David Freitag, Pima Community College
Academic advisors are free to choose their own level of professionalism and scholarship. While we may be organizationally classified by “who” we are (e.g., faculty advisors, staff advisors, or student peer advisors), “where” we work (e.g., centralized advising office, satellite offices, or faculty offices), and “who” we advise (e.g., student-athletes, international students, honors students, or freshmen), I propose that advisors have the freedom to choose to be at one of four levels within our discipline: advising practitioner, emerging professional, advising professional, or advising scholar. Advising administrators can build the advising team best suited to their institution by being aware of the choices we, as advisors, make and where we are in our journey towards academic advising professionalism and scholarship.
The Academic Advising Practitioner
When individuals are hired to advise full-time or take on advising as part of their faculty role, we are typically expected to communicate information accurately to these students, help students problem solve, and make referrals when necessary. New advising practitioners frequently need close supervision and someone who can guide them. Advising for these individuals is just part of an 8 to 5 job and many advisors happily remain advising practitioners during their entire careers.
Advising practitioners may be aware of NACADA, but often are not members. They may be aware of the larger discipline of academic advising, but do not feel connected to it despite their position. They might attend an advising conference when paid for by the institution, but would not consider paying their own way. Advising, to the advising practitioner, is just their job or a part of their job.
Despite a low level of personal commitment, academic advising practitioners are the backbone of many advising systems. There are several organizational influences that encourage administrators to maintain a system with only advising practitioners: low entry requirements and expectations for staff advisors, a desire to keep advisor pay low (on par with administrative personnel for staff advisors and no pay at all for faculty advisors), or a fundamental lack of understanding of the scope and complexity of academic advising in today’s institutions of higher learning. Because of these factors, it is entirely possible that the institution expects every advisor to remain an academic advisor practitioner.
The Academic Advising Emerging Professional
An academic advising emerging professional is not satisfied with the view that they should just do a job – they want to be a professional and to be treated as such. Such advisors are moving towards becoming a full-fledged academic advising professional by joining their international association, NACADA, and by working to improve their advising practice as they learn from others in the field through publications, webinars, and conferences. The advising emerging professional works to improve the practice of advising during work hours, but rarely takes advising work home.
Most advising administrators welcome the increased competence of an advising emerging professional since such an advisor not only is beginning to self-identify as an advising professional but is starting to ask for, and take on, more advising responsibilities. Advising emerging professionals are doing things to take charge of their careers; they no longer are satisfied to be supervised, but instead want to be managed in a more collegial manner. They wish to be led rather than be closely supervised. In return for more freedom, these advisors strive to improve their advising work not just for themselves and their students but also for other advisors at their institution. Emerging professionals without post-graduate work in an area applicable to advising start to feel their lack of credentials and make plans for improving their educational standing.
The Academic Advising Professional
Academic advising professionals view academic advising as a profession and treat it as such. Advising professionals are highly qualified and actively seek further educational opportunities to enhance their advising credentials. They are members of NACADA and are active participants in its growth and governance. They attend local, state, and national conferences even if their institution does not pay their way. They are advocates for the academic advising discipline.
Certifications and credentials are as important to the advising professional as they are to other professionals in fields such as teaching, law, and medicine. Academic advising professionals have earned a degree on par with other campus professionals and graduate hours in academic advising, higher education, counseling, or another related discipline.
Advising administrators can expect advising professionals to perform their responsibilities without close supervision. Professionals, such as the academic advising professional, do not need to be supervised since they take pride in their work ethic and knowledge within the field. These advisors invest a number of hours outside the office in studying advising or working to improve their advising knowledge and skills by keeping up with academic advising literature such as the NACADA Journal and Academic Advising Today. Their workday often does not end at 5 p.m. An academic advising professional’s goal is to better serve their students and institution by improving their own proficiency and the proficiency of other advisors at their institution.
The Academic Advising Scholar
Academic advising scholars have post-graduate degrees and are recognized for their expertise in the advising field. The focus of advising scholars is not on their own competence, which is a given, but on the larger issues of advising administration, advising program assessment, or advancing the discipline of academic advising through scholarly inquiry. Academic advising scholars in a staff position should also be called academic professionals since they are academics in the true sense of the word.
Academic advising scholars are experts in academic advising. They keep up with, and add to, the current body of literature in the field; they are active participants in their association. Academic advising scholars identify with the field of academic advising more than their current position (which may or may not be working full-time advising students). Advising is not just a job for the advising scholar – it is a passion and a calling.
Being academic professionals, academic advising scholars’ work hours are comparable to other academic professionals, including faculty and administrators. It is not unusual for an advising scholar to work more than 50 hours a week with the hours beyond the standard 40 dedicated to service or research within the academic advising field.
Academic advising scholars create new knowledge through their research and scholarship. They publish and share their discoveries and thoughts at conferences and seminars. An academic advising scholar does not experience office down-time because their life’s work will never be complete. They are constantly thinking about ways to improve and promote the field of academic advising. Academic administrators should use the knowledge and experience of academic advising scholars in improving not only their institution’s advising services, but also to be leaders in the field of academic advising.
All academic advisors are full members of the academe and have the freedom and opportunity to choose to be advising professionals and scholars of academic advising. Choosing to become an advising professional or a scholar requires not only a shift of attitude, but also a change in action and behavior. Becoming an advising professional or scholar requires accepting individual responsibility for professional development, mentoring and learning from fellow advisors, working effectively with the advising administration of the institution, and working for the professional advancement of the field of academic advising. This is a challenging path to choose, but it is a path with many unexpected rewards, both professionally and personally.
IT Development Services
Pima Community College
Schulenberg, J. K., & Lindhorst, M. J. (2008). Academic advising: Toward defining the practice and scholarship of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 28(1), 43-53.
Cite this article using APA style as: Freitag, D. (2011, March). Freedom to choose: Advisor classifications and internal identities. Academic Advising Today, 34
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