Integrating Group Advising into a Comprehensive Advising Program
Becky Ryan, 2009 NACADA Summer Institute Faculty Member
Advising is a multifaceted profession with a multitude of
personalities, perspectives, philosophies, and needs. It should be no
surprise then that there is much variety in how we define our roles and
design our programming. While there may be much discussion among
advisors regarding the “what,” “why,” and “how” of advising, there is
agreement on one point: there is a greater demand for advising than
there are advisors to meet it. That, combined with the very real
economic challenges facing most institutions and growing advising
caseloads, finds advisors considering alternative ways to meet student
needs. One popular approach for dealing with this challenge is group advising.
Often the most cost effective methods of academic advising can be
delivered via group methodologies. The use of multiple delivery methods
offers additional ways for meeting student needs as well as increasing
student retention. Nutt (2000) noted that using groups in advising
also offers the advantage of connecting “students to a peer group and a
mentor. These connections are invaluable in establishing a student’s
sense of belonging to the institution” (p. 235). Nevertheless, group
advising presents unique challenges for advisors.
Working with Students in Groups
Group advising should not be a
phenomenon driven solely by expediency. Much has been written about the
positive nature of using groups. Richard Light (2001) stated that 'to
learn from one another, students with different backgrounds and from
different racial and ethnic groups must interact' (p. 190). Group
advising may have a strong normative influence. That is, it has the
potential to bring students on the extreme of various continua toward a
safer middle ground on attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs regarding
their education. Especially with first-generation college students,
there is a tendency to have extreme attitudes toward educational goals:
extreme vocationalism, extreme individualism, or extreme
disengagement. Group advising provides these students with the
opportunity to interact with students who have less extreme viewpoints,
listen to their questions, and view their interest in learning about academic options. This can provide a
positive experience that can never be achieved within individual
advising sessions. “Students who participate in group advising
appreciate the opportunity to interact with peers as well as with an
advisor. The feeling of not being alone is a powerful by-product of
the group experience” (King, 2000).
Whether the decision to use a group approach is driven by necessity,
content, variety, or the need to build community, group advising, when
done well, can offer an excellent addition to the advising “tool box”
of programming. The “advising as teaching” model logically connects to
working with groups. Certainly, many advising events lend themselves
ideally to a group process: orientation, freshman seminars, capstone
courses, freshman interest groups (FIGS), learning communities in
residence halls, pre-enrollment meetings, and common reading
discussions, to name a few.
Discover the Advisor Within: How to be effective when working with groups
Advisors can learn to be effective when they advise students in groups.
The benefit of groups is that the very thing that makes them
challenging can also be their greatest asset: the broad application of
what constitutes ‘group advising’ means that virtually anything can fit
here. Big or small, informational or relational, advisors are only
limited by their imaginations. This means that in order to be effective
with groups, we must understand our strengths. That, paired with a
solid understanding of our preferred ways to present information, are
the two most important ‘tools’ needed. The question becomes do we
prefer meeting around a small table with groups of five? Or, do we
shine when standing on a platform in front of 1400?
The good news for experienced advisors is that we can naturally distill
the experiences gained from individual advising into an understanding
of what we must cover in the group process. We also know when a student
response or question is typical or atypical and can respond
accordingly. The less encouraging news for inexperienced advisors is
that group advising will be more challenging than individual advising
appointments. Inexperienced advisors should enlist the help of more
experienced advisors before embarking on their first group advising
mission (Woolston and Ryan, 2007, p.119-123).
To best utilize a group approach, advisors must consider a few key elements:
- Incorporate the principles of developmental advising.
- Choose material that is concise, engaging, and will be helpful to the student.
- Identify the purpose of the
group advising event. Is it intended to be informational? Or does the
event fall under the relational category where discussions, team
builders, and lots of hands on activities characterize the general
- Use a student-centered process that emphasizes shared responsibility.
- Select a time for the event. There is some magic involved in selecting times for group type activities. Tap the planning experts on campus, e.g., student activity organizers, to find out what times to avoid or consider.
To help ensure success:
- Involve the right
constituents for planning. These could be advisors, counselors,
administrators, faculty, students, guest speakers, entertainers, and
- Enlist allies for promotion, collaboration, and feedback.
- Decide on the size of the
group. Consider the material to be covered and the amount of activity
and/or one-on-one advisor access needed. These will be helpful when
establishing group numbers.
- Select a central location large enough to hold the group and any break-out sessions needed.
- Build in interaction activities so that students participate in the process.
- Select a time for the event that takes into consideration student patterns.
- Remember that students like
food. Often the presence of food is cited as a main consideration
whether students attend a group meeting. (Note: Woolston and Ryan
provide a step-by-step guide for planning group advising sessions on p.
120 of The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond.)
Group advising is not a replacement for traditional
academic advising, but rather should be used to enhance an existing
program. Using groups presents the opportunity for advisors to
intentionally provide information in a most efficient and time
sensitive way. Deciding to use groups is easier said than done.
While most can agree that groups could play a proactive role in an
advising setting, doing groups well takes a different kind of magic.
There is a wide range of considerations involved in choosing how and
when to use groups. Advisors must have serious discussions regarding
how to utilize groups in their situation. Advisors in small or solo
units should discuss group advising options with colleagues in similar
positions at their institution or with colleagues on one of the NACADA
Ultimately, the success of any group advising program is
dependant on multiple variables but advisors must include an honest
assessment of their personality styles, knowledge of the material, and
confidence levels if a group advising event is to be a success. But
even considering all of these variables, group advising is an important
delivery method that can allow advisors to manage student contact and
information delivery in efficient and effective ways.
University of Wisconsin
Note: The author would like to acknowledge Jane Larsen, North Island College, BC, Canada for her useful insight and support for this article.
Folsom, Pat and Chamberlain, B. (Eds.). (2007). The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the First Year and Beyond (NACADA Monograph No. 16). Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
King, Nancy. (2000). Advising students in groups. In V.N. Gordon, W.R. Habley, and Associates (Eds.), Academic advising: A Comprehensive handbook. (p. 236). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Light, R.J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
National Academic Advising Association. (2006). NACADA concept of academic advising. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Concept-Advising.htm
Nutt, C.L. (2000). One-to-one advising. In V.N. Gordon and W.R. Habley, Academic advising: A Comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Woolston, D.C. and Ryan, R.J. (2007). Group advising. In Folsom, P.
The New advisor guidebook: Mastering the art of advising through the first year and beyond. (pp. 119 – 123). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
From the President: In Search of Inspiration in Our Own Backyard
Jayne Drake, NACADA President
Kathy Stockwell, NACADA Vice President
We wracked our brains in search of just the right pithy opening quote for this article to dazzle you. We pored over past issues of Academic Advising Today in search of what previous NACADA leaders have had to say to the
membership at this point in the year. We traveled far and wide in search
of the most genial, awe-inspiring stories calculated to warm your
heart and renew your sense of purpose. We even called upon the muses to
shower their inspiration upon us. And while we did, indeed, find
glimmers of inspiration in these sources, it soon became clear to us
that what we neglected to do was to peer into the most obvious place of
our own backyards.
In America’s post Civil War Gilded Age, the famous orator, Baptist
minister, and founder of Temple University, Dr. Russell Conwell,
delivered a speech entitled “Acres of Diamonds” over 6,000 times to
audiences around the world. In it, Conwell tells the story of a wealthy
farmer who is captivated by the promise of enormous wealth—acres of
diamonds—if he will but search for it. His quest led him away from
hearth and family to journey the world in pursuit of this treasure.
After years of relentless searching, he died a penniless, ragged, and
disillusioned old man, unaware that the diamonds and untold wealth he
sought were just beneath his feet on the farm that he had abandoned
years before. For Conwell, the message was clear: we need search only
within ourselves to discover immensely rich resources, our own
diamonds—those of courage, adaptability, resiliency, resourcefulness,
and the capacity to live up to our potential. These qualities build
character, and from character, he asserts, comes greatness. “Greatness
consists not in holding some [grand] office; greatness really consists
in doing some great deed with little means, in the accomplishment of
vast purposes from the private ranks of life. That is true greatness.”
It was on this foundation of doing great things with little means by
using the diamonds within all of us that Temple University was built. It
occurs to us that, perhaps more than ever with the many pressures and
exigencies we all face in higher education in general and academic
advising in particular, Conwell’s words continue to strike true.
We would also like to think that NACADA’s diamonds are our members
whose work every day in their offices or advising settings around the
world inspires our students to unlock and discover the resources within
themselves. Does our rhetoric sound a bit overblown? Perhaps it is. But
the reality is that professional academic advisors and counselors,
faculty advisors, and advising administrators make an important
difference in the lives of our students. As we labor away—always hard
and sometimes feeling isolated in our offices—we can lose sight of the
fact that there are many thousand diamonds in our Global Community for
Academic Advising who embrace our shared commitment to help others make
their way, to help students both to navigate the academy, and to grow
into satisfying careers.
It is especially your adaptability, resiliency, and resourcefulness, as
well as your inspiration, that define and shape the work of the other
brilliant diamonds in NACADA’s backyard. Members of the Board of
Directors, the Council, chairs of our ten regions, chairs of commissions
and interest groups, chairs of administrative committees, advisory
boards, and taskforces, and all those who hold leadership positions
freely volunteer their time to promote quality academic advising, to
provide opportunities for professional growth through the Association’s
institutes, conferences, and consulting and speakers services, and to
offer Webcasts, print, electronic, and other resources to promote
student success. The five goals of NACADA’s Strategic Plan—1) champion
the educational role of academic advisors to enhance student learning
and development in a diverse world; 2) affirm the role of academic advising in student success and
persistence, thereby supporting institutional mission and vitality; 3)
anticipate the academic advising needs of twenty-first century
students, advisors and institutions; 4) advance the body of knowledge
on academic advising; and 5) foster the talents and contributions of
all members and promote the involvement of diverse populations—assume
life through the good work of these NACADA diamonds. And it is, of
course, from you, our members, that we take guidance in order to ensure
the current and future direction of the Association. We are grateful
to you all.
And if we can stretch (and belabor) a bit farther the metaphor
of our members as diamonds in our own backyard, then we have to
acknowledge the many faceted and highly polished diamonds in our
Executive Office. These amazing folks consistently have shown the
savvy, adaptability, resiliency, resourcefulness, and just plain good
sense that have built NACADA into a world leader among higher education
associations. From the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan,
Kansas (the Little Apple), they work behind the scenes making sure
that the pulleys and levers and bells and whistles are working as they
should. Just to give you some sense of the extraordinary range of
activities they are responsible for, we have inserted here a brief
summary of their responsibilities from NACADA’s Web site. “The
Executive Office supports the association in all activities and
provides services to the members. This includes implementation of all
approved activities as designated by the Board of Directors. In
addition, the Executive Office staff will maintain the Archives of the
Association, act as the fiscal agent of the Association, provide Web services to all units of the Association, and lend expertise
in meeting planning, contract negotiations, service contracts,
marketing and promotion, copy editing, grant writing in support of
Association activities, research efforts, and clerical support as
needed. The Executive Office has been given more responsibility for the
implementation of association activities to lessen the burden on the
volunteer leadership of the association. This includes coordination of
publications and events, marketing of all activities and the
association in general, conference planning, tech services, and other
tasks as assigned. The Executive Office is assisted by member based
Advisory Boards and Review Boards. The Executive Director serves on the
Board of Directors and meets with the Council.” Please check out
these amazing diamonds on the EO webpage.
In the end, we hope that all NACADA members will think of
themselves as diamonds in a vast backyard—a world-wide network of
advising professionals. You are the change makers both on your own
campuses and among your students. We urge you to inspire and be
inspired. John Quincy Adams once famously said that “if your actions
inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you
are a leader.” We couldn’t agree more.
Jayne Drake, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Kathy Stockwell, Vice President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
From the Executive Director: Your Professional Development is the Key to Your Students' Success
Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
The role of academic advising in the lives of our students and in the
health of our institutions continues to grow in value and respect.
Whether institutions are analyzing their programs for first-year
students, at-risk students, or students on probation; or preparing for
regional or content area accreditation visits; or evaluating how best
to use technology to enhance student learning and student connection to
the institution, it quickly becomes apparent that academic advising
plays a significant role in the success of these ventures.
Administrators and institutional constituencies increasingly understand
that academic advising touches every issue and must be a part of
discussions dealing with students’ success in reaching their academic, career and personal goals.
As we continue to deal with decreased funding and increased student
numbers, the issue of student success grows more important to our
administrators, our students, and our public constituencies. Because
student success is so often measured by retention and persistence to
graduation, it is essential that advisors and advising administrators
continue to grow in our knowledge, talents, and skills through
continuing professional development that will teach us how best to:
- utilize group advising as one way to manage the growing numbers of students with no increase in staff,
- utilize technology to better reach the “digital natives” in our growing freshman classes,
- build collaborative partnerships across campus to support student success,
- assess academic advising and determine student learning outcomes for advising,
- utilize the latest research in the field of academic advising and student success,
- build a culture of scholarship within the academic advising community on our campuses, and
- learn key strategies and techniques for advising students who present increasingly complex issues.
I strongly encourage you to attend our excellent professional development events, including one of our Regional Conferences, one of our Academic Advising Summer Institutes, and our 34th Annual Conference at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, October 3-6, 2010.
However, I know that travel funds have been restricted for many.
Therefore, it is essential that these travel restrictions not halt our
professional development. Here are some great ways to continue to grow
professionally and get the most out of our NACADA membership:
- Share this issue of Academic Advising Today with colleagues on your campus. Articles such as Becky Ryan’s
“Integrating Group Advising into a Comprehensive Advising Program” will
stimulate conversations on how we can best meet our students’ needs.
- Take advantage of one of the greatest member benefits, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Not only does the Clearinghouse provide members with access to some of the best resources and research within the field, but Clearinghouse articles can be used as the foundation for professional development
meetings on campus or within an advising unit. A great example is a new
article to the NACADA Clearinghouse, authored by long-time member Maura Reynolds, entitled “An Advisor’s Half Dozen: Principles for Incorporating Learning Theory into our Advising Practices.”
- Attend one of our live Web Events or utilize the CD from a past webcast. Webcasts are great tools for providing on-campus professional
development for groups or individuals at a low cost and without
- Develop a curriculum for professional development workshops on campus using the NACADA series of Pocket Guides on specific topics such as Faculty Advising and Utilizing an Academic
Advising Syllabus. These cost-effective guides can serve as the
foundation for an advisor workshop and provide participants with a
high-quality “take away.”
- Use the NACADA training and development DVD, Scenes for Learning and Reflection,
as the basis for quality in-house professional development events that
are fun and valuable. These ten scenes, along with the second volume of
ten scenarios being developed this spring, are a great way to
stimulate discussion about the skills and knowledge needed for quality
academic advising experiences.
These are just a few of the ways your NACADA membership continues to
provide the best in support, resources, and assistance to you!
Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
The Academic Advising Center: If You Build It, They Still Might Not Come
Terry Carroll, Gainesville State College
The scene: A college advising center on a campus where advising is not
mandatory. The number of advising appointments during registration
times vs. non-registration times, if plotted, resembles high frequency
radio waves. Budgetary support for center services can be best
described by the phrase, “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell.” Yet administrators
have set strategic goals for student retention and graduation that
feature advising in every action step.
Student advising centers are seen as accessible locations featuring
professional advisors who facilitate student potential by assisting
with educational plans and connecting students to campus resources –
for the students who come. But what about the students who don’t? Or
those students who only show up during late registration?
Experience as the Director of Academic Advising at both a large,
four-year research institution and a smaller state college has taught
me that effective strategies for connecting with students can include
collaborative programs, technological tools, and integrated advising
modules. The key is to reach out and pull in students during non-peak
periods when advisors and students have the time to actively engage in
the process. Neither a big budget nor additional employees is required
(although always nice). When student engagement incentives are in place
for advising during non-peak times, quality advising opportunities
multiply and strong student/advisor relationships develop.
At Georgia State University, a collaborative program between the
Advising Center and Undergraduate Studies seeks to sustain students who
have recently lost the HOPE Scholarship, a state program that pays
full tuition and fees for students earning a minimum 3.0 GPA. Under the
program, students receive a small stipend from scholarship monies in
exchange for attendance at student success workshops, meeting with an
advisor for a minimum of two appointments, and attending a training
session for the online academic evaluation system. The program provides
a strong incentive for students to actively pursue a relationship with
an advisor and to engage in advising during non-registration periods.
An advising center that serves as a support system for an academic
department can also pull in students during off-peak times. At
Gainesville State College, nursing students are required to attend
group advising workshops prior to registration. Students not attending
these group workshops must sign up for advising appointments, view a
video about the nursing curriculum, and complete an assessment rating
their understanding of video content. In both cases, advisors answer
questions, clarify nursing requirements, and initiate positive advising
Technology is another valuable tool for enhancing advising
opportunities. Student information systems software can be programmed
to act as a “mother hen,” nagging students to seek advising. A
30-credit-hour registration hold at Georgia State requires students to
view their online academic evaluations prior to being released for
registration. The process is self-service and involves simple mouse
clicks to view evaluations and release the registration hold. The
Advising Center experiences an increase in appointments each time the
30-credit-hour hold goes into effect, the result of students coming
face-to-face with their academic histories, number of hours earned,
areas satisfied, and remaining graduation requirements.
A recent innovation at Gainesville State encourages advising, and not just registration, of students on academic probation by using self-registration as a reward for completing an Academic Success Plan (ASP). Probation students must register with assistance, and lines often snake around the Advising Center during registration periods. In-depth advising is sacrificed for the handing out of numbers, deli-style, and shouting “Next!” into the crowd. Instead, the ASP, a collaborative effort between student and advisor, is completed to release the student for self-registration. The ASP delineates needed cumulative and semester GPAs, documents referrals to campus resources, e.g., workshops, tutoring, and personal counseling, and pairs
problems with corresponding action steps. Course recommendations are
listed on the ASP document, which is scanned into the computer system
for future reference. Most students prefer the independence
self-registration offers: this incentive encourages them to seek
academic advising during the weeks prior to registration when adequate
time, individual assessment, and developmental advising can better meet
Weaving academic advising into the more intimate classroom experience
can bring additional opportunities to advance the agenda of an academic
advising center. At both Georgia State and Gainesville State, advising
modules, consisting of sessions delivered by one advisor on multiple
occasions, are integrated into freshman orientation classes. The
modules are structured so that the advisors deliver clear and
purposeful advising information with content tied to specific learning
outcomes. The advisor is encouraged to interact with students during
class, and to stay after class to address more specific or personal
student issues. The advisor may also email reminders to these students
regarding important dates and academic progress checks. Interacting
with the same advisor more than once jumpstarts the relationship
between student and advisor and provides assurance that there is at
least one person on campus who cares and is accessible to address
Advising centers are most beneficial when consistently used by students
as a year-round resource for educational planning and support.
Strategies for encouraging academic advising during non-peak times help
connect students to an advising center. Once there, students are
exposed to knowledgeable, caring, and supportive professionals,
increasing the likelihood of future interactions with advisors.
Director of Academic Advising
Gainesville State College
Academic Advising: Ten Strategies to Increase Student Engagement and
Retention by Personalizing the Online Education Experience through
Online Human Touch
Kristen Betts and Maria Lanza-Gladney, Drexel University
Editor’s Note: The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio, October 2009.
Online education is now an integral part of higher education in the
United States. Allen and Seaman (2008) reported that “online
enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total
higher education student population, with the most recent data
demonstrating no signs of slowing” (p. 1). Ambient Insight (as cited in
Nagel, 2009) noted that nearly 12 million post-secondary students take
some or all of their classes online, with more than 22 million students
projected to take classes online in five years. Although online
enrollments increase annually, student attrition in online education is
reported to be higher than traditional on-campus programs, ranging between 20% and 50% (Diaz, 2002; Frankola, 2001) and even reported as
high as 70% to 80% (Dagger & Wade, 2004; Flood, 2002).
To proactively address student attrition, Drexel University’s online
Master of Science in Higher Education (MSHE) Program has integrated
Online Human Touch (OHT) into instruction and programming to engage
students and personalize the online educational experience. Results
include high student retention rates, high levels of student
satisfaction, and active alumni engagement.
The OHT concept was developed and integrated into the MSHE Program in
2005. The OHT concept builds upon five research areas: (1) student
engagement, (2) community development, (3) personalized communication,
(4) work-integrated learning, and (5) data driven decision-making.The OHT concept asserts that students are more likely to persist in an
online program if they (a) are engaged in and outside of their courses
and (b) receive a personalized educational experience (Betts, 2008).
This holistic approach begins with potential students during the
application process and continues throughout students’ enrollment to foster a lifelong bond with the institution.
The MSHE Program was launched in fall 2005 with a cohort of 26
students; enrollment has increased to 209 students in fall 2009. The
overall student retention rate between fall 2005 and fall 2008 was 83%. Results from the 2009 MSHE Annual Student Survey reveal that OHT
strategies engage online students and connect them to Drexel
University. In fact, the data shows that MSHE students seek
opportunities to become more connected to the University.
Results from the 2009 MSHE Annual Student Survey revealed that while MSHE students do not come to campus, OHT
instructional and programming strategies connect online students to the
faculty and the University. Over three-quarters of the MSHE students
responding to the survey felt connected to the faculty and more than
half felt connected to their classmates and the University.
Personalizing the online educational experience is very important; a
majority felt that faculty use of their names, in email and in
Discussion Boards, along with the use of faculty photos, were important
ways to bring the campus to them.
Building upon the OHT concept, the MSHE Program developed the Online
First-Year Experience. Over three quarters of the surveyed students
stated the Online First-Year Experience was important to student
engagement and two-thirds said it was important to student retention.
Although the Online First-Year Experience is optional, almost
two-thirds of the students said it should be required. When asked which
factors were most importance to the overall MSHE experience, students
identified academic rigor of courses, instructional quality, academic
support from faculty, quality of academic advising, and accessibility of
the academic advisor as factors.
The role of the academic advisor is essential in creating a sense of
community and connecting online students to the institution. Based upon
the OHT concept, we suggest ten academic advising strategies to
engage, connect, and retain online students.
- Online Open Houses: Engage prospective students through
online Open House events. This is an ideal venue to introduce potential
students to the program director, academic advisors, current students,
alumni, and future peers.
- Congratulatory Calls and Emails: Personalize
the acceptance process. In addition to sending official acceptance
packets, academic advisors should send personal emails to incoming
students congratulating them and providing program information and a
plan of study. The program director should personally call accepted
students to further develop a sense of community prior to
- Orientation: Develop orientation materials
that introduce students to online expectations and provide points of
contact before courses begin. Orientation materials should include a
detailed email from the academic advisor directing students to the
information needed to be successful in the program. In addition,
students should complete an orientation to any course content
- Online First-Year Experience: Connect students to the
institution through an Online First-Year Experience. Innovative
strategies and events should bring the campus to students, e.g., virtual tea, alumni lecture series, and guest lectures.
- On-campus Venues:Provide opportunities for online students to attend on-campus events, e.g., convocation, graduation, leadership lecture series, that are
simultaneously broadcast through the Internet using streaming
- Mondays with Maria: Designate specific times when students can chat with their advisor using instant messenger for direct question/answer.
- Resource Portal: Develop a portal to serve
as a hub for information and provide a blog for updates, information,
resources, and to encourage student engagement.
- On-going Reminders: Send updated program information,
important dates, events, and news on current students and alumni
through a quarterly newsletter, email, or posts on the resource portal.
- Mentoring Program: Establish a mentoring
program to connect new students with experienced students or recent
program alumni who can provide new students with support and networking
- Data Driven Decision-Making: Collect and
utilize formative and summative data for continuous quality
improvement. In addition to course evaluations, conduct an annual
survey regarding the program, support services, expectations, and
Online education is an integral part of higher education. While online
students may not physically come to campus, the MSHE data indicates
that online students want an educational experience that is
personalized, where they are addressed by name, can interact
synchronously/asynchronously, and are provided reminders just as they
would receive in a traditional classroom. Technology allows academic advisors to reach out and engage online students and bring the campus to online students using OHT strategies.
Associate Clinical Professor
Master of Science in Higher Education Program
School of Education
Academic Advisor and Program Coordinator
Master of Science in Higher Education Program
School of Education
Allen, E., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the course: online education in the United States 2008. The Sloan Consortium. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from www.sloan-c.org/publications/survey/pdf/staying_the_course.pdf
Betts, K. S. (2008). Online human touch (OHT) instruction and
programming: A Conceptual framework to increase online student
engagement and retention in online education, Part 1. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 4(3), 399-418. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol4no3/betts_0908.pdf
Dagger, D., & Wade, V. P. (2004) Evaluation of adaptive course construction toolkit (ACCT). Retrieved from http://wwwis.win.tue.nl/~acristea/AAAEH05/papers/6a3eh_daggerd_IOS_format_v1.1.pdf
Diaz, D.P. (2002). Online drop rates revisited. The Technology Source. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from http://technologysource.org/article/online_drop_rates_revisited/.
Flood, J. (2002) Read all about it: Online learning facing 80% attrition rates. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 3(2). Retrieved from http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde6/articles/jim2.htm
Frankola, K. (2001). Why online learners drop out. Workforce, 80, 53-5.
Nagel, D. (2009, October). Most college students to take classes online by 2014. Campus Technology. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2009/10/28/Most-College-Students-To-Take-Classes-Online-by-2014.aspx
Planned Happenstance: Preparing Liberal Arts and Social Science Students to Follow Their Hearts to Career Success
Paula Landon and W. Kerry Hammock, Brigham Young University
Editor’s Note: The article is based on a presentation given by Paula and Kerry at the 2009 NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio.
As advisors, we tell our liberal arts and social science students to
“follow your heart” and “study what you love” in college. But, when it
comes to career advising, how do we help these students “follow their
hearts” to career success? Many liberal arts majors “love” so many
different subjects they have a difficult time choosing a single career
path. Other students do not know how to make connections between education and
career choice. The career theory of “planned happenstance” provides
direction for advisors to help students make connections and use
developing skills and experiences to “plan” for “chance” career events.
“Planned happenstance” theory was introduced in 1999 by Mitchell, Levin
and Krumboltz. They clarified it as “constructing unexpected career
opportunities” and purport that students can “plan,” be prepared for,
and even “construct” or generate “chance” career events in their lives.
Advisors should recognize the underlying truth of this theory as many
of us “happened” into advising as a career.
Because it can be used in addition to other career theories, some may
argue that “planned happenstance” is not a theoretical model but a tool
that assists students in development as they proceed in career
decisions. When match theory or other career theories do not provide
the impetus for decision-making, using “planned happenstance” can help
the student generate career options and opportunities.
Our job is to not only help students plan and prepare, but also to
construct, make meaning of, and capitalize on unplanned career events.
When we work with students who cannot decide on specific details
related to future careers, we are often at a loss as to what steps will
help the student progress in the face of indecision. Advisors can
apply planned happenstance to help students develop traits and skills
and have experiences that will eventually make them desirable
candidates in the competitive job market. By helping the student
process and make meaning of these experiences and skills, the advisor
directs the student toward decision-making when “chance” opportunities
arise. As Pasteur stated, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Students need to prepare for both “chance” career opportunities and
unexpected career events that are consequences of the economy, the
changing workplace, the global market place, or personal events. They
begin by identifying skills and traits that will be important as they
develop their cadre of experience. Advisors assist students in defining
methods to attain transferrable skills and employable traits through
enriched learning opportunities: volunteering, part-time work, mentored
research, internships, study abroad, student involvement, and
leadership experiences. These skills, traits, and experiences will help
students discover what is possible and how they can benefit a
potential employer. The goal is to be in the “right place,” at the
“right time,” with the “right tools.”
Planned happenstance lists five traits students must develop to take
advantage of opportunity: curiosity, persistence, flexibility,
optimism, and risk-taking. Advisors should work with students to
encourage and reward the development of these traits. To help students
develop the trait of curiosity, advisors should direct students to
explore new learning opportunities that will teach them the process of
defining their personal interests. As advisors encourage students to
exert effort despite setbacks, this persistence may help the student
reopen doors that may have been closed due to previous failure or
premature decisions. Encouraging students to stay flexible in light of
changing attitudes and circumstances will help them see, in new ways,
things they may have been interested in previously or how things have
changed. Also, as advisors encourage students to examine new
opportunities as “possible and attainable,” this optimism may generate
new career opportunities. The advisor helps the student identify
options, make decisions, and move forward. Rather than telling the
student what is possible, the advisor’s role is to help the student
discover what is attainable. Advisors must be careful not to tell the
student that anything is possible or to censor the student’s dreams. This brings us to
risk-taking. Advisors should teach students that taking risks may or
may not generate career opportunities, but the lack of action definitely
provides no new opportunities. Taking action in the face of uncertain
outcomes will generate at least the possibility of “chance” events.
We need to help students understand that “planned happenstance” is a
normal occurance as well as a model they can use to make career
decisions. Through planned happenstance, advisors assist students to
transform curiosity into opportunities, teach them how to produce
desirable chance events, and help them overcome blocks to action.
Students then use this model to make career decisions throughout their
One of our students, an English Language major, had no idea what career
she wished to pursue. When asked to think of past experiences that had
meaning to her, she shared that she had organized her high school
homecoming parade. She loved planning and organizing this event. Her
advisor helped the student recognize this as a normal “chance” event in
her life, one she could use to “construct” or generate other
opportunities to plan events: major fairs, new student orientation,
education conferences, etc. The advisor helped the student make meaning
of this “chance” opportunity in her life which provided skills,
experiences, additional opportunities, and direction to pursue a career
as an event planner.
Through planned happenstance, we encourage students to “plan” for
chance opportunities by developing traits and skills and having
experiences that will help them recognize and even “create” career
opportunities. As advisors help liberal arts and social science
students “make meaning of” and capitalize on these experiences and
opportunities, we help them “follow their hearts” to career success.
Humanities Advisement Center
Brigham Young University
W. Kerry Hammock
University Advisement Center
Brigham Young University
Mitchell, K. E., Levin, A. S., & Krumboltz, J. D. (Sept 1999).
Planned Happenstance: Constructing Unexpected Career Opportunities, in
Journal of Counseling and Development, 77(2), 115-124. ERIC # -
Locating the Academic Advisor Within the Creation of Knowledge
Sharon Aiken-Wisniewski, NACADA Board of Directors and Research Committee Member
academic advisor is a potential researcher and... every researcher
could profit from collaboration with practicing advisors' (Padak et al.
2005, p. 6).
Our universities and colleges share many commonalities, no matter the
size of the institution or the levels of students served. Students
enroll to achieve personal and academic goals. Faculty members engage
students in activities that facilitate intellectual growth, and many
within the institution focus on the production of knowledge through research. Various extra-curricular
activities complement curricular activities and produce holistic
educational experiences. Within this motion and interaction are academic
As academic advisors we interact with the entire campus community to
communicate possibilities to students as they identify patterns and
phenomenon that explain the world. But the majority of advisors never
venture beyond this state of hypothesis to validate their knowledge,
share it with other advisors, or use it to inform practice. Why?
A qualitative study conducted in
2008 by members of the NACADA Research Committee offers an explanation. A
total of 92 NACADA members from across the ten NACADA Regions
participated in focus groups to discuss the relationship between
advisors and research. This descriptive study offered insight into this
relationship. One key finding focused on confidence to conduct research.
Even though advisors communicated many empirical questions that emerge
from their advising practice, they identified a “lack of confidence” and
insufficient training in research methods as factors that kept them
from researching the answers to their questions (Aiken-Wisniewski et
al., 2008). How does an advisor develop the skills needed to conduct
research without participating in doctoral education?
Advisors work within educational environments that are filled with
resources to help them gain research skills. In addition to resources
available on their home campuses, there are other opportunities to
understand the research process. Any advisor with curiosity and
commitment is capable of developing and completing a study.
Suggestions that can help us as advisors develop our skills for inquiry and research:
- Never underestimate the value of reading. Journals, such as the NACADA Journal,
follow a peer review format to ensure valid methodologies for answering
research questions. Articles follow a format that identifies the
question (research problem), the research methods (methodology),
findings (results), and implications for practice, policy, and future
research. At the end of each article is a list of references which offer
more resources to understand the research methods used in the study as
well as delineate other research on the topic. Journals also offer
reviews of recent research, called annotated bibliographies, that
summarize what can be found in selected research articles. The recently
published NACADA monograph Scholarly Inquiry in Academic Advising can help practitioners lay the foundation needed to answer their research questions. It is important to note that
when we build the act of reading about advising research into our
routines, we begin to identify the connections between questions and
methodologies as well as identify the next step in a particular line of
- Organize or join a research group. Initially, this activity could
replicate the NACADA Common Reading Program which is offered at the
Annual Conference. The members of the research group select a group of
journal articles to read and discuss. Discussion of each article should
focus on the advising issue as well as the research methodology. Invite
guest speakers from the faculty, Office of Institutional Research, or
assessment offices to sit in on the discussions and offer insight into
the quantitative or qualitative methodology found in articles.
Participants should dialogue about questions that emerge from each
article and discuss how these questions apply to the campus. Members of
the group can initiate a literature review to understand the current
research on the topic and then identify a research question the group
will address.It is important to remember the adage that “Rome was not built in a day” when thinking about a research project.
- Look for opportunities to dialogue about research.
Strike up conversations with team members, advisors, colleagues in
service agencies, and faculty members about the research project. This
interaction might happen informally over lunch or in a brief
conversation after a meeting. Create a more formal venue for this
discussion by inviting an outside facilitator who understands the
research process to talk to the research group. Attend a NACADA Research
Symposium that provides a structured setting to discuss the research
process as it applies to each participant’s research question.
Regardless of how the discussion is orchestrated, write down feedback to
be considered as the study emerges. When we share the
development of research studies with colleagues we increase our
productivity by sharing the work and maintaining our motivation to
finish our study.
- Find a mentor who will nurture our interests in research.
Develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member or advising
colleague. The act of mentoring involves a nurturing relationship in
which an experienced individual acts as a guide and/or role model for an
individual learning to negotiate a system or activity (Johnson, 2007). A
research mentor offers guidance as we design a study, suggests
strategies to overcome obstacles, and recommends avenues to disseminate
findings.There are many techniques for identifying potential mentors.
One strategy is to engage our advisees in conversations about faculty
who teach research courses. Students frequently offer insight gained
from their experiences that can help us identify appropriate candidates.
Another strategy is to take a research course and engage the instructor
in conversation about the development of the proposed study. A third
strategy is to contact advising colleagues who have conducted research
on similar issues. It is critical that advisors remember the
words of Padak and his colleagues (2005) as they initiate a mentoring
relationship: “…every academic advisor is a potential researcher and...
every researcher could profit from collaboration with practicing
advisors” (p. 6).
Academic advising as a profession
prospers from knowledge created when advisors and advising
administrators research answers to the overarching questions within
their advising practice. Any advisor can understand the process of
inquiry. Some techniques that can help advisors build their research
toolbox include reading research articles, developing research teams,
engaging in discussions about research, and identifying a research
Every campus offers opportunities to engage
in research on some level, and NACADA offers many resources that will
help facilitate understanding of the research process. The time has
arrived for practicing advisors to utilize research tools and techniques
to build their confidence and expertise for scholarship and inquiry.
University of Utah
Aiken-Wisniewski, S.A., Schulenberg, J.K., Black, I., & Naylor, S.M. (2008). Understanding research in academic advising: Advisors and administrators speak out. Paper presented at the 2008 NACADA Annual Conference, Chicago, IL.
Johnson, W.B. (2007). On being a mentor: A Guide for higher education faculty. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Padak, G., Kuhn, T., Gordon, V.,
Steele, G, & Robbins, R. (2005). Voices from the field: Building a
research agenda for academic advising. NACADA Journa l 25(1), 6-10.
What Millennial First Year Students Want and Need from Academic Advisors
Gerrit W. Bleeker, Emporia State University
Martha M. Bleeker, Independent Researcher
Barbara Bleeker, Emporia State University
Editor’s Note: The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio, October 2009.
College students born after 1981 often feel special and more entitled than previous groups of students. Sheltered and praised by parents and authority figures, these students, often described as millennial students, also tend to be conventional, goal-orientated, high-achieving and confident, prefer to work in teams, and report high levels of pressure to succeed (Gleason, 2008; Howe & Strauss, 2003). Academic advisors in the Emporia State University (ESU) Student Advising Center (SAC) were interested in investigating whether the millennial students at ESU fit these characteristics, and, if so, what changes could be made in the way first-year students are advised.
To ascertain what our millennial students wanted and needed from
academic advisors, we designed a twenty-three item questionnaire that
first-year students completed during the first advising session of their
second semester in February 2009. Advisees were asked to report on:
(1) sources of academic advice and support; (2) the use of study
strategies and study groups; (3) time spent studying, working,
socializing, and surfing the internet; (4) parents’ involvement in
academic decisions; (5) frequency of advisor meetings; and (6)
helpfulness of the goal-setting process and Student Advising Center
The survey results reflect how our students’ needs and approaches
compare with those of typical millennial students and suggest areas for
change in our present advising practices. Following is a summary of
survey data which influenced changes we made in the way we advise
Results: Survey results impacted three major areas: advisor training, advising materials, and advisee goal setting.
Advisor training for first-year
students clearly needs to include a discussion of typical millennial
student characteristics as well as an overview of our survey results in
order to help advisors learn about our students. The results of our
survey show that 40.7% of students work, and 32.7% of those working
spend 21-30+ hours on the job. Most of our advisees (97.4%) report that
attending class regularly is important or very important, and half
(49.4%) find civic engagement or community service important or very
important. Over a third of our students (38.6%) are not confident about
their math skills and a similar percentage (36%) report that, after
first semester, the areas they need to work on most are study habits
and improving grades. Each of these results introduces new advisors to
important advising issues.
Although 99% of students reported they trust their advisor’s academic
advice, it is clear that advisees also value parental academic advice.
When asked if they trust parental advice about academics, 88.5% of
students agreed or strongly agreed. Similarly, when asked if they trust
parental advice more than anyone else’s, 59.3% answered maybe or yes.
As a result of these findings, we now emphasize that academic advisors
should validate parental support and advice while making sure advisees
get the best advice they can from advisors.
When asked how many hours were spent studying each week, 38.2% of
advisees reported spending 1-5 hours and 41.2 % reported spending 6-10
hours. Meanwhile, more than half of our students (54.2%) spent 1-3 hours
on Internet activities unrelated to school, and 30% spent 4-6 hours on
the Internet. Advisor training and development now devotes more time
to helping students develop time-management skills and study strategies
for college coursework.
An important tool used in our advising center is our SAC PAC, which
contains information for students such as an advising syllabus,
graduation requirements, study tips, tutor opportunities, and on-campus
services. The SAC PAC is given to advisees during their first advising
session. Knowing that millennial students are very comfortable with
technology, we wondered if they would be interested in accessing the
SAC PAC on-line. A majority of students (74%) indicated they would use
an on-line version, so we now supplement the original SAC PAC with an on-line version and encourage students to share it with their parents.
When asked if there might be additional information they would like
included in the SAC PAC, the two most common responses were information
about majors and minors, and information about campus activities.
Since our university undergraduate catalogue is on-line, we have
included this Web site in a list of several important sites recommended
for student access. This provides students with immediate information
about all majors/minors offered at our institution. Also included on
our list is the Web site listing all campus organizations and
information about organizations specifically related to a major.
Advisees’ positive feedback about the
hardcopy SAC PAC also gave us data to support the budget for continuing
to produce the paper version.
Advisee Goal Setting
A few years ago we conducted a pilot study on goal setting with
first-year students; this study evolved into a major focus of our
advising center. Each semester our advisees are encouraged to select a
semester goal from the SAC goal sheet. Goals include developing study
strategies for college classes, getting involved in campus activities,
improving time-management skills, choosing a major, etc. Each goal
choice is supported by a number of suggestions for achieving that goal.
Knowing that millennial students are goal-orientated, we assumed that
our most recent survey would support what we are already doing with
goal setting. Several of the statistics already cited about
time-management issues, need for study strategies, and interest in getting involved suggest that our assumption is correct. We have added a
number of suggestions to our goal sheet based on the new survey data.
Although this research is directed toward approaches, materials, and
tools used in a specific academic advising center, the results provide
useful information for other collegiate academic advising settings and
advisor training sessions. Academic advisors need to teach millennial
students effective study strategies designed to help them succeed in
college-level coursework and help them develop time management skills
to prioritize their time for study, work, social activities, and
internet use. Millennial students also need useful information about
ways to get involved on campus and in the community. Finally, these
students find it helpful to have access to on-line advising information
which they can share with parents.
We have just begun to interpret and use the data we have collected.
There is much yet to be mined, such as gender differences,
first-generation student information, the impact of parental education
levels, and comparison of millennial student and non-traditional
We encourage other advising centers to design millennial student
surveys because the data gathered will strengthen academic advising and
ultimately help advisees succeed academically.
Gerrit W. Bleeker
Dean of Graduate Studies
Emporia State University
Martha M. Bleeker
Instructor in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and Advisor
ESU Student Advising Center
Emporia State University
Gleason, P. (2008). Meeting the needs of millennial students. In Touch With Student Services. Retrieved from http://www.csulb.edu/divisions/students2/intouch/archives/2007-08/vol16_no1/01.htm
Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to college. Great Falls, VA: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Life Course Associates.
Academic Diction: Using Clearer Language to Advise Effectively
Brad Molder, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Problem: In my previous position as an advisor in the Fulbright College Advising Center (FCAC) at the University of Arkansas, I often found myself answering the question, “So what are electives?” Out of curiosity, I tried to look up the definition for “electives” but didn’t find the term defined anywhere in the University of Arkansas Web site or in the Catalog of Studies. While I discovered that the term was not defined anywhere on campus, I did find a few examples of electives in the Catalog of Studies:
- (College) Broadening Elective,
- Discipline-related Elective,
- University Core Elective (also listed under specific core areas such as Fine Arts),
- Freshman/Basic Science Elective,
- Free Elective,
- Professional Elective,
- Upper Level Elective Area ( e.g., Arts, Science),
- Advanced Level Elective,
- General Education Elective,
- Elective Courses in Conference (or Consultation) with advisor,
- Exemption Elective,
- Approved Elective, and
- Required Electives.
Not only were there more than a dozen uses of the term in completely
different contexts, there also was a term that is an oxymoron: required electives. By the time I finished trying to find a definition, I wasn’t clear
on the meaning of the term! I decided that a quick study of student
understanding of the term was in order.
Method: Using Google Docs, I created an informal survey with three questions:
- “What does the term ‘elective’ mean?”
- “How confident are you in your understanding of the term ‘elective’?”
- “Where did you learn about the term ‘elective’?”
The first question was open ended. The second used a Likert scale from 1
to 5, with 1 as “Very Confident,” and 5 being “Not Very Confident.”
Finally, the third question gave six multiple choice options: 1.)
Advisor; 2.) Peer/Fellow Student; 3.) Catalog of Studies or University
of Arkansas Web site; 4.) Faculty, Instructor, or Graduate Teaching
Assistant; 5.) Other Administrative Person; or 6.) Other, which
contained an open entry blank for students to enter their response.
Students then were given access to the survey via Facebook©, with the request that only undergraduate students from the University of Arkansas respond.
Results: The majority of respondents indicated that they understood that electives include those courses which are not specifically required. These students described electives as: “free choice,” “optional—you get to choose,” and “not required to pertain to your major.” Two-thirds of the respondents reported that they were “Confident” or “Very Confident” in their understanding. However, these responses were not entirely accurate. In the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the term elective is applied to three types of courses. First are General Electives, which
represent the category above. They are courses not specifically
required, but are necessary to help a student accrue the minimum hours
needed for graduation. Most students understood what these were. Second
are Major Electives. A good example can be found in the requirements
for the Communication BA, which requires four specific courses and
eight Communication Electives. Only a few students understood what
these Major Electives were. Finally, there are Program Electives. These
are courses taken toward a minor (many minors do not have specific
course requirements) or for a pre-professional program that recommends,
but does not require, certain kinds of courses. Virtually no students
showed awareness of these electives.
Discussion: The bottom line for advisors is that students can
benefit from having a set of standard definitions made available. Also,
students might benefit from seeing and hearing the terms applied more
specifically and consistently. For example, using terms such as General
Electives, Major Electives, or Program Electives in communication
(person, print, or electronic) with students could help delineate the
different forms of electives.
I proposed to our director that our office (FCAC) add a section to our
FAQ’s Web site which defines and distinguishes the forms electives
take. In addition, I proposed that our documents for incoming students
include a definition of the term. Similarly, I proposed that the
University of Arkansas include the definition in its future Catalogs of
Implications for Other Institutions: Academic advisors should look at their own standard usage of the term elective, especially in reference materials such as their institution’s Catalog
of Studies. Institutions should offer concrete, uniform definitions
that apply to their student population. This would ensure that when
students see the term elective(s) they understand that it is used in a common language, as opposed to
hearing several different applications of the term with sometimes
radically different meanings.
Similarly, advisors should create a uniform set of terms to use when
talking with students. Such consistent diction could help students
spread their understanding to classmates, even if they unintentionally
do so. At the very least, such common terms will make explanations much
easier with returning students.
Conclusion: In general, this informal study shows the potential
for examining the academic language advisors, faculty, and staff use in
communication with students. If students do not understand their
requirements they can hardly be expected to take ownership of their own
Further, this study serves as an example of how advisors can do quick,
informal studies on topics that affect their advising practice and make
a difference to the success of our students.
Surviving the Semantics of Customer Service: Where Does It Fit Into Academic Advising?
John P. Updegraff, Auburn University
Advisors on many campuses have noticed a shift in the traditional
student-advisor relationship so that students on many campuses now are
treated as if they are clients in higher education. The use of
“customer service” techniques in academic advising is controversial
because of mixed perceptions regarding the definition of the word
“service.” Many advisors fear the adverse effects this shift could have
on the student-advisor relationship.
The disagreement with customer service stems from the fear that the
academe will turn into a business (Customer Service Survey, 2008). It
would be naïve to state that business plays no role in higher
education; however, advisors must examine our profession in a context
relative to the roots of education. Simply put, colleges are not the
same as businesses (Raisman, 2002). Academic advisors are not bankers,
investors, or financiers, but we do provide a service to students. The
division regarding customer service can be narrowed down to the
definition of the word “service” as it applies to advising. It can be
assumed that students would benefit from the use of some customer
service techniques as they apply to institutional retention efforts and
the offering of quality service to our students. But, it is the
business connotation of “service” that is unpleasant to many advisors.
It is undeniable that we face a new breed of students who have new
expectations of advisors. Today’s students have been the recipients of
targeted marketing their whole lives; they come to college quite savvy
in consumer affairs (Raisman, 2002). Dorsey (2004) noted while many
advisors accept “collegiate policies and procedures without question”
and may be “satisfied with minimal advising services,…today's
generation of students has different expectations” (¶ 2). Now, college
students come to advising appointments with a “drive-through
restaurant” mentality: they expect quick answers, quick service, and
question institutional academic policies (Dorsey, 2004, ¶ 2). Current
students perceive themselves as customers because they feel they are
spending their valuable tuition money at our institutions. They expect
quality service in return. If they receive satisfaction from the
tuition they spend, it in turn makes their college experience more
enjoyable (Demetriou, 2008). Contrary to popular belief, the customer
is not always right in regard to the kinds of matters discussed with an
How do advisors meet the service expectations of students while
remaining true to our student development roots? We must first reframe
our view of current students. Students today are not the same as those
from a decade ago. Acknowledging that student expectations have changed
will allow us to make necessary adjustments to our advising techniques
in regard to service (Dorsey, 2004). Advisors do not have to become
customer service professionals with this acknowledgement; instead, this
acknowledgement allows us to slightly modify the approach we take to
the delivery of quality service.
Today’s students expect to have a relationship with their institutions.
They can connect through social organizations, academic clubs,
intramural sports, or institutional personnel. Students judge the
quality of their college experience by the quality of the relationships
they make at the institution (Raisman, 2002). Academic advisors do not
just handle academic matters, but also frequently serve as retention
agents as we help students sort through issues. The level of service
advisors provide is essential to college retention efforts, because
advisors provide the “only structured service on the campus in which all
students have the opportunity for on-going, one-to-one contact with a
concerned representative of the institution” (Habley, 1994). While
there is no clear answer to the question of how to serve our students
better, the service we provide is the relationship we have with our
The traditional method for cultivating the student-advisor relationship
does not have to change, even though students are changing. The way to
serve students is as simple as treating them the way we would want to
be treated. As long as advisors keep clear of the business connotation
of the service provided, then the “philosophical underpinnings of our
profession” will be preserved (Demetriou, 2008, ¶ 7). Fine-tuning our
approach to the expectations of students through the use of advising
assessment tools, such as satisfaction surveys, can help us collect
feedback about how to improve service levels. Innovations such as
online appointment systems, advising chat rooms, and the use of social
media in advising have increased the accessibility students have with
Simple advising techniques can also increase the level of quality
service. The use of active listening and leading questions during
advising sessions is important to validating student concerns and
problems. Also, the attitudinal approach we bring to every advising
interaction tells the student whether or not we care. Students want to
feel they can trust an advisor with their problems; our responses to
their concerns help them determine their level of trust in us. It is
important that we not prejudge any student and keep our ability to
address their needs unclouded. Additionally, conscious acts like
demonstrating empathy, encouragement, sincerity, and compassion help
preserve the fundamental aspects of the student-advisor relationship.
Furthermore, there must be a mutual understanding between advisor and
student that all student expectations may not be able to be met. The
student has responsibilities equal to those of the advisor in the
establishment of the student-advisor relationship. There must be an
emphasis on shared communication and student responsibility. This will
help advisors cultivate the teachable moments, emphasize important life
skills, and nurture a student’s potential for success.
In the end, “service” is not about changing the way advisors do
their job. It is about changing the perception of how we view “service”
in relation to the new expectations students have of us. Advising is
still teaching; our caring attitudes should be perceived as the “most
potent retention force on campus” (Noel, 1985, p.17).
John P. Updegraff
College of Liberal Arts
Auburn University; Auburn, AL
Demetriou, C. (2008). Arguments against applying a customer-service paradigm. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/080930cd.htm.
Dorsey, R. L. (2004). Improving advising through a customer service
initiative at the University of Louisville’s College of Education and
Human Development. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from www.psu.edu/dus/mentor/040212rd.htm
Habley, W.R. (1994). Key concepts in academic advising. In Summer Institute on academic advising session guide (p.10). Manhattan, KS: NACADA. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/retentionquotes.htm
Raisman, N. (2002). Embrace the oxymoron: Customer service in higher education. Horsham, PA: LRP Publications.
Noel, L. (1985). Increasing student retention: New challenges & potential. In L. Noel, R. Levitz, D. Saluri, & Associates (Eds.), Increasing student retention (pp.1-27). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Updegraff, J. P. (Surveyer). (Nov. 2008).
Customer Service Survey [Survey results]. Retrieved from www.surveymonkey.com/ through the use of NACADA Regional Listservs.
Sharing Our Passion for Helping Students
Jacqueline Wood, Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
In October 2008, I attended my first NACADA Annual Conference in
Chicago. Sitting with 3,000 fellow advisors during the opening
session, I could barely see the Leaders at the front of the giant room
talking about the various ways to become involved in NACADA. Someone
mentioned the NACADA Summer Institute of Academic Advising, and past attendees praised the Institute, the great work they did
while there, and the wonderful time they had. I remember three specific
thoughts I had that night: “I would love to attend a summer
institute;” “I wonder if I’ll ever have my picture on one of those
posters out in the hallway;” and “someday I’d like to meet those people
on the stage.”
A few months later, I was perusing the NACADA Web site and saw a
familiar place on the events page – Kansas City! A Summer Institute
would be only a three hour drive from my house! With my fingers
crossed, I completed a Summer Institute Scholarship application and
submitted it. I knew if I received a scholarship that my school would
be likely to let me go. My plan worked and before I knew it, I was at
the Institute ready to begin my journey to becoming a better advisor.
When I looked around the room during the opening session, I saw around
100 advisors in attendance. I also saw several past and present NACADA
Leaders who were going to be my teachers that week. That’s when I
realized this was going to be an intimate few days in which I would
have an incredible opportunity to improve myself as a professional.
During the first afternoon, I made great connections with people who
were faced with the same advising issues I was and who shared my
passion for helping students. By the time the first day was over, I was
tired, but ready to work!
The next morning, we met with our Small Groups and began discussing our
Action Plans. Some group members were charged with tasks from their
supervisors, others had specific ideas they wanted to develop.
Personally, I had so many ideas that I was not sure where to begin!
With the help of others in my group and our fearless leader, Jayne Drake, I narrowed my focus to faculty advisor development.
The Small Group meetings became my favorite part of the Institute. We
came from different institutions and each contributed our own unique
perspective to the issues discussed. Not only did we share ideas, we
also provided encouragement and support to each other. Being a part of
this group made the difference for me that week. This was the venue in
which I was able to connect what was presented in the general sessions,
topical sessions, and workshops to my own advising situation. In
addition to my Action Plan, I brought back ideas for my first year
experience course, advising exploratory students, peer mentoring, and
more – and that was just from my Small Group!
The general and topical sessions offered each day were led by the
Institute faculty. I was able to attend presentations that helped me
further develop my Action Plan. The general sessions presented topics
for all participants, e.g., campus collaborations, theories of advising and how to apply them to
our professional practice, why assessment is imperative and how to do
it well, and how to be a change agent on our campuses. After getting
fired up at the general sessions and Small Group meetings, we used the
topical sessions to fill in the gaps and find ways to address our unique
issues of concern.
Throughout the week, we attended several after-hours events. It quickly
became clear that the Institute faculty were “party animals;” I was
thoroughly impressed by their dance moves at a piano bar – up on the
stage! On my last night, I went shopping and ate Kansas City barbeque
with my new friends. It felt like we had known each other for much
longer than four days; realizing that we were going home the next day
gave me a nostalgic “end of summer camp” feeling.
On the final day, we each presented our completed Action Plans to our
Small Group. I couldn’t believe how much I had learned during the week
and how much I had to show for my efforts. When I returned to campus, I
presented my Action Plan to my supervisor and we have started to
revamp our advisor training.
One day at the Institute I talked with my group leader, Jayne Drake, at
lunch. When I asked her how she became so involved with an advising
association instead of an organization for faculty; she explained that
the people in NACADA are unlike those in any other associations. I
didn’t have to attend the Summer Institute to know that this was true;
it was in the caring attitudes of Institute faculty and attendees that
made my experience more memorable. For this reason, and many others, I
encourage anyone who wants to grow as a professional and make a
difference on their campus to attend a Summer Institute.
Less than one year after attending my first Annual Conference, I had
completed an Institute, seen my picture on display as a scholarship
winner, and met and interacted with the Leaders of the organization. I
look forward to continuing my involvement with NACADA and to my
continued growth as an advisor. Do yourself a favor: make plans to
attend Summer Institute and experience a professional development
opportunity unlike any other!
Academic Advising Center
Kansas State University–Salina
Talking With You for One Moment is Much Better than Reading Books for Ten Years: NACADA Summer Institute Experiences
Weidong Zhang, Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
My Seven Days and Eight Years
In China, we have an old saying: Talking with you for one moment is much better than reading books for ten years. At the NACADA Summer Institute, I talked with faculty members and fellow participants for seven days. It was the best growth experience within the advising field ever. All academic advisors should experience the NACADA Summer Institute!
During the NACADA Summer Institute, my brain did not stop absorbing
knowledge and my passion for advising came back. I now feel fully
charged and full of power. My mind is more clear and organized. My eyes
are shining and bright, and my heart is closer to our students.
During my eight years working with students, things have not always
gone smoothly. I have had lots of challenges and worries. How can I
better help students? What areas should I support more strongly? What
are the best practices? Sometimes I felt completely lost without
guidance and resources. I always strive to better help students, but
sometimes it did not work out. Having only the will to help is not
enough; we must know best practices, learn effective skills, craft an
advising mission statement, and be aware of student needs.
The Banquet of Academic Advising
The NACADA Summer Institute is very organized. The program includes
various learning activities from basic concepts to more advanced
advising skills and strategies. We received information that was both
theoretical and practical. We could freely choose to attend sessions on
a variety of advising topics. We had group discussions, workshops,
common readings, and action plans. There were so many ways we could
learn about advising.
One of the most valuable parts of the Institute was the sharing. Our
faculty members were experts who did not mind sharing their stories,
experiences, good practices, and treasures. Sharing is growing. Besides
eating meals together, each participant could sign up for a 15 minute
one-on-one talk with a faculty member. It was our chance to pour out
our concerns and hear strategies that could help us find solutions for
NACADA is a big family. Our family members are really
friendly and caring. My Small Group was very international, with
members from the Netherlands, Egypt, China and the United States. We
discussed our issues from the perspective of different cultures and
backgrounds. I really felt that this benefited our group. There was
always something to learn from each other.
My group leader, Rich Robbins, is very knowledgeable and
analytical. He helped us expand our ideas and thoughts. He facilitated
good group sessions and provided excellent feedback. Participants from
our group gave us a tour of Kansas City, and we had a fantastic dinner
together. We also got a chance to see a big league baseball game. What
wonderful people! I had a really good time.
Deeper in the Heart of Student Success
Advisors help students navigate college life. At Summer
Institute, we learned how to better accomplish this by reading case
studies and discussing our concerns and challenges; we analyzed student
needs and situations. After seven days learning and sharing, we were
clear about the goals we need have in order to help students, we
understood the trends of the Millennial students, and knew what we
could do to improve our advising skills.
As academic advisors, we must keep growing within the field. In a previous edition of Academic Advising Today (September 2008), Past-President Jennifer Bloom wrote that sometimes we forget to “walk the talk.” We need to be
lifelong learners ourselves, and Summer Institute is a way to
Summer Institute is an excellent choice to help us grow as advisors.
Whether a new advisor who needs to grow as a professional or an
experienced advisor wanting to become a master advisor, Summer
Institute is for you!
Maharishi University of Management
Advising 2.0: Utilizing Web 2.0 Resources in Academic Advising
Brian French, The University of Montana-Missoula
The emergence and growth of Web 2.0 software has introduced various new
methods for communication in academic advising. The days when
communication technology tools were limited to the telephone and email
are over as various campus departments experiment with Web 2.0
communication tools to supplement the more traditional means of
reaching students. This article describes the basics of some of the
more popular Web 2.0 software, discusses how academic advising efforts
can be complemented by Web 2.0 tools, and offers suggestions on how to
best implement Web 2.0 resources through effective campus collaborations.
Colleges and universities have made efforts to revise their
communication strategies to more effectively stay connected with
students. As students change their preferences for receiving
information, institutions are faced with the challenge of adapting the
ways they deliver information to these “digital natives.” Colleges and
universities are working to incorporate many of these Web 2.0 tools
into their communication efforts. This can be a daunting process as
academic administrators attempt to navigate the many options available,
decide which software best meets the needs of their institution, and
then attempt to coordinate implementation of new communication tools
among the various offices affected by the change. However, the more
prevalent these tools become within higher education, the easier it
should become for other institutions wishing to utilize Web 2.0 tools
effectively and efficiently.
Today’s Options: blogs, social networking sites, wikis, and podcasts/vodcasts.
- Blogs: Blogs are
“the central hub for any Web 2.0 communication implementation”
(Stoller, 2009). Blogging software allows individuals who do not have
advanced Web development skills to create Web sites on their own and
easily update these sites with a few keystrokes. In an academic
context, blogs can be useful for quick updates about upcoming
deadlines, course offerings, tutoring availability, etc. Course
instructors also find blogs very useful as supplements not controlled
within course management systems such as Blackboard©. Blogs can also be
very useful to repurpose content from one source to several other
outlets through Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds that do not require
advanced HTML coding knowledge.
- Social Networking Sites: Facebook© has emerged as the
leading social networking Web site. A large percentage of college
students use social networking sites such as Facebook and over
60% of students log in daily (Krieglstein, 2007). Many institutions
are incorporating social networking into their communications with
students. As stated by Esposito (2007), “ Facebook is a tool for
student self discovery and social development – two important aspects
of students’ college years” (¶14). Advisors have created Facebook groups and pages that allow students to voluntarily receive pertinent academically related updates through their individual Facebook accounts (Wright and French, 2009). While many institutions do not endorse third party communication vendors such as Facebook
because of security concerns, several institutions have permitted the
use of social networking for general student contact as long as it is
not the official means of communicating with students.
- Wikis: Wikis are “web pages that can be viewed and modified by
anyone with a web browser and access to the Internet” (EDUCAUSE, 2005).Wikis
are used by campus departments for paperless communication and
coordination. Meeting agendas, minutes, and vacation schedules are
examples of information that can easily be coordinated and shared via
wikis. Wikis not only save paper, but can significantly improve the
efficiency of departmental communications. At the 2009 NACADA
Technology Seminar, many presenters utilized wikis to share information
and offered participants the opportunity to contribute even after
returning to their home institutions.
- Podcasts/Vodcasts:The use of personal audio and video devices
among college students has exploded. Podcasting and vodcasting allow
users to easily download audio and video files onto their personal
computers and transfer these files to devices such as iPods® or MP3
players to listen or watch the content at their convenience.
Institutions utilize podcasting and vodcasting to record various
presentations, class lectures, group and distance advising sessions,
orientation offerings, and other academically related material that can
help us “meet today’s students where they live – on the Internet and
on audio and video players” (EDUCAUSE, 2005).
Successfully Implementing Web 2.0 Tools in Higher Education: To
successfully implement Web 2.0 tools within institutions of higher
education, collaboration must happen between all involved campus
departments. The sooner departments can collaborate with each other and
with Information Technology specialists the more effective and
efficient the implementation of the new software will be. Collaboration
not only saves institutional resources but serves as an educational
opportunity for those implementing the new technology tools to improve
Another important aspect to consider when implementing Web 2.0 tools
within academic institutions is to include how these tools can be used
in official campus communication plans. Developing written policy
regarding how best to utilize Web-based communication tools helps
garner support from institutional administrators and gives credibility
to campus communications. Administrators then can encourage
departmental exploration of Web 2.0 software for the improvement of
communications with students. Including best practices procedures
within communication plans guides users on how to take advantage of Web
This article provided the reader with a general description of how some
Web 2.0 tools are being utilized in academic advising. There are many
more detailed articles and resources available via the NACADA Clearinghouse Technology in Academic Advising Web site, where members will find numerous excellent references on utilizing technology in academic advising.
Undergraduate Advising Center
The University of Montana – Missoula
Krieglstein, T. (2007). A guide to facebook for school faculty, administration and staff. Swift kick technology: Increasing engagement in education through technology, community, leadership and training. [Web log messages]. Retrieved from http://swiftkick.typepad.com/activities_affairs/2007/05/a_guide_to_face.html
EDUCAUSE Learning Institute. (2005). Seven things you should know about wikis. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7004.pdf
EDUCAUSE Learning Institute (2005). Seven things you should know about podcasting. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7003.pdf
Carter, J. (2007). Utilizing technology in academic advising. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Technology.htm#tech
Esposito, A. (2007). Saving face(book): Engage through facebook and retain relevance. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/ePub/AAT30-3.htm#8
Stoller, E. (2009). Blogs and microblogs. Presented at the
2009 NACADA Technology Seminar. Retrieved October 25, 2009 from the
NACADA Technology Seminar weblog at http://nacadatech.net/blogs-and-microblogs/
Wright, L., & French, B. (2009, April).
Facebook face-off: Identifying problems and developing resolutions
for successful implementation of facebook in academic advising. Concurrent session presented at the NACADA Region 8 Conference, Missoula, MT.
Ten 'Must Have' Tips for New (and Not So New) Academic Advisors
Erin Justyna, Texas Tech University
Rebecca Daly Cofer, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
Editor’s Note: The following article was developed from a presentation given at the NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio, October 2009.
It is sometimes said that we can’t really train someone to be an
advisor; it’s just “learn as you go.” While this has some validity,
there certainly are things new advisors should know as they embark on
this wonderful career path. The following list contains ten tips to ease
the new advisor’s transition into the field or to remind veteran
advisors of the things they should keep in mind when working with new
Tip 1: Observe experienced advisors and use them as a resource.
Advisors should not be afraid to
ask for help from more seasoned advisors. Few situations are completely
new; there will always be another advisor who has been through
something similar. Even new advisors in “one person shops” can find
mentors from another college who can offer new perspectives and
unbiased advice through networking across campus, at conferences, or on
the NACADA new advising professionals listserv.
Tip 2: Remember That Advising is an Experiential Process.
“New advisors must realize
that…the art of advising…is in large part learned in the advising
chair” (Folsom, 2007, p. 13). Many advisors have little or no
professional training when they enter their jobs. Advisors can use the
resources available not only in their office, but across campus, and
throughout the association. NACADA has a wealth of resources available
to advisors online and at events. If an advisor sees a need for
training from someone outside the campus, the NACADA Consultants and Speakers Service can provide assistance.
Tip 3: Set and Evaluate Professional Goals.
As a new advisor, writing in a
journal can make it easier to articulate goals and gain motivation to
take steps to reach those goals. Goals become a road map for the
journey to excellence. Advisors should be careful not to just write
down goals, but should take time to reevaluate the goals periodically
and give themselves credit for goals they have attained.
Tip 4: Take Part in Professional Development Opportunities Whenever Possible.
Advisors should attend
presentations available on their campus as well as local, regional, and
national conferences. Memberships in state and national organizations
give advisors access to resources that are otherwise unattainable
(journals, online clearinghouses, etc). Advisors should challenge
themselves to present and publish once they have joined these groups,
starting small and working up to greater involvement. Creating and
continually updating a professional portfolio is also a great way to
develop and measure progress. (Find out more about professional portfolios in the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources.)
Tip 5: Know When, Where and How to Refer.
“Seldom do new advisor training
programs address the art of referral” (Jordan, 2007, p. 86). Advisors
need to acknowledge their own limits and create partnerships across
their own campuses. Even the most seasoned advisor should not be afraid
to send a student somewhere else for help. Effective referrals help
students develop self-advocacy and awareness as they obtain the most
valid information (see NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources referral tips).
Tip 6: Advisors Must Take Care of Themselves
One advisor can’t do everything.
Take a lunch, leave work in the office, and build breaks or down time
into the schedule. Don’t wait for special occasions; take time to
celebrate the little things.
Tip 7: Find a Niche Within the Office.
There is more to advising than
helping students plan their class schedules. Brochures, newsletters and
presentations must be created, Web sites need to be maintained,
research on changing student populations must be undertaken, and
assessments must be done. New advisors who volunteer for these crucial
tasks make themselves invaluable.
Tip 8: Stay Positive About Students and Advising.
Advisors often receive notes of
affirmation from students and coworkers; they should place these notes
in their professional portfolios. Computer screens are great places for
favorite quotations. Student success stories should be published
on-line and in brochures and newsletters. Above all, advisors should
display a ready smile and a sense of humor.
Tip 9: Read a Variety of Books.
There are a multitude of
available reading selections within the field and outside it; check
coworkers’ bookshelves, campus libraries, and on-line book lists, e.g., the NACADA Journal Book Reviews. Don’t limit reading selections to only professional books and Web
sites; check out memoirs and fictional books for inspiration.
Tip 10: Be Flexible.
Advising is never dull. While
that fact should be celebrated, it also means that a great deal of
flexibility is required of professionals within the field. Advisors
never know what lies on the other side of the door and thus should be
prepared to change course multiple times within the work day.
Advising is a special field that provides us with the
opportunity to make significant differences in students’ lives. Stepping
into the role of advisor can be overwhelming especially when a new
advisor doesn’t know where to begin. With the help of this list and the
resources noted here (including the New Advisor Guidebook), advisors can begin their careers with a feeling of confidence and positive anticipation.
Student Disability Services
Texas Tech University
Rebecca Daly Cofer
Student Development Specialist
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
Folsom, P. (2007). Setting the stage: Growth through year one and
beyond: The New Advisor Development Chart. In P. Folsom & B.
Chamberlain (Eds.), The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the Fist Year and Beyond. (Monograph No.16). (pp. 13-21). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
Jordan, P. (2007). Building relational skills: Building effective
communication through listening, interviewing, and referral. In P.
Folsom & B. Chamberlain (Eds.), The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Advising Through the Fist Year and Beyond. (Monograph No.16). (pp. 83-91). Manhattan, KS: NACADA.
Dear Career Corner:
I really enjoy being an
academic advisor, but I’ve been frustrated at work lately and wonder if
I’ve outgrown my current responsibilities. I’ve started looking for
new positions, but in the current economy, there may not be any open
advising positions any time soon. Do you have any suggestions?
Dear Frustrated Advisor:
It’s your environment. It’s your career.
If you are an academic advisor
who is frustrated with your advising office work space, certain
processes and procedures, or simply has a desire to take on new
challenges, do not get discouraged. Most importantly, do not allow your
frustration to impede your performance and productivity. Instead,
take three steps toward enhancing your current work situation, and be
sure to integrate your contributions into your job search documents.
Enhance your work environment and boost your resume at the same time!
Decide to invest in yourself.
No one likes a chronic complainer nor enjoys being around a Debbie
Downer. The first step in enhancing your advising work environment is
to decide that you will not allow your frustrations to negatively
impact your advising experience. Instead, decide to invest a portion of
your time and energy into taking initiative.Then consider following
through with a collaborative approach.
Take initiative. Bob
Nelson (2002), ABA Bank Marketing columnist, suggests that taking
initiative “can mean many things – tapping your inner creativity,
tackling a persistent problem, capitalizing on opportunities or
creating ways to improve your current work environment” (p.1). For
example, if your advising office relies heavily on paper forms, many of
which are outdated, you can take this opportunity to improve your
current work environment. Start small and take the initiative to
update (as needed) the forms that already exist. Then do your homework
and meet with a member of the IT department to discuss the necessary
steps to convert these paper forms into online forms and processes.
Take this information and have a conversation with your supervisor —
the goal being to convince him or her to buy into this idea. To seal
this initiative, volunteer to serve as your advising department’s
primary contact with IT when implementing this paper to online
If you are looking for more responsibility or more ways to spend your
time while at work, volunteer to co-teach one or more sections of your
campus’s First-Year Experience course. Additionally, you can even ask
your supervisor if you can observe or assist with facilitating faculty
advisor training sessions. Through observing, assisting, and having
follow-up conversations with your supervisor, you should soon become
comfortable enough to volunteer to take this task off of your
Collaborate. Develop and foster a strong collaborative spirit. To do this, it will
be imperative for you to enhance both your willingness and ability to
work alongside others. Consider co-sponsoring events such as a majors
fair, open house, or academic program orientation. By collaborating
with faculty, you can add the elements of support, general advising,
and student success resources. You could also work with other campus
offices, such as Student Life and Admissions, by offering to give a
presentation during training sessions for student leader groups,
including Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, Peer Mentors, and
Peer Tutors. Your presentation could focus on highlighting the
services and resources provided by your office, as well as connecting
the dots between their course work and other aspects of their life.
Such collaborations, according to Dorothy Burton Nelson and Betsy
McCalla-Wriggins, authors of The Handbook of Career Advising (2009) “often create positive supportive relationships that transfer to other collaborative efforts on campus” (p. 205).
After it is all said and done, add these
workplace contributions and improvements to your resume.
Additionally, you will be able to refer to these experiences during a
job interview when asked about your decision-making skills, your role as
a member of a team, and your ability to be proactive and generate
Best of Luck!
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Chair
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Member
The Savannah College of Art & Design
Hughey, K. F., Nelson, D. B., Damminger, J. K., & McCalla-Wriggins, B. (2009).The Handbook of Career Advising. Manhattan, KS: National Academic Advising Association.
Nelson, B. (2002). Take the initiative! (Rewarding employees). In The Free Library. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Take+the+initiative!+ (Rewarding+Employees).-a086057123.
Amber Schuler, Purdue University-Calumet
Student: “Omigosh, I missed my appointment the other day because I
was so sick. I had a 103 degree fever, and my eyes were watering, and I
was throwing up all afternoon, and my leg fell off; I had to call my
mom, who called my aunt, who sent my cousin to help me find it. But I’m
better now and just have a little cough. *coughcough*”
As academic advisors, we have heard our share of wild and outrageous
excuses for missed appointments and missed classes. However, within
the last few semesters, it seems to me there has been a marked trend
upward in the frequency and intensity of these exaggerated stories. As
an advisor, I am concerned when I hear these lies. For some students
there seems to be a clear disregard for truthfulness along with a lack
of ownership and responsibility for their actions. I find this
Most students have enough integrity to suffer the consequences for
missed appointments and skipped classes. However, there are a handful
of desperate individuals who use embellished lies as excuses. For
example, there always seems to be a flood of apocalyptic proportion,
illnesses that border plague, and abominable snow beasts who appear
around midterms and finals. What would push a student to use such
A variety of reasons and situations come to mind: lack of preparedness,
laziness, too much Guitar Hero, or just not enough maturity to handle
college at the moment. The fact remains that we are their advisors,
and they are telling us these huge falsehoods. In other situations,
when honesty is also important, what are these same students telling
their doctors, teachers, parents, and significant others? Are they
being honest about their actions, or are they answering with extreme
lies there, too?
In such situations, academic advisors may find it difficult to subdue
the urge to scream out “LIAR!” reminiscent of Valerie in The Princess Bride.
Is it our role to correct negative behavior? If it is, then how do we
correct these behaviors while maintaining open advising relationships?
There is no cookie-cutter answer to these questions. Instead, this is
something each of us must figure out for ourselves. Nevertheless, there
are some strategies that are helpful in creating appropriate responses
to these situations.
It may be helpful to discuss with students how their actions impact
their future. It could be as simple as asking students if they are
aware that these behaviors are negative. Some students may not have the
critical thinking skills to realize how their decisions contribute to
their character development in both positive and negative ways.
Students may not associate bad choices, such as dishonesty or an
inability to assume responsibility, with poor character development.
Advisors can help reinforce that accepting one’s mistakes and growing
from them are good habits to establish. These good habits can lead to
good choices, and good choices produce positive character development.
Another approach might involve “care-fronting” students.
“Care-fronting” is a term used in residence life circles for
approaching situations from a place of concern. Some of us may not feel
comfortable confronting students on obvious lies, but can address
these issues out of concern. Advisors can use hypothetical
situations—for example: “I hear you telling me (insert lie), and
hypothetically speaking, if what you are telling me is not true, what
do you think the ultimate consequences would be?” The discussion
generated by use of this technique can help students learn that they
are not doing anyone a favor when they are dishonest. In fact, they
are short-changing themselves in the process.
Another suggestion may appeal to the completely exhausted and fully
frustrated advisors among us who have heard every excuse in the book.
This approach involves creativity. Since students’ lies are their
reality, play along with the students. Take the situation presented as
“reality” and go with it. If the story involves extremities that
suddenly do not work, then ask for a doctor’s note so the students can
access services legally available to individuals missing the
aforementioned extremity. When plague-like symptoms hit and students
cannot get out of bed to come to their appointments, indicate that they
should not see anyone until they have obtained a doctor’s note
assuring all that they are no longer contagious. After all, we do not
want them to infect everyone on campus!
As advisors, we must learn not to become
frustrated by student antics. Instead, we must play the hand, or the
stories, dealt us. When confronted with their behaviors, hopefully
these students will learn that it is a lot more work to maintain lies
than it is to opt for honesty in the first place.
The strategies suggested here for dealing with student lies allows advisors to teach students that:
- it is important to stress honesty and responsibility with our students,
- it is essential that students learn that life is about experiencing both successes and failures, and
- lies and excuses do not help them learn from their mistakes.
Most advisors encounter student
lies during our careers. It is helpful if we have a game plan ready to
address these issues with students and still maintain a professional
advising relationship. As the semester progresses, be aware, an
abominable snow beast may have eaten your next student’s leg!
Center for Student Achievement
It takes but one SPARK to ignite the flame for an idea. Does your campus have an unusual or exceptional process or program that could spark an idea on another campus? If so, tell us about it in 350 words or less. Send your 'Sparkler' to Leigh@ksu.edu
This edition’s SPARKLERs come from Jennifer Jones (West Virginia University) and Nola Moudry (University of North Texas).
Inspired by a 2008 NACADA Annual Conference session by Santa Clara University, West Virginia University (WVU) implemented a residential advising program in January 2009. The Undergraduate Advising Services Center (UASC) partnered with residence life and retention services to bring advising into three residence halls. WVU is a large university with two campus locations. Developmental Advising Specialist Jennifer Jones and colleague Allison Glass (pictured with student) tell us that “more than half of our freshmen
live on the remote campus. Since retention rates are lower there, we
decided unanimously to focus our energies there to pilot the program.
Improving retention, offering easily accessible help to students, and
improving the way advising is viewed across campus were reasons for
starting this initiative.” UASC has ten full-time advisors and 30
graduate assistant advisors. The center advises over 7,000 students
each year, including undecided students and some pre-major students,
primarily freshmen and sophomores. Residential advising is provided in
three hour time blocks three days a week. Jennifer explains, “We have
three advisors that do this as part of their normal work week and flex
time at other times in the week to even out their hours. The advisors
are given a half-hour in their schedules each week for writing in student folders and another
one for a planning meeting with the other residential advisors. We do
everything that our advising center does except give the students the
required code they need each semester for registration. Students see us
to discuss major changes, summer classes, minors, GPA, matriculation,
to name a few. For students that are not advised in our center, we give
them general information and the contact information for their
advisor. Getting the word out has been a challenge. The director of
residence life distributed flyers and handouts to the residence hall
staff about residential advising. The assistant director of retention
services let us meet with her graduate assistants to distribute
information and ask for help getting the word out to students. In the
spring semester we had a drawing for $25 gift cards to WVU’s bookstore.
This fall we went to all of the mandatory freshman seminar classes to
talk about advising and distributed information cards to every freshman in those classes. Even though we are only in a
portion of the residence halls, any student is welcome for advising. We
also advertise for it in our freshman advising workshops that are
mandatory for the freshmen we advise, via emails, and flyers posted in
the residence halls.” For more information, please contact Jennifer at Jennifer.Jones@mail.wvu.edu.
Although the University of North Texas already had in place a campus-wide system which required students on academic action to meet with their academic advisor prior to registration, the College of Education Student Advising Office decided that more needed to be done with and for their students on academic action. Nola Moudry, Academic Advisor II, tell us that “since our office consisted of
eight advisors with varying methods and styles of advising, we thought a
standardized and structured conversation would be more effective for
our students who were on academic action.” The original form, a grade
contract, offered a structured approach without scripting the
conversation. It allowed advisors the freedom to engage the students
through their individual advising styles. Through the years, the form
has evolved into an Academic Success Contract, which is an inclusive
form created by advisors for specific purposes: 1) to initiate a structured conversation, 2) help empower the students so that they are
in control of their academic career and decisions, 3) create student
awareness about supportive resources that are available on campus and
online, and 4) help the student realize that a positive outcome is both
possible and probable. Specific elements within the contract allow
for information exchange and aid in the ability of advisors to have
difficult conversations with students. These elements include hours
working versus hours enrolled in school, a visual representation of
where the student’s GPA is and where it needs to be for graduation, the
student’s responsibilities and university policies, the failed courses, importance of academic resources, and the consequences of not
increasing their GPA. A mid-semester follow-up section offers the
opportunity for students to reflect on their academic choices and
initiates a discussion of current standing in their courses. Nola
reports, “What started as a simple form for a structured conversation
has become a form used for multiple conversations that help to engage
students by aiding in the development of their educational goals.” The
form was showcased in a poster session at the 2009 NACADA Annual Conference in San Antonio. For further information, contact Nola at email@example.com.