Managing Electronic Communication Technologies for More Effective Advising
George Steele, The Ohio Learning Network
Anita L. Carter, Wayne State University
The adoption of electronic communication technologies over the past
decade has changed the nature of advisors' daily work. Voice mail,
e-mail, and Web sites were introduced with the promise of helping us
connect to our students. Judging from the flood of student contact these
technologies produced, it can be said they have been successful. Most
of us are drowning in incoming e-mail messages with overflowing inboxes
and blinking lights on our voice mail. Responding effectively to student
inquires requires an integrated managed use of these technologies.
Good advising has many elements. Over the years advisors
have learned that the ability to cheerfully and accurately repeat rules,
procedures, course sequences, etc., is an important and necessary part
of our work. To assist in this effort, advisors and institutions have
created a plethora of bulletins, publications, and brochures to answer
common student questions regarding curriculum, course registration,
policies and procedures, etc. These efforts provide effective ways of
answering common student questions, so advisors might have greater time
to answer students' more personal or uncommon questions.
Whereas in the past, most student contacts entered
through our office doors, now they arrive electronically in digital
formats. Advisors are expected to use a greater repertoire of electronic
communication devices and thus information management has become even
more critical. Referring students to printed bulletins or brochures is
not a viable option. In today's environment it is imperative that we
focus on how Web pages, e-mail and voice mail technology can be
integrated to address repetitive or common student inquiries thus
helping advisors establish better and more effective communication.
Frequently Asked Questions Web Pages
Moving the content of what was found in yesterday's bulletins and
brochures to the Web is critical. Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) web
pages allow students to locate the answer to questions without having
to speak or write to a particular advisor. It is an information source
they can access at any time of the day or night without waiting for a
response. For FAQ's to be truly effective, it is important that they
address and answer questions that students most often ask.
Compiling your FAQ's will take a concerted effort and
collaboration among the staff. Start by asking staff members to submit
questions they have been asked during the previous months along with
their responses. (Find FAQ's examples in the Clearinghouse by following
the 'Read More About It!' link at the bottom of this article.)
Once these questions and answers have been compiled, convert
them to a Web page with the assistance of the information technology
staff, making sure that students can access them through your
department's home page. Providing an e-mail link to a 'generic' e-mail
address at the bottom of all of your 'FAQ responses' would also be very
helpful so students who don't get the answers they seek can contact your
office for additional assistance. Assigning the responsibility for
answering questions that come in to the generic e-mail address to one or
two advisors might be appropriate.
Template Responses for E-mail
The e-mail software packages of Eudora, Netscape, and
Microsoft Outlook all have capabilities that permit advisors to write
and store template responses. Template responses are written replies
that answer specific questions that can be easily saved and retrieved.
For this reason, they are best used for repetitive questions similar in
nature to FAQ's. By having them in their e-mail repertoire, advisors can
easily access and use them in responses to the numerous common e-mail
inquiries that they receive. Writing template responses is rather simple
and offers advisors an opportunity to create many specialized messages.
This is an effective step to e-mail management that can immediately
improve advisors' work effectiveness.
Voice mail is often promoted as having one's own
receptionist. Depending on the configuration of your voice mail system,
it can take your calls when you do not want to be disturbed, record
messages from callers when you are unavailable and screen your calls.
Advisors are familiar with the flow of work in their offices. There is a
time for registration, schedule adjustments, and special events. By
tailoring voice messages to these traditional periods, accurate and
timely information can be relayed to students. Referrals can be given to
other electronic resources that can provide greater depth than what can
be recorded in the limited allocation of space provided on your voice
Integrating your electronic response to answer common
student inquires provides an excellent opportunity for advisors to use
their collective wisdom in brainstorming and deciding responses. By
keeping a focus on how these three technologies can be used in
collaboration with one another, an integrated approach can be developed
to better serve students and reduce advisor stress to an overflow of
common inquires. Working collectively can also improve the quality of
responses to students as advisors use more polished and well-crafted
responses, as opposed to quickly considered replies.
Technical training of advisors will be critical to
effective implementation of these responses. Administrators and advisors
must weigh various software and communication technologies not only by
cost, but also by the effectiveness of each in providing for management
of student contacts. These small, but practical steps can help advisors
improve their immediate work effectiveness and sanity.
Read More About It! Find specific directions for each technology by checking the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.
The Ohio Learning Network
Anita L. Carter
Wayne State University
From the President
Betsy McCalla-Wriggins, NACADA President
On behalf of the NACADA Board and
all the members who attended our recent national conference in Salt
Lake City, a big thank you to John Mortensen from Utah State University, chair of this year's meeting, and his committee: Debra Bryant, Darlene Severeid, Patti Sanchez, Maria Squire, Wade Oliver, Katrina Green, Sandy McLelland, Raylene Hadley and Sharon Aiken-Wisniewski.
These people dedicated many, many hours to making sure that this
professional development opportunity was top rate. A special thanks is
also in store for Nancy Barnes and Rhonda Baker
from the Executive Office. Every year these two women provide support
to the national conference committee and handle thousands of 'behind the
scenes details' that make conference planning seem effortless. And the
hotel... what a magnificent facility. So, to all of you... again, we say
Sunday night the conference opened with special presentations to some of our award winners. Kathryn Martin,
Chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Duluth, received the 2002
Pacesetter Award. This award recognizes Chief Executive Officers,
Provosts, and Chief Academic or Student Affairs Officers who exemplify a
commitment to academic advising and are true advocates for advising,
students, and advisors. Eric R. White,
Executive Director, Division of Undergraduate Studies at Penn State was
named as the winner of the Virginia Gordon Award, which
recognizes excellence in the field of academic advising. The Service to
NACADA Award was presented to Manuel 'Buddy' Ramos, Client Executive, Peoplesoft.
Our opening speaker, Kermit Hall,
President of Utah State University, spoke of the value of academic
advising from a university president's perspective. Trudy Banta, Vice
Chancellor for Planning and Institutional Improvement at Indiana
University-Purdue University Indianapolis, was our second keynote
speaker. She emphasized the critical need for additional research in
assessment as it relates to academic advising.
The NACADA board meetings held at this
national conference were also quite significant. Over the past 30
months, members participated in a comprehensive process to restructure
our organization. Through many, many face to face as well as online
discussions, a plan was developed which we presented to you last summer.
You overwhelmingly approved the by-law changes that set the stage for
the implementation of this new governing structure. So, it was with a
great deal of emotion that we transitioned from one structure to
We owe a great deal to those
members and leaders who created this wonderful association. We are very
proud of our past. It is the foundation upon which we will move into the
future. On behalf of the NACADA Boards, past and present, we appreciate
your support as we seek new ways to serve you and your students.
From the Executive Office
Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty, NACADA Executive Director
a conference! Thanks to the many volunteers who worked so hard to
deliver an outstanding professional experience for conference
participants. The conference evaluations indicate that the sessions were
top-notch, the facilities were first-class, the city was exciting, and
the overall conference experience was much appreciated!
In addition to the conference,
many association meetings were held in Salt Lake City, including the
inaugural meetings of the NACADA Council and new Board of Directors
immediately following the conference. Along with the other leadership
entities (Divisions - Commissions, Regions, and Committees), the
operational details, roles and responsibilities will evolve as issues
arise. However, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the original
Organizational Restructuring Task Force and the Implementation Task
Force members for their vision and diligent work that propelled us to
this new level of operation as a growing and vital organization.
The leaders of the three operational
Divisions have already begun to work on new initiatives and have defined
their respective governing structures to involve more volunteers. I
encourage you to check out the new governance structure on the NACADA
website or in this newsletter, and to contact the leaders of areas in
which you would like to get involved. The new structure limits terms in
office and highly encourages the involvement of new volunteers so that
the organization can benefit from new ideas and continually revolving
leadership, so we need you.
The Board of Directors will be
reviewing the Strategic Plan, the Council will be reviewing the
proposals from the Divisions, and the Divisions will be recommending
strategies for meeting the needs of the members. An overarching role
rests with the Professional Development Committee as they strive to put
together a comprehensive professional development plan for the
association that identifies the professional development needs of our
various audiences and makes recommendations on what we might develop to
meet those needs. In cooperation with the Task Force on
Certification/Professional Recognition, they will soon be asking for
your feedback on a set of advising 'competencies' for each 'audience'
toward which we would direct our professional development offerings.
Your input is vital. Please respond when asked. It is hoped that NACADA
offerings addressing these competencies will then provide an opportunity
for recognition of participation, and later an assessment of
competencies gained for additional recognition.
The new Advising Administrators' Institute is
the first development resulting from the initial meeting of the
Professional Development Task Force earlier this year and the Faculty
Advising Commission is preparing a workshop for faculty advisors to be
delivered in 2003 as well. The Advising Administrators' Institute filled
and in response to this demand, a second Institute has been planned for
Feb. 15Ð17 in San Antonio. The Academic Advising Summer Institute
closed two months prior this past summer, so we will be offering two
Academic Advising Summer Institutes in 2003 (one in San Diego and one
near Chicago) in an attempt to meet that growing demand. In addition,
five regional conferences will be piloting Administrators Pre-conference
Workshops this spring.
So, as you can see, the
excitement from the national conference continues as NACADA grows to
meet the needs of those in the advising field who are so critical to
institutional vitality and student success!
Roberta 'Bobbie' Flaherty
NACADA Executive Director
An Important Resource for Improving Advising on Your Campus
A Comprehensive Handbook
Edited by: Virginia Gordon and Wes Habley
This 452 page comprehensive guide
to academic advising examines the advising issues facing colleges and
universities today. Thirty-four contributing authors examine the issues
and make recommendations that will impact the effectiveness of advising
and retention on your campus. Administrators and faculty will find the
handbook invaluable as they strive to enhance advising on campus, and
professors will appreciate its comprehensive examination of the issues
as a text for graduate classes in higher education administration,
student personnel administration, counseling, and related areas.
Also available at www.nacada.ksu.edu are
- Consultants Bureau
- Conferences and Institutes
How to Thrive, Not Just Survive, As a New Advisor
Marsha Miller, NACADA Research Coordinator
Whether you come to advising as a
new hire or as a veteran faculty member, the first few weeks advising
students can be overwhelming. It can be a challenge to organize the
various demands so that you will not only survive advising, but thrive
doing it. Since students' academic futures depend upon your advice, you
need to understand what students expect from you.
A look at advisor evaluation
tools shows that students expect you to be proficient in three critical
areas: they expect you to know the college; they expect you to be able
to help them solve problems; and they expect you to be able to
One of the first things any new
advisor should do is become familiar with the campus culture. Who are
your students? What needs do they have? Ask advisors working in your
specific field or at the same level (freshmen, graduate students, etc.)
what issues students typically bring to advisors. Then connect these
issues to the applicable campus services. Walk around campus and meet
the people in each service area. Write down names, office locations and
contact phone numbers.
Advisees expect you to know your
institution's academic programs, policies and procedures, such as how to
read placement scores, who helps students explore different majors, how
a student drops or adds a course. Read the catalog. Talk to faculty and
staff members. Target topics germane to your situation and have the
director of advising or an experienced advisor walk through the advising
folders of students who have been successfully helped with issues in
Advisees also expect you to help
them solve a wide variety of problems such as how to balance their
course loads with life responsibilities, what courses should or should
not be taken simultaneously, etc. Know where to find answers.
Finally, advisees expect you to
know how to communicate effectively. This is much easier if you are
already familiar with a student's advising folder. Take some time before
the student arrives to review the folder. Be friendly and focus on the
student, minimizing distractions such as phone calls. Use the student's
name. Learn to say: 'I don't know but let's find out.' Don't send the
student on a scavenger hunt for a nameless, faceless office; pick up the
phone and call your campus contact. Helping the student make a referral
appointment will increase the likelihood of follow-through.
Remember that many students come to an
advising session on one pretext when the real issue is something
completely different. Learn to hear the real reason for the visit. Help
the student identify the problem and brainstorm potential solutions.
Don't dictate, but empower the student by letting the student decide
which course of action is best.
At the end of a session, ask
'what question haven't we answered today?' Leave time to deal with these
issues and, if needed, schedule a follow-up session to evaluate the
outcome of any planned actions.
While the first few weeks of
advising are filled with challenges, taking time to address these vital
areas can establish you as an effective and trusted advisor. Want to
read more about this critical advising issue? Check the 'Critical
Issues' section of the NACADA National Clearinghouse for Academic Advising
NACADA Research Coordinator
Women's Issues in Higher Education Administration
Alice G. Reinarz, Advising Administrators Commission Chair
Unlike our grandmothers, most
women currently in administrative roles were reared with a social
message that 'you can do anything you want.' While that message has
brought many exciting opportunities, many women have found that the
unpredictable challenges can outweigh the opportunity. This is
particularly true if one is 'the first woman' or 'the only woman' in a
particular role. Therefore, it becomes essential that women in
administration be active mentors to others in our community.
Women are painfully aware of the impact of gender in positions of
power. Even though most administrators (both men and women) are aware of
the pitfalls in gender labeling, there are many examples of
differences. For instance, a strong assertive male leader is
respectfully known as the 'boss,' a woman with those same traits may be
described with an altogether different label.
Among the challenges often mentioned for the woman administrator (particularly a novice), we might include:
- understanding the unwritten 'rules' of the academic/campus culture
- developing her communication skillslearning to use power and advocate for resources
- grasping budget information and financial consequences of decisions.
There are additional dilemmas that particularly complicate roles for women leaders.
- Balancing work and family. While family
responsibilities influence the careers of all parents, women
(particularly those with newborns and preschoolers) may have
disproportionate work in care of children/home.
- Taking work too seriously. Depending on personal
style, this tendency may create problems for anyone. But it is possible
that criticism directed at a woman leader may take a more personal tone
than that for a man.
- Difficulty finding a mentor. Particularly at the
beginning of a new assignment, the administrator needs the guidance of a
seasoned role model. Volumes have been written and spoken on the
necessity of mentoring. We have all seen examples in which the lack of
an appropriate mentor has had significant negative consequences.
- Too little representation of women in administrative
ranks. Depending upon the role and institution, a woman administrator
may be one of such a small group that all her actions are scrutinized
more than those of her male colleagues. In these cases a woman in
administration may have no trusted person in whom to confide for the
purpose of venting frustration.
Women in administration must seek out resources in a
paradoxical environment. Trained in an academic discipline, our first
natural inclination would be to learn by researching the topic. But
there is a problem. While there is a wealth of leadership literature
with parts tailored to women, there are few sources that address these
issues for women in higher education administration, and virtually
nothing specific to academic advising.
By focusing on concerns that may be unique to gender, there is no
intent to oversimplify. Further, there are circumstances in which many
factors like race and ethnicity, religious choice, and sexual preference
may affect the work environment for the administrator. Whatever the
concern, the solutions can be the same. Colleagues provide these
- Write down your personal and professional priorities. Review these periodically to remind yourself of what is truly important.
- Be diligent finding mentor(s). Don't limit your
search only to someone like yourself or only to others in your field.
Identify one or two trusted confidants on your campus (who may or may
not be personal friends) that can serve as a sounding board.
- Hook into a network for advice beyond your campus.
In developing your network consider the resources NACADA makes available
to support those who share our core values and common goals. These
- Presentations and workshops at national and
regional meetings, as well as state drive-in conferences. These provide a
chance to share information, build self-confidence and find
- The new Academic Advising Administrators' Institute
- Contacts made through sessions at the Summer Institute
- Conversations within the NACADA Advising Administrators Commission and listserv that provide opportunities for
administrators to link for networking and resource suggestions. Consider joining the commission listserv.
- Explore opportunities available through
organizations, such as Leadership America, that are devoted to enhancing
the knowledge base and confidence of its women members. Additionally
check out training programs offered through graduate schools of higher
education as well as one-on-one skill development sessions with
independent consultants, although this option can be expensive but quite
To specifically assist women advising administrators in
finding more information and guidance, we are developing a list of
helpful leadership literature from both the popular press and scholarly
references. The beginnings of this list are available on the NACADA web
site through a link in the posting of this article within the Advising
Resources of the Clearinghouse for Academic Advising. We need
women administrators to suggest materials that have been useful in
addressing these concerns. Send reference information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Understanding the needs of advising administrators is multifaceted.
While the challenges faced by women administrators can be unique, the
methods of addressing these challenges are not. Exploring a variety of
support opportunities can help all administrators find workable
Alice G. Reinarz
University of Michigan