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Voices of the Global Community


From the President: Transition, Reflection, Appreciation

Cecilia Olivares, NACADA President

Cecilia Olivares.jpgFor each Academic Advising Today column I wrote as NACADA President, I spent time reviewing what the NACADA Presidents before me wrote at the same point in their presidencies. The themes are fairly consistent: transition, reflection, and appreciation.


In May, I shared an update about the Board of Directors’ work with the new mission, vision, and strategic goals; and recommendations from the Region Review Implementation Committee (RRIC) and the Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion (REI) Working Group. The Board approved the following:

  • Establishment of a working group to guide the selection process for hiring an external consultant to conduct a structural audit of the association
  • NACADA’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement
  • NACADA Land Acknowledgement statement
  • Updated charge of the Inclusion and Engagement Committee (IEC) to focus on the continuous assessment of the needs of NACADA’s diverse membership
  • Creation of Inclusion & Engagement Training Advisory Board to work with the IEC to develop, conduct, and assess training for association leaders and members based on recommendations from the IEC assessment data
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for NACADA leaders beginning with the 2022 election cycle

I anticipate that by the end of September, the Board will have voted to approve the new mission, vision, strategic goals, and updated by-laws. I also hope that we will finalize implementation activities based on the RRIC’s recommendations before we transition to the 2021–2022 Board under the leadership of Incoming President Kyle Ross and Incoming Vice President Michelle Smith Ware.


This year’s Board of Directors has been busy behind the scenes, setting the groundwork for the next phase of NACADA. We extended our monthly meetings because of the breadth and depth of conversations, despite being in six different time zones with a 14-hour difference. We never had enough time in meetings, but we never lost focus of our responsibility for the strategic plan and allocation of resources for the association. In addition, unlike previous boards, the 2020–2021 NACADA Board of Directors will have never met in person.


The past year’s efforts would not have been possible without the leadership, collegiality, and continued support of the Council, the NACADA Executive Office staff, retired Executive Director Charlie Nutt, current Executive Director Melinda Anderson, and Kansas State College of Education Dean Debbie Mercer.

I especially want to thank my fellow Board members for their service to NACADA this year: Megumi Makino-Kanehiro, Oscar van den Wijngaard, Melinda Anderson, Zoranna Jones, Kyle Ross, Michelle Smith Ware, Teri Farr, Rebecca Hapes, and Mehvash Ali. This team never wavered from a shared commitment to NACADA and its members. We built on the lessons learned from the past and created a new vision and plan for the future of the association. I am honored and humbled to have served alongside these incredible colleagues and friends.

And thank you, NACADA members, for your continued engagement with the association. You are at the heart of what we do and why we do it as an association, so thank you for the opportunity to serve you. On behalf of the current Board, I hope we served you well.

Cecilia Olivares, President, 2020-2021
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Director of Transfer Center & First Generation Student Initiatives
Interim Director of Discovery Center
University of Missouri-Columbia

From the Executive Director: Change Brings Opportunity

Melinda J. Anderson, NACADA Executive Director

Melinda Anderson.jpgAs the world of higher education moves collectively into Fall 2021, I am reminded of a quote by the famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The first time I heard this quote, I was not in a formal school setting, but I heard it from my parents. I credit them for constantly reminding me that change is an essential ingredient for growth and development. To wish for things to “not change” would prevent me from progressing and experiencing the world in a way that would allow me to become who I was supposed to be in the world. These same thoughts have helped me reflect on how higher education is evolving based on the challenges and opportunities that have resulted from the pandemic, the progression of higher education ideals, and our hopes for increased diversity and inclusion.   

Academic advising and student success are connected, celebrated, and, now more than ever, deemed critical to strengthening the mission of institutions. The ideals of higher education have never been more discussed considering how the world has shifted how individuals learn, live, and work. Technology’s impact on how and when learning occurs has always been influential, but its ability to maintain a level of normalcy and increased engagement was vital during the pandemic. How we as advisors support our students, their success, and our institutions can provide innovative strategies that will address the previous gaps, challenges, and untapped potential that exists. NACADA’s Board of Directors have worked hard this past year to craft a new vision, mission, and goals for the association that reflect the growing professional development and leadership needs of all members. 

As you move forward this fall on your campuses, please know that your association is here to support you every step of the way. Heraclitus also said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” Higher education is headed into a new era that will still be familiar, and yet we will continue to face changes that we could have never imagined. However, we will meet them together as our members have developed to overcome these newfound priorities presented on their campuses. 

In 2009, when I joined NACADA, I never imagined that my involvement would have led me on this path. I am grateful for all my experiences to serve my students and my staff, and I look forward to continuing to support institutions on a global scale to the best of my ability. I would like to thank my family, mentors, and friends who have loved and supported me throughout my career. I am blessed to be in this moment as the new Executive Director of NACADA. I am excited to have joined the executive office staff in Manhattan, Kansas, and as a Teaching Professor in the College of Education at Kansas State University. I look forward to uplifting our members and partners in these new times, in this new space, under new circumstances. 

Melinda J. Anderson, Ed.D.
Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising


Faculty and Primary Role Advisors: Building a Relational Partnership

Elizabeth M. Higgins, Mary Anne Peabody, and Helen Gorgas Goulding, University of Southern Maine

Beth Higgins.jpgAcademic advising plays a critical role in the college experience—not the advising that unfortunately is often associated with course registration, but advising as a relationship. The relational aspect of advising is gaining momentum as higher education continues to wrestle with student retention while simultaneously juggling technological advances, decreased funding, and the digital advances of a global society. Although the development of a relationship between the advisor and student is imperative, the advising structure/model also plays a role in the relational aspect of advising.

Mary Anne Peabody.jpgMany institutions have advising programs that utilize both faculty and primary role advisors. The challenge is leveraging the expertise of each to enhance the student advising experience. Institutions that offer a dual advising program create an opportunity to work through this challenge. In a dual model, students work with two advisors: a faculty member within the major and a primary role advisor within the centralized advising department (King, 2008). This structure also provides an opportunity to align academic advising with the teaching and learning mission of the institution, providing visible evidence of advising as an extension of teaching by promoting a community of practice centered on student learning and success.

Helen Gorgas Goulding.jpgThe relational collaboration between faculty and primary role advisors offers an opportunity for institutional colleagues to work together to design and implement an academic advising experience that supports student growth, development, and attainment of their educational and professional goals. The collegial partnership between primary role advisors and faculty members can be a new way of thinking for some as university cultures are complex. Universities’ cultures have an embedded hierarchical structure, whereby multiple professionals are divided by specialization and training and often work interdependently to deliver student learning experiences. The somewhat siloed higher education environment at times interferes with the relational growth between faculty and primary role advisors.

In some institutions with traditional siloed structures, relational networks may exhibit strong ties within departmental functions and weak ties across departmental functions, often resulting in fragmentation and poor handoffs at transitional points (Gittell & Suchman, 2013). For example, a centralized advising department may have strong processes within the team of primary role advisors, yet the transition from a primary role advisor early in a student’s academic journey to a faculty advisor in their later semesters may become fragmented.

The theory of relational coordination states institutions with structures that foster relational coordination build cohesiveness, so that professionals are more aware of cross-functional roles within teams and create boundary-spanning roles that support networking while still honoring the benefits of differing roles (Gittell & Suchman, 2013). Relational coordination theory further suggests a redesigning rather than a replacement of institutional structure, specifically to reinforce and strengthen relational processes that contribute to a higher performing work culture (Gittell & Suchman, 2013).  

The dual advising partnership model can be a structure that helps foster collegial relationships through meetings, professional development opportunities, and interactions focused on student advising needs and student learning. In addition to being institutional colleagues, faculty and primary role advisors are academic advising colleagues. That said, the level of responsibility for academic advising varies with each type. For example, primary role advisors have academic advising as their primary role in addition to program development, committee work, workshop presentations, etc. On the other hand, faculty members have academic advising as a part of their role responsibilities that fall in the areas of teaching, research/scholarship, and service. This partial advising role for faculty creates variances in priorities, availability, knowledge, training, and focus. In fact, within the context of faculty responsibilities, depending on the message, advising may be an implied or a clearly stated position expectation.

Whether implied or clearly stated, given the mutually shared interest in academic advising, it makes sense for faculty and primary role advisors to collaborate and coordinate with each other. In some, if not many cases, this would require that a working relationship be developed between individuals who may view themselves on different levels within the institution. Acknowledging this unspoken or, at times, whispered culture divide is a first step in developing a partnership that is respectful of the expertise that each brings to the organization. Exploring how to capitalize on this wealth of expertise and build successful student-learning centered relationships is an important next step in building a community of colleagues all of whom are focused on the academic advising experience. The building of this relationship, as with the building of the relationship with students, takes effort and time. 

Still, an exploration into interpersonal relational theory highlights time as a necessary factor in developing dyadic relationships through interactions, knowledge sharing, and goal attainment (Peplau, 1997). Agreement on goals and a common mission creates the foundation for building successful partnerships (Wagner & Muller, 2009). It is not the commonalities between the two advisors, but the common mission of student learning and success that motivates the advising partners to engage in conversation regarding student learning outcomes and opportunities within the advising process. This common mission assists in providing clear reasoning for the existence of the advising partnership and the need for ongoing interactions.

As a collaborative pair, faculty and primary role advisors actively interact around the common mission and begin to get to know the other in an authentic way. The experience of authentic sharing allows the advising colleagues to understand each other’s roles, interests, current projects, and areas of expertise. As both parties gain a better understanding of one another, a level of trust begins to gain momentum in the relationship. In essence, it is the familiarity that supersedes dissimilarity, creating a partnership of acceptance focused on each other’s strengths and trust building (Wagner & Muller, 2009).

Taking the risk to trust one another is one of the first steps in building trust-filled collaborative partnerships—a topic not openly discussed in the workplace. Trust is identified as the “linchpin of a partnership,” an essential element that strengthens the relationship, allowing partners to focus on their own responsibilities while being confident that their collaborator will accomplish their own (Wagner & Muller, 2009, p. 77). According to Lencioni (2002), trust and the ability for partners to get to know each other and show vulnerability is the critical foundation of any team. Once trust is established, partner teams feel more comfortable engaging in healthy constructive debates leading to team commitment regarding important decisions. Respect for each other builds as partners work together to maximize individual strengths toward high standards for the team. The necessity of trust within collaborative advising partnerships makes it important for institutions to provide faculty and primary role advisors opportunities to work together to strengthen the student academic advising experience. 

Although it is the advising colleagues that take the risk to authentically interact and trust in the workplace, it is the institution that needs to state the value of academic advising as an integral component of the student experience. While changing institutional messaging is a critical first step, institutions must also directly support efforts to change relational patterns. Given the importance of interaction among primary role and faculty advisors, addressing collaborative partnerships through the dual theoretical lenses of both interpersonal relational theory and relational coordination theory will translate into the strongest change efforts.

As institutions promote collaborative partnerships between faculty and primary role advisors, five vital questions need to be explored.

  • What does an advising relationship between colleagues look like at this institution? 
  • What opportunities can we provide that will promote collegial relationship building between faculty and primary role advisors? 
  • How can the relationship be sustained in the current state of higher education? 
  • How will relational success be assessed? 
  • How can institutional leadership mobilize faculty and primary role advisors to transform cultural gaps to build mutually beneficial relationships focused on student learning and success?

Institutional leadership needs to support this collaborative advising partnership through adaptive capacity. Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges to thrive (Heifetz et al., 2009). Recognizing that in fact the work cultures of faculty and primary role advisors are different and embedded with differing group norms of how people relate with each other is an adaptive challenge. Adaptive challenges are difficult because they usually require people to change their ways, to invent new ways of working together across these work cultures. Successful adaptive change builds on what is already working well within the culture and experimenting with new strategies. Adaptive leaders anchor change and improvement in the values, competencies, and strategic orientations that should endure in the organization.

A university’s organizational culture influences students’ overall educational experience. One critical aspect of a positive campus cultural experience is the strong sense of community largely established by a constructive working relationship between faculty and staff. Research shows that when the two groups feel content with their working environments, the institution is productive and students feel drawn to it (Florenthal, 2012). Establishing professional development opportunities to build functioning faculty/staff advising teams is directly related to student satisfaction and persistence. As the development of faculty and primary role advisor relationships is embraced by institutions of higher education, it will be important to make a conscience effort to create an academic advising community through engaged conversations and professional development focused on student learning and success. 

Elizabeth M. Higgins, Ed.D.
Director of Academic Advising
University of Southern Maine

Mary Anne Peabody, Ed.D., LCSW, RPT-S
Associate Professor and Chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Southern Maine

Helen Gorgas Goulding, M.Ed., M.A
Senior Associate Director and Coordinator of Professional Development for Academic Advising
University of Southern Maine


Florenthal, B. (2012). Organizational culture: Comparing faculty and staff perspectives. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 12(6), 81–90.

Gittrell, J. H., & Suchman, A. L. (2013). An overview of relational coordination. Relational Coordination Research Collaborative. https://www.rchcweb.com/Portals/0/Documents/Summary%20of%20Relational%20Coordination%20Research.pdf?ver=2015-10-27-164728-460

Heifetz, R. A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Harvard Business School Publishing.

King, M. C. (2008). Organization of academic advising services. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 242–252). Jossey-Bass.

Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. Jossey-Bass.

Peplau, H. E. (1997). Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10, 162–167.

Wagner, R., & Muller, G. (2009). Power of 2: How to make the most of your partnerships at work and in life. Gallup Press.

Essential Questions to Equity-Based Parallel Planning and Alternative Advising

Billie Streufert, Augustana University
Kyle Ross, Oregon State University

Kyle Ross.jpgBillie Streufert.jpgIf advisors are to embody NACADA’s (2017) Core Values, they must evaluate ways their philosophy or techniques perpetuate systemic inequities. One such framework worth consideration is parallel planning and alternative advising. During these conversations, advisors encourage students to consider occupations or majors alongside their initial goals. While this adaptability prepares students for a rapidly changing labor market, advisors also often situate this approach in the context of applying to competitive degree programs (Streufert, 2019). Without an equity-based examination of these advising practices, advisors may be reduced to cooling agents who pacify students in anticipation of or after they are denied admission into their chosen fields (Clark, 1960).

To avoid the perpetuation of the status quo, advisors are “willing to ask the right questions and accept responsibility for the answers” (Ivie, 2020, p. 202). This inquiry enables advisors to recognize and respond to underlying causes so that they can ensure all students have equal access to success. Advisors are ethically obligated to consider these questions because they are in positions of privileges and power. Advisors must pair parallel planning and alternative advising with campus conversations about the following questions.

What admission criteria are used to evaluate applicants, and is the evaluation of applications equitable? There is evidence that standardized exams are biased and favor dominant groups (Bazemore-James et al., 2017; Rosales & Walker, 2021; Steele & Aronson, 1995). As an alternative to a single criterion, such as test scores, advisors must suggest that admission committees use holistic or authentic rubrics that contextualize students’ backgrounds (Posselt et al., 2020; Rosales & Walker, 2021). Advisors may also want to examine who serves on admission committees. There is evidence that decisions vary based on the background of selection committee members (Posselt et al., 2020).

Advisors also acknowledge that various forms of racism are entrenched in admission procedures. For example, in one study, students from underrepresented groups were denied admission more frequently than dominant student groups even if they had similar test scores to dominant groups (Lewis, 2019). Clinical supervisors or cooperating teachers may also exhibit bias in their evaluations (Renn, 2013). Given the complexities and challenges of admission decisions, advisors form coalitions and seek consultation. Advising counsels or shared governance structures may create space for meaningful reflection and supportive conversations. Once an advising forum identifies leading indicators of injustice, the group conducts an annual equity audit of admission practices to close the racial equity gap (Dowd & Elmore, 2020).

Has the institution disaggregated data to identify opportunities for improvement? Disaggregated data analysis will reveal who benefits from and who is harmed by parallel planning or alternative advising. For example, advisors can disaggregate gateway course completion rates based on race, ethnicity, or other demographic variables to identify if course redesign or inclusive pedagogy is necessary (Gardner & Koch, 2020, McNair & Bensimon, 2020). To support the creation of student-ready learning environments, faculty may need advisors to advocate for teaching tools or reductions in class size. Similarly, advisors can examine disaggregated degree progress or credit acquisition rates (Dowd & Elmore, 2020). Due diligence is also needed to ensure the effective presentation of data. For example, scholars provided an example of one instance in which the mere manipulation of the Y-axis misled decision-makers to evaluate gender differences and mathematical proficiency ineffectively (Dowd & Elmore, 2020).

How can advisors foster a sense of confidence among students or encourage students to pursue challenging courses that they might initially avoid? Students of underrepresented groups experience hostile environments or harassment at their campus and perceive the strength of their application more negatively than dominant students (Barr et al., 2008; Christophers & Gotian, 2020; Lent & Brown, 2013; Moss-Racusin et al., 2021; Orom et al., 2013; Witherspoon et al., 2019; Wouters, 2020). The chronic cognitive load created by stereotypes, performance anxiety, and racism leads to isolation, depression, exhaustion, and racial battle fatigue (McGee, 2020). Imposter syndrome may cause some students to pivot prematurely to alternatives. If students feel incompetent, they do not need advisors to suggest alternatives, but instead need mentors who affirm their talents. Sadly, some students have reported that they perceived their advisors or professors lacked confidence in their ability and discouraged the pursuit of their goals (Hadinger, 2014; Madden et al., 2020; Manueliot-Kerkvliet, 2015; Solόranzo et al., 2000). Administrators advocate for required training for professors and advisors for this reason (Moss-Racusin et al., 2021).

Advisors also introduce parallel planning universally in group settings to affirm students’ assets  and to discuss further when or when not to move toward alternatives. By normalizing the need to prepare to adapt, advisors invite everyone to engage in the parallel planning process and thus reduce potential triggers of imposter syndrome. This universal introduction is paired with adequate structures to support students in their career decision-making and educational planning. For example, while many institutions invest in first-year programs, fewer colleges create second-year programs (Tobolowsky, 2008). It is common, however, for second-year students to experience vocational distress because of their academic performance (Kim-Lee, 2017; Wrosch et al., 2003). Similarly, transfer students report that they often are unsupported in their transition to four-year institutions and do not have access to pre-professional advising at two-year schools (Wang, 2020).

To what degree are advisors supported in their roles? The complexity of advising alternatives and justice work requires ongoing professional development and self-reflection. For example, advisors need to examine their positionality and how their identity influences their beliefs or behaviors in the context of advising alternatives (Evans & Sejuit, 2021). They also need time to connect with publications, presentations, or cultural programs to understand the counternarratives of students of underrepresented and marginalized groups. Given the climate of current campuses, advisors must also be empowered to discuss with students how racial hostility or fatigue may impede their academic success. Similarly, do advisors’ schedules permit them to slow down to identify implicit bias or to advocate for students? If advisors have space within their schedules for mindfulness, they can examine the impact of their decisions and reconstruct their responses or their environments to advance inclusion (Kezar & Posselt, 2020).

What language do advisors use to describe the students’ experiences? Language shapes     the ways advisors conceptualize students’ needs. If unexamined, terminology can harm students (Dowd & Elmore, 2020; Martinez & Cooper, 2020). Deficit-based labels or thinking can be entrenched in parallel planning. For example, previous scholars have described students who selected a mismatched major or considered the input of family members as vocationally immature or foreclosed (Marcia, 1966; Shaffer & Zalewski, 2011). These researchers overlooked that secondary schools are under-resourced and unable to support the career exploration of students or that it is common for collectivistic cultures to invite feedback from others related to one’s goals (Dann-Messier et al., 2014; McGee, 2020). Similarly, advisors may believe that effort alone is sufficient for success or encourage students of underrepresented groups to remain resilient without advisors taking action to eliminate the harmful environments that students find dehumanizing. This color-blind mentality ignores racism and perpetuates meritocratic paradigms that sustain systems of injustice (Evans & Sejuit, 2021; McGee, 2020; McGee & Robinson, 2020; Nicolazzo & Carter, 2019; Tillapaugh, 2019).

What barriers exist for students of underrepresented groups? Inclusive advisors audit their policies, procedures, and practices to identify ways institutional structures or systems disadvantage the success of students of underrepresented groups, such as adult learners, first-generation students, students of color, LGBTQ+, or students with disabilities. For instance, first-generation students may need to navigate unfamiliar college terminology. Similarly, students with disabilities may be forced to disclose invasive personal information to access basic human rights as learners (Abes, 2019). Students of underrepresented groups who seek to help others may find that professors or advisors do not demonstrate the ways their chosen majors permit them to express these values (Brown et al., 2018; Diekman et al., 2011). Students’ perception of the congruency of these values influences their sense of belonging, anxiety, and self-efficacy (Diekman et al., 2017). Advisors can invite meaningful reflection or participation in service-learning to affirm students’ values and prevent students from leaving their intended field unnecessarily (Brown et al., 2015; Diekman et al., 2017).

Inclusive advisors acknowledge that some students may need alternative programs because the institution failed to support them. For example, students of underrepresented groups are less likely to have access to advisors who share salient aspects of their identities, especially because White faculty prefer to mentor White students (McCoy et al., 2015; McGee, 2020; Harris & Poon, 2019). White faculty mentors may also minimize the existence of structural racism, which perpetuates stereotypes and creates hostile learning environments (McCoy et al., 2015). Advising administrators need to apply equitable hiring practices to diversify the demographics of advisors (Griffin, 2020; Liera & Ching, 2020). Similarly, advisors need to inquire about ways peer mentors or tutors create equitable counter-study spaces (Solόranzo et al., 2000).

How are the business needs of the institution driving decisions, or what resources would further advance student success (Kezar & Posselt, 2020)? Students may also succeed if institutions reduce class size or advising caseloads, allowing students to spend more time in transformative conversations with faculty or staff. Faculty or staff of underrepresented groups often engage in informal, invisible advising, mentoring, or institutional service that is not included in load analysis or rewarded during tenure review (McGee, 2020; Moss-Racusin et al., 2021). An overemphasis on revenue or retention may have unintended consequences. Advisors need to listen carefully to assess if students perceive early alert interventions as intrusive, demoralizing, or symbolic indicators that the institution does not believe in their ability to succeed, thereby exacerbating imposter syndrome (Museus & LePeau, 2020).

How committed is the institution to inclusion and change? The amplification of graduation rates due to performance-based funding models may cause institutions and departments to selectively admit students and deny qualified students from admission to advance their self-interests (Kelchen, 2018). In this case, parallel planning and alternative advising only lead to upholding the status quo of current admissions practices by these institutions. If advisors are engaging in these conversations to help students find a more suitable path to their academic and occupational goals, then the institution is not compelled to change their practices when the students are ultimately retained in other programs they offer. Advisors should reflect on how often they are engaging in parallel planning and alternative advising conversations with students due to competitive admissions procedures. If advisors notice a pattern in who is more likely to face denial, then they should question whether the department or institution has evaluated if their admissions processes are truly holistic, equitable, and inclusive, or if the department is even committed to change and reform.

How could divisions and departments better collaborate to advance student success? Power dynamics or historical events may prevent faculty or staff from developing meaningful partnerships that could transform students’ experiences (Kezar & Posselt, 2020). Advisors exhibit humility and assess the extent that their actions are based on self-interest instead of students’ needs. Advisors live at the “intersection of academic affairs and student affairs” (Miller, 2016, p. 55). As such, they have a unique opportunity to build bridges so institutions can identify barriers and create new initiatives to redesign campus environments and actualize equity-based parallel planning and alternative advising.

Vocational change is inevitable and a part of life (Krumboltz et al., 2013; Lent & Brown, 2013; Savickas & Porfeli, 2012). Advisors need to emphasize adaptability given the rapidly changing labor market, but they must discuss alternatives carefully. Inclusive parallel planning and alternative advising require advisors to acknowledge assumptions and take action to remove power or privilege that perpetuates the status quo. Parallel planning is only permissible if it is paired with initiatives to ensure success in students’ initial chosen endeavors. While complex, advisors can ask meaningful questions to identify and implement changes that disrupt the oppressive systems they might otherwise sustain. If they engage in critical reflection and embrace questions as opportunities, they will ensure that parallel planning is paired with equitable practices that embody the core values of the profession (NACADA, 2017).

Billie Streufert
Assistant Vice Provost
Student Success 
Augustana University

Kyle Ross
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University


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Cultivating Leadership Opportunities to Develop as a Professional

Ann M. Hintz, St. Norbert College
Sara E. Gomez, Madison Area Technical College

Sara Gomez.jpgAnn HIntz.jpgAs the profession of academic advising continues to evolve, it is important for academic advisors to develop strong leadership skills to advocate for students, their roles on campus, and the academic advising profession. Leadership development can occur in a variety of ways, and academic advisors and their supervisors need to find opportunities to ensure leadership skills are honed. Developing leadership skills may lead to academic advisors becoming formal and informal leaders, on and off their campuses. This development can occur through involvement in on-campus committee work, professional development organizations, community organizations, book clubs, and more. Each advisor, with the support of their supervisor, has the opportunity to determine how to strengthen their personal professional development by creating their own individualized plan for enhancing leadership skills. This article will discuss some ways that an academic advisor can seek out leadership opportunities to grow their voice and leadership skills. 

Importance of Leadership

Development of leadership skills is an important aspect of professional development, one that should be cultivated by all professionals. Trede and McEwen (2012) discuss the need to develop a professional identity that allows the individual to “have a position within their chosen field of practice that is aligned with their values, interests and intentions” (p. 6). Every professional has their own personal values and ideals that should align with the values and ideas for their chosen careers. Over time, one’s professional identity will change, grow, and develop (Trede & McEwen, 2012). This change is a natural part of growth for a person and should be fostered through regular professional development that is relevant to one’s chosen field. This will foster the idea of “critical professionals'' that Trede and McEwen (2012) discuss as being an integral part of higher education and become the next generation of leaders. 

Part of developing as a leader involves reflection. Identity and leadership are intertwined, and past experiences impact not only our professional identity, but also our leadership identity (Seemiller & Crosby, 2019). Through the process of reflection leaders can “identify what they truly care about and what calls them to leadership” and can also help model how, as leaders, we are continuing to place emphasis on our own professional development (Seemiller & Crosby, 2019, p. 77). 

There are many leadership theories, including servant leadership. Servant leadership focuses on the motivational needs of the individual rather than that of the organizational objectives and is based on the premise that “great leadership is not derived from position, status, or skill, but rather from the will of the individual to serve” (McClellan, 2007, p. 42). Academic advisors are often servant leaders. Their commitment to their profession and to students allows them to lead from their positions on campus, even if there is no formal leadership role. 

On-Campus Leadership

Academic advisors do not always hold formal leadership roles on campus but are powerful leaders when it comes to being advocates for students. Academic advisors can take informal leadership roles on their campus through committee work and sharing the voices of their students in these positions. This also helps the academic advisor grow professionally while cultivating leadership skills. 

For some advisors, adding additional tasks to their plate may seem daunting, but it can be rewarding and help create strong connections across campus. For faculty advisors, this is often easier as committee work is expected as part of their role on campus. For primary role advisors, the challenge becomes balancing student-facing priorities with external campus serving roles. It is important for primary role advisors to incorporate this into their workload as it will help them find their voice on campus and become recognized as a leader.

The interactions academic advisors have with students give academic advisors a unique perspective and opportunity to share the views of the student in a way that can support student success. Academic advisors have a voice that can be used to support students, but advisors must have leadership skills and be able to integrate the right circles to have this voice heard. These leadership skills can continue to develop over time with the right mentorship and guidance. Academic advisors can bring a fresh perspective, advocate for students, and share student needs by serving on committees while at the same time developing their leadership skills.

Off-Campus Leadership 

Another way to develop leadership skills is to become involved in professional development organizations. These organizations allow advisors to share what they are doing on their campuses through conference presentations, blog posts, and round table discussions. Academic advisors can gain formal leadership experiences as executive board members, on committees, and in volunteer roles. Even something as simple as reading conference proposals or award nominations can help an advisor gain a broader perspective of the profession. 

Professional development organizations can help academic advisors learn and grow in ways they may not be able to on their campuses. One recommendation is to encourage academic advisors to become involved in state, national, and global organization opportunities. This starts with attendance at conference and professional development events, but needs to be fostered through submitting presentation proposals, event planning committees, and board positions. Seasoned professionals must encourage new professionals to become involved in a variety of ways. This involvement can build leadership skills and allow academic advising professionals to grow. 

Community involvement can be used to develop leadership skills. Becoming involved in book clubs, volunteering, and community service allow academic advisors the chance to integrate their personal passions with opportunities to lead. This can impact their professional roles as academic advisors through increased self-confidence. 


Academic advisors can be strong leaders. Lessons learned as an academic advisor include being present and supportive of our students and advising colleagues, looking at the bigger picture when reviewing a student's needs, recommending a process change and more. From building connections with faculty, primary role academic advisors, and other professionals on campus to the development of human relations skills, effective teamwork strategies, and exploring effective strategic planning, all these activities have the outcome of developing leadership skills and becoming involved as an academic advisor. It is essential that supervisors support this development and encourage those who want to grow. It can be hard to take the first step toward becoming a leader, but doing so can have a strong, positive impact on both a personal and professional level. 

Ann Hintz
Director of Academic Advisement
St. Norbert College

Sara E. Gomez MS.Ed
Lead Academic Advisor
School of Business & Applied Arts
Student Development & Retention Services
Madison Area Technical College


McClellan, J. L. (2007). The advisor as servant: The theoretical and philosophical relevance of servant leadership to academic advising. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 41–49. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-27.2.41

Trede, F., & McEwen, C. (2012). Developing a critical professional identity: Engaging self in practice. In J. Higgs, R. Barnett, S. Billett, M. Hutchings, & F. Trede (Eds.), Practice-based education: Perspectives and strategies (pp. 27–40).

Seemiller, C., & Crosby, B. C. (2019). Exploring and enhancing leader, educator, and leadership educator professional identities. New Directions for Student Leadership, 2019(164), 71–86.

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It is Okay to be Different

Ryan Scheckel, Texas Tech University
Matt Markin, California State University San Bernardino

Matt Markin.jpgRyan Scheckel.jpgThe authors would like to begin by noting that the style and format of this article may not be representative of works typically presented herein. Our aim is to situate the content of our writing in the context of the dialogue from which it arose. Whether it is a presentation, a video or podcast, or a conversation between colleagues: our preference is dialogue. Further, we draw from Freire's argument, “without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication, there can be no true education” (1970, pp. 92­–93). Further, Nguyen's (2019) summary of Freire captures our experience: "true dialogue cannot exist unless the partners engage in love, humility, faith, trust, hope, and critical thinking. This view shows that dialogue demonstrates not only the positive connection between people but also the constant drive to transform themselves as well as reality." As we explore Hansen's (2018) five rules for disciplined collaboration through the lens of our 2020 Annual Conference presentation mashing up Strengths-Based Advising and The Umbrella Academy, we do so in the mode by which we collaborated, by which we learned, and by which we hope to share a positive connection among advising professionals.

graphic1.jpgRyan: It started with Matt’s Facebook post back in 2019. He was playing around with the ideas of academic advising and the graphic-novel-turned-Netflix-show, The Umbrella Academy. All Matt meant to do was post a fun mashup image for his Facebook friends. But I replied within minutes suggesting we collaborate.

graphic2.jpgRyan: Okay, maybe it was a little more than a suggestion. ;-)

Matt: While I enthusiastically said “Yes,” here's where the intimidation comes into play. Ryan and I were Facebook friends, but I had never met him. The only things I knew were what others had told me and what kind of thinker and presenter he was.

Ryan: Matt only shared that he felt intimidated, underqualified, and full of impostor syndrome feelings when we started writing this, but he didn't know I felt the same way (surprise!). I also learned that Matt came to California State University San Bernardino as a student in 2002 and is now an advisor there. He's been in advising since 2013, but he also worked in admissions as a front counter supervisor, a counselor, and a recruiter. For the past eight years, Matt's been an academic advisor and part time lecturer at CSUSB, and he's always looking to incorporate his personal interests into his advising work and professional activities.

Matt: Ryan started his advising career in 2002, returning to Texas Tech University after graduating a few years earlier. His time at Tech has included stops in three different departments and various academic advising roles. For the past six years, Ryan has been an advising administrator and adjunct instructor. He says he found his professional center back in 2013 when he attended his first Theory, Philosophy, and History of Advising Community meeting, but his love for pop culture and unconventional thinking led him to combine those worlds in all sorts of interesting ways over the years. Which is why he was so excited about my Facebook post.

Ryan: In a 5-year study of workplace effectiveness, Hansen (2018) illustrates how collaboration can be a mixed bag. Matt and I tend to be open to collaboration in general, but we both also remember instances that lead to positively unique experiences, friendships, and future collaboration. So, we were already inclined to channel our resources and efforts in a way that the reward would be the result, not just the activity of collaborating (Hansen, 2018, p. 190). 

Matt: The beginnings of collaborations can also be completely random, as in the case of a comment on social media posts that ends up spawning two conference presentations and all kinds of future project ideas. Social media can generate engagement, turning common interests and ideas into future partnerships. It can also spin differences downward toward less productive outcomes. Even though Ryan and I had never met, we knew we had a lot in common as advising professionals and as fans of The Umbrella Academy, a story of seven children with special powers adopted by a hard-nosed father figure, the mysterious Sir Reginald Hargreaves. We were both intrigued by how a story that deals with unresolved issues of rejection, trauma, insecurities, and isolation could be connected to the theme of the narrative: the hope and empowerment that comes from finding and embracing one's strengths. 

Ryan: And in that spirit, we explored how The Umbrella Academy, a fictional graphic-novel-turned-Netflix-series could become an engaging NACADA presentation proposal that examines strengths-based advising. All of this satisfies Hansen’s (2018) first rule of disciplined collaboration: establish a compelling case for every proposed collaboration (p. 176). Like Matt said, we not only shared a love for the characters and ideas in The Umbrella Academy, we also shared a love for academic advising. 

Matt: We met in person later that year at the annual conference in Louisville, KY. A brief conversation about possibilities led to the first rough outline and a potential angle to take with the idea. Over the next couple months, we met regularly on Zoom to begin the creative phase, listing every possible connection the graphic novel and Netflix show had with academic advising. It was also an opportunity to get to know and understand one another better.   

Ryan: In this middle part of this collaboration though, we found that we wanted to do more than just explore connections between interesting ideas and collaborate with another advising professional. We wanted to contribute to the larger advisor training and development conversation. This meets Hansen’s (2018) second rule for disciplined collaboration: “craft a unifying goal that excites” (p. 179).

Matt: We also wanted to ground our efforts in theory and scholarship. The characters in The Umbrella Academy are so different, just as Matt and I are, but they have their own strengths. So, we found strengths-based advising as a good fit for our theoretical base. We felt the characters would provide an enjoyable, yet relatable, jumping-off point for a discussion of strengths discovery, the first step in strengths-based advising (Schreiner, 2013, p. 109).

Ryan: Both of us had been introduced to strengths-based advising before, and we definitely felt its connection with The Umbrella Academy, but we both knew we had to learn more about strengths-based advising. By beginning our developing presentation outside of the typical higher education or academic advising setting—by drawing on "the power of story," as Hagen (2018) puts it—we hoped to open advisors’ hearts and minds to both the notion that understanding their own strengths makes them better advisors and the idea that employing a strengths-based approach to their practice is an effective route to examining the master narratives at play in their work. 

Matt: Ryan mentioned it above, but Hansen’s (2018) pivotal third rule for disciplined collaboration is that the reward is the results, not just the activity of collaborating itself (p. 182). Ryan and I definitely enjoyed the collaborative process, but our result was overwhelmingly positive feedback after our Annual Conference presentation. 

Ryan: And we had already received the exciting news that we would reprise the talk at the 2021 International Conference, but we started to wonder what else we could do with the fascinating topics we had come across along the way. Was there another project, more results awaiting our collaborative efforts? Could we publish any of this?

Matt: Wendy Troxel, Director of NACADA’s Research Center, shared the fantastic advice that if you record and transcribe your presentation, your first draft is already done (personal communication, November 3, 2020). So, we started there.

Ryan: Yeah, shout out to the otter.ai app for that part! Our collaboration also continued the use of multiple technical technology tools. Going back to the original Facebook post to sharing impromptu ideas over Facebook Messenger, to creating Google Docs and organizing strategies in Google Drive. And in a very 2020 move, we kept meeting regularly via Zoom.

Matt: Hansen’s (2018) fourth rule for disciplined collaboration is the expectation that resources be fully committed to the effort, including time and skills (p. 184). We felt like we were putting in the time and that we knew plenty about The Umbrella Academy and how it relates to academic advising, but we had never done this before; neither of us had published. We knew we had lots of opportunities, we just weren’t sure which would be the right fit or what the best approach would be to take with our work.

Ryan: So, we leveraged another resource and reached out to some of the scholar practitioners we knew and respected. These fine folks gave us so much useful feedback, and Craig McGill specifically helped us refine our thinking during this new stage of our collaboration. We decided Academic Advising Today would be a great place to just talk about our approach, share lessons we've learned, and encourage other advisors to give disciplined collaboration a try.

Matt: As our collaboration shifts focus, our lines of inquiry are now taking us to unanticipated places. Recently, we’ve been combing through past conference programs for references to popular culture and narrative approaches appearing in our field.

Ryan: And we’re looking more into the fascinating worlds of narrative theory, theory of mind research, and the scholarship of adult learning and popular culture. This collaboration has significantly expanded our perspectives and our possibilities. We also realized that the many outlets for scholar practitioners to share their work, perspectives, and writing, while overwhelming, can also be encouraging.

Matt: Exactly! We want to return the support we received by helping others do what we’ve done. This collaboration has repeatedly reinforced the theme that it’s okay to be different. Just as with the characters in The Umbrella Academy, there are so many strengths that come from our differences, whether they are differences in perspectives, skills, reach, voice, etc.

Ryan: That’s right. Hansen’s (2018) fifth and final rule is significant here: build trust to solve specific problems (p. 185). Along the way, Matt and I learned about each other and ourselves. We negotiated changes in our collaboration by drawing on our similarities, our differences, and by building trust. So, whoever is reading this, we want you to think about how your differences can benefit your colleagues, the advising profession, and students across our many campuses.

Matt: Similarities can be starting points, certainly. For Ryan and I, that was The Umbrella Academy and a love for pop culture in general, but we also found we shared an interest in expanding the envelope, trying different approaches, and doing things that we had not seen done before in academic advising.

Ryan: And as starting points go, those are pretty solid. Instead of doing things we had seen done before, we thought maybe we could do things a little differently. We also wanted to prioritize engagement. It was not enough for us that we were interested in this project. We wanted to make sure that others would be interested and that they would engage in the conversation.

Matt: We also learned along the way that scholar practitioners need each other. We need to be open to the many possibilities that exist, and we need to be creative before being critical.

Ryan: We need to embrace our differences and, yes, the multitude of opportunities to share our voices, and we need to find the excitement in that.

Matt: So that's why we wrote this. We hope you find something interesting and valuable in it.

Ryan: And we want you to know that we're here to help. You're not alone. Embrace your differences. Collaborate and share your differences and contribute to the field of academic advising as you do!

Ryan Scheckel
Assistant Director
Pre-Professional Health Careers
Texas Tech University

Matthew Markin
Academic Advisor
Advising and Academic Services
California State University, San Bernardino


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. Bergman Ramos, Trans.). Continuum.

Hagen, P. L. (2018). The power of story: Narrative theory in academic advising. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising.

Hansen, M. (2018). Great at work: How top performers do less, work better, and achieve more. Simon & Schuster. 

Schreiner, L. A. (2013). Strengths-based advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 105–120). Jossey-Bass.

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Academic Advising as Meaningful Intergenerational Dialogue Opportunity

Sachiko Komagata, Georgian Court University

Sachiko Komagata.jpgAcademic advising has historically been viewed as counseling, teaching (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005; Lowenstein, 2009), and learning (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005). These perspectives provide academic advisors useful frameworks to enhance outcomes in academic success as well as career identification and preparation. However, academic advising is still one of the most unappreciated college experiences. It is not uncommon to hear advisors and students who do not value advising as a meaningful and fulfilling experience. It is time to add another perspective that supports advising as being more meaningful to both students and their advisors.

Typically, undergraduate students meet their advisors 1–2 times per semester for 30–60 minutes. In most cases, there is an age gap between the advisee and advisor. The advisors may be a part of the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials, or Millennials, while most undergraduate students belong to Gen Z as of today in 2021. In general, undergraduate students are younger, while their advisors are older in their chronological age, except for untraditional, returning students, and in professional or graduate programs where advisors may be younger than the students. Thus, academic advising sessions inherently provide intergenerational dialogue opportunity. 

Lack of Intergenerational Dialogue Among College Students

According to a United States Census Bureau (2016) report, most children under age 18 (69%) live with two parents. The second most common family structure is children living with a single mother (23%). Today, extended family that promotes intergenerational dialogues within the household is uncommon in the US. Furthermore, college students living in a residence hall would spend the majority of their time with their peers in the same generation. 

Based on the family structure statistics, undergraduate students often lack regular encounters and communication with middle-aged and older adults. This lack of intergenerational interaction can contribute further to developing awkwardness, discomfort, or even misunderstanding between different generations through prejudice and unfamiliarity. Similarly, middle-aged and older advisors may choose a 55 plus community to further isolate and reduce interactions among diverse generations.  

Benefits of Intergenerational Activities

Intergenerational activities and programs have been researched in different parts of the world. One in Japan (Murayama et al., 2019) determined that intergenerational programs demonstrate positive spill-over effect in the community beyond the direct positive impacts on study participants. Interactions between advisors and advisees during advising sessions can have spill-over effects in the college and university community and beyond. 

Another benefit that has been documented repeatedly about intergenerational activities and programs is positive attitude change (Dellmann-Jenkins et al., 1994; O’Connor et al., 2019). Young participants who never smile at middle-aged and older adults on the street began noticing their attitude change in their own behaviors, such as smiling to them on street. Advisors and advisees may realize such positive attitude change in themselves over time on campus and in the community.

How then can academic advisors and advisees take advantage of such benefits from advising sessions? It can start with awareness. Once advisors pay attention to the potential positive benefits of intergenerational interactions between academic advisors and advisees, it is time to look at some of the potential challenges in advising as intergenerational dialogue.

Challenges of Intergenerational Dialogue in Advising Context

Some advisors may attempt to understand their advisees by comparing them with their own past experiences. They may easily fail to keep the student’s unique context in their encounter. For instance, some advisors may unconsciously state “I worked hard to get where I am.” The unspoken implication is that the student is not working hard enough. These advisors may lack empathy when their students are not performing well or approaching academic probation status. 

In addition to generational prejudice, misunderstanding can emerge from a simple communication thread. Many of our undergraduate students (Generation Z) grew up with their cell phones and other electronic personal devices. Their texting practices typically use abbreviated messages multiple times a day rather than a well-constructed email. For some advisors who rarely text, it can be perceived as “These students do not know how to write” or “Read more carefully and ask the most necessary questions.” To overcome such challenges, the following simple yet powerful mindful steps can be implemented to take full advantage of advising as an intergenerational dialogue and learning opportunity for all of us. 

Breathe. Immediately before each advising session, budget one minute just to pay attention to breathing. One may prefer to notice the air coming in and out from the nostrils or put one’s hand on the abdomen and prefer to notice the rise and fall of the hand as one breathes. 

Be Curious and Be Interested. As the advisor reviews the advisee’s record, notice oneself being curious and genuinely interested in who they are and how they arrived at this point academically and personally. Race, ethnicity, age, GPA, etc. are read without forming prejudice or assumptions, but are the sources to elevate one’s genuine curiosity and interest in the advisee.

View a Photo of Oneself at the Age of the Advisee. Before meeting Generation Z, view a photo of oneself at that age category. This certainly helps the advisor shift their perspective as an expert, teacher, or professional advisor to one of the advisee. This photo gazing may support the formation of self-compassion that then can be expressed as compassion for the advisee.     

Smile. Share an internal smile to oneself then share a genuine smile with the advisee. Facial muscles that are used to smile encourage the brain and the entire body to feel better as the brain perceives the smile as one of the signals to feel better. An advisor’s warm smile in person or virtually also supports the advisee and helps them feel at home and relax. Smiling at each other is one of the common human expressions regardless of the generation.


Academic advising has been viewed from multiple perspectives. While each view supports advising outcomes, there are still some advisees and advisors who underappreciate advising. To promote both advisors and advisees finding meaningfulness in advising, advising can be viewed as an intergenerational dialogue opportunity. Advising dialogues between younger and older generations bring benefits, such as positive attitude changes as well as a ripple effect in the college campus and beyond. Although challenges exist in intergenerational dialogues during advising, there are simple mindful steps one can take to not only overcome such challenges, but also to fully engage in advising as an intergenerational dialogue opportunity.

Sachiko Komagata, PT, PhD
Director of Advising
Chair/Associate Professor in Integrative Health
Department of Integrative Health & Exercise Science
School of Arts and Sciences
Georgian Court University


Dellmann-Jenkins, M., Fowler, L., Lambert, D., Fruit, D., Richardson, R. (1994). Intergenerational sharing seminars: Their impact on young adult college students and senior guest students. Educational Gerontology, 20(6), 579–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/0360127940200604

Hemwall, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (2005). Academic advising as learning: 10 organizing principles. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 74–83. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-25.2.74

Lowenstein, M. (2009). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 29(1), 123–131. https://doi.org/10.12930/0271-9517-29.1.123

Murayama, Y., Murayama, H., Hasebe, M., Yamaguchi, J., & Fujiyama, Y. (2019). The impact of intergenerational programs on social capital in Japan: Randomized population-based cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 19(1), 1–9.

O’Connor, J. P., Alfrey, L., Hall, C., & Hall, G. (2019, May). Intergenerational understandings of personal, social and community assets for health. Health and Place, 57, 218–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.05.004

United States Census Bureau. (2016, November 17). The majority of children live with two parents, Census Bureau reports (Release No. CB16-192). https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-192.html

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Lost in Transition: Supporting Transfer Students in a Post-Pandemic World

Lori Riley, Northeastern State University

Lori Riley.jpgWhile there are still many ongoing challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, higher education institutions are looking forward to a fresh academic year and returning to a sense of normalcy. Providing support to students during the pandemic was an incredibly intensive collaborative effort between administrators, departments, faculty, and staff. As physical college and university campuses across the United States closed during the spring of 2020, students quickly lost the traditional modes of access to campus support services. This abrupt change was difficult for many students, including those already acclimated to their institution, but a particularly vulnerable population during this time was transfer students. 

Transfer Student Barriers

Transfer students face many challenges and barriers that traditional students do not. From deconstructing hard to understand articulation agreements and accumulating excess credits, to navigating diverse and often outdated institutional websites, transfer students often lack the support and information they need to succeed. The more transfer student capital a student has, or knowledge of the nuanced policies and procedures gained throughout the transfer process, the more likely they will succeed (Laanan et. al, 2007). Inside Higher Ed recently launched a blog series called “Tackling Transfer” which is a national project that focuses on addressing “issues facing transfers and how institutions can improve transfer student success.” An abysmal fourteen percent of community college students who transfer to a four-year university will complete a bachelor’s degree (Kadlec, 2021). 

There are additional complexities that transfer students face beyond policy though, and these complexities were exacerbated by the pandemic. Both first-year and transfer students faced the disadvantage of not being able to experience their new campuses in person during the height of COVID, but all new freshmen had at least one thing in common that will remain even after the pandemic: they are part of a cohort of other new-to-college students. Many institutions support freshmen with a first-year experience program that is meant to give them a foundation for the college experience and integrate them into the college and campus community; however, these integrative supportive programs are often not extended to transfer students (Holaday, 2005). The lack of support for transfer students can have a negative impact on their success. Many college support services and resources were restricted amid the pandemic, but the true impact of “transfer shock” may now just start to become known. 

Transition Theory

Nancy K. Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (1984) can provide a framework for advisors to use to support transfer students. All types of college students, whether traditional, non-traditional, transfer, or otherwise, experience transition at some point throughout the collegiate journey. “In broad terms, a transition is any event or nonevent that results in changed relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles” (Anderson et. al, 2012, p. 39). Transitions can be anticipated, unanticipated, or nonevents, and the perspective, context, and impact that the transition has on an individual are important points to consider (Anderson et. al, 2012). 

For students planning on transferring from a two-year college to a four-year college, the transition and impending changes may be anticipated: starting a new college, having new professors, navigating a new system and a new campus. Sometimes the transfer experience may be unanticipated, though, like if a student was academically suspended from an institution and must transfer to another college to continue their studies and get back in good standing, or if the pandemic prevented a new transfer student from attending class in person on their new college’s campus.

Anderson et. al (2012) explain that not all transitions are negative, but “people in the midst of one transition experience other transitions, which makes coping especially difficult” (p. 48). While the transfer experience may be a nonevent for some students, COVID still added many unanticipated transitions in the last year, both personally and academically. Transfer students already have to contend with the transition of a new college and learning the differences in the new college’s environment, expectations, and terminology (Grites, 2004; Stuart Hunter & Kendall, 2012). The stress of COVID has left 81% of college students feeling anxious (Johnson Hess, 2020). Going through job loss, dealing with personal illness or the illness of family members, balancing college learning in a virtual world while children are home distance-learning simultaneously, struggling with technological access and zoom fatigue, adding the financial pressure of incurred fees for online or virtual classes, the list of transitions that COVID added goes on and on. 

Supporting Transfer Students

Advisors are at the forefront of interacting with students; an advisor is often the first person a student will go to for a variety of issues, which makes them a crucial piece in supporting transfer students. How successfully a person copes with transition depends on the resources they have available to them, and those who help people cope with transitions “need to be able to weave together their skills and knowledge” (Anderson et. al, 2012, p. 37). Advisors need to be skilled experts in a variety of ways in order to foster the relationships needed to support transfer students. The Relational component of NACADA’s Core Competencies Model highlights rapport building, inclusive and respectful communication, and facilitating problem solving as important factors that enable advisors to foster student success. 

Communicating effectively and communicating often with transfer students are the most important ways to support them and build rapport with them. Through proactive advising, advisors can make deliberate outreach to transfer students to have a more personal and direct involvement with the student before they ask for help (Varney, 2013). Not being part of a specific cohort with a first-year experience like freshman have, transfer students can feel less connected to their institution, but an advisor’s deliberate outreach with a transfer student can make them feel valued and cared for. Advisors can create a communication schedule specifically for transfer student outreach that uses several modes of communication (email, phone calls, text messages, virtual meetings, learning management systems) to meet them where they are. The wonderful benefit of using technology in advising is it “can allow advisors and students to interact far more often than the all-too-common twice a semester scenario” (Pellegrin, 2015). Many advisors had to change how they communicated with students during COVID. While the ideal communication with a transfer student would be a one-on-one interaction in person every time, that isn’t feasible for today’s students, and the innovative ways advisors found to connect with them during COVID should be carried on in the post-pandemic world. 

Understanding the barriers that transfer students face and the various transitions they cope with is necessary in order to know how to best support them. With the ever-changing needs of today’s diverse college students, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Transfer students are more likely to lack connection and community at their new campus. Effective advisor outreach and relationship building through deliberate and targeted communication by any means is one of the greatest ways to support transfer students and foster engagement in a post-pandemic world.

Lori Riley
Academic Advisor II
College of Education
Northeastern State University


Anderson, M. L., Goodman, J., Schlossberg, N. K., & Goodman, J. (2012). Counseling adults in transition: Linking Schlossberg's theory with practice in a diverse world. Springer Pub.

Grites, T. (2004, September). Advising transfer students. Academic Advising Today, 27(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Advising-Transfer-Students.aspx

Holaday, T. (2005, February). Diversity in transfer. Academic Advising Today, 28(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Diversity-in-Transfer.aspx

Johnson Hess, A. (2020, November 6). Staying engaged in class is the biggest coronavirus-related concern for college students, report finds. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/06/81percent-of-college-students-feel-coronavirus-anxiety-new-report.html

Kadlec, A. (2021, January 14). Introducing tackling transfer. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/tackling-transfer/introducing-tackling-transfer

Laanan, F. S., Starobin, S. S., & Eggleston, L. E. (2010). Adjustment of community college students at a four-year university: Role and relevance of transfer student capital for student retention. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 12(2), 175–209.

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

Pellegrin, J. (2015). Advising online. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising, (2nd ed., pp. 289–298). Jossey-Bass.

Schlossberg, N. K. (1984). Counseling adults in transition. Springer Pub.

Stuart Hunter, M. & Kendall, L. (2012). Moving into college. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, T. J. Grites, and Associates (Eds), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., pp. 142–156). Jossey-Bass. 

Varney, J. (2013). Proactive advising. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 137–154). Jossey-Bass.

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Advising Art Students: It is Life Work, Not Career Obsession

Laurel Smith, Alberta University of the Arts

Laurel Smith.jpgAdvisors play a key role in improving art students’ confidence by supporting their decision to choose careers in the arts. But the focus on careers is absolutely the wrong perspective. Instead, students should consider what I call life’s work.

My viewpoint comes from a career as a professional artist, as an art and design professor for fifteen years, and in my current job as an academic advisor, a role which I have held nine years. In my work with thousands of art students, I have noticed that despite their passion for art, many have low confidence about their career prospects. I have also seen students’ confidence soar when they begin to grasp what their life as a contemporary artist can look like.

Here are some things I have noticed students respond to as they consider their futures in the arts.

Artists are persistent. Students show up to my office looking worried when they realize opportunities to earn a living solely from a studio practice may appear somewhat bleak. According to the Strategic National Arts Project’s (2020) alumni survey, 75% of the 92,113 recent art graduates across the US continue their art practice alongside art-related and non-art-related employment. Of those surveyed, 23,028, or only one quarter of all artists, reported working in art-related occupations: 29% as self-employed artists, 26% as art educators, 23% as designers, and 9% as arts administrators. It should be noted that even those working in art-related positions are not earning their living from their studio practice. The Government of Canada (2019) confirms those in occupations fitting the definition of artists are usually self-employed.

Art students often seek my advice because they are second guessing their choice to pursue the arts. I believe it is important to help those students understand the reality rather than myths. The myth of the starving artist or the myth that artists will somehow magically earn a living by simply being artists. It is my goal to help students gain clarity about their challenges and to come up with a plan to prepare for and feel inspired about choosing a meaningful future in the arts.

Artists are valuable to society. Artists are professionals who serve contemporary society by questioning traditions, innovating existing concepts, and creating alternatives to the status quo. Ezra Pound (1961) recognized the value of artists’ societal contributions stating, “a nation which rejects the perceptions of its artists declines. After a while it ceases to act and merely survives” (p. 87). I remind students that their chosen art profession is a noble and inspiring pursuit. They can proudly assert their place in society as artists.

Art is ubiquitous because artists are necessary. While the art market may have jobs for artists, it requires research and creative job hunting. I also advise students to dispel the myth of the starving artist. Many students say they contend with parents who use this myth in an attempt to dissuade them from pursuing their passion. On the other hand, I also advise students not to sell their work too cheaply or to give their services away as free labor. I think it is important to help art students challenge these outdated biases and focus instead on how they contribute to contemporary culture and to remind them that they should expect fair wages for their labor.

Art careers are professional art practices. A practice is defined as the exercise of a profession or occupation involving prolonged training and formal qualification. What an artist, doctor, lawyer, writer, or architect does is a practice. Like all professionals, artists deserve to be recognized and compensated for their expertise and products. It is also important to note that artists are tax-paying citizens who contribute to the local economy by maintaining their professional studio practice.

Artists have meaningful, interesting lives. I encourage students to consider their career through the lenses of “life’s work” and “means to live”:

  • Life’s work refers to activities that qualify as artistic practice that inspire, question, and enrich the artist’s and the consumer’s world understanding. Life’s work reflects disciplined creative investigation and devoted time to carefully craft one’s ideas. Life’s work for artists evolves tangibly in artworks that are disseminated within a cultural network.
  • Means to live refers to commercial activities that provide economic stability to support artists’ professional art practices. Art school graduates are employed in a variety of fields because they offer critical and lateral thinking; creative problem solving skills; technical abilities; and they can articulate themselves verbally, textually, and visually. Only a small percentage of artists earn a living from art-related jobs, and therefore artists employed in other occupations use their limited free time for their studio practice.

Being an artist is the pursuit of one’s passion. When students ask for career advice, my first priority is to acknowledge and build upon their passion for art. I believe that passion sparks intrinsic motivation and inspires esteem. Passion is emphasized by enthusiasm. Yves Klein (2007) said, “Enthusiasm is the only means of true and direct investigation; enthusiasm leads always to the goal that is creation” (p. 7).  I would add that passion can be fragile and it is important for art students to guard theirs well.

My second priority is to encourage art students to stay focused on earning credentials that show the world what they are good at. In addition to credentials, artists must learn to promote their strengths. Upon graduation, art students have skills as researchers, critical thinkers, and technical operators, and they also have a unique portfolio of art. Their credential provides access to opportunities that are not accessible to non-artists such as residencies, grants, exhibitions, and further art education.

As lifelong learners, artists offer highly specialized creative skills, problem solving, and the ability to tolerate uncertainty. While I have found that many art students are completely oblivious to some existing opportunities, they are also eager to take up my challenge to research opportunities and learn to recognize new opportunities when they arise. Researching and applying for opportunities pertaining to their life’s work is an ongoing part of their professional practice, and the following resources can assist students as they start their exploration.

Education in the arts includes additional study in art-related fields including art, design, craft, art therapy, art education, and curatorial studies. For students who wish to continue their education beyond their undergraduate degree, the resources below may help them find the program or opportunity that best matches their goals.

  • The College Art Association publishes directories of graduate programs in art and art history, and other art related programs.
  • AICAD Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design maintain a current list of exchange programs, conferences, and other opportunities for artists.
  • Art undergraduate degree holders are also eligible to enroll in non-art post-baccalaureate and graduate degree programs.

Residencies are opportunities for artists to temporarily live and work in communities around the world.

  • transartists.org
  • resartis.org
  • residencyunlimited.org

Funding is essential for artists applying for project production and exhibition support. Artists accepted for these opportunities are often eligible for grant funding through national, state, or provincial granting agencies for artistic creative endeavors, residency travel expenditures, professional development, studio, and sustenance.

Clearing Houses include opportunity listings for artists, such as exhibition, education, and special project calls.       

  • akimbo.ca
  • artandeducation.net

In closing, I think it is important for advisors to help art students shift their preoccupation with career trend forecasts and look at the lifelong arc of their pursuit in the arts. A focus on life’s work expands students’ perspectives. It gives them agency to assert themselves in the cultural landscape. Ultimately by strategizing and defining what is meaningful life’s work, students become more hopeful and inspired about their choice to work in arts.

Laurel Smith
Academic Advisor
Alberta University of the Arts


Government of Canada. (2019, December). Job bank. https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/8027/ca

Klein, Y. (2007). Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein (K. Ottman, Trans.). Spring Publications.

Pound, E., (1961). The ABC of reading (2nd ed.). Faber & Faber.

Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. (2020). SnaapShot. http://snaap.indiana.edu/snaapshot/

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Advising Strategies to Promote Stronger Preparation for Graduate and Professional School

Rachel Tolen, Indiana University

Rachel Tolen.jpgUndergraduate academic advisors serve as valuable resources for students by helping them prepare for career and educational paths after graduation. At the time they enter college, a number of students already have aspirations to attend graduate or professional school. What steps can advisors take to help undergraduate students lay the foundation for success in graduate school and their future careers? Here I offer some advising techniques that can support this endeavor, by helping students re-frame their career goals in new ways at an earlier stage of their intellectual and professional development. 

Universities should provide services and resources to help students become informed from an early stage about preparing to apply to graduate and professional school (Bloom & Uiga, 2011). Coaching approaches can be very beneficial in helping students develop their plans (McLellan & Moser, 2011). Encouraging students to engage in service learning and research activities supports the development of important skills for graduate study. To help students prepare for the application process, advisors should begin early to coach them on how to build relationships with professors that could result in strong, supportive letters of recommendation and help them get started early on crafting application essays.

Even while universities provide such services, advisors may see some students falter. Students may find it difficult to write a strong personal statement if they have not clearly clarified their goals and motivations for seeking admission to graduate or professional school (Tolen, 2016). Students may not follow up on an advisor’s advice about obtaining letters of recommendation if they are unsure about their plans for pursuing graduate study. Often when students are not taking early steps it is because they are not certain or not motivated enough to feel confident in acting. To this end, one of the most important things advisors can do is help them clarify their motivations (Bloom & Uiga, 2011). Bloom, Mulhern Halasz, and Hapes (2016) emphasize the importance of actively helping graduate students articulate both their shorter-term and longer-term goals for the duration of their careers, for instance, through the use of an Individual Development Plan document (Fuhrmann et al., 2015). The techniques I describe here will benefit students even prior to beginning graduate study. These techniques also complement approaches such as the Why Project described by Kolson (2021) that was developed to invite students to share their “why statements” that reflect on their purpose and motivation in pursuing their declared majors. If students are able to articulate clear goals earlier, they are more likely to be motivated and take the actions steps required to be successful.

From the time they start college, students frequently are asked the question from relatives and peers: “What are you going to do when you graduate?” As we know, the two most common answers are either get a job or go to graduate or professional school. The problem with this question is that it only brings into focus a few years’ time: the transition into graduate school. Students’ discussions with family and peers often focus only on the next few years leading up to and following graduation. Going to graduate or professional school is never an end in itself though, but a step along a path.

Students who apply to graduate or professional school stating their goals as simply to study in a certain field are less likely to be successful. To be a stronger applicant, students must be able to articulate goals that extend for decades into their careers. The student must be able to articulate in the application longer lasting goals (Bloom & Uiga, 2011). Gaining the ability to articulate those longer-term goals is also likely to increase a student’s motivation to take the necessary action steps earlier.

How can advisors help students define their long-term goals in concrete ways? Advisors may want to avoid directly asking questions such as “Why do you want to go to graduate school?” Such phrasing could unintentionally convey that an advisor is skeptical about the student’s intentions. Using carefully framed, open-ended questions that encourage reflection and elaboration often can be more productive (Magolda & King, 2008).

Instead of asking “What are you going to do when you graduate?” or about the beginning of a student’s career, I like to sometimes turn it around and ask about the end of a student’s career. I have found it productive to pose the question, “Imagine yourself on the day that you retire. What would you like to be able to say you’ve achieved through your work?” This question often brings everything into relief, adding some clarity, and helping a student articulate longer-term goals.

For those students who identify as “premed,” posing this question helps them move beyond focusing on being a doctor and more on what they hope to achieve through their work as a doctor. One of the particular difficulties for many premed students is that some of them have gotten caught in a linguistic trap. Some students have repeated the phrase “I want to be a doctor” without reflecting sufficiently on the reasons why. Often this phrase has been uttered for years to parents, teachers, and themselves. It has become part of a student’s identity and the story they’ve constructed about their lives.

Reflecting on the question of what they hope to achieve before retirement provides a far richer framework to discover what these goals mean to them. Most interesting for me is that students give such varied responses to this question when it is worded in this way, even though all of them state the same goal of being a doctor. Students often provide rich descriptions of what they would like to achieve through their work, opening up new avenues for how they might achieve these goals that may not even involve being a doctor, leading to the consideration of potential alternate careers.

Many students think ahead only to the next decade, and the beginning of their careers. This technique helps to transport them out of their present circumstances while providing a far-reaching perspective on their strongest motivations. Advisors who help students identify some of their strongest motivations aid them not just in eventually gaining graduate admission but engage fully with their undergraduate experience.


Advising is a profession focused on engaging in meaningful conversations with students that can help them navigate their way through our educational institutions and forward into their future lives and careers. As others have noted, advisors can play an important role in helping students build reflective skills (Magolda & King, 2008). When persons speak, they are not just describing or reflecting what exists, but they are in a profound sense creating social reality and relationships (Searle, 2002). For this reason, the conversations students have with advisors can be very powerful and transformative for them.

Advisors can enhance the success of students by engaging them earlier in questions related to graduate study and especially by asking them different questions than they may be getting from parents or peers. Here I have offered an approach that can help students re-frame their intentions and articulate goals that extend decades into their careers. By talking with students about what they may be doing over the long haul in their careers—not just at the beginning—advisors can help them become stronger applicants to graduate and professional programs. The benefits of these conversations are likely to extend far beyond the graduate application stage, but throughout the lives of our advisees.

Rachel Tolen, Ph.D.
Director and Premedical Advisor
Health Professions and Prelaw Center
Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Indiana University

The author would like to thank Shauna Melvin for her thoughtful feedback on this article.


Bloom, J. L., Mulhern Halasz, H., & Hapes, R. (2016, June). Advising strategies for graduate student degree progression. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Advising-Strategies-for-Graduate-Student-Degree-Progression.aspx

Bloom, J. L., & Uiga, S. (2011, December). Make a difference: Six things undergraduate advisors should know about graduate school. Academic Advising Today, 34(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Make-a-Difference-Six-Things-Undergraduate-Advisors-Should-Know-About-Graduate-School.aspx

Fuhrmann, C. N., Hobin, J. A., Lindstaedt, B., & Clifford, P. S. (2015, Sept 14). My IDP- Individual development plan. American Association for the Advancement of Science. http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/

Kosin, K. (2021, March). The “why” project: Helping students to define and value their academic purpose. Academic Advising Today, 44(1). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/The-Why-Project-Helping-Students-to-Define-and-Value-Their-Academic-Purpose.aspx  

Magolda, M. B. B., & King, P. M. (2008). Toward reflective conversations: An advising approach that promotes self-authorship. Peer Review, 10(1), 2–9.

McClellan, J., & Moser C. (2011). A practical approach to advising as coaching. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.  https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-as-coaching.aspx

Searle, J. (2002). Speech acts, mind, and social reality. In G. Grewendorf & G. Meggle (Eds.), Speech Acts, Mind, and Social Reality: Discussions with John Searle (pp. 3–16). Springer.

Tolen, R. (2016). Personal statement writing as a developmental process: Reflections from one advisor. The Advisor: The Journal of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, 36(1), 25–31.

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Framing the Puzzle: Early Knowledge of Students through Data

Sarah A. Forbes, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Sarah Forbes.jpgNACADA’s (2017) Core Competencies Model supports the idea that knowing students and developing advising relationships are just as important as the history and theory of advising and learning institutional and curricular information. Students are multifaceted individuals, however, and as such, knowing students will be a multifaceted endeavor as academic advisors glean personal history, interests and abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and aspirations for the future. Reviewing generational and demographic data can facilitate that process of discovery. As Kolls (2015) described, “answers to the demographic questions create the edges or framework of the jigsaw puzzle” (p. 179). While data will not complete the puzzle, it can give academic advisors early knowledge of students.

Wallace and Wallace (2015) recommended that academic advisors learn to navigate their institution’s student information system to obtain data about their advisees. While going straight to the data source is reasonable in theory, it is not always feasible in practice, especially if faculty are serving as academic advisors. Many institutions limit who has direct access into the student information system; other institutions provide indirect access through reports, which may contain limited information; and in some cases, academic advisors are left to interpret the data and translate it into practice.

At Rose-Hulman, academic advising is structured under a supplementary model (Habley, 1983), whereby all students are assigned to a faculty academic advisor, with a staff office overseeing the program and supporting faculty efforts. The main channel of support is a resource course located in the institute’s learning management system. To help academic advisors frame the puzzle, one section of the course is entitled “About Our Students” and includes information on Generation Z (Seemiller & Grace, 2016), the overall Rose-Hulman student body, and the current Rose-Hulman fall cohort, noting their associated characteristics and recommendations. A few examples for each category are provided in Tables 1–3.

Table 1

Characteristics of Generation Z and Suggestions for Advisors

Characteristics of Generation Z

Suggestions for advisors

Crave face-to-face interactions

Make sure your advisees know when you are available to meet with them in-person (the academic advising syllabus is a great place to provide this information), and explain to them that all faculty have office hours where they can stop by and have a conversation.

Motivated by earning credit or advancement

Guide your advisees towards experiences that will enable them to learn specialized skills that could either (a) give them credit towards graduation or (b) help them to advance in their future career.

Used to 24/7 access

Set boundaries and appropriate expectations with your advisees regarding when you will or will not be available. Consider adding this information to your academic advising syllabus.

Risk averse

Remind your advisees that failure is an important part of the learning process, which can help them ease into necessary risk-taking while promoting a growth mindset.

Financially conservative

Remind your advisees that they have invested a great deal in campus resources, and that they should get a return on their investment. If your advisees have low midterm grades, consider reminding them how much it costs to repeat a course.


Table 2

Academic Characteristics of Rose-Hulman Students and Suggestions for Advisors

Academic characteristics of Rose-Hulman students

Suggestions for advisors

Report studying 10 or fewer hours per week in high school

Remind your advisees that expectations for college are different from high school. As noted in the RHIT100 text, "the one who does the work does the learning" (Doyle & Zakrajsek, 2018, p. 164).

Seek assistance from other students before seeking assistance from faculty

Point out to students that they have invested a great deal of money in campus resources. They should get a return on that investment.

Have not encountered significant challenges and will not have had to ask for help

Remind students that it is normal to struggle. Rose-Hulman will intentionally challenge them to help them realize their potential, but staff and faculty will support them through the process.

Have been academically successful relying on only low-level learning strategies, namely memorization

Encourage students to review the learning cycle strategies found in the RHIT100 Moodle course.

Will likely earn their first B (or lower) during their first term

Point out a couple of facts: (1) less than 10 students each year will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and (2) 98% of Rose-Hulman students get placed in a career, graduate school, or the military.  Perfect grades are not expected nor are they necessary.


Table 3

Demographic Characteristics of the Rose-Hulman Fall 2020 First-Year Cohort and Suggestions for Advisors

Demographic characteristics of the Fall 2020 first-year cohort

Suggestions for advisors

83% had a 3.75 or higher high school GPA

Remind your advisees that "what got you here won't get you there." Success in high school came very easily; that won't be the case at Rose-Hulman. They should start developing more effective learning strategies as soon as possible.

26% are female

Encourage your advisees to take advantage of specific resources on campus, such as the Society for Women Engineers or the LEAD program. You might also encourage them to talk to the female faculty in their department so that they have role models of successful STEM females. Finally, help female students understand that they do not have to conform to traditional female roles (e.g., always being the secretary for a group project).

12% are first-generation

Avoid using college jargon and acronyms with your advisees; encourage your advisees to ask lots of questions; and remind your advisees that there are several offices on campus ready and willing to support them. 

12% are from an underrepresented population

Talk with your advisees about their specific plans for success. Traditionally, underrepresented student groups have lower graduation rates. If they are lacking in specific strategies, encourage them to review the resources in their RHIT100 Moodle course.

10% are international students

Encourage international students to interact with domestic students so that they can further develop their English language skills. If they are struggling with the language, encourage them to seek ESL tutoring. 


Of course, within each table myriad other data points could be explored. For example, the average age of first-year students at Rose-Hulman is 18.1 and only 0.2% of first-year students are age 25 or older.  Given that Rose-Hulman has historically had a population of traditional-aged students, these data points are not as relevant for academic advisors, thus not included. The purpose of these tables is to highlight the most salient statistics and help academic advisors understand their importance. Again, this just frames the puzzle, and does not preclude additional methods of data collection. Once the frame is in place, academic advisors can fill in the details for each individual student through intake or interest forms as well as direct conversations. 

It should be noted that with access to data comes the responsibility to protect and use it appropriately.  Coomes and DeBard (2004) caution against overgeneralizing or stereotyping students based on generational information, but the same is also true for student population and cohort data. Academic advisors should not assume anything about their advisees but use the existing data to frame conversations and future inquiries. 

As Nutt (2015) pointed out, “planning for an advising session with an advisee involves the advisor learning as much as possible about the student” (p. 256). While getting to know advisees as unique individuals is important, especially for institutions such as Rose-Hulman whose mission focuses on individual attention and support, leveraging generational and institutional data can frame the puzzle.  Once academic advisors know their advisees, they can begin to identify and assist with student needs (Wallace & Wallace, 2015). 

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


Coomes, M. D., & DeBard, R. (2004). A generational approach to understanding students. New Directions for Student Services, 2004(106), 5–15.

Doyle, T., & Zakrajsek, T. (2018). The new science of learning (2nd ed.). Stylus Publishing.

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

Kolls, S. (2015). Informational component: Learning about advisees—Putting together the puzzle. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 177–184). Jossey-Bass.

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

Nutt, C. L. (2015). One-to-one advising. In P. Folsom, F. Yoder, & J. E. Joslin (Eds.), The new advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 251–266). Jossey-Bass.

Seemiller, C., & Grace, M. (2016). Generation Z goes to college. Jossey-Bass.

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: Mastering the art of academic advising (pp. 125–141). Jossey-Bass.

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Emotional Labor and Professional Burnout: Advisor Self-Care in the Age of COVID

Craig M. McGill, Kansas State University
Michelle Maller, Oregon State University

Michelle Maller.jpgI (Michelle) am a new PhD student. For over a year, I worked from home. From March 2020 until May 2021, my children were here with me, crammed into our living room with three desks and all our supplies. I often felt exhausted, burned out, and desperately wanted a break, and I was always unsure of when I would get one. For so many advisors, this was our new normal. For those of us who are parents trying to balance our work, our kids, and what is left of our social life, the pandemic increased our stress levels causing mental and physical health issues.

Craig McGill.jpgI (Craig) am a new assistant professor in Michelle’s PhD program. In the midst of the pandemic, I moved two states away, bought a house and started a new life at a new university in a new city. During the fall semester (in which Michelle was in my doctoral seminar), I contracted COVID and was sick for two months. The following article was born out of a conversation Michelle and I had after I read one of her class papers. Michelle discussed new levels of emotional labor required to meet the growing needs of students amidst a pandemic and the demands of her home life and PhD work. In this paper, we discuss the challenges of putting forth additional emotional labor as well as strategies to combat additional stress and promote advisor self-care.

Constraints on Self-Care

In the past year, the higher education community has experienced massive changes. As practitioners working in a helping profession, advisors may be experiencing burnout and pandemic fatigue. A recent survey by the American Council on Education found “the mental health of faculty and staff members as the third-most-pressing concern for college presidents, behind the mental health of students and their institutions’ long-term financial viability” (Turk & Ramos, 2020, para. 4). The increased stress of advisors has ushered in a crisis of mental health. While students are experiencing these same stressors and mental health challenges, advisors are also taking on the additional burden of acting as sounding boards for their students.

The increased levels of stress and anxiety are contributing to physical symptoms. People are experiencing “backaches, headaches, and even loss of appetite” (Queen & Harding, 2020, para. 7) due to the increased stress. For academic advisors, the increased stress levels are contributing to a variety of ailments and the potential for eventual burnout. “Over time, academic advisors may begin to experience emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion from constantly witnessing and absorbing the difficulties of students” (Ali & Johns, 2018, para. 1).

Like any helping profession, the work of academic advising involves a lot of emotional labor, “the management of feelings to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display (Hochschild, 1983, p. 7). When advisors are dealing with stress in their personal lives and then work with students who express the stress they are experiencing too, they must perform even more emotional labor than normal. In such times, “It is crucial for advisors to periodically reflect on their personal wellbeing as it will directly impact the quality of care they provide to their students” (Ali & Johns, 2018, para. 4). Without proper self-care, we are risking burnout and the possibility of physical and mental symptoms.

When I (Michelle) have a distressed student in my office, I tend to absorb their stress. My empathy for students affects how I interact with them. Offering empathy and relating to my students is why I am an advisor, but it does take a toll. This is empathy fatigue, which can cause

feelings of reduced professional efficacy, making it more challenging for advisors to manage tasks and assignments that once seemed simple. Advisors frequently have students who share their lives during the advising relationship, and when this is a constant occurrence, it can lead to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion as empathy stores are depleted. (Harman, 2018, para. 3)

Empathy depletion is “continuous exposure to stress due to excessive emotional demands [which] might activate the stress system” (Jueng et al., 2018, p. 190). Empathy depletion not only affects our mental health but can manifest within our physical wellbeing: “Excessive and long-lasting emotional demands could contribute to depression or anxiety and behavioral problems, such as alcohol abuse or physical inactivity” (Jeung et al, 2018, p. 190).

I (Michelle) have experienced empathy fatigue, as I am a naturally empathetic person, and the issues spurred by the pandemic and social changes are bigger than any I have had to navigate before. A pandemic is not something any of us could have properly planned for. Like many advisors, I do not have training in mental health counseling and I often do not feel equipped to handle some of the situations with which I am confronted. There is a feeling of powerlessness, and this can exacerbate the experience of feeling overwhelmed and underprepared for dealing with such tasks. As advisors, our students are struggling, and we are struggling right alongside them.

Self-Care Strategies

Surviving periods of excessive stress can be difficult on many levels, but having a self-care plan in place can help to combat the disruption. Knowing enough about oneself to recognize increasing levels of stress and pressure is increasingly important (McClellan, 2007), especially in relation to the current pandemic. The more advisors know about themselves and the better prepared they are, the better they can combat stressful situations.

Strategy 1: Plan for Stressful Times

To improve self-care, start by “creating a plan, followed by allowing for larger blocks of time for rejuvenation when needed” (Thomas & Morris, 2017, p. 7). Self-care can come in many forms: meditation, reading, being outside, listening to music, etc. Simple things like deep breathing and walks or more calming activities like deep meditation or knitting can also be effective. Furthermore, exercise has been proven to “counteract stress-induced inflammation in the body” (Pattani, 2020, para. 38) and is an easy addition to a day-to-day routine. The impacts of not having a self-care plan, “can affect not only the professional, but also the personal lives of advisors; identifying the need for self-care and implementing it into daily life is imperative to getting back on track and maintaining a sense of balance” (Harman, 2018, para. 1).

An additional strategy is to “plan for unanticipated stressful times” (Thomas & Morris, 2017, p. 8). This strategy might include carving out time in an everyday schedule for self-care. Simply knowing these breaks are there if needed can relieve some of the stress. It is also important to include quick stress alleviating activities that can provide a rapid response such as short audio meditations or affirmations.

Strategy 2: Be Kind to Yourself

It is essential to remember to be aware of your own feelings of stress and burnout. For us as advisors to help our students, we must first help ourselves. Being aware of how important it is to be kind to ourselves can help to alleviate our responses to stress: “Self-compassion lowered unrealistic expectations, developed more effective boundaries, and helped counselors self-correct when necessary. Self-compassion also improved psychological strengths such as happiness, optimism, wisdom, personal initiative, and curiosity” (Thomas & Morris, 2017, p. 7) These are essential skills for working with students.

For the last year and a half, making hard decisions about work and life balance has been a significant part of everyone’s lives, and it has been difficult to know if the right decision is being made. As defined by Brené Brown, the continual stress experienced by everyone is referred to as “collective vulnerability” in which “there is no way through without sacrifice” (McElvoy, 2020). As individuals balancing work and personal life, self-care sometimes involves making sacrifices involving the amount of or types of activities that constrain our energies and overall wellbeing. To really care for ourselves, we sometimes have to sacrifice things that add to our stress levels. These sacrifices can alleviate stress in our personal or work lives. Simply expressing how we are feeling in a professionally appropriate way to colleagues or supervisors, making us vulnerable but authentic, allows us to lead healthier lives.

Strategy 3: Know Your Resources

An essential element of personal self-care is to understand and to utilize available resources. Higher Education institutions have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) designed to provide employees with counseling, legal help, and a variety of other services. The ultimate act of self-care is to seek out resources when needed and to eliminate the fear associated with doing so. The continual stress from COVID and a pandemic has pushed many of us into health crises that require the assistance of a trained professional. Taking advantage of available resources can have a lasting impact on overall mental and physical health.


Incorporating self-care into an advising practice will benefit advisors by helping them to release or at least address some of their stress, which in turn, will allow for more mental space for working with students to address their own frustrations and concerns. All advisors need a break from the day-to-day emotional and mental toll that our advising work takes on our wellbeing, and self-care is the way forward. COVID impacted everyone’s lives, but with an awareness of how to combat emotional fatigue and stress, advisors can continue to provide excellent care for their students, their colleagues, and themselves.

Craig M. McGill, EdD 
Assistant Professor
College of Education
Kansas State University

Michelle Maller, M.S.
Internship & Education Coordinator
Department of Wood Science & Engineering
Oregon State University


Ali, M., & Johns, S. (2018, December). Compassion fatigue and self-care for academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 41(4). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Compassion-Fatigue-and-Self-Care-for-Academic-Advisors.aspx

Harman, E. (2018, September). Recharging our emotional batteries: The importance of self-care for front line advisors. Academic Advising Today, 41(3). https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Recharging-Our-Emotional-Batteries-The-Importance-of-Self-Care-for-Front-Line-Advisors.aspx

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. University of California Press.

Jeung, D. Y., Kim, C., & Chang, S. J. (2018). Emotional labor and burnout: A review of the literature. Yonsei Medical Journal, 59(2), 187–193. https://doi.org/10.3349/ymj.2018.59.2.187

McClellan, J. L. (2007). Content components for advisor training: Revisited. NACADA Clearinghouse. http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advisor-Training-Components.aspx  

McElvoy, A. (Host). (2020, October 22). Brené Brown. [Audio podcast episode]. In The economist asks. The Economist Group. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-economist-asks-bren%C3%A9-brown/id1108555682?i=1000495677611

Pattani, A. (2020, October 14). Sleepless nights, hair loss and cracked teeth: Pandemic stress takes its toll. Shots: Health News from NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/10/14/923672884/sleepless-nights-hair-loss-and-cracked-teeth-pandemic-stress-takes-its-toll

Queen, D., & Harding, K. (2020). Societal pandemic burnout: A COVID legacy. Wiley Public Health Emergency Collection, 17(4), 873–874. https://doi.org/10.1111/iwj.13441

Thomas, D. A., & Morris, M. H. (2017). Creative counselor self-care [Article 17]. Vistas Online. https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/vistas/creative-counselor-self-care.pdf?sfvrsn=ccc24a2c_4

Turk, J. & Ramos, A. M. (2020, October 8). College and university presidents respond to COVID: 2020 fall term survey. American Council of Education. https://www.acenet.edu/Research-Insights/Pages/Senior-Leaders/College-and-University-Presidents-Respond-to-COVID-19-2020-Fall-Term.aspx

NACADA Emerging Leaders Program Provides Leadership Development and Networking Opportunities

Meagan Hagerty, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Leigh Cunningham, Emerging Leaders Program Coordinator

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

Each year, beginning with the 2007-2009 Class, 10 Emerging Leaders and 10 Mentors are selected for the two-year program. Emering Leaders are matched with Mentors who have a wide range of experience within NACADA, from research and publication to serving on the Board of Directors. Emerging Leaders and Mentors work closely to connect the Emerging Leaders to the areas of the association they are interested in and develop a plan for continued involvement and growth within the association. Emerging Leaders receive a $2,000 stipend to assist them with travel to NACADA conferences, institutes, and seminars, helping to promote their engagement and involvement.

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

The 2019-2021 Emerging Leaders and Mentors, who began work at the 2019 Annual Conference in Louisville, have been diligently pursuing their goals over the past two years and look forward to receiving their Certificates of Completion this October.

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Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Meagan Hagerty is pleased to announce the 2021-2023 NACADA Emerging Leaders and Mentors

Emerging Leaders

Thomas Beckwith, Santa Fe College
Jen Berry, Indiana University-Bloomington
Vanessa Correa, George Mason University
Carlota Deseda-Coon, Syracuse University
Tyler Hall, Dalhousie University
Christopher (Cody) Harrison, Lincoln Memorial University
Courtney Lewellen, Indiana University School of Medicine
Gerron Scott, Virginia Commonwealth University
Winnie Tang, University of California-Santa Cruz
Kendyl Walker, Goucher College


Scott Byington, Central Carolina Community College
Lindsey Byrd, Coastal Alabama Community College
William (Bill) Johnson, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Erin Justyna, Texas Tech University
Cecilia Olivares, University of Missouri-Columbia
Wiona Porath, Johns Hopkins University
Wendy Schindler, Northern Kentucky University
Kevin Thomas, University of Central Arkansas
Wendy Troxel, Kansas State University
Nathan Vickers, University of Texas at Austin

The new Class of new Emerging Leaders and Mentors have been meeting over the summer and will continue working virtually and on-site 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 2022-2024 Class!

Meagan Hagerty
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2020-2022
University of Minnesota

Leigh Cunningham
ELP Coordinator
NACADA Executive Office
Kansas State University

The Virtual Administrators' Institute: A Dazzling Experience

Joe Latulippe, NACADA Administrators Institute Scholarship recipient

Joe Latulippe.jpgI became a member of NACADA a few years ago; right after I was appointed as the Academic Advising Coordinator for the undergraduate advising program at my institution. As with many advising administrative positions at small private institutions, this role is one of responsibility but not authority. My ascent into this position was based on my perceived ability to “do a good job” and had nothing to do with my background in advising. Sure, I had been a faculty advisor for over a decade, but my lack of experience in advising administration wasn’t enough to deter my appointment. I gladly took on the role as a way for me to grow professionally in a new area and to make positive contributions to my institution: its students, faculty, and staff.

As a new advising administrator, I had lots to learn and quickly joined NACADA to soak in as much advising history, information, practice, and experience as I could. One of my responsibilities was to assess our advising program, and so I naturally attended the NACADA Assessment Institute in 2019 to find out what this meant. It rapidly became evident that I had much to learn in order to bring my advising program in line with current practices and theories. My experience at the Assessment Institute was eye opening and became a launching point for rethinking how academic advising at my institution was organized and delivered. I returned to the Assessment Institute in 2020 having successfully argued the merits of the institute to my administration who committed scarce resources (money) to sending a team of four to the institute. Having attended two NACADA Assessment Institutes, I was thrilled and excited to participate in the 2021 Virtual Administrators’ Institute, knowing it would be an enriching professional development opportunity.

What struck me right away about the NACADA Virtual Administrators’ Institute is that it was relevant for new and seasoned advising administrators, for those in small programs with limited oversight and those in charge of large programs, for those overseeing faculty advisors and those in charge of primary-role advisors. The institute is designed to help you regardless of your role, experience, or background. New advising administrators may have found the sessions on the four NACADA Pillars, Advising Competencies, leadership, and creating student learning outcomes to be particularly helpful. Administrators focusing on team building and management had the opportunity to engage in sessions on change management, trainings and advisor development, and developing your dream team. While I could not attend all the sessions, the variety of topics and small group breakout sessions provided plenty of engagement opportunities in the specific areas that I was seeking to develop. All participants were treated to outstanding plenaries that ranged in topics from Leading Advising Administration when Black Lives Matter to Embracing the Role of Academic Advising in Supporting Student Success.

One of my favorite parts of the institute was the planned small group and individual working sessions. During these sessions, my colleague Stephanie and I developed a framework for building a comprehensive advisor training program at our institution, set forth a plan for delivering the training content, and prepared a timeline for creating several modules. We particularly benefitted from having one-on-one conversations with institute faculty while developing our action plan. With a breadth of experiences in just about any advising model, the institute faculty were at the ready to brainstorm, assess, and discuss various advising scenarios with participants. This made the experience enriching and gave it a personalized touch.

The pandemic has brought on an onslaught of virtual meetings and online conferences, and I have mixed feelings about the virtual experience as a whole. While virtual events are great at providing equitable access to individuals for whom attending an in-person conference is not possible, they cannot replace the experience one can have with an in-person event. For example, I have come to appreciate many of the small opportunities surrounding in-person events such as the ability to chat with others sitting around me, brainstorm ideas between sessions, and simply getting up and walking around the venue. When it came to the Virtual Administrators’ Institute, I was confident that the content would be great, but would this be just another virtual conference where time to reflect is limited and where no social interactions take place? Not at all! What I found was deliberate planning of optional engagement opportunities with sessions enabling participants to work creatively on action plans meaningful to them. This allowed participants to come away having had the opportunity to learn from an engaged community, create an action plan, and formulate a way to deliver that plan after the institute. The Morning Coffee, Lunch Break Conversation, and After-Hours Relaxation with Colleagues provided similar elements to the social opportunities one typically finds in an in-person event. The sessions were well timed and allowed for ample breaks in between.

My experience at the Virtual Administrators’ Institute was not only greatly positive, but I could also sense there was something special, a secret ingredient, to the program. What was it about this institute that made participants engage in a virtual dance party as we congregated online in the presession waiting room listening to the melodic techno beats playing in the background? Why did so many of us choose to participate in the optional social sessions? For me that secret ingredient was generosity. Leaning on the reputability, leadership, and trust that the NACADA community has built over the years, everyone involved was willing to share their stories, be vulnerable, add to the discussion, raise important questions, and all were willing to do it in an inclusive way. It made a huge difference over other larger, impersonal conferences that you passively listen to rather than engage with. I got just as much from participant comments as I did from the faculty and session facilitators. I wanted to engage during the optional sessions because I would get to know other advising administrators, form new relationships, and learn important insights on best practices in advising.

As the Virtual Administrator’s Institute came to a close, I recall looking around at my converted office/bedroom/craft room reflecting on the three days of the institute and being joyfully tired. The kind of tired one feels after putting in a hard day’s work and being able to step back and enjoy the fruits of those labors. The kind of tired that comes with the self-satisfaction of having made the best effort you’re capable of and one that reflects a total commitment to the success of the task at hand. I had gone all in with the institute, committing the time, space, and energy over three full virtual days and it paid off. While my colleague Stephanie and I used the group and individual working time to develop our action plan, the content of the plenary and concurrent sessions was relevant and gave the institute a sense of balance. As the last session commenced, I was feeling proud of our accomplishments and was excited to hear of similar stories from other participants during the session titled Dazzle Us. As this session rolled on, I was awed by what my fellow institute colleagues were able to achieve during the institute. The session summed up for me why NACADA’s Administrators’ Institute should be on every advising administrator’s “must attend” list. Participants came to the institute with open minds, expanded their knowledge base, engaged in vibrant conversations, and left with concrete action plans around their individual goals and objectives.

Joe Latulippe
Director of Academic Advising
Linfield University

Starting the Assessment Journey at the NACADA Assessment Institute

Amy Calapa, Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient

Amy Calapa.jpgAs a professional in higher education, I have always been drawn to conversations related to continuous improvement, outcomes, and focusing on how data can help inform decisions and drive the story advisors tell about their work. Early in my career in student affairs, I saw the power that came from the work that a group of colleagues and I did to develop a residential life and student engagement curriculum. We spent almost an entire academic year engaging in deep and meaningful conversations about the purpose, focus, and outcome of our work in order to structure a meaningful assessment module. As I transitioned into the field of academic advising, I found myself spending little time on assessment activities. When I transitioned into senior leadership roles, I felt inspired to engage in more assessment work as I wanted to tell a more data-driven story about the work that our advising unit was completing and identify areas for further innovation. Since I only had informal experiences in assessment and evaluation, I knew I needed to seek out formal opportunities to grow my knowledge and skills in this area. This research led me to discover the annual NACADA Assessment Institute, which I felt was the perfect fit for helping me to learn more about academic advising assessment.

While applying for the 2021 NACADA Assessment Institute, I made the decision apply for the scholarship to support the cost of attendance. The application process for the scholarship was simple enough to complete, only requiring some reflection time on my behalf as I wrote a statement regarding what I was hoping to achieve through my attendance, and the time it took to request a few letters of recommendation and support from my leadership. I was glad I applied, as I was awarded one of the participant scholarships to attend the Institute, which covered the registration fee. As professional development funds can be limited, especially during challenging economic times, I appreciated the support from NACADA. The scholarship allowed me to attend the Institute without taking away from the limited funds shared by professionals in our office, and at the same time I was able to gain the confidence and knowledge I was seeking to initiate change in our advising unit.

My Assessment Institute experience was perhaps more unique than others as the 2021 NACADA Assessment Institute was held virtually through Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways, I did feel the loss of not being able to travel to the conference location and interact with advising peers during the conference. I always feel that I benefit greatly from the casual interaction, networking, and one-on-one questions around a conference’s scheduled activities that contribute to my inspiration, motivation, and learning as a professional. On the other hand, the virtual nature of the conference allowed me to have some quiet work time throughout the day which allowed me to plan, prepare, and reflect between sessions. Without having to travel back and forth between locations, or walk to the next meeting room, I was able to take the time to quietly reflect on and expand my level of individual learning. This reflection and planning time helped me to leave the conference with a well-developed action plan. Part of this experience can also be contributed to how well organized the conference was through Zoom and the conference dashboard. The online dashboard made it easy to find conference materials and other session information, while the multiple Zoom breakouts made it easy to connect with other participants and the conference faculty.

Currently, my institution and specific advising department does not have an established culture or any long-standing practices related to the assessment of academic advising. I have begun to view this as a barrier to telling a meaningful story about the role, purpose of, and needs of academic advisors. So, I wanted to begin to understand how to make positive change towards a stronger assessment culture. At the start of the institute, my goal through participating was to enhance my understanding, and more importantly confidence, regarding how I might begin the process of creating an assessment plan for our advising department. Below is a summary of some of the learning moments I had during the institute.

Focusing on Progress Over Perfection

During day one of the Institute, one of the faculty members shared a quote that assessment is more about focusing on progress than focusing on being perfect through the process. During this initial presentation the Institute’s faculty shared more about how the process of assessment itself is a learning process and only through doing can we truly learn and improve our own practices. This idea really made a difference for me because I have been a victim of my own perfectionism in the past, and I know I am not alone in that feeling. This lesson empowered me to know that assessment is about starting somewhere, testing the waters by acting, and continuously reflecting on and refining the process as you move forward.

Identify Small Steps Along the Way

As I listened to faculty in the various presentations and breakout sessions, I began to feel justified in how overwhelmed I felt about the process. Adjusting an already established plan sounded complicated enough, let alone starting a new assessment plan from scratch. Yet, the faculty encouraged us to consider what small steps we could take along the way to lead to our desired outcome. For instance, it was recommended to pre-plan meetings out a semester or year in advance to make sure there was dedicated time to spend on assessment conversations. Or once a plan had been established to only identify two or three outcomes a year to measure and gather data on. These small steps helped to breakdown the process and provide me with early action steps that turned out to be wins along the way. When I began to implement my plan post-institute, having pre-planned meetings during the semester meant that my team was ready to dedicate the time and it allowed us to continue our conversations even during heavy advising periods.

A Refocus on Advising as Teaching

As part of the Institute, it was inspiring to be a part of conversations related to the importance of advising as teaching and the role academic advising should have on student learning in higher education institutions. This concept was not new to me, but I appreciated the conversations that occurred among Institute faculty and participants centered on this core value. As an advising practitioner for the last nine years, I have witnessed the pendulum swing back and forth between the two competing concepts of academic advising as teaching and as a customer service interaction. For me, the Institute served as a powerful moment to revisit the core values of academic advising and continue progressing the narrative that advising is a profession centered on student learning.

Creating an Assessment Culture

The last significant lesson that I gained from my experience at the Institute involved gaining practical advice on how to establish a culture of assessment that could support the progression of academic advising assessment within my department. I was reminded that the process was not, and could not be, just about me. So, as part of my plan I carefully considered advice provided through the Institute on identifying key stakeholders who I needed to connect with after the Institute ended and how to involve them in the process. I also was thoughtful about establishing opportunities for regular communication about the assessment plan with the staff to promote buy-in and a sense of shared ownership. I further considered how we might celebrate the small wins along the way to inspire further action. The focus the Institute provided on how to establish an assessment culture has been crucial to many of the action steps I have taken following the Institute. I am appreciative of these lessons as I know I will experience barriers as I move through this process.

It is now some months since the end of the Institute, and I am pleased to report that I am implementing what I have learned. I have focused on progress over perfection through taking small steps along the way. Collaboratively, our department has developed a mission and vision statement, and our assessment committee has been making steady progress throughout a challenging semester. We have worked hard to begin identifying learning outcomes and hope to continue seeing our work make a difference in how we tell a story about our advising services and practice. As I look forward, I plan to advocate for more of our team to attend a future Institute as I believe we can continue to benefit and gain from the learning experience and dedicated time to focus on advising assessment.  

Amy Calapa
Assistant Director
Undergraduate Programs Office
College of Business Administration
Kent State University


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