Crystal Mata Kreitler, Angelo State University
Borman and Motowidlo (1993) define contextual performance as the willingness to volunteer to perform activities not part of the job, giving extra enthusiasm when necessary, and adhering to rules even when it is personally inconvenient.
Academic advisors are human beings. As such, we sometimes perform our advising duties without taking full advantage of opportunities that are presented. While we freely give suggestions for academic planning in our 15-30 minute student sessions, shouldn't we aspire to do more? Why should we settle for mediocrity? Wouldn't students benefit from academic advisors who exhibit Borman and Motowidlo's contextual performance?
As academic advisors, we have an opportunity to not only encourage students to earn their degrees, but we can take a special interest in helping them develop into successful professionals. Giving a student 'an ear' to actively listen, providing the 'extra push' needed for forward academic progress, and at times, sharing our own experiences with students should never be done in a sense of duty but should be a privilege. Helping students find academic direction before enrollment will satisfy students' short term objectives, but inspiring them will enrich their confidence and have a far-reaching effect on their undergraduate experience.
When I was an undergraduate, academic advising was mandatory before registration; therefore, I was required to meet with an academic advisor and listen to his class suggestions. I never felt connected to him and was desperate for a mentor who would take more interest in my academic endeavors. Like many students, I was ambivalent about my future; I lacked a connection with someone on campus. Throughout my first two years in college, I was obligated to meet with professors and the same advisor each semester. Early in my junior year, to my surprise, I left another required meeting feeling inspired and motivated. I had renewed confidence that continues to effect my professional development today. I met with a faculty advisor who took interest in what I had to say and in my academic plans. He directed me toward an environment that would foster my academic progress. More importantly, I found a role model and a mentor.
Some will say that there is a difference between an academic advisor and a mentor. One researcher said that a fundamental difference between mentoring and advising is that, more than advising, mentoring is a personal as well as professional relationship (Chippindale, 2005). Others may say that there are boundaries that should not be crossed. I understand and honor the professional relationship that must be maintained between an academic advisor and a student. However, can't an academic advisor serve as both a mentor and advisor without crossing boundaries? Yes, we can! Most individuals will take advantage of the opportunities given them throughout their education and careers. Why not seize each chance to be remembered for encouraging and giving guidance when it was most needed?
In the broad sense, a mentor is someone who takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional. An effective mentoring relationship is characterized by mutual respect, trust, understanding and empathy. Mentors are good listeners, good observers, and good problem solvers. Mentors make an effort to know, accept, and respect the goals and interests of a student (Chippindale, 2005). The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development notes qualities of a good mentor that include being skilled at providing instructional support and modeling being a continuous learner. The good mentor communicates hope and optimism and is effective in different interpersonal contexts (Rowlet, 1999). After reviewing some of the mentoring literature, it became clear that these are the attributes I aspire to practice in each advising session.
Mentoring can be learned, but not taught (Handelsman, Pfund, Lauffer & Pribbenaw, 2005). Good mentors discover their own objectives, methods, and style by mentoring. No two students are the same. Students do not develop along the same trajectory. Therefore mentoring must be continually customized, adjusted, and redirected to meet each student's needs. A skilled mentor's decisions and actions are guided by a reflective philosophy, a well-developed style, and an ability to assess student needs. No book can tell us how to deal with every student or situation, but a systematic approach to analyzing and discussing mentoring may lead us to a method for tackling the knotty challenges inherent in the job (Handelsman, Pfund, Lauffer & Pribbenaw, 2005). This is the same for academic advisors. No two academic advisors have the same method; we each convey our knowledge and professional recommendations in our own unique style. Each of us brings special experiences to share and an individual approach to advising students. Still, we have limitless chances to become a mentor and/or a role model; the only limit is the extent of the student's academic and professional capacity.
I remind advising veterans to encourage the 'rookies' to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by this wonderful profession and our professional association. Most importantly, share yourself. You may be remembered as an 'exceptional' academic advisor, role model and mentor.
Crystal Mata Kreitler
Angelo State University
Borman, W.C., & Motowidlo, S. J. (1993). Expanding the criterion domain to include elements of contextual performance. Chapter in N. Schmitt and W. C. Borman (Eds.),Personnel Selection. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 71-98.
Chippindale, S. (2005). Mentoring: a high-impact endeavor. Mercury, 34, 47-48.
Handelsman, J., Pfund, C., Lauffer, S., Pribbenaw, C. (2005 ). Entering mentoring. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Rowley, J. (1999). The good mentor. Educational Leadership Journal, 56, 20-22.
Cite this article using APA style as: Kreitler, C. (2006, December). Be an exceptional academic advisor: Share yourself, become a mentor. Academic Advising Today, 29(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]