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Vantage Point banner.jpgBecky Olive-Taylor, Elon University

Becky Olive-Taylor.jpgJayne Drake’s presidential column in the June 2010 issue of Academic Advising Today on student identity development might lead advisors to consider how true her remarks are for us. Identity Matters as we make daily value judgments about our work and construct professional development plans for ourselves.  But advisors’ self-constructed identities and our campus-constructed reputations may differ depending on the company we keep. Outside of our most obvious company, students, what company do advisors’ keep on our campuses?  Or more importantly, what company should advisors keep?

Of course, the answer to these questions may vary by campus and by advising delivery system, but advisors have a lot of good student information to share that can do more than just inform the ranks of our fellow advisors. As advisors, we should proactively forge liaisons across key campus offices to better inform and in turn be better informed (American Association for Higher Education Joint Task Force on Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning, 1998). As we regularly communicate across campus to fully understand our colleagues’ work and uncover intersection of that work with academic advising, we must be sensitive to our connections with important institutional constituencies.

What better way to profess advising as teaching than to partner with our institution’s center for teaching and learning to deliver workshops on academic advising.  Even if professional advisors formally advise students within a department or institution, faculty still need advising awareness to aid in their mentoring and informal advising. Advisors can work with such a center to uncover learning needs, consider our own areas of advising expertise, and partner with the center personnel to craft pertinent development sessions for both new and continuing faculty. Partnering with the center staff to specifically deliver new faculty orientation on advising means that new faculty receive experienced input and professional advisors are perceived as a meaningful resource. Depending on campus culture, faculty advisor training delivered through a teaching and learning center may attract some faculty who might not otherwise attend advising focused workshops.

Another area for coalition building is the admissions office. Admissions officers may seek campus support to program for visiting student prospects. Advisors have a role to play by sharing with students and their families how academic advising works on campus. Advisors can explain philosophical underpinnings of the delivery system and introduce campus advising resources.  When advisors partner with admissions in this way, it signals to prospective students that advising is valued and is an important part of a successful college experience. Such ongoing associations with admissions may have the unanticipated benefit to better align recruiting messages with actual campus practices. Thus, incoming students have more accurate expectations of academic advising prior to enrollment.

Connections should be made with colleagues in the financial aid/financial planning office. At a time when student access is limited by rising tuition costs, advisors must be aware of how financial aid works on our campuses and how students can best access this assistance. For example, students in poor academic standing whose financial aid packages are jeopardized need advisors who both understand the financial aid system and the accompanying student stress. Other areas of concern are learning about the general conditions surrounding the repayment of loans and helping advisees understand how they can minimize post-graduation debt burden.

Finally, advisors know it is important to keep company with personnel in campus offices charged with supporting potentially at-risk students (e.g., multicultural center, athletics, counseling services, and disability services). Ongoing dialog with personnel within these offices may reveal a more complete picture of at-risk students’ experiences and the types of programming and advising needed for strategic support.

All campus connections must extend beyond an understanding of the referral process. To be a healthy functioning campus of inter-connected teams, colleagues should regularly converse with each other.If making the rounds of these suggested academic and student service areas feels daunting, advisors might create a representative advisory council to accomplish the task. Such an advisory council may also have the indirect benefit of creating a high functioning, interconnected student services network that crosses both academic and student affairs boundaries.

As advisors we are shortsighted when we solely depend on our defined interactions with students to guide all decisions about an advising program. Administrative constraints or particular institutional histories can complicate efforts to keep good company across campus, but given time and perseverance coalition efforts create change (Whiteside, 2001). Academic advisors can pursue these coalitions on our campuses knowing that the better we understand the complexities of students’ lives, the better we can advise. After all, the quality of our advising is truly affected by the company we keep.

Becky Olive-Taylor
Associate Dean for Academic Support
Academic Advising Center
Peer Tutoring, and Disability Services
Elon University
oliveb@elon.edu

References

American Association for Higher Education, American College Personnel Association, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, Joint Task Force. (1998). Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning. Retrieved from www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/Joint_Task_Force.htm

Whiteside, R. (2001). Models for Successful Change. In. J. Black (Ed.), The Strategic Enrollment Management Revolution (97-108). Washington, DC:  American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Cite this article using APA style as: Olive-Taylor, B. (2010, December). We are known by the company we keep. Academic Advising Today, 33(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]

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