From the President: The Power of Partnerships
Dana Zahorik, NACADA President
As advisors, we know the importance of relationship building from day one as students enter college. Advisors listen to students’ stories, provide input to create a realistic plan, and build a safety net with built in resources to assist students in reaching those goals. It is during these first interactions with students we begin to build a partnership between advisors and the incoming students. Advisors understand the power of these relationships and the impact they have on the student’s success. I recently had a student tell me that for the first time in his life, he felt as though he belonged. In addition to his positive advising experience, he discussed his interactions in the classroom with faculty and fellow students, simple conversations in the hallways, daily greetings from a person in the lunch line, and the sessions with tutors who took extra time. It was the collective campus culture that helped this student belong. Noel, Levitz, and Saluri (1985) state, “It is the people who come fact-to-face with students on a regular basis who provide the positive growth experiences for students that enable them to identify their goals and talents and learn how to put them to use. The caring attitude of college personnel is viewed as the most potent retention force on a campus” (p. 17). This is what we as advisors do and do it well. These stories are wonderful reminders of the importance of creating partnerships and building relationship to get students where they need to be.
Just as advisors understand the importance of partnerships with students, it is equally important that advisors continue to increase their partnerships with other professionals to expand their own networks. Several opportunities exist in order to expand your network including attendance at the NACADA regional conferences which have started taking place across the United States and Canada and are a great way to network with fellow advisors and administrators. If you are looking for new ways to solve old problems, I invite you to attend one of these wonderful professional development opportunities. You may also want to explore the opportunity for some summer professional development opportunities including the International Conference taking place in Sheffield, UK, as well as summer institutes. If your institution doesn’t have budget dollars for travel and you’re seeking professional develop opportunities, you can check out NACADA’s eTutorials, participate in webinars, review the Clearinghouse for topics, or join a listserv.
As a part of the network within NACADA, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our newly elected and appointed leaders and thank you for all of you who took the time to vote, read proposals, write articles, and participate in committee or advisory work. You are the gears that continue to keep NACADA moving forward and help create the most effective association possible. I also want to thank the Board of Directors and Council for their hard work as we prepare for our mid-year meeting focused on creating benchmarks relative to the strategic goals of the association as well as an internal evaluation of organizational structures to ensure they remain effective for NACADA members.
The importance of partnerships also came to mind when I was reviewing some of NACADA’s recent initiatives. NACADA as an organization has also been working to expand its partnerships in student success initiatives. The organization has been invited to the table for some important discussions in regards to student success. One such example was the recent webinar introducing 15 to Finish-Advising Matters collaboratively presented by Complete College America and NACADA. You will begin to see more of these relationships develop as NACADA takes a seat at the table with a variety of partners in student success, ensuring that advising plays an integral role in a variety of international student success initiatives. This opportunity allows all partners to provide input into what they feel college students need in order to meet their goals. How powerful this partnership can be as organizations jointly build it from the ground up with the input of experts from a variety of areas.
Finally, be sure to check out the work that is being done on the development of NACADA’s Academic Advising Core Competencies and the revision of the Core Values. I appreciate all who have been involved in this process, including Teri Farr, Jayne Drake, and Joanne Damminger, who have led in these important endeavors. This is just another example of the benefit of partnerships as many of us across the world come together to make great things happen. I am amazed by the amount of work that members and leaders of this association can complete by working together with a common goal in mind, making a better experience for our students through the advising profession. On behalf of the NACADA Board of Directors and Executive Office, thank you for all you continue to do to make this association the international face of advising and keeping advising at the forefront of student success for students all over the world.
Dana Zahorik, President, 2016-2017
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Counselor/Academic Advising Council Chair/Peer Advising Co-Chair
Counseling and Advising Services
Fox Valley Technical College
Noel. L, Levitz, R., & Saluri, D. (Eds.) (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
From the Executive Director: Creating a Data-Driven Advising Culture: Overcoming Three Central Roadblocks
Charlie Nutt, NACADA Executive Director
Reprinted with permission from The evoLLLution
The issue of student success and student persistence to degree completion has risen to the top of the agenda at higher education institutions across the globe. However, there is still a direct conflict between how institutions are facing this issue and the impact on increasing the level of student completion. What I mean is that few institutions have truly gone through comprehensive work to focus on the key issue of the institutional culture that presently exists.
Institutions still have a clear culture of compliance regarding student success instead of working to make the essential culture shift to enhancing the level of student learning and success in all areas of the undergraduate experience to drive the increase desired in degree completion numbers. This is clear by the still very powerful “silos” that exist on campuses that prohibit comprehensive conversations and decisions being made to change the undergraduate experience of students. It is also apparent by the number of campuses that continue to take the path of “adding on” student initiatives across the institution that have little relation to each other, lack any coordination, and are focused on students’ deficiencies while ignoring institutional deficiencies, challenges, and structures that are inhibiting student success.
One of the major shifts that must be made to move to this new culture and to break down the existing silos most certainly is leveraging data support by the entire campus for quality academic advising efforts. If we are going to change the cultures of our institutions, leveraging data must be an essential step in that process. We cannot provide high-quality academic advising experiences for students without clear, detailed, and focused data on which to base the academic advising process. We must also focus on academic advising as a campus wide endeavor and one that is important from the moment a student enters the institution until they complete their degree.
Leveraging data is not only about the students but also about the institution. For example, it is imperative that institutions look closely and without fear at issues such as the completion of Gateway Courses (including dropped, withdrawn and incomplete numbers in this analysis). How can an academic advisor provide the best support to students as they choose their pathways to degree completion without having extensive and detailed data on those courses that traditionally have been roadblocks to completion? This ensures advisors have those important conversations with the students about the level of expectations in those courses and assisting them in developing strategies from the start of a course to be successful, instead of waiting until an academic warning has come about the student’s progress in that course. We all know that often by the time such a warning comes students have either dug themselves a hole they can’t get out of or the student’s self-confidence and morale are significantly damaged, which impacts their continued progress in the course.
While leveraging data on the students themselves is of course essential (the more we know about students and the risk factors they may face, the better), I think leveraging data about the institution is just as important, and will continue to be the least utilized until we shift the culture of our campuses dramatically.
Identifying the Major Misconceptions Standing in the Way of Data
I think there are several very significant misconceptions held by both senior leaders and advisors when it comes to leveraging data:
1. You Don’t Need Institutional Data, Just Student Data
As stated above, senior leaders and advisors focus only on the data we have on students and don’t look at the data concerning the institution. If we don’t have clear data about the institutional policies, procedures and practices that may be inhibiting student successes and leverage that data to make significant changes in our institutional culture and structure, we will continue to do that same things we always have and getting the same results. We can’t ignore taking a hard look at the institutional culture that exists that may be hindering any true analysis of all issues impacting student success, those in the classroom and outside of the classroom. Implement outstanding data systems that increase dramatically the data we have about students as they enter, move through and exit that institution, won’t necessarily be enough to improve our advising experience very much. We must dramatically increase the data we have about all aspects of our institutions and leverage that data to make significant changes in all areas of the students’ undergraduate experiences.
2. The Latest Software Is the Silver Bullet
Senior leaders and academic advisors continue to look for the “silver bullet” to solve all their issues. Often this “silver bullet” is the purchasing of the latest software package and implementing it within our old structures and processes. Technology will not solve the problems that our institutions are facing with our changing student demographics, our changing financial environment, and our changing public expectations for accountability that higher education has not faced in the past. It is the leveraging of the data from these new technology systems that will help us solve our problems and change our institutions. This involves a major shift in how technology systems are purchased and implemented – those most impacted must be at the table throughout the process and that includes academic advisors, faculty, and many other student support staff. Technology is not the answer—leveraging data in new ways and creating new patterns of planning are the answers.
3. Training on the Software Alone is Sufficient
There is a misconception that training and development for academic advisors and faculty consists only of software training. Effectively leveraging data requires new academic advising skills, knowledge and foundations. It is imperative that professional development initiatives focus on such issues as student development and learning theory, research in the field that provides data for new academic advising initiatives and process, communication skills, and relationship building skills. There should be fewer conversations with students on course selection and planning and deeper conversations concerning student behaviors and attitudes and the skills they need to be successful. More focus must be put on building a relationship with students that follows them throughout their undergraduate experience. However, if our professional development continues to be primarily the technology system itself and on institutional policies and procedures, we will continue to have advisors who see their role as clerical or themselves as degree auditors. We cannot expect the quality of our academic advising experiences to grow if our professional development for academic advisors and faculty does not significantly change. The once-a-year advisor training program cannot continue in the higher education of the future.
Overcoming the Misconceptions
As stated above, significantly changing professional development for academic advisors and faculty is essential to getting over the misconceptions about the advising role in effectively leveraging data. However, with making significant changes in professional development comes a high need to change dramatically how we assess quality academic advising on our campuses.
We can no longer simply look at advisor ratios and student satisfaction. We must develop, and assess the achievement of, learning outcomes for the academic advising experiences of students. And last, we must dramatically change the present evaluation and reward systems for academic advising on our campuses. For primary advisors, it is essential that our institutions move into the future with clear and focused career ladders that promote high-quality academic advising, and for faculty advisors, the role that quality academic advising plays in the promotion and tenures processes on campuses is crucial
However, neither of those can happen if our institutions continue with a culture of compliance and don’t make the difficult and necessary shift to a culture of student learning and success that drives all decision making at all levels of the institution.
Charlie Nutt, Executive Director
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Reprinted from: Nutt, C. (2017, 03/30). Creating a data-driven advising culture: Overcoming three central roadblocks. The evoLLLution: A destiny solutions illumination. Retrieved from http://evolllution.com/attracting-students/retention/creating-a-data-driven-advising-culture-overcoming-three-central-roadblocks/
An Introvert’s Guide to Becoming Involved in NACADA
Marsha A. Miller, NACADA Executive Office, Kansas State University
Welcome to NACADA! You are an integral part of the 13,000+ members of this vibrant organization that celebrates and supports the role of academic advisors in student success.
Thirteen thousand NACADA members! Almost 4,000 of these members attend the annual conference each fall with an additional 400+ members at each of 10 spring region conferences and the annual international conference. The sheer size of those numbers can seem overwhelming, especially to advisors who prefer more one-on-one exchanges. While extraverts more easily mingle in crowds and gain energy from those interactions (Cooper, 2013), many introverts may wonder how to become involved; yet becoming an integral (and celebrated) part of what is known as the “NACADA family” may be as easy as asking one question.
NACADA involvement starts one member at a time
Those attending a NACADA conference invariably hear much talk about the “NACADA family” and witness many “NACADA hugs” in hallways. NACADA leaders extol the virtues of becoming a member of the NACADA family and advise participants to “get involved” in the association. It may seem like everyone belongs but you!
The best advice I received before attending my first NACADA conference (of course I went alone) was to determine the most important thing I wanted to learn at the conference. The mission I was assigned by those paying my conference expenses was to discover ways to “fix faculty advising.” In each session I was advised to introduce myself to the individuals on either side of me and ask “do you know a college that does faculty advising well?” It was not easy to have those first conversations, but I soon learned that most conference participants are happy to talk about their experiences and recommend colleagues who do something well. I came away with several business cards for follow-up.
Before attending a NACADA-sponsored activity, connect with the conference chair to determine what volunteer opportunities exist. One of my first NACADA volunteer jobs was posting arrows from parking lots to the conference registration area. While there, I talked with other volunteers and asked about their professional interests and we exchanged business cards.
When back on campus, I contacted each card-holder, asked questions, and visited three campuses recommended for faculty advising to see strategies in action. In short, that one simple question not only provided needed perspective to “fix advising” on campus, but helped me make the connections to start my personal branch of the “NACADA family” tree.
Build your branch of the NACADA family tree
Peter Hagen, a fellow introvert and a member of my personal branch of the NACADA family, routinely asks colleagues to identify their professional passion (personal communication, October 7, 2016). Whether your passion is learning new ways to help students, how to be a better advising administrator, or discovering the why behind a particular advising phenomena, the NACADA website is a great starting place to find those who share your passion.
First, write down key terms important to your advising passion. Then use those keywords to search various NACADA publications including the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, Academic Advising Today, or the NACADA Journal. Reach out to authors of your favorite articles and contact directors of the most intriguing advising programs in reference lists. Email addresses are included on many articles; where no email is available, log into the NACADA website and search the membership directory. Most authors love to hear from readers. These discussions are a key step in creating your personal branch of the “NACADA family” tree.
Other methods for branching out from your office chair to advisors with similar passions include subscribing to a NACADA Commissions and Interest Group’s NACADA listserv, joining a NACADA Facebook group (e.g., NACADA Nerds), or following an advising Twitter feed (e.g., #acadv). Post a question to the group and answer individuals who provide the posts you find most helpful. Make plans to meet those individuals for coffee at an upcoming conference, enroll together for a NACADA online education e-tutorial, or take advantage of a NACADA Reads opportunity.
Consider exploring opportunities in your interest areas on NACADA advisory boards and committees. Reach out to the chair of the group you find most intriguing and determine how you can assist with their current projects. Most advisory boards and committees post goals and supporting documents well before meetings. Making time to study documents is a strategy that works well for introverts who “need time ‘to digest’ information before responding” (Sword, 2002, para. 21).
Keep tending your NACADA branch
As your NACADA family branch grows, routinely reach out to individual members. Between conferences, learn what they are doing and discovering; celebrate their discoveries and be willing to provide needed perspective when things do not go as planned.
Before each conference, connect with members of your branch who also plan to attend. Together study the conference program and decide which presentations will be attended by each branch member. Meet at the end of each day (over dinner or a beverage) and debrief. Determine the take home points from each session, what will be tried by each member, and when the group will connect again (electronically, by phone, or in person) to discuss how strategies fare in practice. One such end-of-the-day debrief that I participated in (with introverts who attended the conference by themselves) led to each of us recording and sharing an advising session. The result laid the groundwork for what became the NACADA professional development DVDs.
After returning home, email presenters of the conference sessions you found especially enlightening. Most presenters, like authors, love hearing from participants. Share what you found most helpful from the presentation and ask the presenter which additional articles or presentations they would recommend on the topic. Search for the presentations and writings of these recommended thought leaders (McClellan, 2009) and reach out to them. Share who suggested their work and find out what areas they are currently exploring. The resulting interactions help expand the branches of your NACADA family tree and open new opportunities.
Other ways to continue connecting after a conference include reaching out to colleagues (via listservs, Facebook, or Twitter) to discuss what you have learned. Consider writing about your learning experiences for the NACADA Blog or doing a joint research project with members of your branch of the NACADA family tree. Connect with Wendy Troxel, Director of the NACADA Center for Research, to discuss research ideas and possible strategies for exploring them.
Getting involved in NACADA need not be overwhelming for those of us who prefer more one-to-one experiences. Start small; implement one strategy shared above. With each implemented strategy you will find that you become more involved in this vibrant association. With each one-to-one interaction I participated in, I not only impacted my advising practice, but built and strengthened my personal branches within the vast and diverse NACADA family tree.
Marsha A. Miller
Assistant Director, Resources & Services
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Kansas State University
Cooper, B. B. (2013). Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What it means for your career. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3016031/leadership-now/are-you-an-introvert-or-an-extrovert-and-what-it-means-for-your-career
McClellan, J. (2009). Thoughts leaders wanted: What each of us must do to advance the field of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Thought-Leaders-Wanted-What-Each-of-Us-Must-Do-to-Advance-the-Field-of-Academic-Advising.aspx
Sword, L. (2002). The gifted introvert. Retrieved from http://highability.org/the-gifted-introvert/
Academic Advising and Institutional Success
Carolyn Thomas, University of California, Davis
“As higher education across the globe acclimates to the disequilibrium caused by change, the stature and legitimacy of academic advising will rise, which will further inspire and require practitioner engagement on campus. During this time, all academic advisors . . . will be increasingly judged on their expertise and knowledge as well as their abilities and the results of their work.” --Craig M. McGill and Charlie L. Nutt (2016, p. 353)
As an academic administrator and faculty member who supports academic advising at a research university, I could not agree more with this prediction shared recently in NACADA’s Beyond Foundations: Developing as a Master Academic Advisor. Academic advising is one of the two most important levers to pull within the university to positively impact student success (the other being creating learning-centered curriculum in the classroom). It is academic advising that “provides perhaps the only opportunity for all students to develop a personal, consistent relationship with someone in the institution who cares about them” according to Jane Drake in her 2016 article on student persistence (as cited in Miller, 2016, p. 50-51). And it is not only consistency and caring that are important. It is also advisors’ abilities to help students make meaning out of their disparate experiences within the university and its curriculum, meaning-making that ultimately facilitates self-awareness, leads to the discovery of unique talents, and encourages degree completion.
Academic advising, while viewed as a unique contribution to university life since the 1970s, is now crucial if institutions are to achieve goals of persistence and timely graduation, in addition to the humane goals of student self-realization and growth. Institutions have grown in size leading to larger courses and less frequent contact with faculty. Students are frequently arriving with uneven preparation due to disparities in k-12 education. Tuition is rising, leading to heightened expectations of value. Political pressure is increasing to support more students through accelerated graduation. This context positions academic advisors to take a primary role in facilitating student and institutional success. This cannot happen, however, until “the stature of legitimacy of academic advising” rises, providing advisors and advising-supporting administrators seats at leadership tables where key decisions about student success are made. How, then, can advisors speed up this process? One way is to frame—effectively and repeatedly—the goals of improving time to degree and increasing student persistence as best achieved through high quality academic advising.
It is not surprising that 80% of students change their majors. Institutions provide very few faculty-facilitated opportunities, when you think through how the typical curriculum works, for students to ask how they like to think, how different majors support people to think, and what—then—they as unique individuals should study. Several years ago I taught a first year seminar to students who were interested in “exploring the research university.” In one of our assignments I asked students to talk about how people think in different disciplines. So, for a sociology major interested in justice, how would they frame questions, what materials would they consult, and what might their answers reveal? Would this differ from how someone might look at the same issue through the disciplinary lens of anthropology, history, English, or sustainable agriculture? Not only were students typically unable to identify the differences between fields of study, they did not know the answers for their own chosen fields of study.
Students often find their way through fits and starts. And while some do this effectively on their own through GE coursework or campus exploration, others do not. Many find themselves in academic difficulty because of a poor fit between their interests and talents and their choices as high school seniors. Others try out multiple majors, rolling the dice on their own, basing their exploration on course titles or peer advice. Without a guide in the process of first year discovery, many students take extended time to find a major that fits. Advisors can change this. If there are enough advisors who are trained to engage students in self-discovery and degree exploration in their first years, time to degree will improve.
Advising also can increase student persistence. Recently, I took part in a panel presentation by faculty aimed at helping undergraduate students get involved in research. There someone equated finding a research position with a faculty member to successfully asking someone out on a date: both require repeated persistence in the face of rejection. The example illustrates, perhaps uncomfortably, what students know first-hand at research universities: finding opportunities frequently requires weathering adversity. The ability to do so is something students are expected to develop and nurture on their own. Whether it is finding a research opportunity, mastering calculus when it is taught poorly, or preparing for exams effectively when there is no rubric, students experience many things on their academic pathway that can put them into “neutral” or “reverse” rather than “drive.”
Institutions are large demanding places where students get lost. If we created, from scratch, a university that facilitated student inclusive learning and opportunities for knowledge generation, it would not resemble the institutions in which most of us work. Advising, as a professional field, helps students reach graduation by providing a forum and context in which individual experiences that could be confusing, discouraging, or alienating can instead be opportunities for developing self-awareness, resilience, and expertise. This is not to abdicate to advisors the responsibility that faculty and administrators also share to create more student-centered campuses where processes make sense and learning is prioritized. It is to say that if academic advising professionals are active, even in the midst of adversity, students can receive consistent support that helps them grow and persist.
Campuses are already realizing this. The Reinvention Collaborative, a group of Undergraduate Education administrators from research universities, has already created an academic advising network to better integrate advising professionals, and their expertise, into high-level initiatives to improve student success (http://reinventioncenter.colostate.edu/networks/). Many institutions are creating senior advising administrator positions to elevate the importance of academic advising across departments and colleges and to enable advisors to speak more powerfully about necessary changes on behalf of students. It is exciting to see institutional leaders increasingly able to speak to the importance of academic advising. A big part of this is surely the pressure on institutions to accelerate degree completion and improve persistence, and the unique capacity of academic advising to assist with both.
So we as academic advisors should ask, looking to the second element of the opening prediction, whether we are ready to “be increasingly judged on their expertise and knowledge as well as their abilities and the results of their work” (McGill & Nutt, 2016, p. 353).
In a recent review of the history of academic advising, Himes and Schulenberg found that advising practitioners have always “undertaken advising responsibilities without the necessary comprehensive theoretical base from which to inform their practice” (2016, p. 15). Today, with increasing student enrollments and budget constraints, advisors have plenty of reasons to continue the trend by spending their time on individual appointments and triage rather than stopping to articulate clear mission statements in relation to institutional goals, ensuring staff are adequately trained to achieve those missions, and researching—and continuously improving—advising’s impact on students. Yet this is a critical moment to do just those things.
As institutions look to academic advisors for leadership, members of the profession need to be able to articulate their value, assess their impact, and embrace the changes required to serve students better. To do these things, advisors need time and space. I advocate for this at UC Davis where over a hundred advisors participate regularly in stakeholder groups, facilitated by our executive director of academic advising, and professional development opportunities. These not only strengthen advising knowledge and performance on campus, they also enable my office to represent advising’s priorities and perspectives with one voice. NACADA can also help here, and it is, especially with its recently formed Academic Advising Research Center. This will make best practices easier to locate, thereby encouraging advisors to learn and grow in their practice. It will also produce easy-to-digest findings on advising’s efficacy, making it easier to make the case for supporting advising even when resources are scarce.
It is a unique moment for academic advising. The elements are aligned for its stature to rise, even as greater judgment of its work takes place. There is no better time for us to work, in earnest, to ensure that campus leadership knows the unique contributions that academic advisors can make their institutional goals for student success. At the same time, advisors should redouble their efforts, behind the scenes with advisor training, assessment, and support, to ensure that this value message—once heard—rings true.
Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education Professor of American Studies
University of California, Davis
Miller, A. (2016). Building upon the components of academic advising to facilitate change. In T. Grites, M. Miller, J. Voller (Eds.), Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor (50-51). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Himes, H., & Schulenberg, J. (2016). The evolution of academic advising as a practice and as a profession. In T. Grites, M. Miller, J. Voller (Eds.), Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor (1-20). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
McGill, C., & Nutt. C. (2016). Challenges for the future: Developing as a profession, field, and discipline. In T. Grites, M. Miller, and J. Voller (Eds.), Beyond foundations: Developing as a master academic advisor (351-362). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Discovering the Fire: A PALEO Framework for Academic Advising
Ashley N. Clark, The University of Texas at Austin
It can be argued that the only constant in life is change. Humanity itself has evolved over thousands of years through the process of selective adaptation. The traits that helped people survive were passed down through generations, while maladaptive traits gradually disappeared (Schaffner & Sabeti, 2008). Human brains developed the intelligence to create tools that extended the capacity to solve problems (Wayman, 2012). Academic advisors must also embrace the constant flow of change in higher education to create increasingly effective and specialized tools to promote student success and the advancement of their profession.
When reflecting on the purpose of our work as advisors, we often discuss related theory, advising approaches, and the growth of advising as a distinct discipline and field of inquiry. To date, however, the literature lacks a single coherent mechanism for tying these concerns together. PALEO Advising was created to provide a simple-to-remember framework for advisors of all experience levels to capitalize upon those connections and promote intentional progress wherever they are.
What is PALEO Advising?
PALEO Advising guides the everyday practice of advisors by drawing comparisons between early human development and the evolution of the profession. It traces the cycle of academic advising from theory to practice to scholarly engagement and back again. The overarching assumption of PALEO Advising is that advising is dynamic, in that scholarly inquiry both informs and is informed by practice. Each stage below builds upon the others but may be employed individually depending on the relative scope or complexity of the situation.
Primitive Thinking: Moving Beyond Instincts. When faced with unexpected challenges, people may be tempted to withdraw rather than proactively confront them out of fear or discomfort. In the PALEO framework, this is what we call primitive thinking, and students and advisors alike fall prey to it. Every advisor has seen freshmen who uncritically accept parental advice about major choice, for example, or who cling to inflexible views of right and wrong (Gordon, 2007; Perry, 1968). Primitive thinking often manifests in advisors as compassion fatigue, rigid devotion to a single approach, or general unwillingness to put forth additional effort to improve one's methods (Spight, 2015; Stoves, 2014).
When advisors refuse to recognize their hang-ups and obstacles, they miss valuable opportunities for growth, just as the human race could not have evolved without trusting their survival instincts. Advancing from this stage requires frank acknowledgment of whatever may be holding an advisor back.
Advising Archaeology: Explore Your Ancestry. Advisors should develop working familiarity with the contributions of their advising ancestors prior to brainstorming tools or solutions. This includes considering the ideas of theorists across the social science and student development disciplines as well as one’s institutional history, mission, and values. Often an article has already been published that provides insight on a common issue. Advisors are less likely to duplicate efforts if they regularly engage in advising archaeology and hold themselves accountable for tracking existing and emerging scholarship.
Lighting the Fire: Inspire and Engage. Mastery of fire was one of the most critical moments of the Paleolithic Period. Fires created the first spaces for cooking and socializing, and brought light and warmth to the darkness (Twomey, 2013). Lighting fires, whether literally or figuratively, fosters community and creative energy. Advisors can more easily apply their archaeological findings to the development of potential solutions if they build a community of support for their efforts.
Positive professional relationships create ideal environments for sharing ideas and mitigating the risk of burnout (Ronen & Mikulincer, 2009). Conference attendance, shared readings, and staff retreats are examples of methods that advisors and administrators use to stoke fires. This stage of the framework may be challenging if support is not readily found, but it is certainly the most crucial. Advisors are encouraged to consider what it is about their work that provides the energy needed to thrive in difficult times before they attempt to motivate others.
Evolutionary Change: Create, Assess, Improve. In the Paleolithic Period, daily challenges included surviving the elements and searching for food (Mithen, 1990). Today, advisors face the completion agenda, rapid technological advancement, a tense political climate, budget constrictions, and campus violence. In order to meet students' diverse needs and evolve as a field, advisors must channel fire and the resources others have amassed toward the invention of increasingly efficient tools and strategies (Stockwell & Zahorik, 2006).
Assessment is a vital element of this stage, and is also the most effective means of asserting academic advising as an essential component of higher education to its stakeholders (Grites, 2003). The stone tools developed in the early Paleolithic period were refined and diversified over time as humans' needs changed and they gained more knowledge and skill. Assessment can similarly help advisors identify areas for improvement as they work toward better outcomes for students.
O (The Wheel): Share Ideas and Keep it Rolling. Toward the end of the Paleolithic Period, cultures blossomed with the advent of agriculture, art, and trade (Mithen, 1990). Advisors trade in knowledge and ideas. The more advisors continue to share with each other, students, and higher education stakeholders, the more academic advising can advance toward acceptance as a distinct academic and professional discipline. Through engagement and scholarly activity, advisors can improve their efficacy while contributing to their professional community (Schulenberg & Lindhorst, 2008).
Applying the Framework: A Case Study
Kristin is an advisor whose responsibilities include facilitating summer orientation. She has noticed that students are taking parents with them to orientation activities and that families have been more hands-on in recent years. Kristin’s colleagues attribute it to the rise of “helicopter parenting,” but she is concerned that this may be shortsighted at best and damaging at worst. Using the PALEO framework, this is how Kristin might proceed:
P(rimitive Thinking). Kristin acknowledges her colleagues’ resistance to dealing with and considering the needs of families, and she feels that this has inadvertently created a culture of animosity between advisors and families that should be addressed.
A(dvising Archaeology). She researches cross-cultural differences in family structure and relationships and discovers an existing family orientation program at an outside institution. By reaching out to the organizer for information and advice and reviewing published materials related to working with multicultural families, Kristin begins to assemble an argument that families can be partners in student success by providing them with information and resources early on.
L(ighting the Fire). Kristin presents her discoveries at a staff meeting to elicit support for a new family orientation program. She convinces the majority that it would benefit students, families, and the advising staff and then assembles a team of interested colleagues to brainstorm ideas for implementation.
E(volutionary Change). The first family orientation is held the following summer and surveys are sent to attendees immediately afterward. Kristin keeps records of all feedback and corresponding adjustments made to ensure that family orientations continue to improve and fulfill their purpose. She becomes the de facto point person on her campus for other departments interested in improving relationships with parents and families.
O (The Wheel). Kristin's team shares the family orientation’s impact on student outcomes at a professional conference. They later co-author a journal article discussing cumulative assessment results since its implementation. Other advisors subsequently feel empowered to implement similar programs on their campuses, eventually resulting in a culture in which advisors, students, and families work collaboratively using a multicultural lens to promote student development, retention, and success.
Kristin's story is fictional and aspirational, but it is one example of how this framework can be applied in different ways in different contexts. PALEO Advising is intended as a means to conceptualize how problem-solving activities and daily work with students contributes to the evolution of academic advising as a whole. By engaging in thoughtful, informed, collaborative practice, advisors can avoid reinventing the wheel and continue to move the profession forward.
Ashley N. Clark
Associate Academic Advisor
Bridging Disciplines Programs
The University of Texas at Austin
Gordon, V. (2007). The undecided college student: An academic and career advising challenge. (3rd Ed.) . Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.
Grites, T. (2003). Determining the worth of an advising unit. The Academic Advising News, 26(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Determining-the-Worth-of-an-Advising-Unit.aspx
Mithen, S. J. (1990). Thoughtful foragers: A study of prehistoric decision making. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Perry, W. (1968). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College.
Ronen, S., & Mikulincer, M. (2009). Attachment orientations and job burnout: The mediating role of team cohesion and organizational fairness. The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(4), 549-567.
Schaffner, S., & Sabeti, P. (2008) Evolutionary adaptation in the human lineage. Nature Education, 1(1), 4.
Schulenberg, J., & Lindhorst, M. (2008). Advising is advising: Toward defining the practice and scholarship of academic advising. NACADA Journal, 28(1) 43-53.
Spight, D. (2015, December). From the president: Four challenges. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/From-the-President-Four-Challenges.aspx
Stockwell, K., & Zahorik, D. (2006, February). Continuous improvement and advising. Academic Advising Today, 29(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Continuous-Improvement-and-Advising.aspx
Stoves, D. (2014). Compelled to act: The negotiation of compassion fatigue among student affairs professionals. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://tamucc-ir.tdl.org/tamucc-ir/bitstream/handle/1969.6/565/stoves.pdf?sequence=1
Twomey, T. (2013). The cognitive implications of controlled fire use by early humans. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 23(1), 113-128.
Wayman, E. (2012). When did the human mind evolve to what it is today? Smithsonian.com. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/when-did-the-human-mind-evolve-to-what-it-is-today-140507905/
Integrative Advising and Student-Athletes at Highly Selective Institutions
Holly E. Martin, University of Notre Dame
In integrative advising, “advisors appreciate that their work also includes helping students develop a much richer understanding of their curricula. Students and advisors spend their time together discussing how the students’ learning experiences fit together across a semester and over time” (Lowenstein, 2013, p. 246).
The call for integrative liberal learning is not new, but it has recently gained greater support from a variety of sources including the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The AAC&U “advocates for paradigms that provide challenging, supportive, and adaptable pedagogies for diverse student populations and opportunities built upon assessment strategies such as reflection, self-assessment, goals setting, and problem solving” (Robbins, 2014, p. 27). As a companion to an integrated curriculum, integrative advising, as defined by Marc Lowenstein (Lowenstein, 2014), is a powerful means to those ends. It is also a particularly powerful technique for helping student-athletes make meaningful connections within their academic experience and succeed.
Most students, of course, will benefit from integrative advising, but what makes the case of elite student-athletes acute is not only their advanced skill level in their future profession and the intensity with which they must develop and showcase those skills during college, but also the apparent disconnect between their academic studies and their legitimate career aspirations. For few students is integrative advising more necessary than for those Division I student-athletes at highly selective institutions who are working toward careers as professional athletes. Music, theatre, and dance performance majors at institutions that are gateways to performance professions will have similar concerns; however, they may pursue academic majors that support their career aspirations. Given that student-athletes do not have this option, integrative advising is uniquely positioned to assist them in remaining engaged and motivated in their academic work. Through this approach, advisors help student-athletes understand that they are valued beyond their athletic ability and that they are shaping and creating their own unique education that will support their needs, interests, and hopes now and in the future.
Integrative advising has been discussed in academic advising literature for more than 15 years (Lowenstein, 2014). It emphasizes assisting students in becoming aware of the skills and ways of knowing basic to each of their courses. Integrative advising also facilitates making connections between the courses and the ways the courses (required and elective) help create the students’ unique curriculum, one that has meaning for them and connections to their short and long term goals
what the students accomplish . . . is to construct, intentionally and reflectively, an overall understanding of how the pieces of their education fit together, so that the whole emerges as more than the sum of its parts and their educational decisions are informed by a sense of how they fit into that whole. Each course the student takes and each way of knowing that he or she masters takes on greater importance and is better understood, as it is experienced or re-experienced in the context of other, contrasting or complementing experiences. (Lowenstein, 2014, p. 7)
There are advisors who practice only transactional advising (advising that concentrates principally on transactions and providing information about requirements) because their workloads are too large or because of a lack of knowledge concerning how their students’ curriculum may connect and build to a coherent whole. Indeed, some transactional advising is a part of every advisor’s work. However, integrative advising, as opposed to transactional advising, assists students in becoming engaged in creating their educational experiences and helps them to be resilient in the face of academic difficulties.
Integrative advising treats each student as a respected individual, capable of understanding and shaping their own meaningful education, and it can go a long way toward helping student-athletes be academically engaged. Students are encouraged by their advisor to “take ownership of it [their curricular choices] by tying it to their own educational goals—and those goals, in turn, become more sophisticated over time as they are informed by new learning” (Lowenstein, 2013, p. 246). What might have been arbitrary becomes intentional and meaningful through integrative advising.
This kind of engagement with their advisor and with what they are learning can help students feel they are a welcomed and respected part of the institution, and this belief that they “belong” at the institution is a major factor in student satisfaction and achievement (Strayhorn 2015; Walton & Cohen, 2007). Integrative advising, and the respectful collaborative relationship with the advisor it promotes, may also help students deal with the difficulties of being a part of a special population on their campus (a first generation to college student, a student from low economic circumstances, a minority student, a student with disabilities, or the like). Combined with advising that understands the destructiveness of stereotypes, integrative advising may also help to mitigate the effects of stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995): “Encouraging individuals to think of themselves in ways that reduce the salience of a threatened identity can also attenuate stereotype threat effects” (ReducingStereotypeThreat.org, n.d., para. 4).
Unlike their fellow students, who may be good at math or wonderful writers but who are not yet remarkably skilled in their likely area of career choice, elite student-athletes enter college with an astonishing degree of skill in an area that, if they are able to practice it professionally, is both high status and (at least briefly) high paying. As high school students, these young people are so skilled in their sport that they could have chosen to attend any number of institutions where they would have received expert training in their sport—and opportunities to showcase their skills to professional entities—with very few academic demands to hinder their focus on developing their athletic skills.
That many student-athletes choose to attend institutions so academically demanding that attending them may detract from the students’ ability to fully focus on developing their skills in their hoped for career, suggests that many of these students enter the institution with a serious desire for an advanced academic education. They want to develop and showcase their athletic skills to compete with other elite athletes for the few spots open in professional sports, and they also hope to gain a meaningful education and a degree. Their choice of a highly selective institution suggests that they want an education that will prepare them for their second career, the one that begins when their first career as a professional athlete ends. Achieving this takes immense motivation and resilience, two characteristics that integrative advising, as opposed to transactional advising, helps to foster. Their relationships with their advisors (college, major, and those who specialize in working with student-athletes) can help them remember why they chose this difficult path and why their courses are meaningful.
Students on athletic scholarships at highly selective institutions pay for their education by committing themselves to participating in their sport as well as their academics. To begin, they must meet their teams’ work requirements. For example, they cannot choose to skip practices or weight lifting sessions without putting their commitment to the team (and possibly their scholarship) in jeopardy. They must also fully commit to developing and showcasing their athletic skills by playing in competition, and not merely practicing with the team, in order to have any hope of entering their intended profession.
Their academic demands are formidable as well. At highly selective institutions, they are competing in the classroom with some of the finest students in the country. The physical and emotional strain is significant. They must successfully negotiate the demands of both of their highly challenging worlds—academic and athletic—including “negotiating socialization through periods of isolation caused by athletic participation; dealing with athletic success or lack thereof; coping with injuries; balancing the demands from various relationships, including those of teammates, coaches, friends, and family; and coping with the end of one’s athletic career” (Newell, 2015, p. 38).
In addition, student-athletes must deal with the very active stereotypes that surround their identity as student-athletes (and sometimes as members of other special populations). Again, integrative advising can be of tremendous service in these situations through its emphasis on relationships with advisors who support the students’ goals and help them see the value of what they are learning and that the education they are creating for themselves.
A sincere desire for a good education may not be enough to keep many young people academically motivated if their courses appear to be a random set of requirements and electives chosen to fit around the restrictions of their sport’s demands. Given the extreme pressure to fully invest in their sport, if the elite student-athlete’s academic path (his or her curriculum) appears to be a series of arbitrary hurdles, simply giving up on the academic enterprise and only doing the minimum necessary to stay eligible to participate in the sport (and possibly graduate) may seem to be a sensible choice. However, if student-athletes understand the “logic of their curriculum” (Lowenstein, 2000, para. 10), if they understand what they are gaining in terms of knowledge and that they can shape that curriculum to be meaningful to them, then there is reason for them to remain committed to the academic endeavor in a serious way in spite of its costs: “Tremendously motivating for students, advising converts all of those boxes on the degree audit into a meaningful pattern; in effect it is what makes an education of various seemingly unconnected classes” (Lowenstein, 2013, p. 248).
In Why Choose the Liberal Arts, Mark Roche points out that “Faculty need both to ennoble students with high aspirations and remind them that what they are now is not yet what they might become” (Roche, 2010, p. 79). In the same fashion, advisors can assist the sometimes exhausted or discouraged student-athletes to keep their academic goals high by helping them see what they are actually learning in their courses, both in terms of skills as well as in constructing an area of specialty that fits their personal interests (and not just their practice schedules).
In student-athletes’ first few semesters, this may take the form of helping students understand the skills they are learning, such as the way their required history course is building their ability to recognize and evaluate assumptions and arguments or how their art history course is increasing their understanding of how viewpoints and worldviews change over time. The advisor can encourage the students to be highly intentional in the courses they choose in order to begin to build their own unique set of skills. If students think they may be interested in a (second) career that involves communication skills once they have concluded their athletic career, then they may, initially, need assistance in seeing how courses in sociology, literature, and film all help build those skills, but with a little assistance, they will. As the students continue their education, the conversations change. They can better see the connections among courses, skills, and goals, but the role of the advisor continues:
[The] student’s academic task in college involves constructing an overall, uniquely personal understanding of how the world works, the ways by which knowledge is gained and critiqued, the meaning of these understandings in terms of the students’ own lives, and the fit of students’ values into a worldview. No one can create understandings of these aspects of learning for the students. However, advisors can help students recognize the learning tasks ahead and repeatedly coach them through various stages of accepting the challenge and monitoring the many twists and turns of the students’ changing ideas over time. (Lowenstein, 2013, p 248.).
Elite student-athletes at highly selective institutions are only an extreme case of the kinds of challenges many of our students face. The ways in which integrative advising benefits them are the same ways it can benefit all of our students. It helps them understand, engage in, plan, and create their unique education. The advisor begins his or her work by supporting the students’ career goals, in this case to play their sport professionally. With that goal established, the advisor can work with the students to help him or her plan and build an education that will support their other goals, ones they may or may not have thought very much about yet but are nonetheless important. Carving out sufficient time to develop a trusting relationship and to do integrative advising is essential and tremendously rewarding for both the student and the advisor.
Holly E. Martin, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame
Lowenstein, M. (2000, April 14). Academic advising and the “logic” of the curriculum. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/old/articles/000414ml.htm
Lowenstein, M. (2013). Envisioning the future. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college (pp. 243-258). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lowenstein, M. (2014, August 12). Toward a theory of advising. The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal. Retrieved from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2014/08/toward-a-theory-of-advising/
Newell, E. (2015, Fall). International student-athlete adjustment issues: Advising recommendations for effective transitions. NACADA Journal, 35(2), 36-47
ReducingStereotypeThreat.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.reducingstereoypethreat.org/reduce.html
Robbins, R. (2014, Fall). AAC&U's integrative liberal learning and the CAS standards: Advising for a 21st century liberal education. NACADA Journal, 34(2), 26-31.
Roche, M. W. (2010). Why Choose the Liberal Arts? Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
Strayhorn, T. L. (2015, Spring). Reframing academic advising for student success: From advisor to cultural navigator. NACADA Journal, 35(1), 56-63.
Steele, C. & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797-811.
Walton, G. M. & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 82-96.
How to Give Bad News
Javaris L. Hammond, Florida Atlantic University
Advisors sometimes need to deliver bad news to students: students have academic petitions that get turned down, do not meet minimum GPAs for continuing in a program, and/or are underperforming in their classes. Similarly, doctors also often need to deliver bad news to patients and their families. In 2000, a group of oncologists devised SPIKES, a protocol for notifying patients of their cancer diagnosis (Walter et al., 2000). The SPIKES model stands for Set up, Perception, Invitation, Knowledge, Emotion and Summary (Robert, 2005). The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how advisors can use the SPIKES model as a framework for delivering bad news to students in a humane way.
(S) Setting up for the Appointment
When establishing an advisement appointment, the advisor should not only mentally but physically prepare to assist students by paying attention to their space, building a connection, carefully constructing the appointment time, and being organized and prepared ahead of time.
Space. The advisor tasked with delivering bad news should select a private space to meet with the students to ensure the student’s confidentiality. If the advisor’s office is not private, they should seek an alternative venue for the meeting such as a conference room or a colleague’s office. Advisors should position themselves in such a way that physical barriers, such as a desk, are reduced or eliminated. The advisor should consider having a box of tissues available in case the student becomes emotional.
Building a Connection. The advisor should warmly welcome and address the student by name. Throughout the meeting, the advisor should maintain steady eye contact with the student.
Appointment time. The advisor should schedule ample time to discuss the issue. Quickly sharing the bad news and then rushing the student out the door is not acceptable. It may be wise to schedule the meeting as the last appointment of the day in case additional time is needed with the student.
Organization and Preparedness. Prior to meeting with the student, the advisor should prepare by reading through the student’s file and becoming familiar with any relevant policies and procedures. The advisor should anticipate what questions the student might ask and have all essential data accessible.
The perception step involves discovering students’ level of awareness and assessing students’ view of the situation.
Discovery. This step involves asking students about their level of awareness of the issue. Sample questions might include: How are your classes going so far?; What is the biggest change you have faced in your courses to date?; or, Does the student know their GPA? Are they aware that their GPA has put them in jeopardy of being dropped from the major?
Realistic /Unrealistic view. It is important for the advisor to assess whether the student has a realistic or unrealistic understanding of the situation. The student’s perception of the situation will likely define how the rest of the conversation will proceed. For example, if the student knows that they did not perform well last semester and that they may need to change majors, the advisor may be able to shift the focus of the conversation to discussing other majors. However, if the student is acting as if this is new news, the advisor may need to help the student deal with the shock of the news. The advisor can tailor the conversation based on the student’s awareness of his/her academic situation.
The invitation phase involves the advisor asking the student for permission to discuss the situation. A sample question is, “Is this a good time to discuss your options?” It is possible that some students may be so shocked that they have been called into the office that they may need additional time to process the situation.
In the knowledge phase, the advisor explains the academic circumstances to the student using appropriate vocabulary and tone of voice. The advisor should notify the student that bad news is coming. For example, “Unfortunately, I’ve got some bad news to share.” In the medical field, they have found that starting this way can lessen the shock and help patients process the news better (Walter et al., 2000). The advisor will want to avoid using acronyms or using language that the student might not understand when sharing the bad news. In addition, the advisor should use a non-judgmental tone when delivering the information. Sometimes, it is not what is being said, but how it is said.
Demonstrating empathy shows that the advisor cares about the student’s situation. Giving/receiving bad news may bring out different emotions in both the advisor and the student. It can be hard for advisors to observe the student in pain, since advisors generally enter the profession to help students. However, advisors need to guard against giving false hope to the student, because the student needs to have a realistic understanding of the situation.
Students may experience different emotions when they hear the bad news, emotions ranging from silence and disbelief to crying, denial, or anger. “In these situations, the advisor can offer support and solidarity to the student by making an empathic response (Walter et al., 2000, p. 306). An empathic response consists of three steps: acknowledge, ask exploratory questions, and validate the student’s emotions.
Acknowledge. Advisors should acknowledge the student’s feelings and emotions by carefully listening to what they are saying. Allow the student to express how they feel without interrupting or trying to make them feel better.
Ask Exploratory Questions. If the student is quiet, the advisor may want to ask questions to gauge how they are handling the bad news. Examples of exploratory questions include: What are you thinking?;
How do you feel now that I have shared this news?; and, Is there anything you want to say about the information I gave you?
Demonstrate/Validate the Student’s Feelings and Emotions. Giving a sympathetic response to the student’s emotions may help demonstrate that the advisor cares. Sample validating statements include: “It must be disappointing that your GPA is too low to get into the major you wanted,” or “Obviously, this news is very upsetting.” Roberts (2015, p. 141) wrote that, “Empathic responses help validate the student’s feelings and relate the response to the advisor. The advisor doesn’t have to experience the same feeling to provide an empathic response; it simply shows the perception of the student’s emotions.”
(S) Strategize and Summarize
The last step involves co-creating an action plan for the student to move forward. How students react to the news will determine the best way to proceed.
Emotional Students. Some students are too upset by the news to make future plans, so it may be best to schedule a follow-up appointment to give the student time to process the news. The follow-up appointment should be scheduled during the visit and the advisor should follow up if the student does not show up for the subsequent appointment.
Accepting Students. For students eager to move forward and devise a plan, the advisor should be prepared to discuss their options. For example, the advisor working with the student who must change majors should be aware of which majors the student would be eligible to transfer into.
Unsure Students. If a student seems lost and unable to decide, the advisor may want to refer students to the appropriate offices, such as the career center, the counseling center, etc.
Follow up. Regardless of the student’s emotional state, the advisor needs to confirm that the student understands the next steps that need to be taken. In most cases, a follow-up appointment should be scheduled with the advisor to ensure that the student follows through on the commitments discussed.
Although delivering bad news to students is never fun, advisors should be prepared to handle challenging conversations. By using the SPIKES model, advisors can have a framework for delivering bad news in a compassionate way.
Javaris L. Hammond, BS
Coordinator, Bachelor of Science in Nursing Advising Services
Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing
Florida Atlantic University
Robert, B. A. (2005). Breaking bad news: the S-P-I-K-E-S strategy. Community Oncology, 2(2), 138-142.
Walter, B. F., Robert, B., Renato, L., Gary, G., Estela, B., & Andrzej, K. P. (2000). SPIKES—A Six-Step Protocol for Delivering Bad News: Application to the Patient with Cancer. The Oncologist, 5(4), 302-311. http://dx.doi.org/10.1634/theoncologist.5-4-302
Meet Me Halfway: Advising as a Part of the Whole Student Experience
Joy Gaeraths, Arizona State University
Just another day at the office. Does it always have to be that way?
Students obviously appreciate when they are given course suggestions or directed to resources available on campus. How often do they see their advisor on campus outside of the office? Does that make a difference in how they view advising in general? There are many different ways to reach students outside of traditional in office advising. Advising, as “the only structured activity on the campus in which all students have the opportunity for one-to-one interaction with a concerned representative of the institution” (Habley, 1994, p. 10) seems like a natural way to try and meet students where they are. It is important to be a part of their whole experience as a student and be accessible to them outside of traditional advising offices and timeframes to help meet them where they are at in terms of their educational journey. The entire experience a student has while in college is important, and it is beneficial to the relationship between the student and advisor to show interest in them outside of that traditional advising setting they may be used to or expect.
At the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University, part of our mission is to serve as a knowledgeable resource and advocate for students. By being involved on campus and being accessible to the students, we are better able to do so. This has been a focus of the office in the past few academic years to try and “humanize” the advisors to where students feel more comfortable reaching out as well as to help us be more proactive in our interactions with students. These are some ways that the advisors in the Polytechnic School try to engage students outside of that traditional office setting.
Initial Contact with Students
Orientation and outreach. This is the first contact with students and parents and a chance to show the parents that advisors are a resource for the students. It is also a chance to let students know that advisors are there for them during their whole journey as a student and get them excited about being a new college student. Advisors are there to help students schedule their first semester and promote school spirit at the same time. Other ways to reach out to students in this first semester can be events before school starts such as a camp in the summer or events during the first week of school. Additionally, outreach to transfer students during a special orientation for them or by attending events at local community college can help ease that transition for this population of students.
In the classroom. Many universities have an introductory class that first-time freshmen are either required to take or at least highly recommended to take. The classroom is great place to reach students and answer general questions that will benefit more than one student. Maybe there are other milestone classes later in the student’s program where advisors can be present to help make sure that the students are moving along as they should be and give general information pertinent to that time in their program. Having them all in one place helps to take care of basic questions all at once so that student appointments can be more meaningful. The other benefit to being in the classroom is the interaction with faculty. Showing a united front between staff and faculty shows students that everyone is on the same page in terms of their educational journey and that everyone is there to help them reach graduation.
Advising Outside the Office
Advising out on campus. Is there a place on campus where students congregate? Is there a particular major that is housed in one building? Use that space as a way to be accessible to those students. If possible, have office hours in that building weekly and let students know when those office hours are. Seeing a student briefly in a setting like this may help with a “quick question” that would have turned into an emergency without contact with an advisor. Taking care of those “quick questions” before they become bigger issues help the student avoid major stressors like academic probation and can make the advisor’s job a little less reactive and a little more proactive. Looking at the student’s whole experience and being proactive in advising helps to build a support system and relationship with the advisor that will last from start to finish (Varney, 2012).
Academic and social events. Events on campus that promote both academics and social interaction are great to attend. Advisor interest shows students that advisors are human and that they care about multiple aspects of the student’s educational experience. Academic events are important because sometimes advisors can hear from students about what they are doing in the classroom, which can be exciting for the students to share as well as the advisors to hear about. Another benefit for advisors attending different events on campus is networking with different departments. Making those connections can help advisors be more efficient when helping students and connecting them to someone specific in different departments when necessary, which is a part of the Design phase of Appreciative Advising. Part of this phase is to make effective referrals, which can be done when advisors plan accordingly and use their resources to connect students directly to another department instead of a phone number or general email inbox. This way, the student has a smooth experience moving from one department to another (Bloom, Hudson, He, 2008).
Interaction through Additional Involvement
Virtual interaction. Social media is huge now and a free and easy way to connect with students. Using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a quick and easy way to get information to students via whatever device they are already looking at (phone, laptop, tablet). Social media is also a great tool for students to get to know staff and put a name to a face, especially if there are online students who do not come in to see an advisor but talk with them on the phone or via email. This makes the interaction a bit more personal.
Volunteering on campus. There are always opportunities to volunteer on campus for events during move in or at graduation. Seeing advisors helping on campus may also make students feel more comfortable approaching them if they see them in a different setting than an advising office. It can be especially rewarding for advisors to volunteer at graduation related events. Seeing students reach their goals and how proud they and their family are of this accomplishment is nice for advisors to experience. This event is truly one that all advisors should attend at least once to see how amazing it is to watch students reach that goal that everyone supporting the student has worked so hard to achieve.
As a result of the efforts in the Polytechnic School advising office at Arizona State University, students have voiced their approval in the form of the measurable results that come from student surveys that are given to the students after both scheduled appointments and express advising. They are much more positive now than they have been in the past. The number of escalated students that come in and speak with management has decreased from one or two students a day to one student a month. Another area that has improved is the relationship students have developed with their advisor and the office in general. Students appear to be more willing to reach out for help when needed instead of waiting too long, which has helped our goals of being proactive rather than reactive.
Advisors have an opportunity to make connections with students as representatives of the university. These interactions can be more powerful when they take place outside the traditional advising spaces. These ideas and can be adapted them to work for any institution so that advisors can take advantage of these unique opportunities to connect with their students outside of the office.
Academic Success Specialist
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.
Habley, W. R. (1994). Key concepts in academic advising. In Summer Institute on Academic Advising Session Guide (p. 10). Manhattan, KS: NACADA The Global Community for Academic Advising.
Varney, J. (2012, September). Proactive (intrusive) advising! Academic Advising Today, 35(3). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Proactive-Intrusive-Advising.aspx
The First Year of Developing a Retention Program
Nathanial Garrod, Portland State University
In efforts to provide active support for retaining first-time, full-time freshmen, the School of Business Administration at Portland State University (PSU) decided to hire a full-time advisor dedicated to supporting this population. The purpose of the First Year Programs Advisor was to research the needs of the freshmen population, manage and analyze retention data, and develop advising-based programs and resources (as well as last-minute, drop-in advising) that meet the needs of those students. This article will summarize the research done on retention and the programs developed out of that research.
Step One: Research
Research was important to this program and process for two reasons. First, the advising team wanted to know more about what initiatives and programs exist in other universities. It was important to explore what was successful at peer institutions and why. The other reason was that no matter what was happening at other schools, what amazing programs existed and what looked perfect in a different environment, we ultimately needed to understand our students and their needs.
What we already knew about PSU is that our students largely come from the Portland metropolitan area, and many of them choose to stay at home and continue the jobs that they had prior to admittance to the University. Students get to campus via cars, public transit, bike, and foot. Living on-campus is not the default assumption with our students. We cannot always assume students will be on-campus (or even downtown), which means planning activities, events, and advising sessions close to or around classes. The average age of our students is 26, the university population is about 27,000, and 2/3 of our students are transfer students from local community colleges and other universities.
The research done for program development started a review with the foundation of retention theory. The writings of Vincent Tinto, the original author of the body of theory that exists around retention, stopping out, and dropping out, talk a lot about not continuing at the university as a process. This means that no student just wakes up one day and decides “I’m done here,” but instead has this range of experiences that eventually moves the student to a point where they just cannot continue.
Classic writing on stopping out actually compares it to suicide and pulls from a lot of the older writing on that topic. Tinto (1975) suggests that if a student feels like they are academically and socially integrated with the university, they will persist. That means that our students have to feel like they belong in the classroom and outside of the classroom. This is something that looks a little different at a commuter school, where the classroom is seen as the SOLE reason to be on-campus.
Davidson and Wilson (2013) review studies on retention from Tinto’s original study in 1975 to studies in 2013. This comparison shows how the focus of the research has changed over time. Focus on variables in personal background and environment develops over time. In their implications, Davidson and Wilson state the “conflation of the definitions of social and academic integration make it difficult to draw clear conclusions that might be applicable to practice.” Ultimately, they state that relationships matter, but students do not always pursue them. Sometimes relationships have to be built on things like advising or providing support to goals and growth.
Ultimately when looking at data and research, the conclusion that we came to is that we are really good at providing academic support, but a feeling of community is hard to access. So we focused on creating connections in a few different ways.
Step Two: Data Management
Using numbers to tell the students’ stories can seem reductive and like it completely discounts the lived experiences of our students who have not had positive experiences. Numbers feel like a way of muting the challenge and frustration of our students who have stopped out of the university. In fact, the opposite is true. When we are able to quantify that not just one student has had a challenge or problem, that we have 26 students who transferred to another in-state school because they like that name more/because they were nicer/because it is what family expects/because they got a scholarship, it shows department leadership that there is a significant need which needs to be filled.
For data management, the First Year Programs Advisor keeps all of our data on freshmen students in an excel sheet. The first tab is a dashboard overview of retention. It includes the cohort of first-time, full-time freshmen, as well as some sub-populations we track: minority students, students in various mentor programs, and students who have taken specific elective coursework. This dashboard is also used to track retention in other departments for comparison.
The next tab is a collection of Student ID numbers for the various sub-populations, so that any time the First Year Programs Advisor needs to gather any set of data on the students in that population, it is easily accessible.
The third tab is for tracking how many students are registered on a given day so that the School of Business Deans can compare current registration to previous years. The intention is that with a few years of this data, we can be a lot more predictive.
Finally, we keep track of who has told us they will not be returning for courses at PSU and why they are not returning. This is to do intentional outreach to determine if there is anything we can do in the future to prevent students from dropping out for similar reasons.
Step Three: Outreach
Outreach is key. We broke outreach into a few phases. The First Year Programs Advisor coordinated an initiative with Academic Advisors to make phone calls early in the Fall term, letting these students know that we are available for them and want to help. Any student that we left a voicemail for and did not hear back from, we followed up with an email.
The next step was to have our advisors hand-write cards for all freshmen. This was just a quick note right after mid-terms to remind students that we appreciate them and know the first term can be hard.
Right around registration time, we start another round of phone calls—this one to ask students if they know what they are planning to register for.
Step Four: Community Development
Since a large volume of our research demonstrated that community is what our students need, the First Year Programs Advisor took on a few tasks to help build community. The intent in program design was to create opportunities to engage at a range of levels, from very large non-personal interactions to relationship building.
Welcome Week. At the beginning of every term, we set up a table in the lobby of the School of Business academic building. The table has advising resources, fliers on course offerings that faculty want to be more widely known, and a computer to schedule an advising appointment. Additionally, it is staffed by a student who knows the building well and is trained to answer any common questions that come up. To make the space more exciting, we hang inviting banners, decorate with balloons, and (for that special bit of excitement) buy coffee and donuts for our students to pick up at any time during the week.
To keep momentum going after the first week of the term, we invite all student organizations associated with our majors to come table with us. This gives them an opportunity to really engage with friends—new and old—and build their organizations.
Community Mixer. The Community Mixer was created as a solution to a number of challenges the School of Business faced: we wanted students to feel more connected to each other and to faculty, we wanted to instill pride in their institution, and we wanted all of these things to impact retention. So we created an event where we invited students, faculty, and staff to come spend time together, to mix and mingle and chat. Think about the combination of happy hour and a party, but more formal. The first time we did this, we purchased food from campus catering to serve about 100 attendees, and it was all gone in less than half an hour. The second time, we tripled the order and it went just as quickly. Collaborating with others in our department, we acquire prizes from businesses in the region that we are connected to, which we raffle off.
Peer Mentor Program. The Peer Mentor Program is the most focused community building activity we have started. We invite freshmen to sign up for the program at and after orientation. The post-orientation outreach is done by phone calls from a student worker in the advising office. When students sign up for the Peer Mentor Program, they are sorted into small groups led by a student who has completed a year at Portland State.
The peer mentors meet with their small group every other week to chat about pressing issues related to their college transition. These range from “how to work in a group project,” to “how to deal with failure.” We also provide opportunities for students in the Peer Mentor Program to engage with other mentor groups through social events like an Ice Cream Social and Bowling Night.
The peer mentors also meet one-on-one with each of their students to discuss how their lives are going and to build strong relationships. The idea is that through these interactions and the small group interactions, students will find connections to others in their department through similar interests, goals, and challenges.
The overall experience of providing support for retention has been engaging and challenging. The data management and outreach pieces have given us more of an idea where our weaknesses are when it comes to retaining students. We have the best data on why students stop out that we have ever had. We plan to implement a survey using $20 Amazon gift cards for all stop-out students to continue to grow this set of data and understand why students are leaving. Understanding this data better will help us identify students who have the potential for leaving and how to support them through their first year.
The community engagement piece has also grown and strengthened relationships. After a year and a half we already have a population of students that know to expect the Community Mixer. One of the Peer Mentors in the programs second year was a mentee during the first year. Halfway through the second year, we are seeing 100% retention of students who participated in the program in the fall term
It has been a good experience to try new tactics that we had not considered before and to expand our programs and services.
First Year Programs Advisor
School of Business Administration
Portland State University
Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1). 89-125.
Davidson, C., & Wilson, K. (2013). Reassessing Tinto’s concepts of social and academic integration in student retention. Journal of College Student Retention, 15(3). 329-246.
Questioning Predictive Analytics for Academic Advising
Kurt Xyst, University of Washington
The technology of predictive analytics has come to academic advising. Marc Lowenstein (2013) opens a thought experiment about a possible future for academic advising with an imagined interaction between a student and an electronic academic assistant able to make judgments on the fly about the curricular validity of alternative courses the student would like to take. Seems convenient, but is this what we want? Is this what academic advising should look like? (The application of predictive analytics to the project of improving education raises ethical questions that must be considered before shifting institutional policies or buying into any particular product.)
Some have answered yes, this is what we want, or what we should want, because predictive analytics solve a significant problem “The collegiate advising system . . . is highly inefficient, error prone, expensive, and [a] source of ubiquitous student dissatisfaction,” writes Elizabeth Phillips (2013, p. 48) in a recent issue of Change. In her view, a solution lies in something like Arizona State University’s eAdvisor system. Stepping beyond even Lowenstein’s vision, Phillips claims “eAdvisor identifies the best course sequence, not just the allowable one” (p. 51). This sort of increased convenience powered by hyper-reliable judgment is possible because of advanced data mining that can “match the performance of any individual student to the anticipated success patterns” (Phillips, 2013, p. 49).
These claims by Phillips depend upon an underlying belief that individual performance can be algorithmically matched to future behavior (anticipated success patterns). In turn, this belief is anchored in an assumption that student behaviors—indeed human behaviors—flow regularly from a few specific conditions or qualities. If one can accurately describe those states, and can quantify the relevant forces operating in the environment by gathering lots of data about how others have fared in similar situations, a model can be built that expresses the necessary follow-on consequences for any particular person. Because it adheres to strict and consistent analysis, this type of modeling can do what human educators cannot. One firm that makes this kind of software for higher education says its platform will “help you see around corners and into the future” (Inspire for Advisors - Civitas Learning, 2016, para. 4). While seeing into the future may have a certain appeal, intuitions should look under the hood. Are there grounds for principled skepticism of these claims?
In order to get some perspective on the new promises of predictive analytics for academic advising it may be helpful to compare it to something more long-standing. Consider economics. Economics is a prestigious and highly visible field that takes up matters of human behavior through rigorous, quantitative analysis. Starting with a theory of what humans are and how they behave, then gathering lots of data about current conditions and analyzing those data mathematically, economists are able propose ideas about how people will behave in the future. Leaders in government and industry frequently look to the predictions of economists because in practice the work of economics provides something of a gold standard for the scientific prediction of human behavior.
How accurate are economic predictions? Three recent articles in financial and public affairs publications suggest reason for concern. Business Insider published an article by John Mauldin (2016) reviewing economic forecasts from multiple public and private sources covering the years 2000-2014 which concluded that “economists have no clue about the future” (para. 28). Tim Harford (2014) in the Financial Times reviews a survey of economic forecasts made in the 1990s. He determined that there was little difference between public and private sector forecasts; they all had a terrible record for success. Underscoring his point, Harford (2014) notes that a subsequent study showed that not a single economist predicted the Great Recession. Tamsin McMahon (2014) notes that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) made a similarly “gargantuan mistake” (para. 2) in forecasting the Great Recession. If something as massive as the Great Recession is invisible to economics, and if the Great Recession was caused almost entirely by complex human interactions—thus arguably spinning out a tremendous amount of data for analysis—how much confidence should we have about computing human behavior on smaller scales where less information is available?
These three somewhat arbitrary sources are clearly not the last word on the subject of economic forecasting. They are offered only to suggest that the gold standard for the scientific prediction of human behavior comes in for heavy criticism of its accuracy—and that such criticism is not hard to find. That there is such criticism ought not to come as a surprise when considered against broader social theorizing like that from Noble Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek.
Interviewed about the range and scope of economics Hayek (1983) said, “Our capacity of prediction in a scientific sense is very seriously limited” (section 146) Hayek observed, “because whereas the model of science—physical science, in the original form—has relatively simple phenomena, where you can explain what you observe as functions of two or three variables only” (section 144); the social and human sciences are far more complex. Unlike the relatively simple state of affairs that exist when observing or measuring falling bodies or chemical reactions, human action, even when aggregated in big groups, cannot be patterned well enough nor turned into enough points of data to reliably and accurately predict behavior. From this perspective, the reported failures of economic forecasts demonstrate the consequences of erroneously applying assumptions from natural science to the very different world of human behavior.
Those invested in higher education, and specifically those invested in the form of higher education that occurs in academic advising, must look carefully underneath the polished interfaces and sophisticated marketing that surround predictive analytics. If the argument for use is that predictive analytics identifies not only a likely future state of affairs for a student but the best future state of affairs for that student then there are grounds for principled skepticism. If quantitative prediction of human behavior in a field like economics is frequently wrong, why should we expect quantitative prediction of students in academic advising to be any less wrong?
Lead Academic Adviser
Undergraduate Academic Affairs Advising
University of Washington
Harford, T. (2014, May). An astonishing record - Of complete failure. Financial Times. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/14e323ee-e602-11e3-aeef-00144feabdc0
Hayek, F. A. (1983). Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Oral History Transcript/ Interviewer: Leo Rosten. UCLA Oral History Program. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/nobelprizewinnin00haye/nobelprizewinnin00haye_djvu.txt
Inspire for Advisors - Civitas Learning. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.civitaslearning.com/inspire-for-advisors/
Lowenstein, M. (2013). Envisioning the future. In J. K. Drake, P. Jordan, & M. A. Miller (Eds.), Academic Advising Approaches: Strategies that Teach Students to Make the Most of College (pp. 243-258). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mauldin, J. (2016, January). These 8 charts prove economic forecasting doesn’t work. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/8-charts-prove-economic-forecasting-doesnt-work-2016-1
McMahon, T. (2014, February). Why economists can't predict the future. Macleans. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/economy/economicanalysis/why-economists-cant-predict-the-future/
Phillips, Elizabeth D. (2013). Improving advising using technology and data analytics. Change, 45(1), 48-55.
Affirming, Challenging and Rewarding: The NACADA Summer Institute
Scott Byington, Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute scholarship recipient
I wanted to attend my first NACADA Summer Institute not because I was a new advisor. Quite the opposite—I had been a faculty advisor for more than 20 years. However, when I was tasked with a new responsibility, to oversee our college-wide advising program, I knew I would be faced with a whole new set of advising and administrative challenges. Since I had a passion for advising, I had known about NACADA and had even attended a couple of conferences, but I knew I needed more, much more, for my new role. The Summer Institute, described as an intensive, immersive advising experience by a colleague, seemed to be the answer. Then again, what did that mean?
I applied and was honored to be selected as a Wesley R. Habley scholarship recipient so that I could participate in the 2016 Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia. I was asked in the application to list some of my goals for my participation. I wanted to refine my knowledge of best, effective advising practices, learn more about how to administer and evaluate an advising program, and deeply examine how to bring about a culture shift at my institution to embrace advising, among other goals. Was I able to accomplish my goals? Absolutely, and I was surprised at how much more I was able to take away from the Summer Institute.
The NACADA Summer Institute turned out to be one of the most meaningful and useful professional development opportunities I have undertaken in my time in education. The agenda was ambitious, the days were busy but productive. The Summer Institute has a great blend of theory and practice, presentations and conversations, depth and breadth. The format was ideal for both the relatively new advisor to learn important, foundational elements of advising and the veteran advisor, who is learning new ways to engage students and interact with other advising professionals.
The Summer Institute was taught and facilitated by an outstanding group of advising experts and faculty. Not only did we have national leaders accomplished and experienced in advising guiding our sessions, we also had ample opportunity to interact with them. I cannot think of any other time in my career where I had the ability to bounce ideas off of the leaders in the field and get advice and guidance. I found my conversation with Karen Sullivan-Vance, one of the institute’s faculty, particularly illuminating: she gave me invaluable feedback on ways to structure and assess an advising program that is shaping what I am doing with advising at my institution right now. And while it was nice to get a question answered in the hallway between sessions, it was even better when one of the faculty or leaders would say, “Hey, let’s have lunch later and talk about this some more. I have some ideas to share with you and I’ll bring some resources which I think will help you.” Throughout the Summer Institute, there was a willingness on the part of everyone, leaders and peers alike, to share ideas, contacts, resources and expertise.
I enjoyed the significant amount of time we spent in our small group sessions where we could really process and understand the content from our topic sessions, foundation sessions and workshops. My group leaders, Kathy Stockwell and Cynthia Pascal, expertly kept us on task while allowing us to explore and wrestle with new information and ideas. Kathy and Cynthia asked key, insightful questions, like what was the advising climate like on our campus, how were we assessing advising and in what ways were we leading the advising conversations among our colleagues, that stimulated a lot of discussion. These types of questions clearly got us thinking about our roles in improving advising at our institutions. We also had the chance in our small group sessions to get to know one another, present our own institutional and advising challenges and receive productive feedback from the group. Our work group brain-stormed solutions to each other’s dilemmas, provided helpful and positive advice and became an advising family in just a week.
One of the more powerful elements of the Summer Institute was developing an advising action plan, a course of action to be implemented at our own institutions. Thoughtfully developing a plan was a terrific experience, especially when I had national experts and peers there to give me feedback and support. It is nice to go back to one’s institution after the Summer Institute and say, “this idea has been vetted by the best in the business and maybe we ought to try it.” I can honestly say without the “push” from the Summer Institute to develop an action plan and make it happen, I am not sure I would have been able to see it through. The feedback I got at the Institute (and even afterwards) from my group leaders and group members has helped my action plan, a new faculty advisor training program, become a reality at my institution this year.
The Summer Institute reinforced for me our mission as advisors—we need to be prepared to get to know our students, to advocate for them, to see that they are served and to help “mediate the dissonance between what students expect from the educational environment and what they experience in that environment,” to quote Wes Habley, the scholarship’s namesake. The Summer Institute challenged me to think about what I do well as an advisor (and now an advising administrator) and what I need to work on. It equipped me with the resources and perspective needed to bring about change at my college. I was impressed how practical and useful the Summer Institute was with a spoken and unspoken theme of the week: how will you be able to put these ideas into practice?
So . . . here is the question. Do you and your institution have a commitment to providing the best quality advising experience to your students? If so, you need to attend a Summer Institute. You may find that bringing a team from your institution will give you an even greater opportunity to take full advantage of the experience. Take part in this unique chance to focus, to create, and to broaden your advising perspectives. I’ll see you there, as I am making plans to attend again. And by all means, apply for the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship!
Please feel free to contact me if I can answer any questions for you about the Summer Institute!
Dean, Arts, Sciences and Advising
Central Carolina Community College
Habley, W. (1981). Academic advising: Critical link in student. NASPA Journal, 28(4): 45-50.