Apathy's Antidote: Using Mindfulness to Improve Advisor Performance
Eirin Grimes and Chrissy Renfro, Laramie County Community College
While the concept of mindfulness is not new, its use and applicability in the Western world is relatively recent. Mindfulness in modern psychology might embrace Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (1990) definition of mindfulness as “moment-to-moment awareness” (p.2). The Dalai Lama (2006) refers to mindfulness simply as insight, about which he has said, “To succeed at developing insight you first need to identify ignorance” (p. 29). We are also encouraged to define mindfulness for ourselves by simply answering the question, “What is it like to be here in this moment?”
In the advising arena, mindfulness can be defined as the ability to focus, block out distractions, and have heightened levels of the five senses. Advisors’ moment-to-moment awareness of what is happening in an advising session can have a positive impact on the experience for our students and for ourselves. Thus it is helpful when advisors understand the benefits of mindfulness practice in academic advising and the ways in which we can formally practice mindfulness in our daily routines.
Improving the Quality of the Advisor-Advisee Relationship. For some time the advising relationship has been lauded as one of the key ingredients to student success. Light (2001) noted that, “good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience” (p.81). Habley (as cited by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2005) took it a step further saying that “advising bears the distinction of being the only structured activity on campus in which all students have the opportunity for ongoing, one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution, and this fact is a source of its tremendous potential today”(p. 2).
So, we are left wondering how to get the most out of what is sometimes
a 10 minute interaction. Famed clinical psychologist Carl Rogers, in
his memoir A Way of Being, came to the conclusion that one of the most simple and healing services
he provided his clients was simply “hearing” them (1980). Active
listening – responding to both verbal and non-verbal behavior,
paraphrasing, and clarifying – is a basic interpersonal skill that can
be helpful in forming an instant connection. The art of active
listening is not new to anyone in academic advising, but it can be
challenging to maintain in EVERY student interaction. We propose that when we calm our minds and focus on our breathing – a
basic mindfulness skill – advisors can strengthen the relationship
between ourselves and our students. When we do this we heighten the
verbal and non-verbal exchange of advising.
Try this: Pick an object frequently in your line of vision when you are with
students. Every time you look at this object, take a deep breath; feel
the air enter your nostrils and then your lungs. Feel the air rush out
as you exhale. Do it again. For just a few moments make your breath
your total focus.
Being intentional with our “advice” in advising. NACADA Past President Nancy King (2009) has said that the words we use matter. When we are in a hurry and say
things like, “get your general education courses out of the way” to an
advisee, we are communicating that we do not think those courses are
important. We know better, of course, but to not be mindful of how
that sounds to an advisee can harm the student’s view of the college
experience. Kabat-Zinn (1990) lists non-striving (p.37) as a pillar to mindfulness practice. He suggests that many times
we introduce the idea that we are not where we should be, and along
with it comes the notion that we are not okay right now. Mindfulness is
non-doing. It is simply paying attention to what is happening, thereby
allowing us to be more intentional. We propose that by practicing
non-doing and staying in the moment we can remind ourselves that we are
okay and take the time to be very intentional with our wording.
Try this: After focusing on your breathing for a few seconds, feel what it is
like to be in your office, sitting on your chair, feel your body
sitting at your desk. Enjoy the sensation of just being; let the
student take the lead. Resist the urge to “go over everything,” focus on
the students’ questions and the sensations at hand.
Loving our jobs every day. Addressing mindfulness is also a matter of professional development and decreasing the risk of burnout. “…(The) increased time demands [in academic advising] place a higher relevance on self-care” (Davis, 2008, p. 453). Symptoms of burnout can include negative feelings toward students, self-doubt, anger, guilt, inability to concentrate and feeling overwhelmed (Davis, 2008). During busy advising times it can be hard to take a few moments and focus our awareness on how we feel: Tired? Hungry? Stressed? It also can be difficult to address those needs. Another pillar of mindfulness practice is the idea of the Beginner’s Mind – or cultivating a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the
first time (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p 53). When we cultivate a Beginner’s
Mind we set aside our preconceptions about the student/situation and
approach each student with a fresh attitude and renewed focus.
Try this: While you breathe, focus your thoughts on why you went into this field
in the first place. Most of us gravitated to advising because we like
people and like helping them. When you bring yourself back to
remembering the simple reasons you chose this profession, you can find
feelings of contentedness.
Challenges to mindfulness. Why is the practice of mindfulness so difficult for some? The hustle and bustle of our work and personal lives, paired with our culture’s emphasis of doing over being, are a few of the challenges we face as we attempt to operate in the
moment. Others may be concerned that suggestions to breathe deeply and
focus on an object may be misconstrued. Technology can be another
barrier to true mindfulness – it can be difficult to pick up on subtle
cues when corresponding via email or when a student in the advising
chair is texting constantly. The bottom line is that each of us must
find the level of mindfulness that works and feels comfortable given
our individual personalities and work circumstances – the very effort
of trying to meet someone else’s standard of mindfulness takes the
focus off our own progress.
Try this: Think about a time when being mindful in an advising session
resulted in positive outcomes for you and the student – what were you
aware of? How might you repeat that success in other interactions?
Conversely, think about a time when you were not mindful in a session –
what happened? At what point did you “drop the ball,” and what have
you learned about yourself as a result?
There is an old saying -- “happiness is not a destination,
but a mode of transportation.” Mindfulness is similar – it is a means
to an end, not the end in itself.
Laramie County Community College
Director of Advising and Career Services
Laramie County Community College
Davis, K. (2008). Advising administrator perspectives on advising. In Gordon, V.N., et al. (2nd Ed.) Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (342-355). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Habley. W.R. (2005). quoted in The role of academic advising: CAS standards contextual statement. Retrieved from http://www.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of
your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Dell
King, N. S. (2009, February). Creating a culture of teaching and learning in the advising experience of students. Plenary address at the NACADA Administrators’ Institute, Clearwater Beach, FL.
Lama, Dalai. (2006). How to see yourself as you really are. New York: Atria Books.
Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Rogers, Carl. (1980). A way of being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co.
From the President: Spring! The Time for Renewal and Growth within NACADA
Kathy Stockwell, NACADA President
Spring! A time to complete projects we started earlier in the academic
year, a time to carry forward important initiatives that will extend
beyond 2011, and a time to begin new, exciting initiatives that will
impact NACADA and advising for many years to come. For advisors spring
is a time to re-energize and enhance our advising skills so we are
better prepared to help our advisees succeed. A great re-energizing
step is attending NACADA Regional Conferences where we can meet advising colleagues from across our regions. What a
great time to share successes, gain perspective on campus issues, and
discuss current advising practices. Check the NACADA website for the Regional Conference dates. Can’t attend your region’s conference? Consider attending one of the nine other conferences held throughout the spring.
To continue the Association’s forward movement, the NACADA Board of Directors remains focused on our five strategic goals. We have made great progress since these goals were implemented in 2008. As reported previously, the globalization sub-committee has made great strides in recognizing the scope of our Association. The new tag line, NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising, was unveiled at the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio, and the revamped logo was adopted in summer 2010. Sub-committee members led by the Association’s Vice President Glenn Kepic are raising international awareness of NACADA by soliciting input
regarding advising practices at institutions across the globe. In
conjunction with the work of this sub-committee, the Board has charged
the Membership Committee with developing a guidebook for international allied associations, has asked the Council to define how international members can best fit within our
current regional structure, and has formed a sub-committee, under the
leadership of Board members Beth Higgins and Susan Kolls, to create a glossary of advising-related terms that will benefit all members as we work with advisors from around the globe.
Two technology sub-committees are also hard at work. Board member Jennifer Joslin is chairing the committee charged with assessing the technology needs
of the Association and determining our technology priorities. In
addition to her work with the glossary team, Beth Higgins is chairing a
separate technology committee charged with reviewing the functionality
of the NACADA website to see how it can be more user-friendly for our
members. Also within the technology arena, the Executive Office staff, under the leadership of Brad Popiolek (University of Texas-Austin) and Laura Pasquini (University of North Texas), received training on the use of social media tools to enhance the events and services provided by the Association.
Another Board priority is to educate university and college decision
makers about the role of academic advising in higher education. A
sub-committee under the direction of Board member Josh Smith is investigating the best and most efficient ways to make these
connections. This sub-committee is also charged with increasing
awareness of the annual Pacesetter Award and encouraging nominations for this prestigious award. To recognize
deserving individuals, the criterion for this award have been expanded
to include Academic and Student Affairs officers such as Vice Provosts,
Vice Presidents, Deans, etc., who exemplify a commitment to advising
across the institution.
To ensure the effectiveness of the Association, Board members Kazi Mamun and Celeste Pardee are developing a plan for scheduled and periodic reviews of our
policies, by-laws, and long-term contracts. Under the leadership of
Pardee and fellow Board member Peg Steele the annual assessment (360 degree review) of the Board and Executive
Office is undergoing review and discussion is underway within the
Council regarding how to best establish an assessment of that
leadership body. To ensure that all voices are heard, the Board has
committed to open lines of communication.
The restructure of the Commission and Interest Group Division (CIGD) is underway. In a vote held during the Annual Conference in
Orlando, members of the CIGD leadership voted to substantially change
the Division structure so that both the Commissions and Interest Groups
work more in line with each other. A Restructuring Implementation Task
Force, led by Dana Zahorik, Chair of the Peer Advising & Mentoring Commission, has been named
and is beginning its work. Stay tuned for updates as this group works
on restructuring the CIGD.
Many individuals are working on behalf of the Board and the
Association. I look forward to communicating the progress of the
various sub-committees in future articles so you, the members, know what
is being done to ensure the viability of NACADA and the field of
I wish you all the best this spring, the perfect time for
renewal and growth across our campuses and within our Association!
Kathy Stockwell, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Fox Valley Technical College
From the Executive Director: Opportunities Abound!
Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
Spring is finally here and with it comes a multitude of NACADA events and resources that not only support the student success, retention, and persistence efforts at campuses across the globe, but also provide all academic advisors with the professional development and skills needed to increase the success of students.
I look forward to seeing many of you at one of our Regional Conferences this spring. I am excited that this year two of these conferences,
Region 6 in Winnipeg and Region 8 in Calgary, are in Canada, thus
allowing colleagues to connect and share across international borders.
NACADA Regional Conferences continue to be tremendous opportunities to
network with colleagues and identify programs and initiatives that can
be used on our campuses to increase student success.
I hope many of you are planning to attend one of the NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institutes in Colorado Springs or New Orleans. The Summer Institutes continue to
be unique opportunities for individuals and campus teams to come
together for a full week to gain the skills and knowledge needed to
enhance the academic success of students. SI participants work in small
groups with an expert in the field to develop an action plan to improve
and enhance student success programs on their campuses.
In addition to these outstanding events, NACADA continues to be
the leader within the field for providing quality professional
development and resources at a distance. There is still time to
register and take part in one of our Web Events. NACADA Webcasts are the most cost effective in the field and are
always presented by current advising and student success practitioners.
Campuses unable to participate in live a Webcast have access to recordings of all Webcasts along with a full array of electronic resources including the highly effective professional development DVD series Scenes for Learning and Reflection. The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources continues to provide members with the largest and highest quality
resources, articles, and information available on the Internet.
NACADA also prides itself on our publications including our monographs,
pocket guides, and books where all members of the academic advising
and student success community can gain valuable information and skills.
Find our full array of publications on our website. Watch this fall for our new monograph on academic advising administration.
In the face of increasing student enrollments and decreasing funds and
resources, this is a challenging time for all within higher education.
With these changes, professional development is even more important for
all of us. NACADA continues to provide the field with the highest
quality professional development resources and most cost effective
support for higher education across the globe.
Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Pioneering Academic Advising in Japan: Analytical Perspectives from International Christian University Tokyo, Japan
Sonoko Morikawa, International Christian University, Tokoyo Japan
Quantitative data are powerful persuaders. If this is a true statement,
then why don’t we use this powerful tool more for planning in academic
advising? This article discusses an analytical approach to the
collection and analysis of data in academic advising and provides
examples of the use of quantitative data within advising practice at International Christian University (ICU).
Introduction to ICU
International Christian University (ICU) is a private, four-year
liberal arts college, founded in 1953 in Japan. The student population
is about 3,000 including the graduate school. The student-faculty ratio
is 18 to 1, which is about the average for Japanese universities
(Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and Technology,
2008). From the beginning of the university, ICU has had a faculty
advising system where each student is assigned a faculty advisor.
Academic planning practices at ICU arguably can be considered a
pioneering endeavor among Japanese institutions. Although academic
advising is beginning to get attention in Japan, it is still not common
among Japanese universities. This is because most Japanese students
choose their major before they enter college; once entering students
find that the curriculum is fixed and there is very little flexibility
for course selection. Therefore, there is less need for advising than
in North American schools since students follow the course sequence
within standard programs.
Change in Academic Advising at ICU
Before 2008, ICU had a typical Japanese system where
students entered one of the six divisions under the college of liberal
arts and followed the specified curriculum for their chosen division.
In 2008, ICU underwent a major academic reform that merged the six
divisions to one Arts and Sciences division with 32 majors. Students
were granted the freedom to choose their major(s) at the end of their
second year. The new ICU curriculum was more flexible, requiring
students to have the ability to make academic planning decisions and
take responsibility for those decisions.
This curricular change had a major impact on the ICU academic
advising system. Advisors assigned to new students might not be in the
student’s chosen major nor may they have knowledge about the curriculum
of the majors outside their chosen field. Out of necessity, the
Academic Planning Center (APC) was established in 2008 to strengthen
advising at ICU. The mission of APC is to help students navigate
through the major declaration process and to foster 'intentional
learners' who can design their learning processes and make decisions on
their own in order to achieve their goals (Academic Planning Handbook
2010). This unit was purposely not named an “advising” office in a
belief that students should take the initiative for their academic
ICU started learning about leading advising practices at NACADA
institutes in the U.S; there were no models in Japan for helping
students select a major. Since an office that specialized in academic
advising was new to ICU, we decided to collect data and record our
advising practices from the start of the APC so we could monitor how
our new advising system functioned.
The intended outcomes for data collection and the analysis were:
- Data can help us anticipate student need for academic advising
- Data can help advisors expand their capacity to handle student advising needs
- Data can help us find ways to improve academic advising.
The three outcomes were derived from two data sources: 1) records of every student visit to the APC as transferred to a web
system after advising sessions, 2) Academic Planning Essays students
are required to write every year. The Academic Planning Essay is a
chance for the students to regularly review and assess their progress,
organize their thoughts, and develop their ability to plan (Academic
Planning Handbook 2010).
1. Analysis of student visit records. The following are findings from data collected in 2008 and 2009:
- Number of student visits. The total number of
students visiting the APC doubled in two years (Approx. 300 in 2008,
approx. 600 in 2009). By the end of 2009, 40% of the total first-year
student population and more than 60% of the total second year student
population visited the APC.
- Dates of student visits. The peak time for student
visits to the APC in 2009 was course registration periods. We now know
that the university calendar affects the number of students who visit.
- Student Questions:
- First year students want to solve problems they are facing at the moment
- Major selection is the main concern of second year students
- Third year students are concerned about senior thesis and graduation
- Transfer students need academic planning
- Senior students are worried about graduation
The operation of the APC became efficient because we analyzed these
data. Knowing when peak periods occur made it possible for us to
effectively schedule APC events. Figuring out the needs of each class
enabled us to better prepare for student questions, discuss how
questions vary, and provide advisors with the academic information
needed to handle questions posed by students. The data also suggested
that if only 40% of first-year students came for advising, then more
might be done to advertise APC services to students.
2. Analysis of the Academic Planning Essays. Information obtained from the Academic Planning Essays was
especially beneficial in analyzing student academic trends. Students
were asked to choose up to three majors of interest in their
Pre-Matriculation Essay. Analysis of these essays indicated that 25% of
matriculating students chose the International Relations major as
compared to 5% or fewer students who choose any of the other 31 majors.
Analysis of the End of First Year Essay showed that 10% of students
chose the Media, Communication and Culture major, while the number of
students who chose the International Relations major dropped to 5%.
The results of the analysis of these essays indicated that one year
of college experience had a great impact on the student decision-making
process. The data showed a drastic change in student interests and
supported what was heard in advising sessions with pre-major students.
Matriculating students who were eager to major in international
relations hoped to do something “international” in the future; these
students had the same international goal after one year but saw other
ways to achieve it. The data confirmed our perception regarding the
trend in student major selections. Knowing the transitions students go
through helps advisors prepare for the predictable advising patterns.
The role data plays in academic advising is significant especially
when there are few models for advising at an institution. The data
assisted APC staff to anticipate advising questions, expand advisors’
capacity to help students, and help advisors find effective measures
for improvement. An analytical approach can be invaluable in
surmounting challenging issues in academic advising.
Academic Planning Center
International Christian University
Academic Planning Center (2009), Academic Advising at ICU. Academic Planning Handbook 2010, pp.7-8
School Fundamental Survey (2008): Catalog of Statistical
Charts, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Sciences and
An Advisor's Journey: To Summer Institute and Back Again
Belinda Viljoen, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
I attended the NACADA Summer Institute in August 2010 in Philadelphia. If you haven’t attended a NACADA
institute, do it! It is a phenomenal opportunity to learn about
academic advising and to connect with people from colleges and
universities from across the globe.
My trip to the U.S. started in cold and icy South Africa (in August)
and was filled with many “firsts” for me. It was my first trip
overseas and, of course, my first in the U.S.; it was filled with
magical moments as I traveled from New York to Philadelphia and
finally to Manhattan, Kansas (which I learned is known as “the Little
I embarked on my journey with nerves of steel and lots of prayers; I
was overwhelmed with expectations and scared that I would lose my
luggage. My first destination was New York City; after an 18-hour
flight (yes, 18 hours in an uncomfortable seat without sleep), I
arrived in a wet and rainy New York City. I got into a yellow cab
(another first as I had never ridden in a taxi) and found that it would
take an hour to get to my hotel on 29th Street in Manhattan. I did not
waste even one minute to rest; I was on a mission, determined to see as
much as possible. I spent the next two days exploring the streets of
New York City, watching Broadway productions, and drinking lots of
Two days later, I left for Summer Institute in downtown Philadelphia.
When I arrived, I felt the blazing heat but thought that the humidity
was better. I checked into the hotel and immediately went out to
explore the town. That was when I realized that the humidity was still
high, but I loved it. Although most shops were closed, I found a
Starbucks (one shop that quickly became a favourite) and went back to
the hotel. Later that day, I witnessed newlyweds taking pictures on
the hotel sidewalk with its background view of City Hall. I took the
rest of the day to rest after my two and half days of New York magic.
On the Institute’s opening day, I was the first participant to register
and collect my Institute materials – I was the typical “first-timer”!
The opening session covered the history of academic advising and was
presented by NACADA President Jayne Drake. We found our Small Groups, and my group facilitator was Karen Boston from the University of Arkansas. We referred to our group as the
“diverse international group,” since we were comprised of four people
from the U.S., a few from Canada, a lady from the Netherlands, and me,
all the way from South Africa. During the week, we learned a lot from
each other; even though our institutions and countries were different,
we realized that our challenges and issues are almost identical! We
shared ideas and strategies for what works on our campuses. This
process turned us into “experts for a moment” and helped motivate us to
go back to our respective universities and promote new strategies to
enhance the academic advising process.
The week was filled with foundation sessions, workshops, topical, and
at least one Small Group discussion daily. I wish there was more time
to attend all the sessions; each session was interesting or
informative. I learned so much!
After the close of the Institute, I was privileged to visit Kansas
State University and spend time with NACADA staff. I want to live
there! The people are so friendly and willing to share their expertise.
The campus is beautiful, and seeing students drive their own “branded”
Mustangs was truly amazing. Of course, I couldn’t say no to the lovely
Looking back at my experiences I would say that Summer Institute is a
must! I gained so much knowledge and confidence; when I returned to my
home campus I was able to present my Action Plan and the strategies I
learned. This was especially helpful because I am new to the systems
approach and my small group members worked with it every day. I met so
many new “colleagues” and am still in contact with them; they support
me and give great input as we move forward on our campuses.
Looking back at my experiences I would say that Summer Institute is a
must! I gained so much knowledge and confidence; when I returned to my
home campus I was able to present my Action Plan and the strategies I
learned. This was especially helpful because I am new to the systems
approach and my small group members worked with it every day. I met so
many new “colleagues” and am still in contact with them; they support
me and give great input as we move forward on our campuses.
A quote from Mark Twain sums up my total experience in the U.S. and what is still to come: ”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things
you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines,
sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Chief Officer: Academic Advising
Student Development and Success
Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning
University of the Free State
Bloemfontein, 9301 (South Africa)
Peering into the Future: Using Peer Advisors to Assist Changing Student Populations
Dana Zahorik, Peer Advising & Mentoring Commission Chair
Peer advising supports the achievement of key institutional priorities,
including student retention and persistence, promotion of student
success, and helping students to meet their career goals. As the economy
continues to waver, the number of students enrolling at our
institutions climbs as dislocated workers return to college and younger
students seek to lower their loan indebtedness by taking classes while
living at home. These students bring with them a different set of needs
that challenge us to provide effective advising services. Institutions
must react and adjust advising services if we are to meet the needs of
our changing student populations. Peer advisors can be an integral part
of the solution.
Our willingness to adjust advising services is a reflection of the culture an institution embraces. Implementation of peer advising
services demonstrates that advising is taken seriously and that
addressing student needs is an institutional priority. Peer advising can
be an effective strategy for meeting student needs on a peer-to-peer
basis. War Soldier (2002) noted that students are able to understand the
various life experiences of other college students. This is not to say
that advisors are not able to understand college students and their
experiences, but that peer advisors can help expand the reach of
advisors to connect with their peers. Koring and Campbell (2005) support
this concept by stating, “In addition to serving in a variety of roles,
peer advisors also work with a variety of populations. Many, if not
most, peer advising programs target first-year students as a primary
population. Some models target subsets within the first year cohort;
others may target specific peers or offer differentiated programs
through which advisors work with subsets of first-year students” (p.
Students are working more and going to school less. The number of
full-time students at many institutions has declined. Summer enrollment
in general has increased (Brown, 2008), and the number of students
enrolled in distance education courses has increased. Working students
require increased flexibility and the number of dislocated workers
entering college has soared. As a result, more students are balancing
employment with attending college. Who better to show these students
how to balance multiple roles than peers who have successfully
demonstrated that they can succeed in college? When successful peers
make a simple connection with entering students, they become the
important mentor needed for student persistence.
Student financial constraints have contributed to changes in student
demographics. Different patterns are emerging as a result. The fear of
overwhelming school loans has added pressure to those entering college.
McLaren (2004) stated that “some of the recent changes in student
demographics may be due to the increased financial demands of
continuing an academic education and students’ concerns about future
loan debt” (p.173 ). In addition, increasingly rising tuition has
forced more students to work full-time while attending school, take
fewer courses, or take courses in summer. Financial constraints may
also contribute to the fact that fewer students are living on campus or
away from home in general (McLaren, 2004, p.173 ). Students are living
at home to help save money, which means that they are on the road more
and have commuting costs that may not be covered by financial aid.
Travel time must be factored into students’ time management plans. Many students are heads of household and support families while they
juggle college, work, and family life (McLaren, 2004, p. 6). Peer
advisors can be mentors for these students and refer them to the
resources as needed. For example, Fox Valley Technical College utilizes
an Emergency Loan system where students in need can be referred to a
counselor to receive up to $500 in emergency money to overcome a
barrier to finishing their education. A peer advisor can assess the
situation and refer the student in need to such a service as well as
help connect students to other appropriate resources.
Tough economic times have had an effect on the decision making of some
students. Often, dislocated workers must adhere to strict retraining
timelines. Many colleges have seen an increase in career counseling
referrals because of the increase in the number of dislocated workers.
McLaren (2004) noted that “it is very important to refer students to
counselors specializing in career counseling and personal counseling
whenever necessary. Students often do not find their way to these
types of resources, where readily available in the university, without
an academic advisor to point out the importance of such consultations”
(p. 174). Peer advisors often serve as the missing link to connect
these students to the appropriate resources including career or
personal counselors who can help them seek out additional resources.
The informal trust system built between students and peer advisors is
something faculty and staff cannot replicate. This trust is a resource
that can be used to promote student success. Peer advisors have
successfully walked in these students’ shoes and are willing to give
back what they received from fellow peers. Peer advising can provide
an invaluable resource to the institutions and the changing student
populations we serve
Fox Valley Technical College
Brown, L.C. (2008). Advising a diverse student body: Lessons I've learned from trading places. Liberal Education. 94(4) p. 62-63.
Koring, H. & Campbell, S (2005). An introduction to peer advising. In Koring, H & Campbell, S. (Eds.) Peer advising: Intentional connections to support student learning. (NACADA monograph No. 13) NACADA: Manhattan, KS.
Marques, J. F. (2005). Best practices in adult advising: A team conclusion. Recruitment & Retention in Higher Education, 29(8) p. 4-5.
McLaren, Jennifer (2004). The changing face of undergraduate academic advising. Guidance and Counseling. 19(4).
War Soldier. R.S. (2002). Using life’s lessons to mend.
News from Native California 15(4) p 25.
Effective Ways to Deal with Large Advising Loads
Debra Y. Applegate and Gayle Hartleroad, Ball State University
Being an academic advisor is no small task; we inform students about
opportunities to expand their knowledge and experiences, help them make
life-changing decisions, and assist them to achieve their maximum
potential. As budget restraints negatively affect academia, there is
valid concern that institutions remain adequately staffed and
sufficiently meet the needs of students in a timely manner -- two of
the Council for Advancement of Standards in Higher Education
requirements for academic advising programs (CAS, 2005). Many of
today’s academic advisors are overwhelmed by the number of students in
their advising loads and their responsibility to help these students
develop academically and personally. What exactly defines a “large
advising load?” How might an advisor effectively advise this number of
students? What does it take for an advisor to manage this demand? Do advisors have accessible resources that are not being utilized efficiently?
Defining a “large” advising load
Although suggestions vary, Habley (2004) noted that a
generally accepted recommendation for the number of students assigned
to a full-time, professional academic advisor is approximately 300 (¶
4). Habley noted that this recommendation should be qualified by the
specific needs of the student population and the structure of the
institution (¶ 5). Advisors assigned to work with undecided, disabled,
transfer, adult, and international students, among other
sub-populations, may require a smaller load to accommodate more
extensive advising needs. Another factor which may determine an
assigned advising load is the number of electives within a specific
program. For instance, business and engineering are two programs with few electives so
some administrators may not consider other student factors and think
that advisors can handle larger advising loads. In these cases it may be
helpful if advisors are assigned a select group of students within a
specialty or in the same year.
Advising a large population of students (750 pre-business
in our situation) has required us to think strategically in our
efforts to handle the demands of a large number of students effectively
without sacrificing student focus or our ability to assist students in
utilizing campus resources to obtain the best possible college
Defining student populations
When managing a large number of advisees, a critical
component is advisor knowledge of the general and specific needs of
each student population group. At Ball State University, we utilize a
coding system for advisors. This has proven beneficial to categorize
advisees using designated codes which indicate student progression
through the required course sequence. For instance, pre-business
students are coded “WW” when entering sophomore status, “XX” for
students successfully continuing in the program after their first
semester, “YY” if an international student, “ZZ” if an honors student.
At a glance, Ball State pre-business advisors can see what type of
student is being advised and know probable questions and concerns.
Defining effective formats for various student populations
Once student populations have been identified, a
specific format is utilized to best meet the needs of advisees.
Incoming or newly identified pre-business students (coded as “WW”) must
attend a mandatory group orientation advising session in their first
semester. Course sequencing, registration, GPA requirements, major
choices, advising expectations, internships, and available resources
are explained in this session. We encourage students to efficiently
progress through pre-business toward admission into the college of
business. Students who successfully advance to the next semester are
coded as “XX” and will attend individual advising appointments until
they are fully admitted into the college. This group often requires
more specific advising to help them successfully progress to their declared majors. International
students, also known as the “YY” population, meet with an advisor
one-on-one in all cases since there are often additional requirements
and specific needs to be addressed. For similar reasons, individual
advising appointments are the favored format for the honors “ZZ” group.
Defining possible resources
The number and types of advising resources are diverse. A sampling of options include:
- The NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. The web-based Clearinghouse is a primary resource for advisors on a multitude of advising-related topics. Clearinghouse
topics are divided into two basic groups: resources to help advisors
work with students and advisor/system related resources (NACADA,
- Individual institution websites. Many advising programs have their own websites that provide resources
for advisors, faculty, and students. Advisors should search websites of
programs that mirror their own in advisor load, student population, or
program structure for ideas on how to best convey information within
their advising situation.
- Technology. When considering
advising resources many of us immediately think of technology
applications; this is illustrated by the vast listing on the “Advising
Technology” section of the NACADA Clearinghouse (NACADA, 2011a). We know that technology is a primary way students
seek immediate access to information. Some specific technology
applications for advisors and students may include, but are not limited
to, the following:
- saging s Instant me
- Text messaging
- User-friendly portal or website
- Social media (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
- Pod or Vod casts
- Electronic signage
- School-specific systems, such as Blackboard
- Applications created specifically for mobile devices
- Institution or Regional Advising Groups. Some institutions have their own advising association within the campus
community (NACADA 2011b). Colleagues can be one of the best resources
for advisors because they have insight into the specifics of a particular campus community, student populations, or school-specific policies/procedures.
- Current staff. There are almost always creative ways to modify current positions to
better support advising. These modifications can include new ways to
exchange “behind the scenes” administrative work for in-person
assistance to advisors.
When addressing the challenges of managing today’s large advising
loads, academic advisors can benefit tremendously from categorizing
their advisees, identifying specific student needs within these
categories, selecting appropriate advising formats, and utilizing
available resources. It is critical we remember that even though we may
be overloaded with work each student is an individual with individual
needs. Students deserve the guidance needed to help them navigate the
bureaucracy and challenges of college in order to be successful. NACADA
is an incredible support organization to assist academic advisors in
this professional endeavor.
Debra Y. Applegate
Miller College of Business
Ball State University
Director of Student Services
Miller College of Business
Ball State University
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS).
(2005). Academic advising programs: CAS standards and guidelines.
Retrieved from www.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=E864D2C4-D655-8F74-2E647CDECD29B7D0
Habley, W. R. (2004). Advisor load. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/advisorload.htm
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011a). Advising technology. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/Links/Technology.htm
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011b). Allied associations. Retrieved from www.nacada.ksu.edu/Membership/allied_members.htm
National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). (2011c). Clearinghouse topics index. Retrieved from
Freedom to Choose: Advisor Classifications and Internal Identities
David Freitag, Pima Community College
Academic advisors are free to choose their own level of professionalism and scholarship. While we may be organizationally classified by “who” we are (e.g., faculty advisors, staff advisors, or student peer advisors), “where” we work (e.g., centralized advising office, satellite offices, or faculty offices), and “who” we advise (e.g., student-athletes, international students, honors students, or freshmen), I propose that advisors have the freedom to choose to be at one of four levels within our discipline: advising practitioner, emerging professional, advising professional, or advising scholar. Advising administrators can build the advising team best suited to
their institution by being aware of the choices we, as advisors, make
and where we are in our journey towards academic advising
professionalism and scholarship.
The Academic Advising Practitioner
When individuals are hired to advise full-time or take
on advising as part of their faculty role, we are typically expected to
communicate information accurately to these students, help students
problem solve, and make referrals when necessary. New advising
practitioners frequently need close supervision and someone who can
guide them. Advising for these individuals is just part of an 8 to 5 job
and many advisors happily remain advising practitioners during their
Advising practitioners may be aware of NACADA, but often are not
members. They may be aware of the larger discipline of academic
advising, but do not feel connected to it despite their position. They
might attend an advising conference when paid for by the institution,
but would not consider paying their own way. Advising, to the advising
practitioner, is just their job or a part of their job.
Despite a low level of personal commitment, academic
advising practitioners are the backbone of many advising systems. There
are several organizational influences that encourage administrators to
maintain a system with only advising practitioners: low entry
requirements and expectations for staff advisors, a desire to keep
advisor pay low (on par with administrative personnel for staff advisors
and no pay at all for faculty advisors), or a fundamental lack of
understanding of the scope and complexity of academic advising in
today’s institutions of higher learning. Because of these factors, it
is entirely possible that the institution expects every advisor to
remain an academic advisor practitioner.
The Academic Advising Emerging Professional
An academic advising emerging professional is not
satisfied with the view that they should just do a job – they want to
be a professional and to be treated as such. Such advisors are moving
towards becoming a full-fledged academic advising professional by
joining their international association, NACADA, and by working to
improve their advising practice as they learn from others in the field
through publications, webinars, and conferences. The advising emerging
professional works to improve the practice of advising during work
hours, but rarely takes advising work home.
Most advising administrators welcome the increased competence of an
advising emerging professional since such an advisor not only is
beginning to self-identify as an advising professional but is starting
to ask for, and take on, more advising responsibilities. Advising
emerging professionals are doing things to take charge of their careers;
they no longer are satisfied to be supervised, but instead want to be
managed in a more collegial manner. They wish to be led rather than be
closely supervised. In return for more freedom, these advisors strive
to improve their advising work not just for themselves and their
students but also for other advisors at their institution. Emerging
professionals without post-graduate work in an area applicable to
advising start to feel their lack of credentials and make plans for
improving their educational standing.
The Academic Advising Professional
Academic advising professionals view academic advising
as a profession and treat it as such. Advising professionals are highly
qualified and actively seek further educational opportunities to
enhance their advising credentials. They are members of NACADA and are
active participants in its growth and governance. They attend local,
state, and national conferences even if their institution does not pay
their way. They are advocates for the academic advising discipline.
Certifications and credentials are as important to the advising
professional as they are to other professionals in fields such as
teaching, law, and medicine. Academic advising professionals have
earned a degree on par with other campus professionals and graduate
hours in academic advising, higher education, counseling, or another
Advising administrators can expect advising professionals to perform
their responsibilities without close supervision. Professionals, such
as the academic advising professional, do not need to be supervised
since they take pride in their work ethic and knowledge within the
field. These advisors invest a number of hours outside the office in
studying advising or working to improve their advising knowledge and
skills by keeping up with academic advising literature such as the NACADA Journal and Academic Advising Today. Their workday often does not end at 5 p.m. An academic advising
professional’s goal is to better serve their students and institution
by improving their own proficiency and the proficiency of other
advisors at their institution.
The Academic Advising Scholar
Academic advising scholars have post-graduate degrees
and are recognized for their expertise in the advising field. The focus
of advising scholars is not on their own competence, which is a given,
but on the larger issues of advising administration, advising program
assessment, or advancing the discipline of academic advising through
scholarly inquiry. Academic advising scholars in a staff position
should also be called academic professionals since they are academics
in the true sense of the word.
Academic advising scholars are experts in academic advising. They keep
up with, and add to, the current body of literature in the field; they
are active participants in their association. Academic advising
scholars identify with the field of academic advising more than their
current position (which may or may not be working full-time advising
students). Advising is not just a job for the advising scholar – it is a
passion and a calling.
Being academic professionals, academic advising scholars’ work hours
are comparable to other academic professionals, including faculty and
administrators. It is not unusual for an advising scholar to work more
than 50 hours a week with the hours beyond the standard 40 dedicated to
service or research within the academic advising field.
Academic advising scholars create new knowledge through their research
and scholarship. They publish and share their discoveries and thoughts
at conferences and seminars. An academic advising scholar does not
experience office down-time because their life’s work will never be
complete. They are constantly thinking about ways to improve and
promote the field of academic advising. Academic administrators should
use the knowledge and experience of academic advising scholars in
improving not only their institution’s advising services, but also to
be leaders in the field of academic advising.
All academic advisors are full members of the academe
and have the freedom and opportunity to choose to be advising
professionals and scholars of academic advising. Choosing to become an
advising professional or a scholar requires not only a shift of
attitude, but also a change in action and behavior. Becoming an advising
professional or scholar requires accepting individual responsibility
for professional development, mentoring and learning from fellow
advisors, working effectively with the advising administration of the
institution, and working for the professional advancement of the field
of academic advising. This is a challenging path to choose, but it is a
path with many unexpected rewards, both professionally and personally.
IT Development Services
Pima Community College
Schulenberg, J. K., & Lindhorst, M. J. (2008). Academic advising:
Toward defining the practice and scholarship of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 28(1), 43-53.
An Advisor's Primer to the Language of Budgeting
Robert Hurt, NACADA Emerging Leader
Even in periods of relative abundance, advising administrators and
their staffs must pay careful attention to managing fiscal resources.
This attention to detail is even more crucial in times like these when
we must justify and compete for every dollar. From an accounting point
of view, advising centers are most often treated as discretionary cost centers; that is, managers are held responsible for their costs since such
centers typically do not generate revenue. Although advisors and
students understand all too keenly the relationship between
high-quality advising and student success, upper-level administrators
may see advising as a discretionary item—rather than one that is
“mission critical” for the institution. Yet, when advisors understand
the role of budgeting, how to manage budgets carefully, ethically and
creatively, and learn to “speak the language” of budgeting, we can
preserve funding and serve students even in the “lean times.”
Budgets have at least four important purposes in virtually every organization. They
- are a way to allocate resources;
- help communicate the mission, goals, and objectives throughout the organization;
- clarify organizational priorities; and
- can be used to evaluate performance.
Far more than a principal source of anxiety and frustration, the budget provides a “common language” to discuss what should happen and why it should
happen; it also gives advisors a financial tool to look back and see
how they did.
Understanding a few key terms can go a long way in helping advisors
communicate with others regarding the budget; these terms include:
- Appropriation. The money received, typically at the start of the
year, from someone higher on the organizational chart, such as a
director, dean, or vice president.
- Encumbrance. A commitment of appropriated funds. Encumbrances are unique to
government and not-for-profit (GNFP) accounting. Effectively, they
set aside funds for a specific purpose—they can be thought of as a
“budget within a budget.”
- Expenditure. Contrary to the common meaning of the term (spending money), an
expenditure in GNFP accounting arises when a liability is
created—usually by receiving goods. Expenditures can be encumbered
first, but may not be if they are regular and recurring (such as staff
- Cost variance. The difference between actual costs and budgeted costs is cost
variance. Variances arise most commonly from one of two sources:
financial factors and quantity factors. For example, an advising
administrator may budget $500 for sending staff to a NACADA event, but
actually spend $700 because (a) three staff members actually attend
instead of the two budgeted (quantity factors) and / or (b) plane
tickets may be more expensive than originally budgeted (financial
factors). Accountants and managers can use variance analysis to tease
apart the impact each factor had on the overall budget variance and
determine how to avoid cost variances in the future. Cost variances can
be one element of an advising center’s balanced scorecard.
- Balanced scorecard. A technique for evaluating organizational performance that examines the
organization from four perspectives: financial, customer, internal
business process and innovation, and learning.
Activity-based budgeting and zero-based budgeting are useful techniques for connecting the budget to initiatives and plans within an advising center. Activity-based budgeting is an extension of activity-based costing, a technique for allocating
costs based on the activities that create them. Activity-based
budgeting (potentially more useful to advising centers) is a method for
specifying what monies will be used for in the coming academic year.
For example, instead of saying simply “We will allocate $10,000 for
supplies,” activity-based budgeting would tie those supplies to
specific activities: “For summer orientation, we expect to serve 500
students. Each student will need a CD of materials, each of which will
cost about $1.00. Thus, we should budget $500 for summer orientation
Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) forces managers to look at proposed activities very critically,
evaluating each activity based on its relationship with organization
mission. The technique gets its name from its overall approach: each
budgeting cycle, every organizational unit starts with a base budget of
zero. Each unit must justify its very existence by showing how it
contributes to the organizational mission. In ZBB, managers typically
organize proposed activities in leveled “packets;” budget
administrators fund packets based on resource availability and
relationship of the activities in the packet to the organizational
mission. Communication skills are very important in ZBB, as the
manager who makes the best argument often gets the best funding.
Advisors do not need degrees in accounting or finance to navigate
the budgeting process and manage limited resources effectively. Please
consult the resources listed below for more information on the topics
California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
Brewer, P., R., Garrison, and E. Noreen. (2010). Introduction to managerial accounting. (5th ed). McGraw-Hill / Irwin.
Copley, P. (2011). Essentials of accounting for governmental and not-for-profit organizations. (10th ed). McGraw-Hill / Irwin.
Cunningham, L. (1983). Not-for-profit budgeting. The Public Relations Journal, 39(5), 33.
Gerdin, J. (2004, September). Activity-based variance analysis: New tools for cost management.
Cost Management, 18(5), 38-48.
Hunt, S. & P. Klein. (2003, August). Budgets roll with the times. Optimize, 85-90.
Hurt, B. (2004, Spring & Fall). Using the balanced-scorecard approach for program assessment of faculty advising. NACADA Journal, 24(1,2), 124-127.
Kaplan, Robert S. & D.P Norton. (2005, July). The balanced scorecard: Measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, 83(7,8), 172-180.
Macintosh, Norman B. (1980, May). Control of discretionary costs with ZBB: A second look. Cost and Management, 54(3), 26.
Malpas-Sands, Clive, & Meyer-Piening, Arnulf. (1979, April). The zero based budget. Management Today, 76.
Sandison, D., S. C. Hansen, & R. G. Torok. (2003, March).
Activity-based planning and budgeting: A new approach from CAM-I. Cost Management,17(2), 16-22.
Enhancing Advisor Development through the Wide World of Wiki
Kohle Paul, Valdosta State University
The Student Success Center (SSC) and the Office of Academic Student
Instructional Support (OASIS) at Valdosta State University recently
merged into one decentralized department. The SSC/OASIS employs 27
graduate assistant advisors who are dispersed throughout 13 different
departments on campus. The initial perception of the SSC/OASIS staff
was that there may be a lack of inter-advisor communication and
collaboration because of the decentralized advising system.
The communication and collaboration efforts of the 27 graduate
assistant advisors were assessed to determine the frequency of
inter-advisor communication and collaboration. It was found that when
there were changes in departmental/university policies and procedures
some graduate assistant advisors were the last to be informed. For
example, when one graduate assistant advisor inquired about
undergraduate course audit policies it was found that the majority of
graduate assistant advisors were unaware of the necessary process and
procedures for auditing classes. To help bridge the communication and
collaboration gap, we decided to investigate different mediums for
enhancing advisor communication and collaboration. It was agreed that
the use of an advising wiki could help alleviate the communication and
collaboration gap among graduate assistant advisors.
Wikis are defined as a collaborative Web space where users can add and
edit content (Richardson, 2006, p. 8). Wikis can be used to write,
discuss, comment, edit, reflect, and evaluate information and material
from a myriad of sources. They offer a shared environment where
advisors can actively participate in the integration and co-creation of
knowledge (West & West, 2009; Solomon & Schrum, 2007;
Richardson, 2006). Because some graduate assistant advisors also teach a
freshman seminar class, a wiki could also enhance communication and
collaboration about research projects, advising related material, class
material and grading.
Wikis have both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits include:
- Most offer a free version as well as a “sandbox” or test wiki for user practice.
- All users are required to register for an account before they can add and edit content.
- Information stored on a wiki is stored by topic rather than chronology.
- Wikis can help enhance organizational communication
as well as group and interdisciplinary collaboration (Clark &
Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).
The drawbacks include:
- Training on how to use a wiki is necessary before it can be utilized.
- Lack of free time can impede training demands and use of a wiki.
- Wikis lack “real-time” collaboration so two users
cannot post and edit within the same wiki page at the same time (Clark
& Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006).
Wikis can be used as informational mediums for advisor
training and development. They can act as a discussion board where
advisors can interact about a variety of educational topics. Wikis
provide a location to store and maintain institutional and departmental policies and procedures (Clark
& Mason, 2008; Glogowski & Steiner, 2008; Raman, 2006). They
also provide a digital space where departmental and university calendars
can be posted and updated on a daily basis (Glogowski & Steiner,
The Valdosta State University advising wiki is used as a digital
advising manual where advisors can post, edit, and discuss information
about departmental / university policies and procedures with other
advisors. The wiki postings are used to set topics for monthly advising
focus groups, webinars, and professional development opportunities.
For instance, ethics in advising was brought up on the advising wiki
and multiple advisors expressed an interest in this issue, so a focus
group was called to address this topic. Focus group members suggested
that advisors should attend an ethics training course offered by the
campus Employee Development Office for further professional
Staff from the SSC/OASIS conducted one-on-one graduate assistant
advisor interviews and focus groups to elucidate their perceptions on
the use of the advising wiki. Preliminary results showed that all the
graduate assistant advisors read the advising wiki on a weekly basis.
They agreed that the advising wiki increased advisor communication and
collaboration across campus. However, a little more than half of the
graduate assistant advisors posted and edited wiki content on a weekly
basis. Advisors identified their advising load and lack of time as
their main reasons for not committing to the intent of the advising
To encourage more use of the advising wiki, we have made several
improvements. Each advisor schedules a 15-30 minute block each week to
review the advising wiki. The advising wiki is linked to the SSC/OASIS
appointment scheduler page, making it more visible and easier to
access. Weekly email reminders are sent to each advisor and monthly
focus groups have also been helpful in promoting wiki use.
We plan to continue using the advising wiki as a collaborative manual
for training discussions and workshops. The wiki, in conjunction with
monthly advisor development workshops, allows us to enhance advisor
knowledge of the conceptual, informational, and relational issues so
important to effective academic advising (King, 2000). The Valdosta
State University advising wiki can be found at http://vsuadvisingstories.wikispaces.coml
OASIS Center for Advising and FYP
Valdosta State University
Additional NACADA Resources
Ford, S.S. (2007). The essential steps for developing the content of an
effective advisor training and development program. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/clearinghouse/advisingissues/AdvTrng-Steps.htm
French, B. (2010). Advising 2.0: Utilizing web 2.0 resources in academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 33(1), 12, 24.
Little, T. (2010). Understanding knowledge management: Developing a foundation for future advising practices. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: www.nacada.ksu.edu/Clearinghouse/AdvisingIssues/Knowledge.htm
Clark, C. J., & Mason, E. B. (2008). A wiki way of working. Internet References Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 113-132. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_07
Glogowski, J., & Steiner, S. (2008). The life of a wiki: How Georgia state university library’s wiki enhances content currency and employee collaboration. Internet Learning Services Quarterly, 13(1), 87-98. DOI: 10.1300/J136v13n01_05
King, M. (2000). Designing effective training for academic advisors. In
Gordon, V.N. & Habley, W.R., & Associates (Eds.), Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook (p.289-97). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Preparation for Addressing the Complexities of Academic Advising
Colleen Bauer, Northwest Christian University
My experience at the NACADA Summer Institute in Philadelphia was my
first formal introduction to NACADA. I first became aware of NACADA
when I was appointed to coordinate undergraduate academic advising at
Northwest Christian University (NCU) in 2009. My first assignment was to
complete the faculty advising manual begun by my predecessor. As I
read through the working copy of the manual, references to NACADA kept
appearing. But what was NACADA? I conducted an internet search for
NACADA and found what would become a very valuable resource as I
proceeded in my new role.
During the first part of the school year, it became very apparent I
needed training. While my previous experience and training in education
served me well, it was not sufficient preparation to address the
complexities of academic advising on campus. I became aware of the
NACADA Summer Institute scholarship opportunity, applied, and, much to
my amazement and delight, was awarded the scholarship. I was off to
To prepare for the week-long institute, I met with my supervisor and
key campus personnel to outline an Action Plan that would be in
accordance with the university’s mission and goals. I arrived in
Philadelphia with my Action Plan draft in hand for the creation of a
mentorship program which would revolutionize academic advising at NCU. I
was ready to meet with academic advising veterans to obtain the help
needed to fine tune and formalize the plan for implementation when I
returned to campus.
Summer Institute faculty laid a foundation for the week by taking
participants through the history of academic advising and helping us
understand the role of academic advising within our campus environment.
We learned how to create effective advisor development programs,
conduct effective assessment, and how to lead from our positions to
effect change. These themes, along with what was learned in topical
sessions, were addressed each day in assigned Small Groups where group
leaders facilitated discussion and encouraged group members to identify
an important aspect of what was learned in the last 24 hours. My
group included participants representing small independent colleges and
universities; we were facilitated by seasoned advisor Blane Harding. Through his guidance, Action Plans were shared and discussed. Each
day brought more insight and direction as we examined our individual
Action Plans and delineated goals, challenges, and methods for
implementation. Action Plans were amended, redesigned, and refined as
we processed information gathered from the various sessions held
throughout the week, from the feedback of other participants and
facilitators, and from the individualized meetings with advising
My Action Plan focused on developing and designing a faculty/student
mentorship program to be implemented over a five year period. The main
goal of the program was to create a sense of belonging and assist
students to successfully adapt to the numerous academic, career,
social, spiritual, and personal issues that accompany being a college
student. However, soon after my arrival, as I listened to foundation
sessions, topical sessions, workshops, presentations, and small group
discussions, I began to realize the full magnitude of the Action Plan I
was assigned and recognized it would be more profitable to focus my
attentions on developing a plan to firm up and develop the existing
academic advising program at NCU. The input gained from fellow group
members, other participants, and NACADA faculty was invaluable.
The NACADA Summer Institute was not “all work and no play.” Free time
was allotted for sightseeing, visiting with new found friends, and
relaxing. The NACADA team treated us to a dinner cruise where we were
entertained by the musical talents of the crew and invited to dance as
the sun faded over the horizon. We walked the cobblestone streets of
the historic district and rode horse drawn carriages while narratives
depicting early Philadelphia life unfolded before us. We experienced
local cuisine, such as the Philly Cheese Steak, and drank coffee in
street cafes. We shared experiences and told stories that cemented our
bonds of friendship and camaraderie.
By the end of the Summer Institute, I had received a thorough
introduction, or induction, if you will, to NACADA. Not only did I have
a greater appreciation for and understanding of academic advising, I
had a viable and realistic Action Plan to take back to NCU. I was now
equipped with the tools, skills, and resources needed to strengthen my
campus academic advising program. Furthermore, I was encouraged to lead
and effect change from my position. I went to the Summer Institute
alone, but came back as a colleague within an international team of
advisors with common challenges and goals.
I strongly encourage all academic advisors to attend a Summer Institute
during your career. You will be encouraged and motivated; you will
learn new skills and be introduced to comprehensive resources. You will
discover a wealth of wisdom, assistance, and knowledge from all you
Coordinator, Academic Advising
Student Records and Licensure Counselor
School of Education and Counseling
Northwest Christian University
Why Do We Love Our Jobs?
Sometimes the act of writing out what we enjoy about our work can give a
new sense of perspective and a new appreciation for working in higher
education. Here is a personal description of why I love my job. I hope
my story will remind others why, even during challenging times, we love
the work we do.
I am just coming off the “high” I get after attending a Landmark
College graduation ceremony. Landmark College is a small two year
school that exclusively serves students with learning disabilities
(LD). We still have two graduation ceremonies each year: one in
December and one in May. Now this may seem extravagant for an
enrollment of just under 500, but there’s something intimate and
special about the Landmark College ceremonies that call for bi-annual
celebrations. It is always heartwarming and satisfying as we watch a
graduation class of scholars leave our institutions of higher learning,
many who have earned academic awards for excellence in scholastic
achievement. At my campus, these student awards are earned despite a
student’s learning disability. I am reminded of the old remark about
Ginger Rogers doing all the same steps that Fred Astaire did; however,
she did them backward and in high heels. It’s an apt metaphor for the
struggles students at my institution have.
While the life of a college student is demanding in itself, it is
exponentially more demanding for students on the Landmark College
campus. Some struggle with reading, others with writing; some with
crippling procrastination and unwieldy distractibility, and some with
all of these and more. Going through college with a learning disability
is laborious and exhausting. These students arrive with levels of
intelligence and cognitive ability equal to their non-LD peers,
although their potential is locked inside brains that process language
differently, making academic success a little like dancing backwards in
heels. But they do it, many of them, and we, their faculty members and
advisors, get to sit in the auditorium and share with them the day
that most never expected would ever happen.
As academic advisors to LD students, we are the gatekeepers to a world
of academic success. I love my job because I am honored to help
navigate these young people as they complete their academic journey
filled with twists and turns, many early failures and more recent
successes, and a lot of perseverance and resiliency. As I work with
these students to discover their learning profile, I collaborate with
other campus faculty and staff to create strategies for success.
Through this process, many find a path to a major and ultimately a
career that will complement their enormous gifts and talents in
satisfying and meaningful ways. It is no wonder that at their
graduation, when they give their individual speeches, they always
publicly and proudly point to our very small, though enormously devoted
faculty and advisors as the reason for their success.
It is on graduation day, as I sit in my academic regalia along with my
colleagues, that I feel especially fortunate to be an academic advisor
at Landmark College. I see a young man walk across the stage and
remember that when he first met with me for advising, he had considered
taking another route because he was lacking confidence in his ability
to do college-level work. Through the course of the term we talked
about Nihilism and Nietzsche, and he discussed his final paper topic
with me: Nihilism and the Jerry Seinfeld show. Two years earlier, he
never believed he’d be able to keep up in a philosophy class. Another
student who has severe Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Executive
Functioning difficulties had just written an excellent piece on mirror
neurons and psychological development. A young woman who had a math
phobia in her first semester reached Calculus and became a tutor in the
math lab. In an egotistical sort of way, I always have an opportunity
to be part of a student’s first positive learning experiences, and it
is very gratifying work.
Certainly this should be enough, but I also love my job as a faculty
member and advisor because it offers me flexibility in terms of a daily
schedule. I enjoy limited supervision and the satisfaction of being
valued by colleagues and administrators. Furthermore, I have been
offered much in professional development opportunities including some
tuition reimbursement and loads of encouragement to present at
professional conferences. I’ve also been able to travel abroad with
A very large portion of the faculty were the founding faculty of the
college 25 years ago, and I have had the honor and privilege of working
with these dedicated people who were pioneers in the field of learning
to help LD students gain academic success. The fact that so many have
remained, and have remained for so long, has created a very strong
community, one in which all who enter can feel and often want to remain
part. In addition, several of our administrators are also among the
founding members, so this longevity has bred a well-constructed
tradition of cooperation and collaboration.
At a Christmas party twenty five years ago, I met a man who worked at
the college as the Athletic Director, and he encouraged me to apply for
a position at the college. The description he gave about how much he
loved his job seemed over the top and very unbelievable. I thought he
was really laying it on thick and even considered that he might be
delusionary. But, he wasn't. He was telling the truth. I love my job and
am sure I am equally as boring at parties when I tell people about it!
Denise Mary Manning
NACADA Member Career Services Committee Member
Guest writer at the request of
Alison K. Hoff
NACADA Member Career Services Chair
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne