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Aaron L. Pryor, University of Southern Indiana

Aaron Pryor.jpgAs numerous advisors do, I too can be counted amongst those who entered into the world of academic advising with only a cursory understanding of the profession as a whole. Yes, I understood that discussing classes was a part of the equation. Yes, I knew of degree plans. Yes, I understood that hordes of lost students would be seeking advice about their pathways through college. However, I did not know about the deep and rich culture of advisors. I was not aware that there was an international organization that promoted and ensured professional standards. I also could not have fathomed that a lot of advising interactions would mimic the numerous client dealings I had while actively providing services as a social worker in my pre-advising life.

I was born into, raised up within, and nurtured by the profession of social work. I embraced my teachings as a personal scripture and felt that I embodied the ethos of those that came before me. Social work was all I knew, and all I was, when I decided to reconnect with higher education in pursuit of additional opportunities for personal self-growth. My humble foray into advising began when I accepted the position of Academic Counselor in a TRIO Student Support Services program—a position I would later come to find out was the perfect marriage of higher education and social justice.

When I first began advising, I had only a vague understanding of the advising profession. Concepts such as prescriptive versus developmental advising and appreciative advising were foreign to me. Stepping out of the world of social work, I felt as lost as some of the students who would soon be knocking on my door. I had an initial mentality that aligned with many of our students in that I suffered from imposter syndrome when I first began. Nursing graduate Mandy Day-Calder poignantly defined imposter syndrome as, “the powerful and sometimes debilitating emotions that can arise when, despite outward success, you feel like a fake inside” (2017, p. 35). My confidence as a professional fell away, and I thought I had made a mistake. I had to find a way to catch up, and to catch up quickly.

Settling into my new reality, and feeling I had no other options, I resorted to pulling from the main pool of knowledge I had acquired up to this point—social work. Little did I know at the time, but my profession had given me an amazing framework and many tools in which I could build my own advising style. Factually, I still hold the values outlined in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics (2018) as my most essential advising values—the right to self-determination, upholding professional competency, imparting informed consent, providing service, valuing the dignity and worth of a person, and representing integrity. Perhaps the belief that I hold the strongest is that of “starting where someone is . . . not where you want him or her to be.” After all, this core credence is what provided my own foundation. I allowed myself the initial feelings of uncertainty when I entered into advising, but I quickly pardoned myself the misbelief that I was in the wrong place or that I did not have anything to offer—I just had to find a way to take what I already knew and bring that into a new space.

Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart” (as cited in Laka, 2014). Mandela understood the powerful social concept of meeting someone where they are—that believing the differing cultural and life experiences of individuals strengthens the whole. As the advising profession is a melting pot of diversity, this concept becomes highly relevant. The advising melting pot is comprised of the many cultures and languages of its members—many of which are pre-advising languages. Through intense introspection, I was able to discover how my two worlds could coalesce.

In an effort to empower fellow advisors, this article and the associated worksheet provides points of consideration as one seeks opportunities to utilize those embedded values, ethics, maxims, and guiding principles that existed prior to entering the world of advising. Each section explores how an element of one’s pre-advising world can correlate to the advising profession in hopes to inspire a personal quest of self-reflection and affirmation as a professional advisor.

Using Elements of Pre-Advising Studies to Influence Approaches to Advising

Social Work: Empowerment Approach. Social work approaches have an uncanny alignment with those used by the advising profession. Consider the overlapping principles of appreciative advising and the empowerment approach to generalist social work for just one example:

Appreciative Advising//Empowerment Approach

  • Disarm//Dialogue & Form Partnerships
  • Discover//Identify Strengths & Assess Resources
  • Dream//Define Directions
  • Design//Frame Solutions & Construct an Achievable Plan
  • Deliver//Implement Action Plan
  • Don’t Settle//Recognize Success, Integrate Gains, & Expand Opportunities  (Miley, O’Melia, & DuBois, 2007; “What is Appreciative Advising,” n.d.)

However, just because there is a more natural alignment between helping professions and advising, that does not mean that individuals from other various backgrounds cannot use their past to influence and temper approaches to advising.

Consider more of the following:

Math and Chemistry: Balancing Equations.  Maintain balance and equitability in the sharing of information. It is the lack of equal sharing that gave birth to programs like TRIO. Certain sects of society have always had more access to information that promotes success. Generations of non-equitable sharing have created larger and larger divides. Advisors should actively seek to balance the scales.

English, Journalism, and Criminal Justice: The Seven Circumstances. The seven circumstances are more commonly referred to as the interrogatives: who, what, when where, why, in what manner, and by what means (Seven Circumstances, n.d.). Students are multi-dimensional. Remember that there is always more to the picture than what you see on the surface.

Art: Elements of Art (Line, Shape, Form, Space, Color, and Texture). Space: the area between and around objects (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011). Be cognizant of how space influences tones and moods. Is the advising chair elevated above the student? Is there an ominous-looking desk separating the interaction? Is the office hyper-professional to the point of intimidation?

Ethics, Ethics, and More Ethics. Pre-advising backgrounds do not only affect day-to-day interactions, but also provide opportunities to define or refine present ethical frameworks. As there is no prescribed code of ethics to guide advisors, one has the opportunity to evaluate their own prior ethical trainings, and that of other professions, to help create guiding ethics.  

Consider the following and notice overlapping ideologies:

Nursing: American Nurses Association Code of Ethics (Highlights)

  • Respect for human dignity
  • Right to self-determination
  • Primacy of the patient’s interests
  • Promote a culture of safety
  • Integrate social justice  (American Nurses Association, 2015)

Occupational Therapy: Code of Ethics (Highlights)

  • Beneficence
  • Nonmaleficence
  • Autonomy
  • Justice
  • Veracity
  • Fidelity  (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2015)

IRB Research: The Belmont Report

  • Respect for persons (autonomy)
  • Beneficence (do no harm and maximize benefits)
  • Justice (fairness in distribution)  (Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1979)

NACADA’s Core Values and Core Competencies

Looking to the past externally from advising does not mean that an advisor is going against the grain of the profession and acting as a rogue agent. On the contrary. Often times, the epiphanies that arise from this exercise of introspection fall directly in line with NACADA’s own Core Values and Core Competencies. The gender studies professional may epitomize NACADA’s value of inclusivity, the communications studies professional may excel in NACADA’s relational competencies of building rapport and communicating in inclusive and respectful ways, and the respiratory therapist professional may exemplify NACADA’s value of caring (NACADA, 2017a, 2017b).

Just as advisors are tasked with identifying and spotlighting the strengths of students, so too should they reflect that effort inward. It is easy to be caught in the minutiae of acquiring overrides, re-working degree plans (for the third time), or explaining the reasoning behind the existence of core classes. However, the professional advisor has an obligation to himself or herself to strive, always, for greatness—never settling for good enough. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do just that is to start with what is known. Recognize it. Foster it. Implement it. The resultant growth will be as much of a boon to the advisor as the advisee. For when one finds a way to listen to the language of their heart, they can truly reach their full potential.

Aaron L. Pryor, MSW, LSW
Academic Counselor
Student Support Services, University Division
Adjunct Instructor
Social Work Department & University Division
University of Southern Indiana
[email protected]


American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association.

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2015). Occupational therapy code of ethics (2015) [Supplement 3]. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6913410030p1–6913410030p8. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.696S03

Day-Calder, M. (2017). Student life - imposter syndrome. Nursing Standard, 31(43), 35. http://dx.doi.org/10.7748/ns.31.43.35.s40

Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. (1979). The Belmont report. Retrieved from  https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/sites/default/files/the-belmont-report-508c_FINAL.pdf

J. Paul Getty Museum. (2011). Understanding formal analysis: Elements of art. Retrieved from https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/elements_art.pdf

Laka, I. (2014). Mandela was right: The foreign language effect. Retrieved from https://mappingignorance.org/2014/02/03/mandela-was-right-the-foreign-language-effect/

Miley, K. K., O’Melia, M., & DuBois, B. (2007). Generalist social work practice: An empowering approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

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

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

National Association of Social Workers. (2018). Code of ethics: of the National Association of Social Workers. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

National Education Association. (2006).  Code of ethics. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

Seven Circumstances. (n.d.) What does “seven circumstances” mean? [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://sevencircumstances.com/what-does-seven-circumstances-mean/

What is Appreciative Advising? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.appreciativeadvising.net/

Cite this article using APA style as: Pryor, A. L.  (2018, December). Using experiences of the past to create a brighter advising future. Academic Advising Today, 41(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


# Mariam
Saturday, December 15, 2018 1:22 PM
you had an attractive introduction , very nice article

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