relevant research refers to corporate organizations, the same theories and practices are relevant to many different industries.

“Done well, onboarding leads to higher job satisfaction and performance levels as well as lower turnover. But a bad initial experience with your organization can send your new employees running for the door” (Meinert, n.d.). This sentiment solidifies the need to develop a thoughtfully organized onboarding program, one that is informed by pertinent research and that is focused on maintaining employee satisfaction.  

Incorporating NACADA’s Core Competencies of Academic Advising

In 2017, NACADA’s Professional Development Committee created the Academic Advising Core Competencies that encompass all of the concepts, information, and skills that advisors should understand, know, and be able to apply to their work. The competencies are made up of three components: conceptual, informational, and relational.

  • The conceptual component provides the context for the delivery of academic advising. It covers the ideas and theories that advisors must understand to effectively advise their students.
  • The informational component provides the substance of academic advising. It covers the knowledge advisors must gain to be able to guide the students at their institution.
  • The relational component provides the skills that enable academic advisors to convey the concepts and information from the other two components to their advisees. (NACADA, 2017)

Since these components are essential to academic advising, they must be thoughtfully incorporated into an onboarding experience for new advisors. To cover the conceptual competency, advisors at USM learn about the history and mission of the university and the department, the advising techniques that USM values, the learning outcomes for students, and how advising fits into the broader university community. For the informational competency, advisors learn about the specific degree requirements for their majors, how to use USM’s technology, and how advising interacts with other university offices. And finally, to include the relational competency, new advisors learn techniques to foster meaningful relationships with their advisees and are given the time to create positive relationships with their team. 

For onboarding purposes, we propose that another component be added to the experience: reflection. Reflection provides a new advisor time to consider newly learned material and strategies for success in their new role. In Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick’s book, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, they describe some of the benefits of reflection. Costa and Kallick state that, “reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning. . . . Reflecting also means applying what we’ve learned to contexts beyond the original situations in which we learned something” (Costa & Kallick, 2008). Because of how important reflection is to one’s learning and growth, it is a crucial part of the onboarding experience. The reflection component is included by providing time at the end of each day for a new advisor to think about how they will apply what they have learned to their future work.


Using NACADA’s Core Competencies of Academic Advising, results from the USM onboarding survey, and research into best practices in training and development, we have revamped the onboarding experience for new advisors at USM. Below are our top two areas to focus on when enhancing an onboarding plan: 

Updating the onboarding schedule. Based on research into effective learning strategies, the flow of the onboarding schedule for new advisors is extremely important. According to Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist and creator of the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, people rapidly lose memory of learned knowledge unless they consciously make an effort to retain new information (McNamme, 2018). Since the training of new advisors costs both time and money, creating a balanced schedule can be invaluable to a department. In an article titled, “5 ways to challenge the forgetting curve,” Paula McNamme (2018) explains that there are teaching methods that allow for better absorption of knowledge (McNamme, 2018). One method is spaced learning, which involves the learning of new information in manageable blocks, then returning to that information later on, with opportunities to test one’s knowledge. This can be incorporated into an onboarding schedule in a variety of ways. First, we suggest balancing NACADA’s core competencies throughout each day. Switching from conceptual, informational, and relational learning essentially creates those manageable blocks. We also recommend short breaks in-between to allow for absorption of this information. Finally, we suggest including time for reflection or guided reflection at the end of each day, as this allows advisors to return to what they have learned and put it into the context of their work.

Revamping the advisor handbook. The original handbook for advisors at USM was in a 3-inch binder that was over 100 pages long and weighed about 3 pounds. In addition to this binder, new advisors were given important information through multiple other online resources, making it difficult for a new employee to find particular information. Although this information is helpful to new advisors, feedback from our survey told us to (1) make the handbook smaller and (2) share this information digitally in one place. This connects back to another teaching method suggested by McNamme (2018), mobile learning, which suggests providing people with convenient, online, and ever-present access to information.

Using this feedback, we created two resources. The first is a much smaller advisor reference guide, which includes information that a new employee may need at their fingertips, such as a map of each of the campuses, contact information for the office, and a copy of their onboarding schedule. The second is an online tool that is used to display information—which offers links to resources, videos, important documents, and more. Now, new advisors have access to the same information that we had during our initial training; however, they only need to look for it in one place.


While two of our suggestions are listed above, there are additional opportunities for learning and support to improve the onboarding experience and set the stage for employee satisfaction. These include welcoming a new employee on their first day, providing time to shadow other advisors, assigning them a mentor, and scheduling regular meetings with their supervisor.

Questions to ask when developing an onboarding experience:

  • Are the core competencies clearly labeled and explained?
  • Does the schedule cover all competencies and are they balanced?
  • Have you included time for breaks and absorption of knowledge?
  • Is there enough time for reflective practices? Are guided reflection questions included at the end of each day?
  • Have you considered how you will disseminate information through one-on-one meetings, a physical and/or online handbook, and other trainings?
  • Has a mentor been assigned?
  • Have regular meetings been set up with their supervisor?
  • What does the welcoming activity look like?
  • Who are the crucial people or departments to include in the onboarding schedule?

A key role of an academic advisor is to build relationships with their advisees and teach them how to be successful in their collegiate lives. The same logic can be said about onboarding a new advisor. Building the initial relationship will not only make the transition to a new position feel seamless, but will also let the new hire know they are a valued part of the team.

Kelsey Bannon, M.Ed.
Academic Advisor
University of Southern Maine
[email protected]

Judi Brewer, M.S.
Academic Advisor
University of Southern Maine
[email protected]


Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2008). Learning through reflection. In A. L. Costa & B. Kallick (Eds), Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind (pp. 221–235). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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

Maurer, R. (n.d.). New employee onboarding guide. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/new-employee-onboarding-guide.aspx

McNamme, P. (2018, November 27). 5 ways to challenge the forgetting curve. Retrieved from https://www.learnupon.com/blog/ebbinghaus-forgetting-curve/

Meinert, D. (n.d.). Onboarding mistakes to avoid and some creative ideas to adopt. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0616/pages/onboarding-mistakes-to-avoid-and-some-creative-ideas-to-adopt.aspx

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One Person at a Time: Hope for a Second Chance

Anna Lincoln and Lynwood R. Johnson, University of Nevada, Reno
Natalia Musgrove, California State University, East Bay

Editor’s Note: Learn more on this topic—and review this team’s contribution—in the NACADA Pocket Guide, Advising Students on Academic Probation, 2nd edition.

Musgrove, Lincoln, & Johnson.jpgHistorical Background

The College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) is the largest college on campus, serving nearly 4,000 undergraduate students. The college offers traditional and interdisciplinary majors in arts, humanities, and social sciences, which are further complemented by a wide spectrum of minor options. The advising load in the college is shared between faculty and full-time professional advisors, with the latter providing the bulk of probation advising. Historically, the number of students on academic probation in any given semester ranges from 5% to 9% of CLA’s overall undergraduate enrollment, thus significantly affecting retention and graduation rates. To alleviate this issue, the CLA Student Center implemented a high-involvement intervention model that allows for individual differences (Abelman & Molina, 2001; Asbury, Lively, & Eckerty, 2014; Drake, 2011; Karp, 2014; Kirk-Kuwaye & Nishida, 2001; Molina & Abelman, 2000; Vander Shee, 2007) to effectively assist probationary students and facilitate their success.

The Probation and Dismissal Process

Students maintain good academic standing as long as their university cumulative GPA remains above 2.00. Academic standing is checked at the end of every regular semester (fall and spring). If a student falls below 2.00, they are placed on academic probation for the following term. Students on probation receive notification from Admissions & Records regarding the general policies and will also have a probation advising hold placed on their account midway through the term preventing enrollment for the next registration cycle(s) until they have met with an advisor. (For example, a student who falls below 2.00 after the fall 2015 semester will receive a probation advising hold in March 2016 that blocks summer/fall 2016 enrollment.)

A student on probation is given two regular semesters to improve their university GPA back to good standing. If a student is on second semester probation and still fails to raise their GPA above 2.00, then they are dismissed from the university. A student facing dismissal can appeal for a probation extension, but only if it is mathematically possible to reach good academic standing after one additional semester of coursework—subsequent extensions are not typically approved.

Once a student is dismissed, they are not allowed to enroll at the institution for one year. (For example, if a student is dismissed following spring 2016, they cannot take classes again at UNR until summer or fall 2017 at the earliest.) Returning from dismissal is not automatic: the student must apply for release from the dismissal status, show that underlying conditions have improved, and demonstrate that they are now capable of academic success. If released from dismissal, the student will typically have two regular semesters to attain good academic standing. Thus, it is crucial to advise probationary students preventatively to avoid dismissal and ensure timely degree completion.

Probation Advising Model

The high-involvement intervention model encourages developmental advising by providing students with an opportunity to gain knowledge and maintain ownership of their decisions and experiences (Drake, Jordan, & Miller, 2013; Higgins, 2003; Varney, 2012; Wallace, 2007), while at the same time allowing advisors to become an integral part of student success and development (Brooks, 2010; Cruise, 2002; Lowenstein, 2005; Tinto, 1993). In the context of this model, students whose academic performance fell below the institution’s requirement of good standing are expected to partner with college advisors to address their unique struggles. Professional advisors continuously assist each student during the three main phases, using an individualized approach to build personal connection and identify the types of support required, thus embracing diversity.

Phase 1: Personalization. At the end of each semester, the CLA Student Center receives a probation report and divides the caseload among all college advisors. Each advisor personally reaches out to students on their list with hopes to schedule an appointment and establish a relationship of trust.

Phase 2: Integration. The student and advisor discuss previous terms and circumstances that led to the student’s probationary standing. The advisor communicates and clarifies relevant university policies and ramifications of being on probation. Additionally, the advisor reviews the student’s transcript, identifies possible solutions, and creates an individualized plan projecting the grades needed to return to good standing. 

Phase 3: Collaboration. The student becomes an active participant of the advising process and takes full responsibility for actions and decisions related to their academics. The advisor continues to follow-up with the student, thus creating a strong partnership that keeps both parties engaged and committed to academic success.


The CLA Student Center initially implemented its intervention model with the fall 2014 probation cohort. The outcomes for each semester’s probation cohorts from fall 2014 to spring 2016 were examined to determine student statuses at the end of the next regular term. Students that had come off probation or were on continued probation were considered positive outcomes since they were still enrolled at the institution, whereas dismissed or discontinued were negative outcomes since the student was not enrolled nor making any progress toward degree completion (Figure 1).

The probation cohorts varied in size and tended to be larger in fall semesters than in spring semesters. (This can, in part, be attributed to new freshmen ending up on probation after their first term constituting a large proportion of the cohort.) Term-to-term comparisons could be a bit inconclusive, but looking year-to-year provided promising results (Figure 2). For example, the fall 2015 probation cohort (244 students) was smaller than the fall 2014 cohort (290 students) but saw a greater percentage of students continuing on at the university (60.2% vs. 52.4%), an increase in students coming off of probation (27.9% vs. 17.6%), and a decrease in students dismissed (11.9% vs. 21.0%). Similarly, spring 2016 compared to spring 2015 had a similar overall cohort size (187 vs. 178) and saw a decline in negative outcomes (50.3% vs. 60.7%) and especially fewer students in discontinued status (36.4% vs. 44.4%).

Overall, the trends after examining two years’ worth of probation outcomes indicate that our interventions are helping probationary students achieve more favorable outcomes and stay on track to graduation.

Figure 1: The outcomes of high-involvement intervention model (raw numbers), 2014–2016.

Musgrove, Lincoln, & Johnson-F1.jpg

Figure 2: The outcomes of high-involvement intervention model (percent of cohort), 2014–2016

Musgrove, Lincoln, & Johnson, F1.jpg

Moving Forward: A New Approach to Scheduling

The UNR gained access to a new advising software in April of 2016, the Student Success Collaborative (SSC). One feature of the software is the ability to implement appointment campaigns, which allow advisors to conduct outreach to specific student populations. Students receiving the campaign are sent a link via email with the ability to schedule an advising appointment.

The CLA Student Center decided to pilot this option with freshmen needing to attend second semester group advising workshops. Students received an email reminding them of their mandatory attendance. The workshop schedule was provided and students were prompted to use the link to sign up for their preferred session. The college saw a 58% increase in attendance from the previous year when the workshops were advertised via campus flyers and student newsletters. Attendees were surveyed and 95% reported that the online scheduling was convenient.

Due to the success with group advising, the CLA Student Center decided to adapt this approach for outreach to students on academic probation. Students were sent a similar email informing them of their academic standing, but they were prompted to sign up for an individual advising appointment rather than a group session. There were aspects of this appointment campaign that were successful and others that were not.

What Worked. The campaign was comfortable for the student because it maintained a level of confidentiality. Students did not have to call the front office and discuss their probation status over the phone, they simply clicked on the link to schedule their appointment. This also saved resources as administrative support was not needed to schedule individual appointments for each student on probation. The method also allowed the CLA Student Center to implement a solution-focused approach by presenting options within the email, prior to the students coming in for their appointment, such as grade replacement, appeals, and campus resources.

What Did Not Work. There were two main problems identified with the campaign: the method in which students were targeted and the timing in which the campaign was sent. To target students, one can either retrieve the population from their student information system and import the results into SSC or utilize the advanced search function within SSC to retrieve the students. The UNR’s student information system, PeopleSoft, provides the user with the ability to run a student report based on probation hold, which the current version of SSC does not offer. Because of this, the decision was made to use PeopleSoft for targeting and then importing the results into SSC. However, PeopleSoft does not provide the ability to filter out inactive students; therefore, the timing of this process did not provide results conducive to the goal of this campaign. Results showed that 40% of students receiving the campaign were already discontinued and inactive by the time they received it, and only 35% of students actually scheduled an advising appointment.

Future Scheduling Implications. The decision was made to utilize another appointment campaign for the next phase of probation advising; however, the targeting method and timing will be adjusted. The CLA Student Center will use SSC to target students instead of PeopleSoft, so discontinued students can be removed from the communication. The future campaign will be sent earlier in the fall to avoid student withdrawals over winter break. Dismissal and financial aid appeals will be encouraged at this time along with grade replacement opportunities and wintermester courses to increase spring GPA. An additional campaign will be conducted at the start of spring semester and sent to students who are presently taking classes. This new method will prevent discontinued students from receiving the campaign.


The outcomes of applying the high-involvement intervention model to assist students on probation indicate that continuous one-on-one interactions with a concerned advisor have positive effects on student success. This is supported by descriptive analysis and further confirms that preventative advising should not be limited to a college, but rather become a generally essential attribute of the advising practice. The timing of advising outreach is also critical to supporting probationary students at key points. Student engagement and buy-in is best achieved when advisors demonstrate support and guidance. Finally, since each student is unique, they must be assisted using an individualized approach to identify the type of support and assistance required.

Anna Lincoln
Coordinator of Academic Advising
University of Nevada-Reno
[email protected]

Lynwood R. Johnson
Academic Advisor
University of Nevada-Reno
[email protected]

Natalia Musgrove
Pioneer Success Coach
California State University, East Bay
[email protected]


Abelman, R., & Molina, A. (2001, Spring-Fall). Style over substance revisited: A longitudinal analysis of intrusive intervention. NACADA Journal, 21(1–2), 32–39. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

Asbury, L., Lively, K., & Eckerty, J. (2014). Elevation through collaboration: Successful interventions for students on probation. Academic Advising Today, 37(4). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Elevation-through-Collaboration-Successful-Interventions-for-Students-on-Probation.aspx

Brooks, K. (2010). You majored in what? Mapping your path from major to career. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Cruise, C. (2002, October 28). Advising students on academic probation. The Mentor. Retrieved from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/021028cc.htm

Drake, J. (2011). The role of academic advising in student retention and persistence. About Campus, 16(3), 8–12.

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

Higgins, E. (2003). When expectations and reality collide: Working with students on probation. NACADA Clearinghouse. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-students-on-probation.aspx

Karp, M. M. (2014, January 13). Tech alone won’t cut it. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/01/13/essay-looks-how-early-warning-systems-can-better-boost-retention

Kirk-Kuwaye, M., & Nishida, D. (2001, Spring-Fall). Effect of high and low advisor involvement on academic performances of probation students. NACADA Journal, 21(1–2), 40–45. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

Lowenstein, M. (2005, Spring). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65–73. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

Molina, A., & Abelman, R. (2000, Spring). Style over substance in interventions for at-risk students: The impact of intrusiveness. NACADA Journal, 20(2), 5–15. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

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

Vander Shee, B. (2007, Fall). Adding insight to intrusive advising and its effectiveness with students on Probation. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 50–59. Retrieved from https://nacadajournal.org/loi/jnaa

Varney, J. (2012). Proactive (intrusive) advising! Academic Advising Today, 35(3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Proactive-Intrusive-Advising.aspx

Wallace, S. (2007). Teaching students to become responsible advisees. Academic Advising Today, 30(3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Teaching-Students-to-Become-Responsible-Advisees.aspx

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First-Generation Women of Color in Administration: Challenges & Suggestions

Lisa Brockenbrough Sanon-Jules, Rutgers University

Lisa Brockenbrough Sanon-Jules.jpgInstitutions of higher education are well recognized for the ability to provide economic and social opportunity for students. More recently, institutions have focused on intersectionality in higher education and how issues of race, class, and gender play into the lived experiences of students. In some cases, research has also centered on how race and gender affect not only students in higher education, but also faculty (Turner, González, & Wong, 2011). The lens of intersectionality used in this context advocates the view that one’s experiences are inextricably linked to race, gender, and class and that these factors affect one’s privilege and experience in the academy.

My prior experience as a first generation female undergraduate of color highlights the complexities of marginalized identities as one experiences the administrative life of a student affairs professional. This piece will look at the structural challenges that hinder the personal and professional growth of first-generation women of color in higher education administration. This piece will then explore actions that institutions and individuals can enact to counteract those challenges.

First-Generation Status

The U.S. Department of Education defines first-generation students as those whose parents have never enrolled in post-secondary education or those who have parents who enrolled in post-secondary education, but did not complete a degree. Research shows that these students are often, although certainly not always, Hispanic or African American and from low-income backgrounds (Horn & Nuñez, 2000; Nuñez & Cuccaro-Alamin, 1998). Oftentimes, first-generation status is invisible, as students may elect to self-identify in the absence of federal financial aid forms (Schauer, 2005). Just as first-generation students and students of color face unique challenges in integrating academically and socially into college, these challenges are often rebirthed in the professional settings of higher education. First-generation undergraduates tend to have difficulty navigating the unfamiliar academic and social demands of the university (Sanon-Jules, 2010), but colleges have been successful in creating support systems and structures to assist in their successful transition. However, first-generation student affairs administrators may once again face difficulty in adjusting to the politics and institutional bureaucracies of the collegiate environment in which they work. First-generation professionals may also lag behind in taking full advantage of the social, personal, and occupational benefits available in institutions of higher education.

Hite and McDonald (2003) discovered that a navigation of family roles and expectations was particularly complicated among students with a first-generation status. This is also the case among first-generation professionals who struggle with adjusting to the social and professional expectations in academia. Many must find a way to balance family and cultural expectations while addressing feelings of alienation. For example, one such first-generation administrator confided that she did not know how to request the use of vacation time. Her parents had worked blue collar jobs where not working meant missing a paycheck. Situations like this show that first-generation professionals also lack a clear road map and formal support structures. The experience of being first can once again lead to increased feelings of vulnerability and isolation.


The experience for women in higher education is often one in which unforeseen challenges can overwhelm the potential for growth and opportunity. Similar to first-generation students, women also face challenges in navigating the unwritten rules of the academy. While struggling to find the magical balance between work and family, they also face challenges in developing and maintaining a level of confidence and in finding mechanisms for personal and professional support.

Women in higher education tend to be clustered in fewer and lower-paying positions than men. The literature indicates that women are underrepresented in academic and administrative structures with limited opportunities for upward mobility (Gorena, 1996). Family is sometimes cited as a career restraint, as some women feel that they need to turn down certain educational or career opportunities to remain available for raising their children (Hite & McDonald, 2003). Opportunities for advancement may necessitate additional time spent attaining educational accreditations or the decreased flexibility that may come with a promotion or new opportunity. It is not uncommon for women to express ambivalence about wanting to move forward in their careers, while also having a strong desire to remain in positions that appear to offer stability.

Women of Color

Intersectionality is a key determinant in the experience of first-generation women of color, and gender is lived in the context of culture (Ferdman, 1999). Nowhere is this more evident than in the labor market. While white women have made advances in areas of management, women of color have not advanced as quickly (Catalyst, 1999). Research has found institutions to be marginally effective in retaining administrators of color (Bridges, 1996), and it has been established that female African-American administrators encounter significant barriers within academia that discourage their professional development (Gorena, 1996; Lloyd-Jones, 2009). Other research found that factors such as racism, isolation, sexism, and a lack of trust interfered with African-American women’s participation in academia (Edwards & Camblin, 1998).

Women of color face double jeopardy in confronting the multitude of structural and institutional barriers present in higher education. These barriers restrict the progress of underrepresented individuals as they cope with challenges that range from the discomfort of being one of a few in a room, to an inability to find appropriate gender and cultural resources for support, to instances of implied or abject racism. First-generation women of color face a triple threat of sexism, racism, and classism that is virtually unacknowledged in the academy. Few researchers have studied the challenges and negative social messages about race and ethnicity that are experienced by administrators from marginalized populations (Lloyd-Jones, 2009). One challenge cited is the absence of social capital, similar to what is found among first-generation and underrepresented students in higher education. Other challenges are a fear of failure, low self-esteem, and a sense of insecurity that may cause many first-generation women of color to self-select out of positions of leadership (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996).

Coping Strategies

You cannot become what you cannot see.
Marian Wright Edelman

Meeting the needs of our administrative professionals in higher education is extremely important. It is important for the retention of our students, who arguably spend more time with student affairs professionals than faculty members. It is important for the retention of skilled and dedicated professionals, whose very presence in the academy is essential to increasing diversity throughout the institution. Jackson and Flowers (2003) offered several suggestions to retain diverse populations among student affairs administrators by addressing professional and social barriers. The first suggestion was to communicate and integrate a philosophy of fairness into the campus culture. It is important for first-generation women and administrators of color to know that they are appreciated and highly valued. One way to achieve this is to actively empower professionals with marginalized identities with opportunities for success. A clear signal that an employee is valued is the investment in that employee’s professional development. Institutions can develop and support mentoring activities for marginalized professionals. Programs like OASIS at Rutgers University illustrate how women in administration and faculty can secure much needed support and mentoring. Effective mentoring relationships can help less seasoned professionals learn coping strategies for dealing with institutional dynamics, while simultaneously providing a safe space and a cultural connection to others.

Second, universities can find ways to make salaries more representative of the contributions made by student affairs professionals. First-generation women of color, like other marginalized groups, are often asked to assume additional roles and responsibilities that fall outside of their traditional job description.

Finally, underrepresented and marginalized communities must remain committed to their own advancement. They must make and take opportunities to attain the necessary academic and professional credentials. Professionals must take opportunities to learn the organizational and political processes of their institutions (Kaplan & Tinsley, 1989).

Lisa Brockenbrough Sanon-Jules, Ed.D.
Assistant Dean/Director of Advising
Honors College-New Brunswick
Rutgers University
[email protected]


Bridges, C. R. (1996). The characteristics of career achievement perceived by African American college administrators. Journal of Black Studies, 26(6), 748–767. https://doi.org/10.1177/002193479602600606.

Edwards, J., & Camblin, L. (1998). Assorted adaptations by African American administrators. Women in Higher Education, 7(11), 33–34. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-366020160000025006

Ferdman, B. M. (1999). The color and culture of gender in organizations: Attending to race and ethnicity. In G. Powell (Ed.), Handbook of gender & work (pp. 17–34). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Gorena, M. (1996, April). Hispanic women in higher education administration: Factors that positively influence or hinder advancement to leadership positions. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED396643.pdf

Hite, L. M., & McDonald, K. S (2003). Career aspirations of non-managerial women: Adjustment and adaptation. Journal of Career Development, 29(11), 221–235. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022932511826

Horn, L., & Nuñez, A. M. (2000). Mapping the road to college: First-generation students’ math track, planning strategies, and context of support (NCES 2000-153). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2000153

Howard-Hamilton, M. F. & Williams, V. A. (1996). Assessing the environment for women of color in student affairs. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED398516.pdf

Kaplan, S., & Tinsley, A. (1989, January/February). The unfinished agenda: Women in higher education administration. Academe, 75(1), 18–22. https://doi.org/10.2307/40249780

Lloyd-Jones, B. (2009). Implications of race and gender in higher education administration: An African American woman’s perspective. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 11(5), 606–618. https://doi.org/10.1177/1523422309351820

Jackson, J. F. L., & Flowers, L. A. (2003, Spring). Retaining African American student affairs administrators: Voices from the field. College Student Affairs Journal, 22(2), 125–136. https://doi.org/10.2190/9QPJ-K9QE-EBGA-GWYT

Nuñez, A., & Cuccaro-Alamin, S. (1998). First-generation students: From twenty years of undergraduates whose parents never enrolled in postsecondary education. NCES 98082 (Report No. NCES 98082). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs98/98082.pdf

Catalyst. (1999, December 15). Report: 1999 Catalyst census of women board directors of the fortune 1000. Retrieved from https://www.catalyst.org/research/1999-catalyst-census-of-women-board-directors-of-the-fortune-1000/

Schauer, I. (2005, February). Issues facing first generation college students. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Issues-Facing-First-Generation-College-Students.aspx

Sanon-Jules, L. B. (2010). How honors programs can assist in the transition of gifted first-generation and African American college students. In L. J. Coleman, & J. D. Kotinek (Eds.), Setting the table for diversity (pp. 99–114). Lincoln, NE: National Collegiate Honors Council.

Turner, C. S., González, J. C., & Wong (Lau), K. (2011). Faculty women of color: The critical nexus of race and gender. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 4(4), 199–211. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0024630

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The Anatomy of it All: The Role of HBCUs in Producing Heathcare Professionals

Terrance R. Eubanks, II, Tennessee State University

Terrance Eubanks.jpgHBCUs and Healthcare-Related Degree Production

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are paramount when it comes to educating African American students in the United States. Currently, there are 107 institutions that carry this historical designation which enrolls about 14 percent of all African American student nationwide. HBCUs were founded to meet the educational needs of African American students that were previously excluded from attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs). To this day, HBCUs are the lead degree givers of African Americans. They outpace PWI’s when it comes to retaining and graduating African American students, and a lesson can be taught to larger institutions on how they retain an underrepresented population on their campuses (Noonan, Lindong, & Jaitley, 2013).

HBCUs have been leaders in producing and leading African American students toward health professions. Out of the top ten undergraduate feeder institutions applying to medical school, three HBCUs—Spelman, Howard, and Xavier (LA)—are top producers of medical school aspirants. Many more HBCUs have joint B.S-M.D. programs that students can enroll in if eligible after their junior year. HBCUs have been known to have more nurturing environments that allow many students to matriculate without the worry of racial bias and discrimination by their peers. Advisors must recognize HBCUs as a catalyst for change and bastion of future health professionals that need to be cultivated and mentored (Thompson-Rogers, Davis, Davis-Maye, & Turner, 2018).

Minority Underrepresentation in the Health Care Workforce

Some may question the importance of HBCUs in the overall scheme of higher education, but the need is clear. Minorities fill a dire need when it comes to the shortage of health professionals in all areas of the profession. Currently, minorities make up 25% of the American population but only make up 10% of all healthcare personnel (Ralston, 2003). In 1996, there was a ratio of one dentist to every 1,700 people, but only one African American dentist for every 6,000 people. Currently, in the physical therapy field, only 2.7% of African American applicants are accepted by PTCAS (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service) to move on to the candidacy stage of going to physical therapy school. Only 7% of all athletic trainers, 4.5% of nurses, and 4.7% of pharmacists were African American as of 2003 (Ralston, 2003). The occupational therapy field is overwhelmingly female and Caucasian. The only field in which African Americans outpaced national percentages was the area of public health. However, the total percentage in this area is low compared to the national population percentage of 12 percent of the total population (Tucker & Winsor, 2013).

It is estimated that by 2040, the majority of the American population will not be Caucasian, but Caucasians still make up an overwhelming majority of workers in the area of healthcare. On that note, there is a need for African Americans to become successful in the pursuit of a career in healthcare when historically people of color have been underrepresented in all primary health professions.

Major Choice, Persistence, and African American Students

When it comes to solving the minority representation chasm in the healthcare field, there is an important correlation between major choice and racial groups. For example, Caucasian students are more likely to choose majors in the area of science, technology, engineering, and math. On the other hand, African American students are more likely to major in social sciences, business, or declare an undecided major. When it comes to majoring in healthcare-related majors, more Caucasian students persist to graduation, while African American students do not persist in as high of numbers. As many students consider financial implications of their major, they may be deterred from considering a career that requires an additional 2–4 years of schooling after receiving a baccalaureate degree and instead pursue a career with an immediate salary (St. John, Hu, Simmons, Carter, & Weber, 2004).

It is to be noted that the requirements to attain a career in healthcare may be more widely taken into consideration with Caucasian students than their counterparts of color. The Social Reproduction Theory can explain this gap in the diversity of healthcare workers; it suggests that students with high cultural competence have clear ideas about what it takes to remain and graduate from college. These same students know what career fields will maintain their social capital post-graduation. In urban schools, the exposure that students have to high achieving and high-quality postsecondary schools is very limited. Also, it is notable that African American students have a significantly lower percentage of A or B averages than their white counterparts. As an effect, more of these students have averages in the C or below range, a range that would disqualify them from even being considered for admission to professional healthcare-related programs. This gap in achieving an appropriate grade point average (GPA) could be that many students of color are not aware of the rigorous standards that many post-baccalaureate programs require before choosing a major.

The Color Gap: How HBCUs Can Bridge Access for Underrepresented Students

The nurturing environment that HBCUs have is conducive for the achievement of African American students. On top of that, there are several things that advisors at these institutions can do to affect diversity in the health care field.

Set expectations early. Show the student the qualifications for their school type of choice in the first advising appointment. More often than not, students may come to college knowing what they want to do, but the requirements are unclear. Underrepresented populations may lack access to high achieving professionals, so the advisor must lay the groundwork early when it comes to GPA requirements, courses needed, and other factors that graduate schools look for in admissions. Many HBCUs receive grants and have partnerships in place so students can receive assistance with entrance test exams and prep courses.

Gather interests and encourage research on their career ambition. Sometimes, students are interested in the area of healthcare but do not know exactly where they would fit in. It is important to help students plan for a curriculum that is consistent with their abilities and interests (Miller & Cohen, 2005). In an initial appointment, take the time to garner their interests and see where exactly they see themselves in the field. Many students do not realize that healthcare services are rendered in places outside of a hospital or clinic. These places include schools, institutions of higher education, insurance companies, government agencies, etc. In person care may not be up to a student’s alley, but working in the background influencing decisions may be their niche. After having such a meeting, it is imperative that the student performs their own research to see where they would see themselves and follow up with the advisor so that they can be advised and steered appropriately.

Encourage connection with academic departments. At many schools, advising may be centralized for first and maybe second-year students. With this, academic department personnel are important in backing up the foundation for future healthcare professionals. Students can be guided toward internships, scholarships, and many more opportunities that professional advisors may not be able to facilitate. In the STEM area, many companies collaborate with HBCUs to have a funnel of qualified African American applicants in fields where they are underrepresented. Many HBCUs have professional schools located on their campuses that allow the student to visit and talk to current students about their journey and what it takes to get to their ultimate career. This is important in recruiting and grooming.

Be honest in expectations and offer alternatives. There will always be students who aspire to work in healthcare but not necessarily make the needed grades and get discouraged. Advisors who work with pre-admission majors must talk with students when their grades do not match up with their ambition. HBCUs have a higher percentage of first-generation, lower-income students than their PWI counterparts. Therefore, retention strategies have to be rich with support services and nurturing. Some students may need tough love while others may need empathy. To be honest, both are needed. As advisors, we must be there to diagnose the issue and see what happened to impede a student’s success. Instead of only being the bearer of bad news, advisors should have some other scenarios in place for students who may not be able to enroll in a competitive entry program. This may include them using the summer to repeat courses in which they have had poor performance, changing their major to a similar degree with less rigor, or taking care of prerequisites after receiving a baccalaureate degree and then attending professional school. Encouragement and nurturing go a long way with students at HBCUs, but they go further when the student is given the tools they need to serve in an area where they are underrepresented.

Terrance R. Eubanks, II, M.Ed
Professional Advisor, Advisement Center
Student Success Center
Tennessee State University
[email protected]


Miller, M. A., & Murray, C. (2005). Academically underprepared students. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Academically-underprepared-students.aspx

Noonan, A., Lindong, I., & Jaitley, V. (2003). The role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in training the health care workforce. American Journal of Public Health, 103(3), 412–415. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300726. Retrieved from https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2012.300726#citart1

Ralston, P. (2003). Diversifying the health professions: A model program. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(3), 235–245.

St. John, E., Hu, S., Simmons, A., Carter, D. F., & Weber, J. (2004, May). What difference does a major make? The influence of college major field on persistence by African American and White students. Research in Higher Education, 45(3), 209–232. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:RIHE.0000019587.46953.9d

Thompson-Rogers, K., Davis, D., Davis-Maye, D., & Turner, C. (2018, Summer). Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ mentorship of health profession students: A content analysis exploring the North Carolina Health Careers Access Program. IAFOR Journal of Education, 6(2), 17–32. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1181056.pdf

Tucker, C., & Winsor, D. (2013). Where extrinsic meets intrinsic motivation: An investigation of Black student persistence in pre-health careers. Negro Educational Review, 64(1–4), 37–57.

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Scheduling Proactive Advising Meetings to Create the Path of Least Resistance

Sarah A. Forbes, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Sarah Forbes.jpgVarney (2013) defined proactive advising as “intentional interactions with students before a negative situation cannot be ameliorated” (p. 140). Adhering to this definition necessitates that a student be present in some capacity for those interactions to occur. Since most at-risk students are not likely to take the initiative to ask for help, proactive advising puts the onus onto the advisor to reach out to the students. Failure to attend a proactive advising meeting can have repercussions; at many institutions, however, there are no penalties. The carrot, then, is learning better strategies to be successful. Unfortunately, students are not always intrinsically motivated. The best an advisor can hope for when scheduling proactive advising meetings is to pique curiosity and reduce barriers.

Prior to establishing a formal proactive advisor position at Rose-Hulman, the chair of the retention committee would reach out to at-risk students via email, with text such as the following:

Subject: Want to chat?


I hope this message finds you well. I was wondering if you would like to sit down to chat about how things are going for you so far. I want to be clear: this message does not mean that you’re in any trouble whatsoever. Rather, I’d just like to sit down to speak with you about your experiences thus far and what your plan is for making sure you are successful moving forward. Please let me know if you have a time when you can sit down with me for a brief chat sometime next week.

Have a good Friday and a great weekend! I look forward to meeting with you soon.

These emails were well intentioned, with an underlying message of support rather than punishment. Unfortunately, they were not as effective as expected. Attendance was not formally tracked during this time, but the chair estimates that about 50% of the students he emailed actually attended.

The more the retention committee worked with students, the more we realized there were assumptions in our outreach attempts that created barriers. As mentioned, most students during the first couple of years do not want to ask for help, especially those classified as at-risk. We made an assumption that if we ask these students “if they would like to sit down to chat” that they would respond in the affirmative. Requesting that they “let me know if you have a time . . . to chat” typically generated an onerous back and forth conversation about what times work for each party. Given that some of the messages were sent late in the week, they were likely buried in their email or dismissed. Ultimately, this approach still placed the burden on the student.

Establishing the Director of Student Academic Success position provided an opportunity to rethink outreach. The goal was to remove as many barriers as possible, which resulted in three distinct changes. First, rather than engaging in a back and forth dialogue about what times would work, the student’s course schedule was reviewed to find out when he or she would be walking right by the library where the Student Academic Success office is housed. Employees have access to a schedule lookup page through the Registrar’s Office. A course grid, like the example below, will display for a selected student. 












MA111 in G219


PH111 in O103




RH131 in A219




MA111 in G219


PH111 in O103




RH131 in A219




MA111 in G219



RHIT100 in G310


PH111L in BL113

PH111L in BL113

PH111L in BL113



MA111 in G219


PH111 in O103




RH131 in A219




MA111 in G219


PH111 in O103




RH131 in A219




The entire course schedule gets taken into account in order to maximize the likelihood a student will attend. In this example, there are two good options. The first is at 9:00 a.m. because the student will be walking past the library to go from one academic building to another. The second is 3:00 p.m. (except for Wednesday) because the student will be walking past the library on the way to a residence hall, the union, or even the library to study. Appointments also considered when the student might need to eat lunch and how many hours straight they had spent in class (with the idea that after five straight hours of class, they are more likely to want a break and less likely to show up to a meeting).

The second change related to the format. Rather than sending a traditional email, a Microsoft Outlook appointment was created. When the student receives the notification email, the format looks different enough to catch their attention. The notification contains a set of action buttons at the top for “Accept,” “Tentative,” and “Decline.” Even if they choose not to select an action button, it still helps to differentiate the email from others.

Finally, the message itself was revised to be short and intentionally vague. Less text increases the chance that they will actually read the full notification, and it reduces the likelihood that they will get defensive or project denial that something is wrong. It also piques their curiosity. An example of the current message format is:

Subject: Let’s Chat! (LastName/Forbes)

Hello [Name],

I hope your week is going well. Would you stop by my office on Thursday at 9:00 a.m. to chat for a few minutes? My office is on the main floor of the Logan Library, L227, near the restrooms.


Meeting appointments are sent 20 to 23 hours in advance. Scheduling more than a day out resulted in a lot of confusion. For example, for an appointment scheduled two days in advance, the student replied with an apology for missing the meeting, assuming it was for that day. Appointments are rarely scheduled on Monday, unless requested, as it is too easy to forget about it over the weekend. Only a few students have replied to the invitation asking about the nature of the meeting. More context is provided in those situations:

Some of your professors expressed concerns, so I just wanted to see how you are feeling about the quarter. When faculty express concerns to us, we reach out to students so that ultimately we can connect the student with resources that will be beneficial. I promise we are not the principal’s office! Most students struggle with asking for help, so we take away that barrier.

Formal attendance has been tracked since launching this new approach. Attendance rates for the past two years have shown a steady incline overall. Students who use the calendar feature of Microsoft Outlook will receive a reminder 15 minutes before the appointment. Aside from that, no other reminders are provided. 

Academic Year


Attendance Rate




















We cannot attribute, with 100% certainty, the successful attendance rate to just the changes described.   Having a dedicated position certainly helps, as does being located in the library where many students congregate. As such, there are likely other factors involved. This approach is certainly not an efficient process, but with our mission of individual attention and support, it has been an effective process. For larger institutions, this may not be a feasible approach for all proactive advising meetings; however, it may be worth trying with a subset of at-risk students.

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


Varney, J. (2013). Proactive advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches (pp. 137– 154). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Being a Scholar-Practitioner: Why All Advisors Need to Engage in Scholarly Activities

Kiana Shiroma, Michael Kirk-Kuwaye, and Jennifer Brown, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Kiana Shiroma.jpgWhy should all advisors engage in scholarly activities? Because the stakes have been raised. With the increasing focus on data-driven decision making, advisors must strengthen their scholarly backgrounds to effectively engage in the administrative landscape and ensure advising efficacy and support. For decades, advisors have been stating how important advising is to higher education, and now we are seeing that others think so too. The many studies attesting to positive advisor impact, as well as advisor contributions to college campuses, are regularly being cited by college administrators. Advisors are serving on more campus committees, being asked to provide feedback on academic policies and procedures, and taking leadership roles as individuals or through their units. Advising has become integral to institutional goals that pertain to student success. However, when our departments and campuses, and higher education in general, rely on our judgment, we need to ensure that we are not just citing anecdotal evidence but forwarding recommendations that are supported with sound research and data. And one of the best ways to make sure our research is valid is to share it. 

Michael Kirk-Kuwaye.jpgAs advisors, when we share our scholarship, we network. We consult with,  present to, and publish for our local and national colleagues, and in the process, get valuable feedback. Our ideas are discussed, tested, and honed. When we share our scholarship, we bring vetted best practice back to our unit and campus for the benefit of our students. The shared experience improves our work both in scholarship and in practice while also strengthening the advising community.

Jennifer Brown.jpgDavid Spight (2016), a past president of NACADA, states that advisors should be scholar-practitioners so they can then become more effective advocates for students and bring about institutional change. The opening of the NACADA Center for Research at Kansas State University not only highlights the importance of advisors engaging in scholarship and research, but is also a call to action. 

However, as advisors, we know how difficult it can be to conduct research. We suffer at times from the “tyranny of the urgent” (Sriram, 2011), especially when students are outside our door, colleagues need to be consulted, and the dean wants an answer. Here are some best practices for advisors who want to engage in scholarship or conduct research, as well as what has worked for us as advisors at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa: 

Find your question. Because the academic advising field is dynamic and interdisciplinary (Robbins, 2010), advisors can readily find pertinent research topics. White and Leonard (2010) even suggest that the questions advisors raise every day are all potential research topics. If you feel you lack a certain research skill set to explore your question, take a course, consult with others, or co-investigate with someone who would balance your research approach. Champlin-Scharff (2010) outlines the range of research methods that advisors may use.

Block off time. Find the time to read, reflect, and research. Regularly blocking off time in your calendar to research is one way to ensure that your research agenda stays on track. Even spending 15 minutes reading before the day starts, especially before opening your email, can be productive. Take advantage of lulls in the semester to do in-house projects and studies. Let your director or chair and colleagues know what you are doing—how this will help your unit/campus—and propose your research agenda and schedule. Also, be efficient. Narrowing your reading to a specific area will provide you with in-depth knowledge and be the start of your literature review for future research.

Log out of or pause your email account during your scheduled research time. Email is a common distraction and the increasing inbox number can add to the sense of urgency that modern communication constructs. Pausing your email for a set amount of time can allow you space to focus on the task at hand.

Find a study spot. We often advise students to create good study habits that include finding a place with minimal distractions, yet most of us do not use this strategy. If blocking the time off on your calendar and remaining in your office is not productive, try finding a room on campus you can use or a spot in the library or at a coffee shop where you do not appear available for interruptions. 

Create a culture of research. Sometimes this is difficult to do when there is a limited number of advisors in a unit. At the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, we have several campus-wide writing groups consisting of academic advisors. In these groups, we float ideas, share resources, and even provide feedback on each other’s drafts of proposals and articles. If you form a writing group, schedule meetings around regional and national conferences or publication deadlines. Group proposals and co-authored publications can come out of a writing group.

Try a variety of publication formats and media. You do not have to churn out an article a year. If your time is tight for a given semester, write a book review for the NACADA Journal. Hatfield and Wise (2015) recommend publishing in a wide range of formats, such as blog posts, practitioner articles, and book chapters. They also provide strategies on how to be successful in writing for diverse formats. The Journal of Academic Advising, recently established at Indiana University, is another journal devoted to academic advising and is completely online.

Volunteer to be a proposal reader for NACADA and other conferences. This can be a great way to learn more about the process for submitting to present and can also give you an idea of the types of research and assessment activities happening in the advising community.

Take advantage of NACADA resources. One of NACADA’s strategic goals is to have advisors conduct more research, and its board and staff are walking the talk. NACADA offers a broad range of resources that can help advisors at any stage of their research: e-tutorials, an online Clearinghouse of articles and papers, pre-conference workshops, research symposia, grant opportunities, multiple formats for presenting and publishing, committees to join, and the Center for Research (see web links below).

​Like many of our colleagues, we, the authors, have been on both ends of the review process: we submitted proposals, essays, and manuscripts for review and/or have served on editorial boards and conference review committees.  We know firsthand that feedback provided by reviewers on submissions is positive and constructive. Given this supportive advising community and a broad definition of scholarly activities, we hope that all advisors will see themselves as scholar-practitioners and contribute to the groundswell of changes in higher education that benefit students. 

Kiana Shiroma, PhD
Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
[email protected]

Michael Kirk-Kuwaye, PhD
Faculty Specialist Emeritus
Colleges of Arts and Sciences Student Academic Services
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
[email protected]

Jennifer Brown, EdD
Mānoa Transfer Coordination Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
[email protected]


NACADA Research Weblinks


Annual Conferences

International Conferences

Regional Conferences

State Drive-Ins

Web Events and Digital Recordings


Center for Research

Research Grant and Writing Resources


Academic Advising Today

Book Reviews

NACADA Journal


Champlin-Scharff, S. (2010). A field guide to epistemology in academic advising research. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 29–35). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Hatfield, L. J., & Wise, V. L. (2015). A guide to becoming a scholarly practitioner in student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Robbins, R. (2010). Generating scholarship from theory and previous research. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 37–41). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Spight, D. (2016, June). From the president: Change perspective. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-the-President-Change-Perspective.aspx

Sriram, R. (2011). Engaging research as a student affairs professional. NASPA NetResults. Retrieved from https://works.bepress.com/rishi_sriram/10/

White, E. R., & Leonard, M. J. (2010). The practitioner-researcher: Generating scholarship from practice. In P. L. Hagen, T. L. Kuhn, & G. M. Padak (Eds.), Scholarly inquiry in academic advising [Monograph (20/2010)] (pp. 43–52). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

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A Fresh Approach to Advising Through Innovative Technology

Richard D. Miller III and Heather Calchera, Pace University

Heather Calchera.jpgRichard Miller,jpgTechnology and Advising

Is this a familiar scenario? A student contacts their academic advisor on the last day to add classes with permission, a commonly busy time in the world of advising. Due to inclement weather, working a full-time job, or a variety of other reasons, the student is unable to travel to campus. Typically, without physically visiting campus, the student would miss the deadline and incur additional costs and certainly heightened emotional distress. Students are used to doing things in person, whether it is face-to-face meetings with advisors, printing add/drop forms for a faculty member to sign, or hand delivering paperwork to the registrar. However, there are more timely and effective ways to address student issues, which is especially important when dealing with millennial students that have grown up in and around technology. According to Leonard (2008), “on the institutional level, one future trend should be toward offering more academic advising functions via the internet” (p. 304). Given this new reality, the Dyson College Academic Advising Office at Pace University has made significant strides towards a full-on integration of technology and is consequently changing how students expect, and deserve, immediate attention to their requests. 

As Leonard (2008) further contends, “technology has had and will continue to have a profound effect on academic advising” (p. 292). While such statements may certainly be true, changing traditional practices can often be overwhelming and time consuming, and since “nothing changes as rapidly as technology” (Leonard, 2008, p. 292), integrating new techniques also comes with a commitment to learning and staying on top of current trends. In fact, as Underwood and Anderson (2018) explain, “adopting new ways of operating is necessary to improve the entire advising process.” Advising improves when advisors use technology to provide student centered advising solutions as well as standardize practices that give students numerous avenues of accessibility. In Dyson College, the utilization of cutting-edge technology such as e-Advising via web conferencing, e-signature tools to process paperwork efficiently, online surveys to garner direct student feedback and make improvements, and a digital sign in system, make daily operating procedures more effective and interactions with students more productive.


As advisors, when we do not have the luxury of meeting with students in person, e-Advising via web conferencing is a seamless way to interact. This can come in handy for students who work full-time, or just have busy schedules in general, and find it difficult to get to campus. e-Advising leverages existing technology like a student’s smart phone, tablet, or laptop, and allows all participants to use screen sharing to view documents that are pertinent to the appointment. e-Advising, according to Shana and Abdullah (2014), “brings advising to a modality most convenient to students while improving advising efficiency and accessibility, and has been proven to boost student academic success” (p. 41). As advising professionals, the ultimate goal is the success and satisfaction of the students. Meeting students where they are allows them to get real-time assistance in a way that is suitable to them. This also cuts down on appointment cancellations, as students who may have a last-minute change in their schedule can easily switch to an e-Advising format for an appointment if needed. 


According to Steele and Carter (2002), “the adoption of electronic communication technologies over the past decade has changed the nature of advisors' daily work.”  The Dyson College Academic Advising Office is completely paperless and only processes student forms via our e-signature tool. The transition to electronic signatures allows advisors to focus on projects, responsibilities, and other tasks as opposed to worrying about losing forms or waiting days or weeks for processing. To web conference with a student and sign paperwork while they are watching each step be completed puts the student’s mind at ease and gives them the confidence to know their forms are being processed in a timely manner. Indeed, one Dyson College advisor described e-signing as “life changing.”

An internal file share allows advising staff to save all students forms and academic worksheets electronically, rather than storing them in a filing cabinet never to be seen again. All Dyson advisors have access to the file share and can grant read-only privileges to other departments throughout the university as needed. Maintaining an electronic filing system conveniently helps advisors keep appointment notes and document every student interaction. It also ensures that a consistent message is being sent to students, so that they are receiving the same information regardless of which advisor they speak to throughout their time at Pace.

Additional benefits of the e-signature system include cutting down on the use of paper, saving time, and allowing us to go green (in conjunction with Pace University’s ‘Green Pace’ initiative). This is something that everyone should truly consider no matter what department you work in, but especially in advising where the influx of forms can be overwhelming.        


At Pace University, there is a strong belief that student feedback is imperative. In the past, suggestions were received through informal channels such as conversations or email. In order to obtain direct feedback, advising surveys are sent directly after a student’s appointment. The survey has two logic triggers that dictate the questions asked—one for traditional face-to-face appointments and one for e-Advising appointments. Students seem to feel more comfortable voicing their anonymous opinion through an online survey, so this process has worked well since its implementation a few years ago. Szymanska (2011) says, “It is generally good practice to include in the assessment open-ended responses for qualitative analysis” (p. 1). Gathering effective feedback via the proper medium is important and can only help us improve interactions with our students. This practice allows us to constantly monitor our performance and instantly implement changes as needed. It is a great way for the advising management team to spot check and maintain accountability to ensure students are receiving optimal attention to their matters. 

Swipe Card System  

Meeting with students virtually is great, but there are many who continue to prefer the traditional in-person appointment. To keep track of all the students who physically visit the advising offices, especially during peak registration periods, Dyson Advising has relinquished the paper and pen sign-in for an electronic card swipe system. According to Underwood and Anderson (2018) “Changes in technology to support advising practices may feel cumbersome or trivial, but they are often in place to increase efficiency or productivity.” By utilizing the university ID card swipe card system (which connects directly to a computer via a USB connection), students easily check-into and out of their appointments. The adoption of the swipe system creates automatic timestamps and pulls pertinent information into a tracking program for the advisor. In addition, the software gives advisors the option to export the list of students who come in each day and ensure they are receiving a survey in a timely fashion. Overall, the swipe system helps with quality control, organization, and metrics. The biggest metric is the fact that the swipe in/out process provides us with minutes spent in each student appointment. This is a good baseline and can allow for further analysis for things such as better scheduling of appointments and justification for hiring additional advisors.


As Junco (2010) explains, “in today's interconnected and wired society, meeting them ‘where they are’ means engaging our students in their online spaces.” With tools like e-Advising, e-signature solutions, student surveys, and a digital sign-in system, there is a constant creation and re-shaping of the best practices that enhance the advising experience. The common goals amongst all of these tools is to be flexible, always have an open line of communication, and ensure that there is a constant way to improve upon the student/advisor relationship as a whole. According to Leonard (2008), “This is the world that eighteen-year old students have grown up in. They know no other world. They live in the digital realm, and they expect others to do the same” (p. 304). In closing, a direct quote submitted by a student on one of the surveys sums up the success Dyson has had over the past few years with the ongoing technology initiatives: “Dyson advisors were sent to CTRL + S all the college students of the world.”   

Richard D. Miller III
Associate Director of IT
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Pace University
[email protected]

Heather Calchera
Assistant Dean of Advising
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences
Pace University
[email protected]


Junco, R. (2010, September). Using emerging technologies to engage students and enhance their success. Academic Advising Today, 33(3). Retrieved from  http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Using-Emerging-Technologies-to-Engage-Students-and-Enhance-Their-Success.aspx   

Leonard, M. J. (2008). Advising delivery: Using technology. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 292–306). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Shana, Z., & Abdullah, S. (2014). SAAS: Creation of an e-advising tool to augment traditional advising methods. Computer and Information Science, 7(1), 41–57. Retrieved from http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/cis/article/view/32664/18963  

Steele, G. and Carter, A. (2002, December).Managing electronic communication technologies for more effective advising. The Academic Advising News, 25(4). Retrieved from: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Managing-Electronic-Communication-Technologies-for-More-Effective-Advising.aspx

Szymanska, I. (2011). Best practices for evaluating academic advising. Retrieved from https://advising.uncc.edu/sites/advising.uncc.edu/files/media/best-practices-evaluating-academic-advising.pdf

Underwood, Z. W., & Anderson, M. (2018, March). Technology and academic advising: A case for embracing change in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 41(1). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Technology-and-Academic-Advising-A-Case-for-Embracing-Change-in-Academic-Advising.aspx

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No Fancy Software Needed: Using Existing Institutional Data to Identify At-Risk Students

Lori Richard, Nicholls State University

Lori Richard.jpgBackground

For nearly the last decade, Nicholls State University, a mid-sized, regional, NCAA Division I institution, has been underfunded and understaffed in our athletics department; yet, its athletics team’s NCAA Graduation Success Rate has been consistently in the top one or two spots amongst in-state conference institutions. This success rate generated inquiry into the strategies used by a severely understaffed athletics department. In our athletics department, in fact, in terms of athletic academic services, our program has only one academic advisor on staff and has no academic center for student-athletes.

However, due to the nature of academic eligibility in NCAA Division I programs, our athletics department has to maintain constant vigilance to know and understand, at all times, what is happening (or not happening) with student-athletes in the classroom. Athletics departments across the country are adding more and more support staff, such as academic coaches, in-house tutors, and note takers—even mental health counselors—in order to provide every available resource for student success. How has Nicholls, with its small staff and budget, been able to maintain its current level of academic success?

Utilizing Data and Intrusive Advising

One important, campus-wide tool utilized by the athletics department is the campus’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, an administrative software application that stores university data such as student data (contact information, grades, GPA, transcripts, etc.), course information, and much more. From this ERP system, pertinent student data can be gathered into a data reporting software program that is viewed in a spreadsheet format. By accessing available student data stored in the ERP system, the department was then able to share with the coaching staff important and time-sensitive information at critical and relevant points in the semester. 

In an effort to replicate the athletics department success, an initiative began to implement this strategy within an academic college, where data points were accessed and then reported to department chairs and faculty advisors to provide relevant data for a more intrusive advising approach with students who appear on these lists. Earl (1988) defined intrusive advising as a deliberate student intervention once a student shows signs of academic difficulty. He more specifically states “intrusive advising utilizes the systematic skills of prescriptive advising while helping to solve the major problem of developmental advising which is a student’s reluctance to self-refer” (p. 28). By accessing at-risk student indicators (Table 1) found in key data points stored on the students’ record, faculty advisors can use this concrete evidence of a student’s progression (or lack thereof) through their programs and subsequently intervene when necessary.

Reports can include traditional at-risk student indicators, such as mid-semester grades, final grades, grade point average, and academic standing (good standing, probation, and suspension). In addition, our athletics department was accessing several non-traditional data points that were indicators of a student’s desire or ability to return for another semester. Examples of these data points include things that students may interpret as hurdles to their success, such as registration holds on their records, excessive fee bill balances, or lack of scheduled meetings with their advisors.

Table 1

At-Risk Student Indicators

Traditional data sets:

Non-traditional data sets:

  • Mid-semester grades
  • Final grades
  • GPA
  • Academic standing (good standing, probation, suspension)
  • Registration holds
  • Fee bill balance
  • Advising behavior



When to Intervene

Timing of advising intervention has also been important to the athletics staff, and now, faculty advisors.  For example, equipping advisors with students’ mid-term grade reports equips them to swiftly intervene before the university’s withdrawal deadline. Such reports also provide advisors the ability to refer struggling students who are committed to remain enrolled in a tough class to campus tutoring services. The mid-term GPA information gives a good talking point for faculty advisors and coaches who are working with students who have been placed on academic probation. Such information assists advisors in forecasting students’ potential academic status at the end of term, thus allowing opportunities for praise and/or encouragement.

Another timely report is a registration hold report which comes out three weeks before registration opens. This report enables advisors to help students overcome problems which may prevent them from registering for the upcoming terms with their cohort. Often, students may be unaware that a registration hold has been placed on their record until they attempt to register. By seeking out these students and notifying them early, advisors are able to reduce students’ frustration and anxiety when classes begin to fill while their registration access is blocked. One example of a registration hold that our institution records is an outstanding fee balance.  When accessing this hold information, advisors are able to contact and refer students to resources that will help them set up payment plans or potentially access previously unidentified financial aid resources in hopes to clear balances and remove holds before registration begins.

Some registration holds can be confusing or intimidating for students. Because advisors are trained to understand what these holds mean and how to clear them, they are able to walk students through the process of resolving them in a timely manner. Taking the time to counsel students in clearing registration holds is one of many ways advisors contribute to retention of students.

Examples of registration holds on our campus that students sometimes find confusing or intimidating to resolve are the following:

  • Submit an admissions document: provide proof of immunization, high school transcript, test scores, etc.;
  • Contact academic or student affairs: typically used with the judicial process;
  • Submit a records document: sometimes issued when needing an updated transcript from a student who took a summer class elsewhere;
  • Pay an outstanding fee bill balance: indicates an outstanding financial debt to the institution, which can feel like defeat for a student who has no means to pay the balance;
  • Make an advising appointment: this hold indicates students who have not met with their advisor, which can indicate that the student is confused about the university advising process or may not be fully committed to returning for another semester.

Replicating and Customizing Data Reports for Your Campus

An important point to make is that all of the data that has been historically accessed by the athletics department, and now faculty advisors, is not provided by a fancy software package. It is extracted from the university’s databases through software that our information technology department purchased for their own use. While fancy software is great, extracting readily available student data has been instrumental in identifying at-risk students with little impact on the budget and allowing us to customize reports to our specific needs.

Examples of data points that can help customize at-risk reports include the following:

  • Major, minor, concentration, advisor information;
  • First-generation students and other special population coding, like student-athletes, honors students, etc.;
  • Student classification, like first-year status;
  • GPA and academic standing on mid-term or final grade reports;
  • Contact information including email addresses and phone numbers; and
  • Students who failed 50% or more of their courses, categorized by discipline and semester.                                               

The report possibilities will be limited only to the data that a university does not collect or, perhaps, store on its server. In addition, for this project to work, it is helpful to designate one person to design and extract reports from databases before passing on the information to department chairs, who may then disseminate reports to faculty or professional advisors in their area. Allowing individual academic units to request reports could quickly overwhelm a university’s staff and resources. Having one designated person charged with designing reports and disseminating information helps the system to be efficient and reduce duplicate report requests. 

Lori Richard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
Nicholls State University
[email protected]


Earl, W. R. (1988). Intrusive advising of freshmen in academic difficulty. NACADA Journal, 8(2), 27–33. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-8.2.27

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Using Students' Narratives and the College Student Inventory as an Early Alert Tool for Student Success

Meg Wright Sidle and Megan Childress, University of Pikeville

Sidle and Childress.jpgProfessional academic advisors wear many hats, from creating a fall schedule during summer orientation to personally walking a student to academic assistance after a referral by a faculty member. Advisors want to have a positive impact on student behavior that affects student success. They know that it is critical to identify the students who are most at-risk of not returning to college as soon as possible, ideally within the first two weeks of the first term.

When academic advisors collaborate with institutional research professionals on their campuses for such an endeavor, it is important to move beyond the data that is readily available to institutional researchers like composite ACT score, high school grade point average, first-generation status, and poverty status, as these data points often do not provide a sufficiently narrow list of students to academic advisors on which to focus their mentoring efforts.

The limitation with these measures is that they do not reveal how confident students are with their transition to college or how students approach the learning process. Many campus administrators already utilize various tools in their attempts to understand and predict student persistence. For example, the Students' Attitudes Survey (Erdmann, 1990), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Kalsbeek, 1987), the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (Krotseng, 1992), and self-developed instruments (Chen, Lacefield, & Lindstrom, 2018).

The University of Pikeville (KY) decided to use the College Student Inventory™ (CSI) by Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, LLC. to identify at-risk students, because it is an instrument that had already been helpful for one-on-one mentoring of students at the university since 2011 and had wide institutional acceptance in providing reliable student information. This article describes the steps that the directors of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness and the Center for Student Success took to identify which CSI-Form B non-cognitive indicators would successfully target at-risk, first-time first-year students, so that the institution’s student success professionals could intentionally intervene with those students early enough in the fall term to increase student retention and success.

Identifying Indicators with Largest Effect Sizes on Student Success

The data on academic success and retention from first-time, first-year students at a small, non-selective, private, four-year university in Central Appalachia for the 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 fall semesters were matched with the respective students’ CSI-Form B results (n=1,254) and accounted for 82 percent of all students in those four cohorts (N=1,534). This sample population was found to be generalizable with the cohort population.

The four independent variables were nominal measures: academic standing at the end of the first term [0=probation/suspension, 1=good standing], student enrollment for the second term [0=did not return, 1=did return], academic standing at the end of the first year [0=probation/suspension, 1=good standing], and student enrollment for the following fall term [0=did not return, 1=did return]. The dependent variables were ratio measures: the 16 CSI-Form B motivational subscale percentile scores, the four CSI-Form B computed percentile components, and the thirty 30 CSI-Form B self-reported student information. Statistical analysis included a series of independent t-tests to determine significant differences and subsequent Cohen’s d to measure effect sizes.

Ultimately, there were six indicators from the CSI-Form B that were determined to be good candidates for identifying at-risk students at the University of Pikeville: study habits (percentile), family emotional support (percentile), dropout proneness (percentile), educational stress (percentile), predicted academic difficulty (percentile), and high school grades (percentile). While dropout proneness (percentile) impacted all four of the negative consequence independent variables, it did not have the largest effect sizes among the seven candidate outcome variables. In addition, high school grades (percentile) had the largest effect sizes, but it was dismissed from further consideration as being duplicate information with the actual students’ high school grades from the admissions process.

Using Confidence Intervals to Determine Cut-off Scores

Once the directors decided to use predicted academic difficulty (percentile) as the best predictor of identifying at-risk students at this institution, the next step was to determine a cut-off score to actually find the students entering the university in fall 2016 who were most at-risk. For this indicator, the higher the score, the more likely the student is to not have success. The 95% confidence interval at the upper level for the sample population on this variable was 51. However, the score of 62  was determined to be the best minimum score to use because it was the average score of students being placed on academic probation/suspension at the end of the first year and, hence, would best identify only those students who were most likely to need extra attention from the academic advisors.

Early academic warning alerts were created on the institution’s retention alert system for the 100 new first-years (30% of fall 2016 cohort) who had predicted academic difficulty (percentile) scores of 62 or higher on the CSI-Form B. The advisors intentionally reached out to these students more frequently and through various forms of communication to help maintain open lines of communication and to offer assistance throughout the fall 2016 term. It was essential that advisors be proactive, rather than reactive based on early alerts received from faculty, with their mentoring of these students.

Advisors sent emails to their students in advance of important dates on the academic calendar, such as the last date to drop or add a course, midterm exams, early registration, and final exams, in order to ensure their students were prepared for these dates and knew their advisor was available to answer questions. However, advisors also used that opportunity to schedule an in-person check-in for this cohort of students to ensure that these students were connected to the right campus and community resources at the right time.

The Need to Further Narrow the List of Identified Students

When the institution used the predicted academic difficulty (percentile) alone to identify at-risk students, the data produced a high number of students (n=100) for this small institution, which made it difficult for the academic advisors to adequately maintain sufficient contact with all of the students identified. In other words, using the one indicator did not help narrow down the list of at-risk students enough to feel that it was an accurate predictor by itself.

While it did flag many students who needed additional assistance, it also flagged many who did fine without the supplementary contact and support. So, beginning with the 2017–2018 cohort, the director of the Center for Student Success wanted to focus efforts with more intentionality. When she and the academic advisors looked at the other possible indicators and considered the institution’s student body of first-generation students (43%), the family emotional support indicator was selected as a possible strong indicator of students who may need additional support from someone in an advisory role.

Thus in fall 2017, early academic warning alerts were created for only 39 new first-year students (14% of fall 2017 cohort) on the institution’s retention alert system for students with both conditions present: a predicted academic difficulty in the 62 percentile or higher and family emotional support at the 36 percentile or lower. There was a noticeable increase in the fall 2017 targeted cohort’s first term grade point average (M=2.42, SD=0.96) compared with the fall 2016 targeted cohort (2.08). In addition, 79% of these students from fall 2017 ended the term in good academic standing compared with the fall 2016 cohort (61%).

Another validation that using the combination of these two indicators to identify the most at-risk students works best for this institution is that of the targeted new first-year students from fall 2017 who returned for spring 2018 (25), none received another retention alert during the fall term. Of those who did not return after the fall term (14), 21% (3) received an additional retention alert during the fall term. While 79% of the fall 2017 students were in good academic standing at the end of the term, it is notable that the majority of those students particularly struggled with non-academic issues (i.e. roommate issues, difficulty navigating the financial aid process, personal issues, etc.) and often frequented the institution’s Center for Student Success for support.

Identification Does Not End Here

It is important to keep in perspective that using confidence intervals on assessments that help advisors understand the way students are approaching college is only a way to immediately identify students who need special attention. This does not replace integrated database platforms that will combine midterm grades, ACT scores, classroom attendance, etc., to identify additional at-risk students further along in the academic year.

Meg Wright Sidle, Ph.D.
Director, Institutional Research and Effectiveness
    and NAIA Athletic Compliance Administrator
University of Pikeville
[email protected]

Megan Childress, M.A.
Director, Center for Student Success
University of Pikeville
[email protected]


Chen, J., Lacefield, V., & Lindstrom, A. (2018, March). Using first-year students’ sense of belonging as a predictor of retention. Breakout session presented at the Kentucky Association for Institutional Research 2018 Annual Conference, Frankfort, Kentucky.

Erdmann, D. G. (1990). Maintaining enrollment stability: A new role for admissions officers. College Board Review, 155, 38–41, 48.

Kalsbeek, D. (1987). Campus retention: The MBTI in institutional self-studies. In J. A. Provost & S. Anchors (Eds.), Applications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in higher education (pp. 30–63). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

Krotseng, M. V. (1992). Predicting persistence from the student adaptation to college questionnaire - early warning or siren song? Research on Higher Education, 33(1), 99–111. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00991974

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Patriot Strong: Persistence and Retention Teams

Douglas Vardeman, The University of Texas at Tyler

Doug Vardeman.jpgWith the student at the center of The University of Texas at Tyler’s efforts, Persistence and Retention Teams have been implemented to streamline employee communication to diminish the silo effect and find resolutions to student issues as efficiently as possible (Tett, 2016). Furthermore, this approach was established to decrease ping-ponging students between departments and promote finding solutions to students’ issues, with the belief that open communication and a team-driven approach among staff members are key to removing barriers to student success (Hope, 2016). The University of Texas at Tyler is working to improve retention and graduation rates of first-time, full-time first-year students, and the Persistence and Retention Teams have been an element of that initiative.

Persistence and Retention Team members (see Figure 1) include a representative from the following areas:

  • Academic Advising
  • Career Success
  • Student Success Liaison
  • Enrollment Services
  • Financial Aid
  • Residence Life


Figure 1. The Persistence and Retention Team Model

Vardeman graphic.jpg

Persistence and Retention Team Function

A case is an electronic notification produced in the Navigate (EAB) student information management system. Case notifications included basic student information, the reason for a case notification, if the alert was associated with a specific class, and any additional comments. All Persistence and Retention Team members, along with all faculty members, can open a case on a student. Also, a few additional administrative staff members assist in triage. 

Reasons for case notifications include the following:

  • academic notifications,
  • advising notifications,
  • career development notifications,
  • financial notifications,
  • housing notifications, and
  • student engagement notifications.

After a case is issued, it alerts the appropriate corresponding team member to the issue so they can contact the student and work toward a solution as soon as possible.


First semester approach. During the fall of 2018, cases were issued for any of the six reasons previously covered. The bulk of the cases were academic/advising notifications because of the mid-term grade report. Mid-term grade report cases were issued based on each individual grade of a C, D, or F, irrespective of the specific student. Therefore, instead of one case per student with multiple alerts for each class in which they were doing poorly, cases were issued for each individual grade. This created a remarkable case load, so a few adjustments were made after the fall 2018 semester for the spring 2019 semester.

Changes for the spring 2019 semester. For the spring 2019 semester, one case was created per student, and if a student was doing poorly in multiple classes, all grades were included in a single case. Also, only grades of a D or an F warranted a case. Furthermore, cases were assigned to the student’s respective advisor instead of all students being assigned to the Persistence and Retention Advisor, which was the case for the fall 2018 semester. Finally, if a student has three or more classes in which they were earning a D or an F, the student was assigned to the Student Success Liaison instead of an advisor.


Retention evidence. There was a total of 799 first-year student cases, and a little over 95% of all cases were academic and/or advising in nature. Between the six Persistence and Retention Teams, there were about 133 cases per team with a standard deviation just shy of 19 cases between groups.

Between all Persistence and Retention Teams, 72.38% of all first-year cases were resolved. When students met with their advisor, they were directed to speak with their instructors to discuss and diagnose their deficiencies in their respective course(s) and create a plan of action for improvement. They were also encouraged to attend Supplemental Instruction and the PASS Tutoring Center, and any other applicable academic or student service concerns were addressed, discussed, and properly referred.

Also, it was observed that, as a university, the highest fall-to-spring retention rate for first-time, full-time, first-year students was experienced after implementing the Persistence Teams. As a point of reference, we had an 88.52% retention of these students from the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2018. However, from the fall of 2018 to the spring of 2019, we had a retention rate of 92.38%. The Persistence and Retention Teams cannot be solely credited with this improvement; however, it did provide a vehicle for interventions that that may have contributed to the record fall-to-spring retention.  

Anecdotal Evidence. On a departmental level, with the Department of Health and Kinesiology, a targeted advising campaign was sent to 17 students in the department who had cases issued following the mid-term grade reports for the fall 2018 semester. Upon meeting with the students, there was a common element of students not attending academic support services such as Supplemental Instruction and the PASS Tutoring Center. Furthermore, only a couple of the students had already met with their instructor to diagnose their deficiencies and create a plan of action to improve their performance in the course. During the appointments, students were directed to meet with their instructors to diagnose their deficiencies and create a plan of action to improve in the course. Also, students were highly encouraged to regularly attend SI and/or the PASS Tutoring Center.

The Persistence and Retention Teams are a great way to track student performance and initiate proactive advising when necessary. However, the teams also provide a system for administrative and staff colleagues to systematically problem solve on the behalf of students. During the spring 2019 semester, following census date attendance roster reports, multiple students in the Health and Kinesiology department were reported as not attending the same class. An advisor contacted the Enrollment Services Persistence and Retention Team representative and it was discovered that the attendance for the entire class had not been entered by the instructor, leading to all students being marked as having never attended the course. This prevented potential deleterious financial aid ramifications for all students in the course.

Also in the spring 2019 semester, a professor in the Health and Kinesiology department issued a case on a student that had not been attending class. The student met with their advisor to form a quality plan of action going forward that included dropping the course and retaking it over the summer. This helped keep the student on track for graduation, whereas without preemptive action, the student’s plan for graduation may have been disrupted.

Douglas Vardeman, MS
Academic Advisor III
College of Arts and Sciences
The University of Texas at Tyler
[email protected]

Acknowledgements. I would like to acknowledge and thank Ona Tolliver, Sarah Bowden and Ashley Bill of the University of Texas at Tyler for the initial development of the Persistence and Retention Teams.


Hope, J. (2016). Boost first-generation, low-income student attainment by removing barriers to success. The Successful Registrar, 16(9), 6–7. https://doi.10.1002/tsr.30239

Tett, G. (2016). The silo effect: The peril of expertise and the promise of breaking down barriers. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Advance the Profession and Student Learning: Attend the Assessment Institute

Billie Streufert, NACADA Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Billie Streufert.jpgBoth NACADA (2017) and the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2015) call for advisors to grow professionally. As I considered possible areas for my own growth last year, I identified assessment as a gap in my current practice. The “Concept of Academic Advising” cultivated a shared belief among advisors on my campus that we advance the educational mission of institutions through its advising curriculum, pedagogy, and student learning outcomes (NACADA, 2006). My colleagues and I wanted to better realize this vision in our practices, programs, and policies. For this reason, we registered for the NACADA Assessment Institute.

Others may have the same needs or interests. When NACADA surveyed members, only 57.8% reported that they formally assess student learning outcomes (Powers, Carlstrom, & Hughey, 2014). I encourage anyone who falls outside this slight majority or wishes to refine their existing assessment practices to attend the Assessment Institute. Held annually, it is an opportunity for participants to invest in their students, their profession, and themselves, which I describe in more detail below.

Improve student learning. By participating in the Assessment Institute, attendees become purpose driven. Assessment fosters a shared consensus and culture within the campus community about the purpose of advising. Working together, attendees are able to measure and modify their advising programs to drive strategic improvements in students’ vocational and intellectual identities. While multiple stakeholders benefit from assessment, the impact on students’ learning and development remains the most important reason to attend the Assessment Institute.

Increase confidence, collaboration, and connections. My colleague and I arrived without a formal assessment plan for our institution. Faculty at the Assessment Institute introduced us to and guided us through the assessment cycle. Although complex, they managed the process for us in multiple plenaries and work sessions. The latter created space for us to think critically about what students do, know, value, and appreciate as the result of advising (Adams & Zarges, 2019). This may have been the institute’s deepest benefit. Time for such collaboration is typically scarce given the pace and pressing priorities of our campus environment.

As the result of our time together, my colleague and I left with a plan to mobilize an assessment team on our campus, as well as a tentative vision, mission, and student learning outcomes for others to consider. We also formulated a tentative plan to gather and share the data, which we later used to generate momentum on our campus.

In addition to collaborating with colleagues during the institute, participants also hear from their peers at other universities and colleges. Through this exchange, we gleaned other exemplary practices and often discovered that we were not alone in the challenges we encountered. This normalized our experience and cultivated friendships that continue today.

Advance diversity, inclusion, and the values of advising. In addition to meaningful exchanges with others, the institute also broadened my understanding of the way bias can exist in data analysis.

Without data, advisors may base decisions on implicit biases, prejudice, or assumptions, which could harm students (Upcraft & Shuh as cited by Adams & Zarges, 2019). For example, institutional leaders may suggest using ACT or SAT scores to determine which students are underprepared for academic programs and need alternative advising at the point of entry. Advisors who have taught students effective success strategies (e.g., self-regulation, management of any perceived stereotype threat, meeting with mentors, use of campus resources, etc.) and worked with faculty to engage in course redesign, however, can share assessment outcomes that demonstrate instead that these students can succeed academically. They simply had low ACT or SAT scores because their high school was under-resourced and they encountered environmental barriers. Without this assessment, they might not have access to these academic programs. In this instance, assessment was an ethical imperative for advisors.

Strengthen institutional advocacy. By attending NACADA’s Assessment Institute, advisors better understand ways to demonstrate direct connections to the priorities and mission of the academy. If their institution encounters economic hardships, the data demonstrates the university’s return of investment in advising. Advisors are also accountable to external entities, such as board of regents or accreditation agencies, who also value data-driven enhancements to advising.

Advance the profession. Advising is an educational endeavor, not a service (Steele & White, 2019). Assessment validates the importance of advising. To be a profession, advising needs a unique knowledge base (Shaffer, Zalewski, & Leveille, 2010). When advisors engage in the systematic inquiry of assessment, we can publish or present advising outcomes. This brings credibility to our field and permits us to learn from each other.

Improve morale. Although many entered advising because we wanted to help others, we often do not see the difference we make in the lives of students. While assessment is different than evaluation because it does not measure the individual performance of advisors (Adams & Zages, 2019), it demonstrates the aggregate and often positive impact advisors have on their students. When I returned to campus and implemented pre/post assessment plans, I observed an increase in staff’s energy levels because we observed incremental increases in student learning in our assessment.

Similarly, my and my colleague’s morale was also preserved when we learned more about the pace of assessment at the institute. Dan Chandler and Elizabeth Higgins (2019) recommended we select only two outcomes per year to focus on as an institution. It was affirming to hear we did not need to improve everything immediately. Assessment is a continuous process, and I am certain we will never perfect our advising curriculum or pedagogy. Fortunately, I can return to the Assessment Institute for additional resources. When I do, I hope to see you there.

Billie Streufert
Executive Director, Student Success Center
Augustana University
[email protected]


Adams, T., & Zarges, K. (2019, February). Assessment: Creating a culture of success. Session presented at the Advising Institute of The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), Albuquerque, NM.

Chandler, D., & Higgins, E. (2019, February). Assessment—Part of your daily life. Session presented at the Advising Institute of The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), Albuquerque, NM.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). (2015). Academic advising programs. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/CAS-Advising-Standards.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2006). Concept of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/Concept.aspx

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

Powers, K. L., Carlstrom, A. H., & Hughey, K. F., (2014). Academic advising assessment practices: Results of a national study. NACADA Journal, 34(1), 64–77. https://doi.org/10.12930/NACADA-13-003

Shaffer, L. S., Zalewski, J. M., & Leveille, J. (2010). The professionalization of academic advising: Where are we in 2010? NACADA Journal, 30(1), 66–77. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-30.1.66

Steele, G., & White, E. R. (2019). Leadership in higher education: Insight from academic advisors. The Mentor: Innovative Scholarship On Academic Advising, 21, 1–10. Retrieved from https://journals.psu.edu/mentor/article/view/61110

Building a Strong Foundation: How the NACADA Administrators' Institute Challenged, Supported, and Inspired Me as a New Advising Administrator

Allie Teagarden, 2019 Administrators’ Institute Scholarship Recipient

Allie Teagarden.jpgWhen I was hired as the Director of Undergraduate Advising for the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri in September 2018, I knew that it would be important but challenging for me to prioritize professional development in my day-to-day work. As any advising administrator knows, the demands on our time are many as we serve our students, our staff, and our leaders. I was familiar with NACADA and had utilized resources from the Clearinghouse of Academic Advising but had not yet become a member. I expected that attending a NACADA conference would provide a great opportunity to learn from colleagues around the country and provide inspiring ideas to bring back to my advising office. As I reviewed the 2018–2019 conference offerings, the Administrators’ Institute immediately stood out. I appreciated that the institute was designed around the development of an action plan so that I would not only come back to campus with new ideas, but I would have a tangible plan to implement those ideas in my office.

I had the privilege of attending the institute with two of my senior staff members, Karen Lowry and Stephanie Toigo, who each have different areas of leadership within our office. We all had a specific area of our advising strategic plan that we wanted to work on at the institute, but it was helpful for us to get feedback from each other as our action plans developed each day. My action plan focused on developing advising interventions for students in the murky middle—those who are not on academic probation but are not achieving the grades that are required to gain admission into MU’s competitive upper level program and ultimately graduate with a business degree. Karen’s plan focused on developing an advising program for transfer students in a community college pathway program who intend to transfer into the business program. Stephanie focused on revising an advising intervention program for students on academic probation. I think there was tremendous value in attending the institute with a small team, because we could each attend different sessions and gather more insight on how to address the challenges our office faces than any of us could have accomplished attending alone. As Karen, Stephanie, and I compared notes at the end of the day, we each had different takeaways from the sessions we attended and had the opportunity to provide feedback to each other on the various ideas we were interested in implementing within our action plans.

During the Welcome and Plenary Session led by faculty member JP Regalado and NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt, it was clear that I was going to come back from the institute with lots of ideas beyond the scope of my action plan. I took pages of notes on ways that I could better support my advisors’ professional development, opportunities for our Trulaske College of Business advising team to strengthen student success programs, and advising approaches that would facilitate the development of our students and enhance the impact of our work with them. I had similar experiences at each of the sessions that I attended.

As an ambivert who falls in the middle of the extrovert/introvert spectrum, I appreciated that the institute had a sizeable number of participants to network with but was not as overwhelming as a larger annual conference. The structured working group sessions also provided a valuable opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities with colleagues in a small setting and get feedback on my action plan. My working group was facilitated by faculty member Julie Givans-Voller, and she brought helpful questions and insight to every discussion. Furthermore, she fostered a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment in which to develop our action plans.

Karen, Stephanie, and I started implementing our action plans in recent months with the help of the rest of our Trulaske College of Business advising team, and I am eager to assess the impact these plans have on student success outcomes in the years to come. Upon returning from the institute, our advising office began the upper level admissions process for the spring semester. As a result, our advising team  was able to immediately implement one component of my plan, reaching out to students who were successfully admitted to the upper level program based on their cumulative GPA but had a deficit in their business GPA required to ultimately graduate. A key takeaway from several sessions at the institute was to reinforce the positive behavior of students instead of only focusing on the areas of concern. The outreach our advisors made to this group of students involved congratulating them on their achievement of gaining admission to the upper level program. As an aside, advisors also offered support to build on students’ demonstrated success as they worked on improving their business GPA in the semesters leading up to graduation. This next academic year, our advising team will engage in similar outreach to students after their first semester. Advisors will congratulate students on their good academic standing after their first semester at Mizzou and encourage them to utilize their resources on campus to build on that success, improving their cumulative GPA to the 2.6 minimum required to apply to the upper level program.  

This summer, the Trulaske College of Business advising team will begin to implement components of my plan focused on students who have less time to improve their GPA. As students get within one to three semesters of the upper level admissions process or graduation, our interventions will become more intrusive. We will require students to take an active role in assessing their own progress in the program. We will ask students to develop a semester-by-semester plan of the courses they still need to take and the grades they must receive in order to meet program requirements. They will then be required to discuss their plan with their academic advisor. Another barrier that some students encounter in the semesters leading up to graduation is the requirement of completing an internship. The Trulaske College of Business advising office is currently collaborating with key stakeholders to develop a program to educate students on the internship requirement and equip them with the skills and connections they need to successfully secure and complete an internship well before graduation. We hope to implement this new program in the fall semester.

In addition to coming back to campus with action plans, the institute also spurred valuable conversations within our advising office and with leaders across campus regarding the importance of investing in academic advising. I look forward to sending other staff members from our office to this conference in the future and cannot recommend it enough to any advising professional looking to invest in their professional development and advance the impact of their work.

Allie Teagarden
Director of Undergraduate Advising
Trulaske College of Business
University of Missouri
[email protected]



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