From the President:
From the President:
From the President:
From the President:
From the President:
From the President:
From the President:
From the President: Improving our Institutions and Elevating Academic Advising
John Paul (JP) Regalado, NACADA President
I really struggled writing this column. On one hand, there was so much to talk about. On the other hand, I had trouble getting started. On our campus, we finished another semester and commencement and we are gearing up for summer orientation. I have learned through my experiences with NACADA that some institutions are already finished with orientation for new students! I continue to be amazed at how different institutions of higher education can be. This makes our organization that much more important in bringing people together to share our similarities, differences, and best practices with each other.
Speaking of best practices, NACADA Region conferences continue to be outstanding opportunities for us to gather with each other, network, and engage in substantial conversations about student success. My sincere thanks to all those who had a part in the planning of these events. Having once served as a co-chair for one of these conferences, I can attest to all the work it takes to pull it off.
I want to provide a brief update on the work of our Board of Directors and Council. In early April, we held our mid-year Board and Council meeting at Kansas State University. For most of our Board and Council members, it was their first time to visit the NACADA Executive Office. It was not my first visit, but it is still a cool site to see! When visiting the NACADA offices, one gets the feeling of going “behind the scenes” to see how a movie is being made or how a favorite restaurant makes its outstanding dishes. Of course, I know that our Executive Office does far more substantial work than making a movie or a dish, but to physically see where all the “magic” happens is pretty amazing.
At our mid-year meeting, we received a report on the great progress our Center for Academic Advising Research Committee is making. I know many of you have a high interest in this initiative and we look forward to sharing more with you in the near future. The Board and Council reviewed a necessary revision of our by-laws. Many thanks to that committee for all their hard work, as it is very detail-oriented and maybe not so interesting but is vital to the sustainment of our organization. The Council had a productive meeting as our regions,commissions and interest groups, committees and advisory boards continue to do outstanding work in making all of our initiatives and professional development opportunities the best they can be. We are extremely grateful for all their work!
We spent the bulk of our time focusing on a professional development workshop on Diversity and Social Justice led by Dr. Mamta Motwani Accapadi, Vice President for Student Affairs at Rollins College in Florida. Dr. Accapadi made us think about our own personal experiences and reflect on our own biases. I know there were parts of the conversation that might have been uneasy but I am so proud of our Board and Council and Executive Office that participated in this workshop and discussion. As a Board, we will continue to discuss ways to move forward as an organization in this area. I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in this discussion with my colleagues.
As I look toward to the end of my time as president, I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had this year. I got to visit with a lot of you in Minnesota and in Hawaii. I visited North Carolina State University and am getting ready for what should be an amazing experience in Melbourne, Australia. I recently gave a short commencement speech at our University Preparatory High School ceremony here in Corpus Christi and I told the students about my story as a first-generation college student. I told them that going to and graduating from college was transformational for me and my family. I believe that is the power of higher education. For us to be a part of this transformation experience is incredible and helps sustain and drive us in spite of the incredible challenges we face as educators. I am very proud to serve as your president, and I look forward to our continued work in improving our institutions and elevating academic advising in the name of student success.
John Paul (JP) Regalado, President, 2014-2015
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Executive Director of Academic Advising
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
From the Executive Director: The NACADA Way
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
What an exciting year it has been since last October in Minneapolis! Not only has our membership continued to grow with over 12,000 colleagues across the world, we continue to strengthen the connections NACADA makes with our members as well as the connections our members make with each other.
Through our electronic Monthly Highlights, all of our members are kept up to date on events, resources, and opportunities that NACADA is providing at that time and in the future. As we strongly encourage our students to read those electronic updates we may send, we strongly encourage you to read the NACADA Highlights as it is a quick but thorough way to keep connected with the association and all we have to offer to our members because your membership is important to us. We know you are bombarded with unsolicited electronic messages from companies or individuals promising you and your colleagues the "MAGIC BULLET" or the ONE solution or strategy to improve academic advising and student persistence and completion to degree. NACADA, your association, respects your professionalism, expertise in the field and understanding of your students to know magic bullets don't exist or sustain significant impacts on the success of your students. Thus, our Monthly Highlights electronic publication provides you with timely information about the events and resources you need to work through the complex issues involving student success on your campuses.
This spring was extraordinary for you and NACADA as we had record-breaking participation, with over 4,200 individuals attending our 10 Region conferences across North America as well as large numbers of academic advising professionals attending state, allied and institutional association conferences, workshops, and one-day "drive-in" meetings. These include our newest and first allied association outside North America, UKAT, formed in the United Kingdom and holding its first meeting at the University of Sheffield. However, even with the very large numbers, your Region chairs, Region conference chairs, and their armies of volunteers made sure each participant felt welcomed and valued as a NACADA member and hopefully as a presenter. In addition to providing the opportunity to participate in and learn from outstanding workshops and concurrent sessions, every conference focused on innovative and valuable opportunities for participants to network and learn from new and old friends and colleagues.
This is the NACADA WAY! NACADA has always ensured that our association is focused on the highest quality learning experiences and scholarly inquiry. But, just as importantly, the association is focused on our members building strong networks of colleagues with whom we network and from whom we learn but also with whom we build close bonds and friendships that last throughout our careers and beyond. NACADA is built upon sustainable learning and networking and not one time events people may attend and participate in but don't build those important professional and personal connections that enhance the success of our students across the globe.
But just as quality academic advising must be intentional, focused on pathways to success in higher education and life, and include collaborative experiences across all parts of our institutions, the NACADA WAY is created intentionally in order for our members, our students, and our institutions to become stronger and successful. While all NACADA leaders past and present have been and are focused on these intentional experiences, I am excited to inform you that our Membership Committee is working diligently to create the best experience for our new members and conference participants as they come into our association and build upon those experiences as they find their pathway to involvement with NACADA and their colleagues. And to continue that involvement, working with ourCommittee for Sustainable Leadership, we will provide intentional pathways and opportunities for leadership for all NACADA members, both new and experienced. The NACADA WAY isn't built around a person or a small group of leaders but instead is built upon our association and its growth and impact on student success, in order to intentionally ensure the future of NACADA and the new generation of academic advising professionals who will lead the association.
Higher education today challenges us in ways we may never have predicted and expects more from all of us than ever before as we work with colleagues to increase the success of our students everywhere. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising is here to support our members, our profession, and our students in these challenging times. Become an active participant in the NACADA WAY as we focus on the future and additional collaborations!
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
The ‘F’ Word: Why Teaching Resiliency is Critical
Nova Schauss and Kerry Thomas, Oregon State University
Editor’s Note: Nova Schauss and Kerry Thomas were awarded “Best in Region” at the 2014 Region 8 Conference for “Advising Students on Developing Resiliency,” which they then presented to rave reviews at the 2014 NACADA Annual Conference in Minneapolis. Watch for Nova and Kerry in the NACADA Web Event venue in Fall 2015!
Why is it so important to foster resiliency in ourselves, our colleagues, and our students? It’s critical that we have the skills to learn from our failures, because to fail is an inevitable part of the human existence. In order to thrive and to become our best selves, we must learn how to engage with failure in a healthy and constructive way.
Our work with students in negative academic standing led us to realize the importance of teaching resiliency to this population and was the inspiration for our presentation to the NACADA community. In the first version of our presentation, we had a slide with ‘Failed’ stamped in red across the slide. We wanted to discuss the common failures students experience as a way to provide context for why resiliency building is so important. As we gave this talk, we received the overwhelming feedback that calling it failure is just too harsh. So, as advisors, we put a positive spin on it. We retitled the slide ‘challenges ahead,’ and went on giving the presentation several times over this past year.
I Failed . . .
It’s what we as advisors do, right? We re-frame bad experiences in order to make them seem more manageable. We tell our students that they’ll look back on this moment one day and laugh, because it really isn’t that big of a deal. We do all kinds of things to make the negative feelings of failure seem smaller, easier to deal with. As we have given this presentation, reflecting a great deal in the process, we now realize just how important it is to name our failure, to be in it, and to fully engage in it.
Even when we re-frame our student’s experiences, and build them a tidy little plan that helps them connect with university resources, they still leave our offices with a 0.0 GPA, or kicked out of their residence due to grades, or facing future suspension from the university, or whatever it may be. Those feelings are real, and they are nasty, and we owe it to our students to validate the experience and to help them learn the skills needed to embrace their failure and then move through it. If they can’t be resilient in the face of failure, they will never make it to our ‘prescription for success.’ They will be stuck in these negative feelings with no way to get out.
We’ve all had this done to us. We’ve had a friend, advisor, or family member observe our failure and go straight into fix-it mode. In the midst of significant hurt or struggle, what we need is space to be in that moment with someone we trust. We crave authentic connection. Belittling an experience by calling it a stumbling block and providing a quick and easy plan to get back on the right track does not honor the experience; it does not create a space for honest connection. Rather, it leaves us feeling unheard.
Fear of Failure
We are so failure-averse that our fear of failing often causes more pain than what the actual failure has the possibility to inflict. Read that again; let it sink in.
We live in such a risk-averse society that we give out participation trophies so that kids don’t have to experience anything that could make them feel that they are less than a winner. We are in constant fear of being rejected, being wrong, making a fool of ourselves, in essence being found wanting. And that fear has the ability to silence us and stop us in our tracks. If we are so terrified of taking a risk because there’s a chance of failure, then we never get to experience the high when a huge risk pays off. Fear of failure has the unique ability, beyond any other fear, to steal our potential.
Brené Brown (2012) talks about how amazingly terrifying it is to be human. As a coping mechanism, we often criticize ourselves, judge others, and stay in safe but limiting ways of being in order to avoid living what she calls a ‘full life.’ Her recommendation is to give one another a break. When in doubt, be kind rather than judgmental. Be open to the possibilities that the world is offering.
The ability to be resilient allows us to see failure for what it is: an opportunity to learn, to grow, to re-build until we are better than we were before. If we see failure as a natural part of life, we recognize it as the secret to success, rather than something to be afraid of.
Resiliency in the Face of Failure
The way in which we view failure has a direct impact on our willingness to take risks and explore uncertain territory. The notion that failure is an inherently bad thing and indicative of one’s intelligence or skill typically leads to a reduction in risk taking. Carol Dweck (2008) refers to this mentality as a fixed mindset, and it runs rampant among students. Students with a fixed mindset often use absolutes to describe their intelligence or abilities: “I’ve never been good at math . . . I will never have any musical talent . . . It’s impossible for me to do well in athletics.” For those with a fixed mindset, all experiences with failure reinforce the notion that skills and abilities are fixed, static, and pre-determined. If trying something new has the potential to backfire, the tendency is to avoid the unknown and stick with the familiar.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the idea that our skills, knowledge, and abilities have unlimited potential given enough effort. Moments of failure are therefore helpful feedback mechanisms and serve as opportunities to refine our approach with the intention of a better outcome next time around. This mentality is in stark contrast to fixed mindset and was coined growth mindset by Dweck (2008). When we interact with the world from the lens of a growth mindset, failure is no longer an experience to be feared. Rather, failure moves us toward goal attainment through the process of self-reflection. In the simplest of terms, growth mindset suggests that who we are today is not necessarily who we have the potential to become tomorrow.
The good news is that mindset is malleable. Moving from a fixed to growth mindset can occur with minimal intervention, such as praising a student for their effort rather than praising intelligence. For example, when a student sees improvement in their grades from the previous term, ask them what strategies they employed and congratulate them on their hard work. The majority of our students have been conditioned to celebrate natural talent rather than hard work. The problem is that if a student “wins because they are a winner, then when they lose, they must be a loser” (Briceno, 2012).
Imagine what your student population would look like if they all believed they had the ability to achieve their dreams given enough energy and persistence. As advisors, we have the unique position in the university environment to have great impact on each student that we interact with, and we can slowly and intentionally move our students toward resiliency. When advisors uplift and instill a growth mindset in students, we are essentially developing students who are brave in their vulnerability and see unlimited potential in themselves.
Get Your Shovel Out, We’re Going Deep
We now pose these questions to you, the Academic Advising community: What are you afraid of? What are you avoiding? What holds you back because of fear? Hold onto that image, and now imagine what our students confront daily: moments of profound transition, tremendous academic joys and challenges, and planning for an uncertain future. Acknowledging our own struggles makes us more present and empathic advisors when students disclose their own moments of failure. We challenge both ourselves and the greater advising community to carry that thought into those still small moments when students trust us enough to say, “I failed.”
Student Success Coordinator
College of Engineering, Student Services Office
Oregon State University
International Degree- Academic Advisor
Oregon State University
Briceno, E. (2012, November 18). The power of belief - mindset and success. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN34FNbOKXc
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.
Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Getting Things Done
Jeannette M. Passmore, James A. Rhodes State College
How many of us respond to “How was your day?” with “Busy!”? I was a ‘busy’ responder until I realized that these responses made me sound unapproachable, stressed out, and occasionally made me appear incompetent. I didn’t want to be that person, the one who was always harried and never remembered to return a call or answer an email. I had no idea how I was going to get there from where I was as full-time employee, a mom, a part-time or full-time student, president of this club, and involved in that project. There was no denying my days were ‘busy’ and yet I saw other people able to manage these things and more. I was tired of approaching tasks like each one was a crisis, due dates like oncoming trains, and being short with people around me because I had ‘all this stuff’ to do. Being a student I did what came naturally, I researched and studied and I learned to eat the frog first. Why would I eat a frog, never mind eating it first?! Eating the frog first means to deal with the most dreaded task on the list before doing anything else. Clearing that one task creates momentum to keep going and nothing else that has to be done will seem as bad.
Information comes at us like spaghetti from a fire hose. Email, newsletters, breaking news alerts, a student in the lobby, a colleague on the phone, a project spread across our desk. Advisors are constantly being asked to do more, which means less time for each task. How can all of the incoming ‘stuff’ be managed and still produce results? Two readings that started this productivity journey were David Allen’s (2002) Getting Things Done (GTD) and Cal Newport’s (2007) How to Become a Straight-A Student. I have some processes to share which have been cobbled together, from a variety of resources, into a system that works for me. These two readings have lead me to a modified version of Getting Things Done (GTD) and practicing #inboxzero.
Getting Things Done
Why would anyone need more than one productivity or time management system? The process is to find something that almost works and then to adjust it to fit. YMMV—your mileage may vary—is my default caveat when sharing information and tools; the ‘ubiquitous capture device’ (Babauta, 2007) and ‘Sunday ritual’ (Newport, 2009) tools that work for me may not work for everyone. I tried the full Getting Things Done (GTD) method and found it cumbersome, so I adjusted it to fit my needs, as I did with the Sunday ritual which I sometimes roll into a Monday morning meeting with myself.
I read Getting Things Done and loved the concept of a “mind like water.” Allen (n.d.) defines this as “a mental and emotional state in which your head is clear, able to create and respond freely, unencumbered with distractions and split focus.” The GTD system has five steps. Capturing information, deciding what needs to be done with the information (is it actionable, reference material, or able to be delegated), organizing the information, regular review of the information, and acting on the information. It described exactly what I was looking for, and so I put Allen’s GTD system to work. GTD has actionable items sorted into various contexts such as ‘at home’, ‘at work’, and ‘errands’. Contexts are used to improve focus and ensure that the right tools are available. I made my lists in their various contexts (Wax, n.d.), checked my work flow, and off I went. I ended up struggling with the contexts of the lists like home, office, errands, and projects. I didn’t like having things spread across several pages. What did work for me was the ‘ubiquitous capture device’ (10 useful tips, 2008). The idea of the ubiquitous capture device is to have a place to write down everything instead of trying to keep it all in my head. If I’m in class thinking, “Don’t forget to mail that letter,” I cannot possibly focus on what is being taught. If a friend mentions a great book, how am I going to remember that title and author when I’m thinking about the work project that is due next week? Having a place to jot down all of the ‘spaghetti’ that’s coming from the fire hose really helped. I tried a Google document, my phone, various types of software, but the notebook is what worked for me. It took some time to learn to write it all down and it took time to learn to trust myself and my notebook. If I’m not writing it in my notebook, it might not happen.
To get started, a capture device and the GTD system begin with a brain dump (Krol, n.d). Sit down with a piece of paper and just write it all out: projects, reminders, ideas, to-dos, and any other thoughts that intrude on your ability to focus. There are some excellent trigger lists (Incompletion trigger list, 2014) to help with this process. Once all of that information is on paper, treat each item like it has come through the ‘in box’. Googling “GTD Workflow” (Hamberg, n.d) is a great way to get a visual representation of this next step.
Start with the first item on the list and ask these questions:
- What is it? For me it will be related to work, school, home, or professional development projects.
- Is it actionable?
- Will I need it for reference? If yes, it gets filed (and by filed I mean moved to a very general electronic folder—yuck paper files!).
- Does it need additional thought? If yes, I either set aside time on my calendar to work on it or I file it under ‘someday/maybe’. I will admit my ‘someday/maybe’ tagged documents border on obsessive collecting.
- If the answer to both of these is no, then it gets eliminated, file 13’d, round filed, it goes in the trash!
- Will it take less than 2 minutes? Do it!
- Can I delegate it? Do that! And make a note to follow-up after a reasonable amount of time has elapsed.
- Can I defer it? It goes into the calendar or on my ‘next action’ to-do list.
- Is it a large project? It goes into the planning phase to be broken down into ‘next actions’.
A ‘next action’ is something that is physical and visual. For example, I have broken writing this article down into smaller, less daunting, next actions. It started out with “brainstorm for 15 minutes” to “produce a list of topics.” That rolled into “outline topics” which became “Write for 15 minutes,” which is on my to-do list each day. The best thing about next actions is that they must be reasonable actions. So “write article” isn’t a reasonable action item, but “write for 15 minutes” is. This is very helpful for people who procrastinate on projects that seem daunting.
Once the initial sort is done, it becomes a matter of putting all of the inputs (e.g. emails, phone messages, projects, items from staff meetings) through the workflow. When my days are relatively calm, I’m able to do this as each item comes in, and when I’m busy I mark time on my calendar to process the day’s inputs. The next step is the Sunday Meeting (Trapani, 2007). This is the time to process anything still remaining in the inbox, do another brain dump to workflow, and to hard schedule items for the week while reviewing the calendar. It doesn’t have to be a Sunday, and I do recommend choosing a day with ample time not just to process but also to reflect. To keep the Sunday Meeting focused I also practice #inboxzero on a daily basis.
I can’t imagine living without #inboxzero (Guinness, 2014) and I have colleagues who can’t imagine attempting it. At least once each 24 hours I will have all of my inboxes (work email, personal email, incoming items from meetings, desk inbox) at zero. There is nothing there. I do this because using my inbox as a reminder list, reference list, and to-do list caused me to miss important items or to put-off responding because the inboxes felt overwhelming. The first thing I did was turn off email notifications across all my devices. Now I check email; it doesn’t check me. I schedule time to read and respond rather than waiting for the constant ‘ping’ to distract me. GTD provides a list of folders for items that are reference or need responses. Processing each piece into a folder and then remembering to check those folders wasn’t working for me. Thankfully, Gmail and Outlook have amazing search functions. If an email is going to be used for reference, I simply archive it knowing that I can use a keyword search to find it later. This is one click in Gmail, and I have one folder in Outlook that is labeled archive. Emails go through the GTD workflow process. If I need time to think about the response or if I want to respond at a later date, I use Follow-Up Then. This allows me to forward an email to the date or day that I want to respond and then archive it. If I know I want to think about it for 24 hours, I’ll forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is out of my inbox. Otherwise, the email goes through the workflow process. I spend a fair amount of weekend time on professional development or course work, so a lot of my emails are sent to email@example.com. By doing a web search for “GTD” or “Getting Things Done,” it is easy to see how people work within David Allen’s system. Cal Newport has an amazing archive of blogs and still posts regularly at http://www.calnewport.com.
Other Tips & Hacks
Doodle for scheduling meetings
Moleskine for classic capture devices notebooks
Headspace for meditation (no, really, it works!)
Task Timer to keep on track
Google Scholar for research
NACADA for professional development!
It has taken me quite a while to learn to ‘eat the frog first’ and I admit that I’m not as consistent as I would like to be with this concept. But here I am at 5:20 A.M. working on writing, which isn’t one of my favorite tasks. “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first” (attributed to Mark Twain). Doing a search for ‘eat the frog first’ produces a long list of time management and productivity methods that use this concept. I am also open to talking about these topics or providing mentoring at any time!
Jeannette M. Passmore, M.A.
James A. Rhodes State College
10 useful tips for optimizing ubiquitous capture. (2008, March 6). Retrieved from: http://gtd.marvelz.com/blog/2008/03/06/10-useful-tips-for-optimizing-ubiquitous-capture/
Allen, D. (2002). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Allen, D. (n.d.) David Allen defines “mind like water”. Retrieved fromhttp://gettingthingsdone.com/2012/05/david-allen-defines-mind-like-water/
Babauta, L. (2007, February 27). Tips for GTD’s ubiquitous capture. Retrieved from http://zenhabits.net/tips-for-gtds-ubiquitous-capture/
Guinness, H. (2014, September). 5 action steps for curing your inbox zero email frenzy. Retrieved from http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-action-steps-curing-inbox-zero-email-frenzy/
Hamberg, E. (n.d.) GTD in 15 minutes – A pragmatic guide to getting things done. Retrieved from http://hamberg.no/gtd/#processing-the-in-list
Incompletion trigger list. (2014, October 1). Retrieved from http://gettingthingsdone.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mind_Sweep_http://gettingthingsdone.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mind_Sweep_Trigger_List.pdfTrigger_List.pdf
Krol, K. (n.d.) Productivity made simple: Where to start with GTD. Retrieved from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/productivity-made-simple-where-to-start-with-gtd.html
Newport, C. (2007). How to become a straight-A student. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Newport, C. (2009, March 30). 4 weeks to a 4.0: Adopt an autopilot schedule and a Sunday ritual. Retrieved from http://calnewport.com/blog/2009/03/30/4-weeks-to-a-40-adopt-an-autopilot-schedule-and-a-sunday-ritual/
Trapani, G. (2007, July 13). Getting into the weekly review habit. Retrieved from http://lifehacker.com/278118/getting-into-the-weekly-review-habit
Trickle, C. (2012, February 13). GTD brain dump list. Retrieved from http://www.colttrickle.com/2012/02/gtd-brain-dump-list.html
Wax, D.M. (n.d.) GTD refresh: Contexts and calendar. Retrieved from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/gtd-refresh-contexts-and-calendar.html
What Academic Advisors Can Do to Positively Influence the Motivation of Underserved Students of Color
Kiana Y. Shiroma, NACADA Research Grant Recipient
The United States’ ethnic minority population is expected to increase from 37% to 57% by 2060 (Hixson, Helper, & Kim, 2012). However, the U.S. dropped from second to thirteenth place in postsecondary graduation rates among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (OECD, 2012), which may be due to the low percentage of people of color who have a bachelor’s degree. Despite the challenges these individuals face, some still succeed. While investigating the underachievement of underserved Students of Color (SOCs) is imperative, examining those who succeed is also important so we can learn how to help more SOCs be high-achieving. Past theories and studies conflict as to whether internal or external factors influence SOCs’ motivation. Additionally, few investigations examined how advisors affect the motivation of underserved SOCs. These paucities highlight the need to understand the motivation of underserved SOCs and how academic advisors influence this motivation. This study aims to create knowledge regarding what advisors can do to positively affect the motivation of SOCs by using the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Model of Success (Museus, 2014b) as a framework that explains the impact of campus environments, acknowledges the role of motivation and success, addresses the limitations of traditional perspectives, and focuses specifically on SOCs (See Figure 1, reprinted with permission).
To learn more about the role advisors have in the motivation of SOCs, 22 high-achieving undergraduates from underserved racial and ethnic populations were interviewed individually for around an hour. Participants were recruited from the Honors Program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), which has one of the most diverse student bodies in the U.S. In this program, the percentages of white, Japanese, and Chinese students are higher than that of the overall UHM undergraduate population. All other ethnic groups have percentages lower than that of the general student body. These groups were considered underserved populations. Participants also had to be high-achieving, which meant having a composite SAT score above UHM’s average, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, being an Honors student, and engaging in co-curricular programs, which is similar to criteria of past studies (Alabaili, 1997; Fries-Britt, 2002; Griffin, 2006; Harper, 2005). Students were contacted during their last year in college to reduce the researcher’s perceived power as an academic advisor and to ensure they are still aware of what motivates them. Participants’ anonymity was maintained by using assigned pseudonyms.
Four advisor characteristics were found to positively affect the motivation of participants. Three were CECE Model aspects while one was an additional trait. One trait that motivated students was their advisor developing a meaningful relationship in which they demonstrated that they care about their students’ success. Students explicated how connecting with their advisor in the Honors Program on a personal level and knowing that she was there to support them increased their motivation.
Another trait that motivated participants was the extent to which academic advisors proactively brought important information, opportunities, and support services to students, rather than expecting students to seek them out on their own. High-achieving SOCs who were interviewed felt motivated when their advisors made sure that they were on track academically.
Third, holistic support also motivated participants. This refers to the degree to which students had access to at least one advisor who was able to provide various types of information and support. One student felt motivated when she received emotional and financial support from her advisor. Another participant received numerous kinds of support from an academic advisor of an underserved SOC program, including providing pertinent information and connecting her to other valuable academic programs, which motivated her to succeed academically.
One additional influence for a majority of interviewees was the cultivation of self-improvement by their academic advisors, which refers to the degree to which advisors inspired their students to better themselves. Students were cultivated to improve themselves by knowing and fulfilling their academic requirements, engaging in co-curricular programming, and avoiding the negative consequences that ensued if the program requirements were not fulfilled. The findings of this investigation support earlier studies’ results and provide new and supplemental perspectives into the role advisors have on the motivation of college SOCs.
This investigation’s findings have significant implications for academic advisors and institutions that serve underserved SOCs. Therefore, recommendations for postsecondary educational policy, practice, and research are provided in this section. In regard to policy, the support systems and academic advisors that were most influential on students’ motivation provide academic, financial, and social support. This could be an attestation that state and federal support are required to increasing the motivation of underserved SOCs. Thus, in order to ensure that their colleges and universities maintain high retention and graduation rates, and more importantly, to provide a supportive environment for students of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, it is imperative that policymakers consider the significance of providing funding for needed resources.
For institutional policy, higher education hiring committees and administration should be aware of two considerations regarding how their decisions may affect the underserved SOCs at their institutions. First, the ratio of students to advisors should be considered. The more students advisors oversee, the less time they have to establish individual meaningful relationships with them. Second, the potential impact of hiring academic advisors who understand and are dedicated to meeting the needs of underserved SOCs should be contemplated by colleges and universities.
As for higher education practice, leaders should comprehend the power that their insitution’s campus has on the motivation of students from various racial and ethnic groups. This study’s findings demonstrate that efforts of improving the motivation of SOCs that are siloed in a specific program may not be as effective as comprehending and working toward reshaping the campus-wide culture to promote the motivation among those students, as all students who were interviewed for this investigation were motivated by multiple on-campus programs, services, and individuals. The implications of this study in regard to the practice of academic advisors are tremendous. Advisors should also recognize and understand the potential direct effect they can have on underserved SOCs. The characteristics that were mentioned as positively affecting SOCs’ motivation do not require the support of anyone else nor additional funding, just advisors’ initiative and care for their advisees.
Although this analysis provides valuable insight into how advisors can foster the motivation of high-achieving SOCs, it has limitations. First, only one institution was examined in this study. Second, low-achieving underserved SOCs were excluded. The findings and conclusions, therefore, must be read with caution. To allow the conclusions of this investigation to be applied to other colleges and universities, further inquiries should expand the sample to include both two-and four-year institutions and students at various achievement levels. Additionally, future studies should have a researcher who was not an acadmic advisor of the participants as this may have affected the participants’ responses and students may have felt pressured in responding.
In closing, more research needs to be performed on the effect of advisors on the motivation of underserved SOCs. The findings of this investigation provide valuable insight into how academic advisors foster success among underserved SOCs. However, few studies focus on the role of advisors in the motivation of SOCs. Additional investigations are needed to gain more knowledge about the potential influence academic advisors may have on the motivation of underserved SOCs and how they can help their students succeed. NACADA provides various types of support and opportunities to conduct research in academic advising, including research symposia, listservs, and grants. This particular study was possible due to the support of the NACADA Research Grant. Researchers can also publish in Academic Advising Today and the NACADA Journal and give a presentation at a conference. Conducting research on the effect of academic advisors on the motivation of students and applying the results and implications of these studies will help advisors establish the best policies, practices, and procedures that ensures the academic success of students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, which is becoming increasingly important as future generations become more diverse.
NOTE: The University of Hawaiʻi Human Studies Program approved this study on human subjects. Approval letter is available upon request.
Kiana Y. Shiroma, PhD
Director, Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Albaili, M. A. (1997). Differences among low-, average-, and high-achieving college students on learning and study strategies. Educational Psychology, 17(1, 2), 171-177.
Fries-Britt, S. (2002). High-achieving black collegians. About campus, 7, 2-8.
Griffin, K. A. (2006, July/August). Striving for success: A qualitative exploration of competing theories of high-achieving black college students’ academic motivation. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 384-400.
Harper, S. R. (2005). Leading the way: Inside the experiences of high-achieving African American male students. About Campus, 10(1), 8-15.
Hixson, L., Helper, B. B., & Kim, M. O. (2012). Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander population: 2010. 2010 Census Briefs. Washington, D. C.: U.S. Census Bureau.
Museus, S. D. (2014a). Culturally Engaging Campus Environments Model of College Success. Retrieved from http://www.du.edu/cece-project/model/index.html
NOTE: Figure 1 reprinted with permission
Museus, S. D. (2014b). The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Model: A new
theory of success among racially diverse college student populations. In M. B. Paulsen (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (no. 29, pp. 189-227). New York: Springer.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2012). Education at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/
Advising 360: A Team Approach to Advising
Angela Zhang, John F. Pfister, and Natalie Hoyt, Dartmouth College
Daniel Webster once proclaimed about Dartmouth College, “It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!” At this small residential liberal arts school nestled in a valley along the Connecticut River, our students love Dartmouth for many things, especially the quality of our undergraduate teaching and the strong relationship between students and faculty. We pride ourselves on being consistently ranked by the US News and World Report in the top five schools for undergraduate teaching every year for the past five years. Yet we knew there were some things that could use improvement, such as our traditional pre-major advising system, which has been consistently rated unsatisfactory in student surveys.
In our traditional model, every incoming first-year student was matched with a faculty advisor who helped the student select courses throughout their first two academic terms. Many students felt that if their faculty advisor was not in their precise discipline of interest, then there was little value to be gained from advising meetings. This was a problem for at least two reasons: (1) there are some disciplines in which there are far too many students per faculty advisor (our economics department, for instance), and (2) students often change their intended major after coming to Dartmouth. Here's a fairly typical exchange that might have occurred between a faculty advisor and student during Orientation:
Faculty Advisor: So what are you thinking of taking for classes?
Student: Well, I'm pre-med, so what do you think about taking Introduction to Chemistry this quarter?
Faculty Advisor: I'm an Art Historian, so I can't help you there, sorry.
As you can imagine, neither party found much benefit to this exchange. As a result, even though they are supposed to participate in advising as a part of their duties, many faculty members wound up indifferent to or opting out of their responsibility as advisors because they felt inadequately trained, supported, or rewarded in any way. As for students, they often turned to other sources of advice, such as upper-class students, parents, or coaches, who were usually more than willing to provide informal (and sometimes incorrect) information.
In 2011, after years of low satisfaction ratings from graduating students, Cecilia Gaposchkin, Assistant Dean of Advising, and Inge-Lise Ameer, Associate Dean of the College, sought to solve this problem by creating a pilot initiative called Advising 360 that was intended to maximize the strengths of both the academic and student affairs divisions of the College. The "360" in the program's name came from the idea that every student would be surrounded by their three main advisors (their faculty advisor, undergraduate dean, and residential peer advisor), who would work together as a team and could introduce the student to additional resources. It was believed that the team approach would allow peer advisors, student affairs professionals, and faculty to interact on a regular basis, learn from each other, and approach the goal of pre-major advising through knowledge of the unique challenges of being a student, student developmental theory, and knowledge of the curriculum.
For the faculty, this meant increased logistical support and training to carry their advising sessions beyond the “transactional” feeling that characterized their traditional meetings with students. For peer advisors, this was an opportunity to work collaboratively with faculty members and professionals to understand the “out of classroom” role the faculty play in the academic setting. And for the student affairs staff, it was a chance to educate faculty and peer advisors about student developmental theory and integrate faculty advising into our larger network of resources. The hope was to encourage deeper advising that could meaningfully shape our students' liberal arts experience and make advising a professionally and personally rewarding endeavor for faculty members, students, and staff.
We (Natalie, John, and Angy) were brought together to turn this vision into a reality, and after an informative experience at NACADA’s 2012 Assessment Institute in San Diego, we were ready to launch. In the fall of that year, Advising 360 debuted with a group of 10 specially trained and recruited faculty advisors, one undergraduate dean, and four residential peer advisors who served 100 randomly selected first year students in the Choates residential cluster. Throughout the year, we disseminated weekly emails and newsletters to the students and advisors, programmed special academic advising events, and held monthly training sessions for faculty advisors. We also emphasized to the students that they were expected to take advantage of their advising resources.
We were very mindful of the experimental aspect of Advising 360. In our traditional model, we had primarily looked for satisfaction data: are you happy with your advising experience at Dartmouth? As the reader can imagine, this was a fairly coarse instrument for assessing the success of an advising initiative. Inspired by a previous NACADA Assessment Institute, we began to ask ourselves how we could tell if we were achieving the kind of holistic, transformative advising we were really hoping for. In our first year survey to students, in addition to asking, "Are you happy or not with your advising experience?", we also asked questions such as, "How often have you met your faculty advisor? Is your faculty advisor knowledgeable? Available? Helpful? Did you need advising this term? Did you make the most of your advising opportunities this term?"
We were thrilled that the students in the Advising 360 program viewed academic advising entirely differently than their peers in the rest of the first year class. Advising 360 students rated their faculty advisors much higher in terms of knowledgeability, helpfulness, and ability; discussed a far wider range of topics beyond simple course selection (e.g. long-term academic planning, academic difficulties, extracurriculars, research, career goals); and even demonstrated greater comfort talking to other faculty. They were more likely to state that they valued and needed advising and that their needs were being met. And, perhaps not surprisingly, we found that our students were twice as likely to be pleased with their advising experience as the general campus. In short, when we held both students and advisors to higher expectations for advising, students rated their advising experience satisfactorily. In the three years since we've been implementing Advising 360, we have continued to see strong evidence that our team approach is working.
Looking back now, we've come quite a long way since those early conversations about students’ dissatisfaction with the transactional nature of faculty advising. At the time, the challenge of changing a historically entrenched faculty advising system seemed nearly insurmountable. And yet, within a few short years, we've seen a huge difference in the experiences of our Advising 360 students. One of the greatest lessons we've learned from Advising 360 is that change is possible. We've seen how bringing together the student affairs and academic affairs sides of the College can produce great advising. When both sides buy in, we have a bidirectional exchange of ideas and resources that helps us learn from each other and vastly improves our quality of service.
Moreover, the very nature of Advising 360 as a focused, targeted pilot program for a small group of students has had enormous benefits over, say, trying to overhaul the advising system at Dartmouth as a whole. Advising 360 has served as a test tube for advising, so that we can experiment and tinker with our model to get it just right. It's also cost-effective—with a small amount of money and resources, we can gather evidence for the formula to produce better advising and then make a case for larger changes in our advising system as a whole. There have also been some other positive side effects too. For instance, some of our faculty advisors have brought the principles of holistic advising and team approach to other first year student initiatives. Our faculty advisors have become a focus group for other campus resources (who otherwise have little contact with faculty) to gather ideas about how to improve the student experience. In other words, our little pilot program has had even greater impacts in fostering a culture of advising on our campus, just by providing a space for dialogue about advising. So in this sense, Advising 360 has grown far beyond student advising, and has succeeded in getting our entire community talking about advising, caring about advising, and committed to making a difference.
John Pfister, Ph.D.
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Advising
Managing Mental Health Situations in the Advising Office
Rufus Larkin, Lonika Crumb, Yolanda Fountain, Ca Trice Glenn, and Jennifer Smith, Georgia Perimeter College
Mental health issues among college and university students are rapidly on the rise, and these issues are not solely relegated to counseling center offices. Many students experience psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues in the academic setting (The National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2012; Smith et al, 2007), and these issues are increasingly becoming more prevalent in advisement offices.
As academic advisors become acutely aware of the clinical and mental health issues that emerge for students (Kadison & DiGeronimo, 2004), they recognize that such issues are not only detrimental to academic success, but also to personal safety. When some students exhibit severe mental and emotional health issues, it may pose a serious risk to others at their college or university. Too often, students can face changes and challenges in their personal lives that may interfere with their ability to perform adequately in the academic arena and with their ability to think rationally (Harper & Peterson, 2005). Unpreparedness for mental health issues in the advisement office may exacerbate any mental health situation into a crisis of any magnitude at any given time. Thus, the purpose of this article is to support advisors’ efforts with useful information and best practices related to safely preventing, intervening, and managing mental health situations in the advising office via the use of de-escalation techniques and by identifying resources for collaborative assistance.
Understanding Students with Mental Health Needs
Student affairs professionals have reported that students from underrepresented groups (e.g., ethnic/racial minorities, religious minorities, lesbian, gay, or queer students) often face additional challenges and pressures in the academic setting that may impact their psychological well-being (Grant et al., 2014; Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2009; Mier, Boone, & Shropshire, 2009). These groups may face challenges in the following ways: a) studying in a predominantly white college or university environment with different educational formats, b) isolation, c) language barriers, d) lack of knowledge about supportive services and resources, and e) cultural biases and prejudices (Hyun et al., 2009; Mier, et al., 2009; Shadick & Akhter, 2013). Largely, college students from unrepresented groups are at a higher risk for suicide (in comparison to nonminority students), social conflict, depression, and other behaviors that may impact their academic success (Grant et al., 2014; Shadick & Akhter, 2013). Without awareness and knowledge, these barriers can trigger major mental health reactions and conditions, which often reflect poorly in retention and graduation rates for culturally diverse students (Muses & Ravello, 2010).
Recent survey information from experts in advising and counseling suggest that it is important for advisors to know how to properly manage mental health situations in the office. According to Van Pelt (2013) and Kitzrow (2009), the top mental health issues identified in a survey of over 750 college students were depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, eating disorders, and addiction issues. Invariably, these mental health issues are what advisors are most likely to see.
Building upon a mental health management concept, advisors need to be prepared for the prevalence of severe psychological issues among students. Generally speaking, the college or university landscape represents the following (NAMI, 2012):
- 25% of a total college population of students will have a mental health issue;
- 40% of this population does not seek any counseling services;
- 80% find themselves overwhelmed at some time or another during matriculation; and
- 50% experience intense anxiety as they struggle in school.
Categorically, students report to college campuses nationwide with formal diagnoses and with prescribed medications. Others report to campuses as undiagnosed students who are in need of psychological services and resources, while others report intentional noncompliance with psychotropic medications (Watkins, Hunt, & Eisenberg, 2012).
Crisis Prevention in the Advisement Office
Preventing a crisis is predicated on the application of strategies that are rooted in problem-solving techniques. Although the rudimentary skills of empathic listening and positive reflection are essential to managing a crisis situation, the primary focus is on de-escalating the situation and connecting students with needed resources (Mier et al., 2009).
Conceptually, the initial focus of engagement with students is to establish a sense of trust, management, and advocacy, while targeting the mild-to-elevated levels of generalized risk and agitation in behavior (The National Behavioral Intervention Team Association, 2009). According to Harper and Peterson (2005), while most advisors may not be licensed professional counselors, they are in an excellent position to do what they do best:
- Observe and assist students who are experiencing distress and serious mental health meltdowns.
- Effectively respond to students experiencing mental health issues in their office with campus resources and referrals.
- Know the names, locations, phone numbers, and contact information of campus psychologists, counselors, and public safety personnel.
- Become active members and participants of the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) at their college or university campus.
- Prepare for these situations through professional development opportunities presented in staff development trainings at their institution, or via NACADA workshops or breakout sessions.
As advisors assist students in coping with severe emotional concerns beyond the concerns of advisement, there are a few things to know and consider as a main responsibility. Harper and Peterson (2005) delineated the following:
- When mental health situations occur in the office, remain calm (i.e., soft tone of voice and facial expression) and assess the situation for student’s risk of harm to self or others.
- Secure the office environment to maintain safety for students and staff. It is prudent to relocate students experiencing mental health issues away from the main office area to another available office space, a conference room, or secluded area for privacy.
- The goal is to assist and protect students from shame, ridicule, or embarrassment.
- Be aware of the proper points of contact, and refer students to those who can assist them immediately.
- Contact the appropriate resources as the identified and preferred method of resolving the issue (e.g., Personal Counseling Services, Public Safety Department, or Student Health Services).
- Be familiar with other campus resources that may provide complementary support later on (e.g., Health and Wellness Programs, Disability Services, Learning & Tutoring Centers, Mentoring Programs).
Every academic advisor, student affairs counselor, or administrative secretary should have in their arsenal the knowledge and training for when and how to use de-escalation techniques. While the following information is not a comprehensive coverage of the process, it is sufficient for informing the readers of proper protocol. Further training is highly recommended.
De-escalation is a technique used during a potential mental health situation that aids in preventing a student or other individual from engaging in escalating disruptive or harmful behaviors. Prevention and communication are two important aspects of de-escalation (Dufresne, 2003). The focus is on controlling the self with an emphasis on providing undivided attention, displaying a nonjudgmental attitude, focusing on the individual’s feelings, allowing silence, clarifying messages, developing a feasible plan with the individual, using a team approach, recognizing personal limits, and debriefing with a trusted colleague after a major incident (Dufresne, 2003). Logical and rational reasoning with an emotionally-charged person is not the premise behind de-escalation. Key factors associated with increasing advisor effectiveness during the de-escalation process, include the following (McClellan, 2005):
- Behave in a manner that is calm, centered, and self-assured
- Use respectful communication with students
- Be aware of resources available for back up, including office colleagues
- Refrain from reacting defensively, even in the face of direct criticism or insults
- Calmly decide to leave the situation if de-escalation is not working
- Appropriate physical stance:
- Maintain at least three feet of distance between the self and the student
- Be at the same eye level as students (either sitting or standing)
- Refrain from physically touching students in an agitated state
- Be aware of exits
- Create an atmosphere of relaxation by maintaining periodic (not constant) eye contact
- Set the proper tone for communication with students by speaking in a soft and calm tone, not yelling or screaming at them
- Respond appropriately and selectively to students via answering informational questions and not abusive ones
- Provide students with choices and alternatives whenever possible
- Empathize with the emotional feelings of students, but not with disruptive behaviors (i.e., I understand that you feel angry, and your threatening behaviors will not be tolerated.)
Resources for Collaborative Assistance
Effective management of student mental health issues that occur in the advising office require not only that advisors be familiar with utilizing helpful de-escalation techniques, but also with college and other institutional resources. These resources may exist on college or university campuses as:
- Personal Counseling or Psychological Services
- Behavioral Intervention Teams or Student Intervention Teams
- Department of Public Safety
- Student Health Services
- Disability Services
- TRIO Student Support Services
- Health, Wellness, & Recreation Programs
- Learning and Tutoring Centers
- Mentoring and Leadership Programs
In summary, it is essential that advisors pay close attention to students with mental health needs, prepare to engage in crisis intervention, know how to utilize de-escalation techniques, and be aware of the appropriate resources available on campus to safely prevent, intervene, and manage mental health situations in the advising office.
Rufus Larkin, Ph.D., LCSW, LPC, ACS; Rufus.Larkin@gpc.edu
Lonika Crumb, Ph.D., LPC; Lonika.Crumb@gpc.edu
Yolanda Fountain, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, RPT, ACS; Yolanda.Fountain@gpc.edu
Ca Trice Glenn, Th.D., LPC, ACS, NCC; CaTrice.Glenn@gpc.edu
Jennifer Smith, M.S., LPC; Jennifer.Smith2@gpc.edu
Advising, Counseling, and Retention Services
Georgia Perimeter College
Dufresne, J. (2003). De-escalation tips. Retrieved from http://www.crisisprevention.com/Resources/Knowledge-Base/De-escalation-Tips/
Grant, J. E., Odlaug, B. L., Derbyshire, K., Schreiber, L. N., Lust, K., & Christenson, G. (2014). Mental health and clinical correlates in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer young adults. Journal of American College Health, 62(1), 75-78.
Harper, R. & Peterson, M. (2005). Mental health issues and college students. NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Mental-health-issues-in-advising.aspx
Hyun, J., Quinn, B., Madon, T., Lutsig, S. (2007). Mental health need, awareness, and use of counseling services among international graduate students. Journal of American College Health, 56(2), 109-118.
Kadison, R. & DiGeronimo, T. F. (2004). College of the overwhelmed: The campus mental health crisis and what to do about it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kitzrow, M. A. (2009). The mental health needs of today's college students: Challenges and recommendations. NASPA Journal, 46(4), 646-660.
McClellan, J. L. (2005). Increasing advisor effectiveness by understanding conflict and conflict resolution. NACADA Journal, 25(2), 57-64.
Mier, S., Boone, M., & Shropshire, S. (2009). Community consultation and intervention: Supporting students who do not access counseling services. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 23(1), 16-29.
Muses, S. D., & Ravello, J. N. (2010). Characteristics of academic advising that contribute to racial and ethnic minority student success at predominantly white institutions, NACADA Journal, 30(1), 47-58.
Shadick, R. & Akhter, S. (2013). Suicide prevention in a diverse campus community. New Directions for Student Services, 2013(141), 71-81. doi: 10.1002/ss.20041
Smith, T. B., Dean, B., Floyd, S., Silva, C., Yamashita, M., Durtschi, J., & Heaps, R. A. (2007). A survey of American College Counseling Association members. Journal of College Counseling, 10(1), 64-78.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (2012). College students speak: A survey report on mental health. Retrieved from www.nami.org/namioncampus
The National Behavioral Intervention Team Association [NaBITA]. (2009). NaBITA threat assessment tools. Retrieved from https://nabita.org/resources/threat-assessment-tools/
Van Pelt, J. (2013). College mental health initiatives: Outreach to at-risk students. Social Work Today, 13 (4), 26.
Watkins, D. C., Hunt, J. B., & Eisenberg, D. (2012). Increased demand for mental health services on college campuses: Perspectives from administrators. Qualitative Social Work, 11(3), 319-337
First-Year Seminars and Advising: How Advisors Make a Lifelong Impact
Garance Blanchot-Aboubi, Normandale Community College
Through an array of responsibilities such as course planning, career counseling, and referral resources, professional advisors are commonly recognized as important to student progress and success (Petress, 1996). However, they are occasionally sidelined when it comes to contributing to lifelong learning, a role traditionally associated with faculty members or academic content.
As more and more colleges and universities offer a first-year experience class taught by academic advisors to their new students (National Resource Center, 2006), the advisor/advisee relationship has shifted from infrequent and impersonal to frequent, rewarding, challenging, and inspiring. In fact, the core commitments of the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition (2015) include lifelong learning and closely match its definition, which per Wikipedia (2015) is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, rather than competitiveness and employability.”
First-year seminars aim first and foremost at fostering student success and at easing the transition process to a new college or university by using a holistic or multi-strategy approach. Through flexible content and varied instructional strategies, advisors not only teach and inform students about degree requirements, campus policies and procedures, or career options, they also expect students to adapt and apply those strategies to fit their personal/academic goals. A key element needed for students to establish or expand their own goals includes improving student motivation, which contributes to higher retention rates, improves student engagement, and positively affects the behavior of students.
According to the Gestalt theory, motivation is essentially intrinsic and is strongly influenced by the learners’ purposes (Bigge, 1971). Based on the Gestaltist view, the role of the advisor in the classroom is to become a provider of extrinsic motivation, such as praise, encouragement, and points to entice students to get sufficiently involved in their learning process so that they develop their own intrinsic motivation (Bigge, 1971). Thanks to a flexible curriculum and customized pedagogy, advisors in first-year seminars have the opportunity to help students shape their academic goals and map out the necessary steps and skills to achieve them. By evaluating various possibilities and explaining their academic/career choices, students are lead to take an active role and to have a voice and control in planning for their future, thus increasing their intrinsic motivation. While faculty teaching other academic content face large class sizes, a fast-paced academic calendar, and the pressure of standardized assessment, first-year seminars have room for customization to figure out the best ways to motivate and engage their students.
Another equally relevant contributor to student success is emotional intelligence and the teaching of emotion skills. Research by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (1999) shows that integrating emotional information with rational decision-making is essential for people to manage their daily lives and that individuals lacking emotional intelligence make decisions that may put them at risk. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Social and Emotional Learning Research Group (SEL) (2010) reveal that emotionally skilled students are better able to identify the cause of their anxiety and are more likely to engage in proactive behavior to manage the distress. Such proactive behaviors include participating in study groups with peers, communicating with their instructor, or utilizing available campus resources. On the other hand, students with lower emotional intelligence tend to engage in risky or violent behaviors that put their well-being and health at risk and negatively impacts their academic progress. CASEL/SEL highlight that the teaching of emotional intelligence contributes to social competence and enhances academic achievement as students develop coping mechanisms and build healthier attachments to their school, the latter aided by one of the many of the advisor’s duties as the resources referral (SEL Research Group, 2010).
As they refer resources and instruct first-year seminar, advisors not only seek to connect their students to the campus community or to link them with appropriate services and relevant opportunities, they also strive to establish a long-lasting, positive relationship with students and become a friendly face on campus, someone students feel comfortable talking to on a regular basis over the course of their studies. Advisors make every effort to create a safe and challenging classroom environment by using both collaborative and cooperative learning, which has many benefits including positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction (Kagan, 1990). Because student performance is inextricably tied to other non-academic matters such as financial security, employment, physical health, emotional health, and mental health (Petress, 1996), it is important that students trust their campus community and feel it is contributing to their welfare and best interest. In a typical university model where advising is external to academic content, students in academic difficulty are left on their own to seek assistance, lose the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with their peers or campus community, and commonly feel a lack of support from their institution, thus leading to underachievement and retention issues.
Finally, first-year seminars’ reach spread out past the walls of the classroom as they promote social inclusion and active citizenship by encouraging service learning or internships. Students get to combine meaningful community involvement with classroom theory, learning objectives, and deliberate reflection. Dewey’s theory of service learning points out that “the interaction of knowledge and skills with experience is key to learning” (1938). Service learning in its nature is mutually beneficial for the community and students as it provides a mechanism for active learning and an opportunity to gain new and varied learning experiences in an authentic setting, as opposed to a hypothetical one in a traditional classroom setting. Throughout this partnership between academic, personal, and professional development, students are asked to reflect on how their background and experience shape their values and decisions as well as to recognize and appreciate diverse perspectives. Thanks to their newly gained experiences, students also have the opportunity to improve their soft skills such as verbal communication, analytical thinking, teamwork, and work ethic, which are highly valued qualities in today’s job market.
In conclusion, based on the goals and learning outcomes covered in first-year seminars as well as varied instructional methods, it is clear that professional advisors have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on students and to contribute to their lifelong learning. With a curriculum focused on innovation, creativity, adaptability, accountability, and self-reliance—all characteristics valued by lifelong learners (Gopee, 2000)—and assignments based on self-reflection and self-assessment, a safe environment, a culture of learning, and a drive for self-improvement and development is fostered.
Normandale Community College
Bigge, M. L. (1971). Learning theories for teachers. New York: Harper and Row.
Core Commitments. (2015). National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition. Retrieved from http://www.sc.edu/fye/center/index.html
Damasio, A. (1999). The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. New York: Harcourt Brace.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Gopee, N. (2000). Self-assessment and the concept of the lifelong learning nurse. British Journal of Nursing. 9, 724.
Kagan, S. (1990). The structural approach to cooperative learning. Educational Leadership. 47(4), 12.
Lifelong Learning. (2015, March). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifelong_learning
National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition. (2006). 2006 Summary of National Survey on First Year Seminars. Retrieved from http://www.sc.edu/fye/research/surveyfindings/surveys/survey06.html
Petress, K. C. (1996). The multiple roles of an undergraduate's academic advisor. Education 117(1), 91.
SEL Research Group. (2010). The benefits of school-based social and emotional learning programs: Highlights from a forthcoming CASEL Report. Chicago: University of Illinois at Chicago SEL Research Group & The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.
Remembering Our Past to Help Students in the Present
Rebecca Hapes, NACADA Advising Graduate & Professional Students Commission Chair
I had never really experienced academic struggles until my first year in college, an experience not unlike many of my current advisees. I am a “Gen X’er”, but was a very high-achieving student from a small, rural town in Texas. My academic struggles surfaced in a course one may expect, one in which many freshman struggle, Introductory Biology. At that time, I was an undeclared major—general studies at my institution—and was planning to transition to Kinesiology, where the minimum grade allowed for this course was a ‘C’. However, despite the very best of my efforts, I was not on a trajectory to confidently meet that grade. I would have described myself as a good student, and still do—a ‘nerd’, if you will. I am typically the one from whom individuals want to copy notes if they miss class. So without guidance, I did many of the things that are commonly suggested to increase success and academic performance in a course of this nature such as reading the material before class, highlighting and making notes from the reading material, asking questions in class or after over material I didn’t understand from the reading or lectures, attending supplemental instruction, studying with a group, visiting with the professor about material I did not understand, and going over examinations to determine what I missed on them and why.
I did all of that.
They did not have the desired effect.
The bottom line: I tried my very best. And my very best was not good enough at that time.
Ultimately, I made the best decision I could have made for my circumstances and dropped the course—the only course I ever dropped in my undergraduate career. I was able to focus the extra time I had been spending studying for the Introductory Biology course on the remainder of my other classes and earned a 4.0 that semester. I retook the course in the summer and did much better in it, getting the grade needed so that I could successfully transition to my intended major.
However, in addition to the academic struggles with the course mentioned, I also felt utterly alone during this time. Yes, on a campus of over 40,000 students, while doing all of the things one tells students to do to engage and connect with a university, I felt isolated. Alone. Lonely.
And it was an awful time.
However, having those experiences, and being reminded of them periodically, helps me to connect with my advisees. I am able to relate with them and the experiences they bring with them into my office on a real and personal level. I do understand the transitional issues that many of them experience when they enter the higher education environment. I disclose, in an appropriate manner as the situation dictates, about my disappointments, struggles, and ultimately, personal growth resulting from these experiences.
I, too, applied for freshman leadership organizations and was denied to several. I ultimately made the decision to join organizations that didn’t have arduous application and screening processes for fear that my self-worth couldn’t handle additional rejection. I did make the mistake of getting overinvolved in these types of organizations, however, and pared it down after my first year once I determined which of those organizations were most meaningful for me.
I, too, struggled to find my sweet spot of volunteerism and leadership in a place where everyone seemed to be just as good as I had been in high school. As one who had been a leader in the majority of the organizations in which I had participated in high school, this was an opportunity to learn how to become an effective follower. It was a good opportunity. Every good leader needs to learn how to follow. Every great leader needs to be sure they have followers and that they are giving those followers a purpose for following.
I, too, wondered why I was not selected for many scholarships, when I was one of the brightest and highest ranking students in my high school class. Only later did it really ever occur to me that virtually everyone at my institution was the brightest and highest ranking student at their high school. This epiphany has helped me in conversations with multiple types of students over the years. I am able to take their perception of themselves and place it in the context of the institutional student population and environment, which is incredibly helpful in guiding conversations not only about scholarships, but about other competitive programs.
I, too, wondered what was wrong with me, when the appropriate and recommended strategies for studying material didn’t achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps I needed to go through this experience so that I could relate to students going through similar experiences when I later became an advisor. I know that the experience hasn’t been wasted in my life. Despite the struggle that it was, and the self-doubt it created, I know I am much better able to connect with students during their struggles because I have had the same types of issues.
It took about a year or a year and a half for me to transition to my institution as an undergraduate student. During that time, I continued to try various extracurricular activities of interest to me in an effort to engage and connect. I started the summer of my sophomore year with a job as a resident advisor, which was an incredibly valuable training tool for what would eventually become my career of academic advising.
I believe it is important for advisors to remember that the higher education transition for students does take time. And sometimes, perhaps many times, a student will try their very best and be unsuccessful. One of our jobs is to help them as they navigate the uncomfortable growth process surrounding those experiences, because for many of them it may be the first time, especially for the current millennial generation, they have ever experienced any form of failure. If we can assist them in this process to mitigate potential negative feelings of self-worth, that may allow the students an opportunity to practice resiliency, persistence, and grit, rather than negative personal feelings.
Senior Academic Advisor II
Department of Entomology/College of Agriculture & Life Science
Texas A&M University
Academic Advising or Advocacy?
Freedom Nguyen, University of Illinois at Chicago
I attended the NACADA Annual Conference in Minneapolis last October, where hundreds of administrators and academic advisors convened to discuss their work and approach to student success. I discovered there was a collective consciousness around the struggles of our college students and a profound desire among advisors to revolutionize how higher education serves students. I thought critically about my role as an academic advisor and was reminded of my responsibility also as an agent of change.
Prior to higher education, I worked in community based programs serving youth and families with immediate and often complex needs. In many ways, this experience paralleled my work in advising and student services—dropping everything to help a person in crisis. Often these crises would not have long-term solutions, and for many clients, their struggles became systemic and cyclical in nature. Reacting to support and serve just one person in crisis left everyone emotionally taxed and drained, but serving multiple clients with high needs left everyone at our community center burned out. That’s when I realized the difference between direct-service work and advocacy. My colleagues and I were not spending adequate time thinking strategically about the problems our clients faced or how to address them systemically.
As an academic advisor, I sometimes feel reactionary and prescriptive in working with students. I provide answers only when students ask questions about the curriculum, or a campus service, or a specific need. When I don’t attempt to address why students are asking what they do, or not understanding the context behind their issues, I not only feel reactionary, but I am perpetuating a normative advising model, feeding into a routine or cycle. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, and at the very least we are still serving student needs. But I think of other areas in advising like academic probation and dismissal policies: To what degree have we normalized student failure? I remember one particular conversation at the conference in which advisors felt universally powerless in reaching these students on academic probation. How do we address problems at the root? How do we build long-term change in advising, student services, and in higher education?
When we advocate (whether in a community center or at a university), we look for opportunities to connect and share not only concerns but proposed solutions to leaders within our department, division, and college. It is relationship building at its best with the key leaders and stakeholders that can implement change within our learning environments and communities. It is taking a step up to inform our leaders and building lasting partnerships that will benefit all of our students.
Sometimes I confuse advocacy for referral of services, or connecting students to additional resources, or networking, or expressing challenges with other departments. This is important, but it is not advocacy. Advocacy serves as a vehicle for change and is the difference between complacency and leadership. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I think striving for balance between advocacy and advising will help us feel like we are making progress, and in the long-term working toward some measurable form of success. Here are some general ongoing tips in making advocacy a part of my everyday work:
- Finding the patterns in reoccurring student issues, searching for the data to support my concerns, and identifying how I as an advisor can better approach the problem
- Building in time each week to reflect on the students I serve and then sharing with my supervisor
- Creating meaningful ways to engage the institution’s leadership, pathways to learn more about their roles and how I can meet with them (consistently) to express student needs or concerns
- Hosting quarterly meetings and inviting the institution’s leadership to serve as guest speakers
- Being solution based, innovative, and willing to learn more about the issue by doing my own research
- Volunteering to be on committees related to outreach, student or campus life, and/or policy development
As an advisor, I am in a unique position that regularly interfaces complex student needs. I believe that advisors understand the wide range of challenges and issues that impact student success and that they should use their roles to promote institutional changes to support all students. I aspire to be both an advisor and an advocate.
UIC College of Business & Administration
Advising with an Accent: Embracing the Difference
Ragh Singh, University of Missouri, Columbia
I came to the United States about 9 years ago as an International student from India, and as much of an opportunity as it was, it also was a challenge, one that I wasn’t quite ready for. Essentially, if I had to describe my experience, I would say it was all very different. Apart from adapting to cultural changes in every facet of my life, I was also getting enrolled in a higher education system that was very dissimilar from my country of origin where I had pursued my undergraduate in English Literature. Not only was it a challenge at first to understand the credit hour system and how academia in the United States revolved around semesters, but it was also a bit perplexing to be a part of an educational structure that was more discussion based as opposed to lecture based, which was what I was familiar with. However, between all this and more, there was someone who stood by my side from the time I didn’t do well in my first exam to the time that I was struggling in my preparation for my comprehensive exams, that someone was my graduate advisor at the University of Central Missouri. If it wasn’t for her, I would have packed my bags, lost all hope, and left for India after the end of my first semester, but I didn’t, and the credit goes to my advisor, who stood by me through thick and thin.
My initial plan was not to be an academic advisor; in fact, I didn’t even know that such an academic position existed until I met my own graduate advisor and got to understand the higher education system in America better. However, post-graduation, as things unfolded with the great recession in 2009, I looked for academic opportunities since I felt that academia was an area where I was comfortable in my own shell. I say shell, for then and even sometimes today, I am very self-conscious of my accent and what people make of it.
Apart from the many unpaid internships that I pursued after graduate school, which included working for the City of Warrensburg as well as several political campaigns, I was starting to appreciate the value of a communication degree and how it could actually get things done. My first big break in academia came with State Fair Community College, where I started teaching as an adjunct faculty. It was an interesting experience, for I was teaching composition classes and, being a second language speaker of English, I was always overly cautious teaching grammar. As an adjunct faculty, I was certainly enjoying working with students and being in my natural habitat of academia. However, there were challenges too; some students were having a tough time understanding my speech delivery due to my accent. More than anything else, I was slightly depressed because I wanted to reach out to those students by breaking the barrier of my accent. In fact, it wasn’t just the issue of accent; there were cultural barriers between us that I knew would take time to break down.
I knew that my accent perhaps would never go away, for I was born and raised in a country where English is the second language, and so I needed something that could cut across that accent and yet deliver my message to my students, and that universal language was humor. I knew if I could make them laugh and perhaps laugh with them, I would be one of them, someone they could trust and be willing to give a chance. Thankfully it worked, and for this among other reasons my students nominated me for the 2012 Student Government Association Adjunct Faculty of the Year Award at State Fair Community College. I didn’t win the award, but I certainly won the confidence of my students, which was bigger than any other victory.
My career as an academic advisor started in the small town of Clinton, Mo., in 2010 where I was working for State Fair Community College as an adjunct already. My initial opportunity working in the position of an academic advisor was part-time along with my load of teaching three to four classes every semester. It truly was my own experience with my graduate advisor that motivated me to pursue the academic advising position. As an academic advisor, I got to know the students at a much more personal level, which helped me understand the challenges that they faced in the real world and how often those challenges directly affected their academics.
During my early days in advising, my perception was that even though I may be well versed in my content area, because I originally wasn’t brought up in the same cultural surroundings, it would be hard for me to connect with my students. Having been an academic advisor, first for State Fair Community College and then for the University of Missouri, I feel that my early fears of not being able connect with my students were not accurate. In fact, in a very strange manner, I had confined myself to the barriers of stereotype.
An aspect of advising that I have always appreciated is meeting students from every part of the country and the world. In fact, when I meet students from outside of Missouri as well as outside of the country, I always have some interesting questions for them just to get a better understanding of their part of the world. In appreciating the diversity of my students, and the knowledge and cultural perspective that they enlighten me with, my own ideas of advising with an accent have evolved.
After a series of steps in May 2013, I took the oath to become a U.S. Citizen, which was perhaps one of the proudest moments of my life. As an immigrant, there certainly have been many cultural adjustments that I have had to cope with. One such challenge was my accent, especially when advising students. From a diversity point of view, as individuals we all are very different from each other, and often so is our accent. However, our differences or accents don’t divide us, they really bring us together, for our diverse backgrounds are truly where our talents emerge from.
Academic and Career Advisor
Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
University of Missouri, Columbia
I Wanted More: NACADA Summer Institute
Octavia Lawrence, Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
I have been an academic advisor since 2011, and during that time I have had the opportunity to attend a NACADA Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee and a Region III Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. NACADA has been a wonderful resource for me as a new advisor. My attendance at these conferences motivated me to learn more about the advising field and how to become a skilled advisor. The conferences were high quality, but I wanted more. I wanted to be able to create a plan that would help my students and would serve as a guide for successful advising. Fortunately, in June of 2014 I was given the opportunity to attend the NACADA Summer Institute in Portland, Oregon as an SI Scholarship recipient. The experience that I had at the Summer Institute has been the highlight of my academic advising career.
My institution was very supportive when I told them that I would apply for the scholarship, and they said that they would cover all of my other expenses. Two of my colleagues had participated in a Summer Institute several years ago, and they encouraged me to go. I saw their action plan implemented, and I saw the difference that it made on our campus.
My colleagues spoke highly of their SI experience, and they warned me to expect a fast pace. The intensity of the Institute is high, but I never felt overwhelmed. We hit the ground running on the first day, and the pace was consistent for the remainder of my time there. Each day we had a foundational session, workshops, topical sessions, and small group discussion sessions.
The foundational sessions were instrumental in understanding academic advising theory and current trends in advising. The Foundational Session that resonated most with me was titled Academic Advising and the Campus Environment. The session was led by NACADA Associate Director Jennifer Joslin, and she talked about the changing demographics within our institutions and building partnerships for student success. Jennifer used a quote by NACADA Past President Jayne Drake in her presentation that read, “Actually seeing the student in front of you means understanding and responding to student diversity and difference and it means adapting advising approaches from a foundation built on an understanding of student development theory.” This particular quote reminded me of how intentional I have to be about advising the students that I serve. It is impossible to advise all of my students in the same manner. Jennifer challenged us to think about how our experiences are similar and dissimilar to our student’s experiences.
As an academic advisor, I sometimes have the tendency to forget about my experience as an undergraduate student. The majority of the students that I work with are on academic probation, and I often forget that I was once a student on academic probation. Prior to my time at Institute, I separated my experience from the experience of my students. I now understand that I must share that experience with my students. It is important for them to see me as much more than an academic advisor; they need to know my story.
The Summer Institute constantly reminded me that I am responsible for the change on my campus. It is important for me to influence and lead change from my current position. It is impossible for advising to be an isolated unit. In order for advising to be effective, it has to be connected to other resources and programs on campus.
My small group sessions were led by NACADA Assistant Director, Marsha Miller, and NACADA Past President Kathy Stockwell. They were dynamic leaders, and they initiated wonderful conversations amongst our group members. Everyone had something valuable to contribute, and I learned so much from my colleagues. The input that we gave to each other throughout the course of the week enhanced and strengthened our action plans. It was so good to hear from my group members, and I respected their input. We were all on similar paths and everyone was so willing to share.
Initially, I was concerned that I would not meet many people at the Summer Institute. I was traveling from Madisonville, KY to Portland, OR, and I was a bit concerned about who I would connect with. On the first day of the Institute, I met a group of colleagues who I instantly connected with. We worked with the same population of students, many of us were first generation college students, and we were all passionate about our careers. We uplifted each other, we experienced Portland together, we shared our thoughts about advising, and we shared much laughter.
One of those colleagues I met at the Summer Institute was Cristy Reynolds from Patrick Henry Community College. She was the glue that kept our group together that week. She collected all of our numbers and made sure that we met for dinner and other outings. Her passion for advising was evident and her spirit and her smile were contagious. Cristy talked about her students and how much they meant to her. She also talked about her family and her two sons who were the joys of her life.
When I returned to Kentucky, I started reflecting on my experiences at the Summer Institute in Portland. I decided to reach out to Cristy and others in our group to see how everyone’s semester was going. I had misplaced Cristy’s information, so I decided to find her contact information on her institution’s website. Instead of finding her contact information, I found out that Cristy had been killed in a car accident. The news was shocking, and I immediately thought about all the lives that she had touched in her 37 years on this planet. The advising community has lost someone who possessed the qualities and the skills that makes an advisor excellent. Christy was compassionate, empathetic, and resilient. Her smile and her welcoming attitude made us feel at ease. She will truly be missed.
The Summer Institute taught me so much about myself as an advisor and as a human being. It was a refreshing reminder of how important relationships are to what I do. In our daily grind, it can be easy to forget that relationship building is essential to becoming an effective advisor. We have to reach out to people within our institutions and those outside of our institutions. Each day that I spent at the Summer Institute taught me more about myself and assured me that academic advising is the profession for me. I vow to be intentional with the relationships that I build with my students. It doesn’t take a lifetime to have an impact on someone’s life. In less than seven days my life was touched and forever changed. The opportunity to attend the Summer Institute in Portland, Oregon has forever changed my life and it has renewed my spirit. Thank you NACADA for making it possible.
Madisonville Community College