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Voices of the Global Community


2006 September 29:3

In the process of developing an academic and career plan, it is important for advisors to help students understand how their career fits in the context of their future. The context involves a workplace that is changing and a future that will likely provide less security, an increased level of competitiveness, and an increased rate of change. Gordon (2006) stated that 'now as never before, academic advisors need to be in tune with the changing workplace and the many factors influencing it' (p. viii) and to use this knowledge to enhance their advising and facilitate students' academic and career planning.

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As I write this final article as president, I look back at a year that has proven fruitful in many ways. Following a record Annual Conference attendance of 3,380 in Las Vegas last October, February found us in Clearwater Beach, Florida for three outstanding professional development events: the Ethical/Legal Issues in Academic Advising Seminar, the 4th Annual Academic Advising Administrators' Institute, and the 2nd Annual Assessment of Academic Advising Institute.

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The new academic year always brings new members to NACADA, and along with those who have settled into the Association, there are many who are ready to increase their level of participation. NACADA leaders become involved for a variety of reasons: to enhance their professional development, to raise the visibility of academic advising on their campus, to contribute to the advancement of the field and profession, to develop leadership skills, to enhance their network of colleagues around the world, and many others. It is my hope that everyone who wishes to be involved can be! We need EVERYONE!

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Can you remember a pivotal advising moment when a question you asked caused a student to stop and respond, "Good point. I never thought of that before' "  In that second, you realized you had a wonderful sound bite to remember, because that simple question challenged the student to develop a new perspective on his or her motivations, interests, or opportunities. As academic advisors, we engage students on a daily basis and ask the tough questions that encourage them to take responsibility for their academic success. We are pleased to have this opportunity to share with you some effective sound bites we have gathered, and to offer ideas for sharing your sound bites with your colleagues.

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Typical advising sessions can quickly turn into crisis points when students' conversations lead to disclosure of personal concerns and struggles (Butler, 1995). Students trying to deal with issues related to major career concerns, disabilities, pregnancy, mental health issues and thoughts of suicide are clearly overwhelmed and in need of additional assistance. When mundane advising issues are pushed aside with student crisis, advisors must know how to effectively refer those students for help (Shane, 1981; Kuhn, Gordon, & Webber, 2006).

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"Why do I need to be aware of GLBT persons or issues?"  Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin (1948) in their seminal work noted that up to ten percent of the population may be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender (GLBT). Thus, probability alone suggests that advisors will work with many GLBT students during their careers. Others may say, "What does it matter if I know a person's sexual orientation?"  True, we may not need to know a student's sexual orientation to be a good advisor, but there are times when issues of sexual orientation arise. This can occur when advisors seek to connect with students in a holistic way i.e., when they seek to know more about students than their course schedules.

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This article describes Sacred Heart University's Hispanic Adult Achievers Program, a program established to address the unique educational needs of Latinos who have immigrated to the United States as adults. The article includes student achievement and retention data, as well as a brief discussion of the advising and retention strategies used.

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Working with high-achievers can be immensely satisfying: they are the students most likely to live out their advisors' ideals of the academic life. At the same time, these students present special challenges. Because they have such potential, it takes knowledge, research, and creativity to serve them well. Further, although they come to college with the same developmental needs as other students, those needs can be hidden behind their confident surface of accomplishment. Their abilities may set them up for perfectionism, social isolation, identity foreclosure or diffusion-problems that become evident only in crisis. Thus, advisors who work with high achievers need both a thorough knowledge of the opportunities open to these students and the sensitivity to support them through realization of these opportunities. How can advisors prepare for such challenges?

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Nationally, study abroad interest is high, but participation falls far short of the interest expressed by students entering college. Perceived barriers and myths may deter students from studying abroad, widening the gap between interest and participation. Effective advising can foster interest and participation by addressing barriers, dispelling myths, and emphasizing the value of study abroad.

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As advisors and students meet this fall, advisors may notice an increase in the number of students who have received learning disability services in high school. Ironically, these same students may not have the documentation necessary to receive accommodation at the college level. This is the result of the 2004 revisions to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These revisions will also impact student accommodations for such professional tests as the Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST), required for admission to some teacher education programs.

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Sometimes our more creative ideas occur in places like the shower, or maybe at a coffee shop. In this case, it came to me on a city bus riding home at the end of a day filled with advising undecided students. It was January 2005, and I was trying to find a way to present some of the basic relational skills involved in advising undecided students, and yet, have it fit with the theme of the upcoming NACADA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. My mind kept wandering to the image of 'advising' dice. Then, it hit me. Grabbing an envelope that used to hold one of my monthly bills, I began to scribble furiously. This is what in the end came of my chicken-scratched envelope.

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I'm a bicyclist. I love the road. I tried off-road cycling, but I didn't like the uncertainty of the trail. There were too many turns, obstacles, and variables for my liking. I like a well paved, proven, and clearly marked path with unambiguous edges and boundaries. It is my comfort zone.When I approached advising, I wanted the same thing - a well-defined, clear path without obstacles. I sought a clean edge. But, as I have discovered, I would never experience new possibilities until I was willing to move out past the edges. The terrain out past the edges is filled with a rich fauna of color and texture. It is here that I have found the fullness of advising.

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An academic advisor's job includes encouraging students to get involved in campus activities that will help them become better students and contribute to their academic and career development. I'm here to tell you that you need to listen to your own advice!

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From June 2005 through December 2011, this publication was titled Academic Advising Today: Lighting Student Pathways. Articles included in these archived editions will be presented in a compiled version as well as broken down into individual articles to facilitate search capacity. News features from this period may be attained by contacting the Managing Editor.

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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.

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