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Voices of the Global Community


Jeffrey McClellan, Immediate Past Chair, Theory and Philosophy of Advising Commission

Jeff McClellan.jpgThought leaders are those whose ideas are so influential as to alter the way people think and act in the world. Great thought leaders represent one of the major driving forces of history and an underlying power for constructing local and global culture patterns. Individuals like Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Jesus, Locke, Muhammad, Gandhi, and numerous similarly and less well known figures have come to, both directly and indirectly, guide our thinking and structure our values and actions.  While the question of who has been the greatest thought leader of all time could largely be debated, the importance of thought leaders in relation to the promotion of ideas and the onward march of history is indisputable. At critical times, they emerge to give shape to the values of their societies and impetus to people’s actions. Just such individuals are now needed within NACADA to catalyze its march into the future.

Within the field of academic advising there have been many great thought leaders. O’Banion (1972) and Crookston (1972) gave birth to the study of advising and the concept of developmental advising. Hemwell, Trachte, Hurt, Lowenstein, and Ryan (1999, 2007, 2005, 1992) challenged the developmental advising paradigm and birthed the mantra of advising as teaching. Hagen (Hagen, 1994, 2008; Hagen & Jordan, 2008) has been a force for expanding the theoretical foundation of advising to include humanities based concepts and approaches. Gordon has significantly driven the concept of career advising (Gordon, 2006). These and others, whose exclusion is not meant to diminish their efforts, have made the field of advising what it is today. It is through their work that advising has come to be an extremely diverse, respected and expanding professional field of inquiry and practice. Now a new generation of thought leaders is needed to stand beside these giants and continue to contribute to and expand the field. In order to be successful these new thought leaders need to make their stories resonate within the world of advising created by their predecessors and counterparts.

According to Gardner (1995), the major work of leaders is to construct and convey stories that resonate with those they lead. Stories of this nature must correspond with the experience of listeners in such a way that they resonate, while at the same time providing sufficient dissonance to inspire action and commitment. As a result, thought leaders must be adept at listening to those whom they would lead, integrating what they find across disparate groups, paying attention to the changing world around them, and then integrating all of these into coherent visions, plans, ideas, and practices that their diverse constituencies can draw upon to inform their work.

The thought leaders that NACADA needs now are individuals who are able to understand the divergent needs of the multiple constituencies that make up the advising community. These stakeholders include professional non-faculty and faculty advisors, administrators, advisor training personnel, researchers, philosophers, theorists, and students. To understand the distinct interests, needs, and desires of these diverse groups requires that thought leaders engage in some of these arenas directly and significantly, while experiencing and studying others indirectly through deep inquiry and listening. As a result, they can then take the work they conduct in one of these arenas and expand and enrich it so as to meet the needs of the others; thereby bridging the gaps that separate the interests and needs of these diverse advising groups. We need scholars who inform practice, practitioners who review and contribute to scholarship, theorists and philosophers who resonate with those who normally would not be interested in their work, and trainers who are grounded in theory and practice while conducting training in interesting and effective ways.

To this end, each of us who writes, presents, and leads at NACADA events and in the multiple venues through which advising scholarship is conveyed must facilitate more scholarly discussions of practice and more practical discussions of scholarship. We must tie our practice into the literature of advising and discuss the implication our practice has on that literature. We must examine how our philosophies can reach the hearts and hands of less philosophical practitioners to better meet their needs. We must explore how the research we conduct can impact the work of our counterparts. This is not to say that those of us who are focused on expanding just the practice or just the scholarship of advising are not needed; nonetheless, in the diverse field of advising our voices may become increasingly marginalized if we do not find ways to cross the divides as great thought leaders always have.

My purpose in writing this brief article is to issue a call, a call to all advising professionals, regardless of our niche, to raise the level of our work, especially as it relates to our contributions via the venue of NACADA conferences, publication, etc. We must make the stories we tell resonate across the field in such a way that advising continues to emerge and expand to new heights born upon the shoulders of new thought leaders who stand shoulder to shoulder with their predecessors. That call is a personal call to each and every one of us. I look forward to seeing our responses.

Jeffrey McClellan
Frostburg State University
[email protected]


Crookston, B. B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Personnel, 13, 12-17.

Gardner, H., & Laskin, E. (1995). Leading minds: An anatomy of leadership. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

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

Hagen, P. L. (1994). Academic advising as dialectic. NACADA Journal, 14(2), 85-88.

Hagen, P. L. (2008). Imagination and interpretation: Academic advising and the humanities. NACADA Journal, 28(2), 14-20.

Hagen, P. L., & Jordan, P. (2008). Theoretical foundations of academic advising. In Gordon, V. N.,  Habley, W.R. & Grites, T.J. (Eds.). (2008). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 17-35.

Hemwell, M. K., & Trachte, K. C. (1999). Learning at the core: Toward a new understanding of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 19(1), 5-11.

Hurt, R. L. (2007). Advising as teaching: Establishing outcomes, developing tools, and assessing student learning. NACADA Journal, 27(2), 36-40.

Lowenstein, M. (2005). If advising is teaching, what do advisors teach? NACADA Journal, 25(2), 65-73.

O'Banion, T. (1972). An academic advising model. Junior College Journal, 42(6), 62-69.

Ryan, C. C. (1992). Advising as teaching. NACADA Journal, 12(1), 4-8.

Cite this article using APA style as: McClellan, J. (2009, December). Thought leaders wanted: What each of us must do to advance the field of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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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.