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John S. Buckley, Kansas State University

John Buckley.jpgConsidering the proportion of new academic advisors among membership in NACADA, it is imperative for academic departments and academic advising offices to anticipate issues relating to this group of professionals and their professional development.  The initial habits of new academic advisors regarding professional development will likely follow them further into their career.  However, restrictions on time and funding as well as choosing the most readily accessible delivery methods and resources for professional development are major issues.  Consistent with this view, Kathryn Huggett (2000) proposed in the NACADA Journal that barriers for advisors engaging in professional development include “at least four internal barriers recognizable to advisors at almost any university: time, justification, venue, and cost.”  Huggett goes on to describe unsupportive supervisors who may consider the use of work time as inappropriate for professional development, especially for faculty advisors.  She cites the decentralized arrangement of advising as “isolating,” leaving advisors on their own to discover venues of opportunity for professional development.         

A primary issue of concern is justifying professional development to supervisors.  Clues about how to approach this issue might be found in John Niska’s (2013) article from Research in Middle Level Education Online in which he analyzed outcomes for groups of middle education advisors receiving different levels of intervention: an awareness session, an advisory course, and an advisory course with consistent coaching including goal setting and theory to practice.  Though the study is specific to middle level education, Niska found significantly improved outcomes regarding understanding of professional development at post-test for advisors engaging in continuous coaching and support of professional development opportunities with their supervisors.  In this particular study, coaching involved one hour each week for twenty four weeks.  Considering application of the topic, new academic advisors might embark on their own professional development via distance education with time allowed during the work day.  Similar to Niska’s experimental group of middle education advisors, new academic advisors might meet for coaching for one hour per week, develop and pursue an action plan, and integrate concepts learned via distance education into practice with coaching support from their supervisor.  NACADA’s New Advisor Guidebook details how new advisors might use university and department human resources presentations, on campus resources, and connections with peers and mentors to develop a self-directed training plan (Yoder, & Joslin, 2015).  Further measures could be taken to deal with barriers to professional development for new academic advisors in a decentralized advising model including tracking new hires across academic departments, creating a centralized directory of advisors, and offering grants to individuals or groups willing to plan institution-wide professional development activities (Huggett, 2000).

Costs of professional development “include, but are not limited to, journal subscriptions, conference or workshop registration fees, travel, and lodging” (Hugget, 2000).  Other barriers are external to the advisor: the burdensome nature of committee work needed to organize professional development activities, organizing advisors across departments and the institution to gain maximum benefit from professional development in a decentralized advising system, and administration and coordination of campus resources toward professional development (Huggett, 2000). Despite both internal and external barriers, there are a number of potential solutions to the issues related to the professional development of new academic advisors which can be found in literature. These solutions exist both within and outside of advising offices and include support for new advisors in crafting a professional development plan, continuous coaching of new professionals by supervisors, utilizing university-wide lectures and training opportunities, creating connections among new academic advisors, utilizing professional association funds for conferences, and teaching new advisors individual financial management for business related expenses.      

Some potential solutions to the time crunch for new advisors include low cost webinars, lunch and learn sessions, scheduled publication readings and facilitation of online discussion, online conferences, and the use of Skype and Zoom to facilitate advising roleplays and application of theory to practice.  For new academic advisors traveling to conferences, there are a number of methods to decrease the cost of participation in professional development.  New academic advisors must take advantage of priority registration and registration discounts to decrease the cost of professional development to the institution or the advising professional.  Academic advisors might also present sessions at regional conferences as a way to gain reduced-cost access to professional development offerings.  Furthermore, engaging in leadership within NACADA’s Emerging Leaders Program allows for access to a $1,500 scholarship which can be applied to sponsored professional development opportunities.  Travel costs can be lessened through the use of carpooling, mass transit options, search engines for low cost airfare, and sharing hotel accommodations with other new academic advisors.  Finally, though many conferences offer meals, new academic advisors can avoid room service costs and utilize discounts (Amundsen & Ridingin, 2009).  Advisors might also keep a record of their expenses to write business expenses off of their taxes.

Developing an individual professional development plan for each new hire allows for greater connection between new advisors and their supervisors as well as opportunities for theory to practice. Introduction of the methods suggested in this article addresses both internal and external barriers to the professional development of new academic advisors.  Choosing delivery methods of distance education and reducing professional development opportunities to manageable time commitments allows for professional development where there might be none.  Keeping a centralized directory of academic advisors allows new professionals ready access to learn from their peers.  The use of grant funds supports professional development at the institution and allows for greater opportunities for new advising professionals who would otherwise have to travel.  Finally, those who choose to travel to conferences can use practical tips to decrease the cost of involvement and access available professional association funds via leadership positions and presenting sessions. By reducing barriers of time, justification, venue, and cost, robust professional development of new academic advisors might be achieved, enlivening new staff and creating learning and mentoring connections across campus, between institutions, and within their new profession.

John S. Buckley
Graduate Student
Counseling and Student Development Program
College of Education
Kansas State University
jsbuckley@ksu.edu

References

Amundsen, S. & Ridingin, L. (2009). Professional development on a budget. Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Professional-Development-on-a-Budget.aspx

Yoder, F., & Joslin, J. (2015). Advisor Growth and Development. In Folsom, P., Yoder, F., & Joslin, J. (Eds.), The New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Academic Advising (pp. 301-315). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Huggett, K. D. (2000). Professional development in an uncertain profession: Finding a place for academic and career advisors. NACADA Journal, 20(2), 46-51.

McGill, C. (2015). Workplace learning experiences of four professional academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 38(1). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Workplace-Learning-Experiences-of-Four-Professional-Academic-Advisors.aspx

Niska, J. M. (2013). A study of the impact of professional development on middle level advisors. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 37(5). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19404476.2014.11462108

Cite this article using APA style as: Buckley, J.S. (2016, March). Making professional development accessible and impactful for new academic advisors. Academic Advising Today, 39(1). Retrieved from [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2016 March 39:1

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