THE POWER OF ADVISING:
Seven Significant Success-Promoting Roles of Academic Advisors
By: Joe Cuseo
Students' instructors vary from term to term, but their academic advisor may be the only campus representative with whom students can have sustained contact and a stable relationship that may endure throughout their college experience. Compared to relationships with instructors, advisee-advisor relationships advisors are free of formal evaluation of student performance, allowing advisors to interacting with their advisees as clients who are served and developed, rather than as students who are evaluated and graded.
Thus, an advisor is someone who can grow to know students individually, learn about their unique interests, aptitudes and values, and take personal interest in their educational experiences, achievements and accomplishments. Through long-range academic planning, advisors help students develop an educational identity and deepen their college-learning experience. Through strategic course scheduling, advisors can guide students to moderate academic challenges that optimize their capacity for educational growth while minimizing their risk for college attrition.
Advising embraces a variety of highly influential roles that, collectively, address the student as a "whole person" and, in combination, have the potential to exert a synergistic (multiplicative) effect on student learning outcomes. Listed below are seven powerful advising roles that highlight the advisor's wide range of influence and illustrate the importance of academic advising for promoting students' holistic development and personal success. Simply stated, good advice is priceless.
1. Educator. An advisor is a teacher whose campus knowledge and probing questions can draw out students' ability to learn deeply and think integrative. Advisors' instructional role includes the following functions:
- Supplying students with accurate and timely information about the curriculum, co-curriculum, college policies, and administrative procedures.
- Equipping students with specific strategies for academic and personal success;
- Promoting divergent (expansive) thinking that broadens and integrates students' perspectives with respect to their educational goals, occupational interests, and long-range plans;
- Sharpens students' cognitive skills for making informed educational choices through the use of critical thinking, effective problem solving, and reflective decision-making skills.
2. Interpreter (Meaning Maker). An advisor is a decoder or translator of higher education
"language", providing students the context they need to make sense of and develop an appreciation for:
- the value of higher education and the mission of their home campus;
- the curriculum (e.g., promoting students' understanding the meaning and purpose of general education and its relationship to academic specialization, career exploration, and career preparation; and
- the co-curriculum (e.g., appreciating the importance of out-of-class experiences for promoting student learning and leadership development).
3. Mentor. An advisor is a learned guide and consultant who enables students to:
- develop a sense of life purpose and direction;
- detect the relevance of their current college experience for their future- life plans;
- strike a healthy balance between idealism and realism with respect to their educational, professional, and personal choices.
4. Networker. An advisor is an interpersonal connection agent who strategically refer and unites students with success-promoting agents and social resources, such as:
- academic support and student development professionals;
- faculty members and career mentors;
- personal and financial counselors;
- peers leaders and support agents.
5. Coach. An advisors works with, and side-by-side students to:
- assess and develop their individual talents, abilities and strengths;
- encourages reflection and review of personal performance;
- monitors them and provide them with personal feedback about their performance and progress;
- inspire and motivate them to put forth their best effort and to achieve peak levels of personal performance.
6. Advocate. An advisor is a mediator and "go to" person who can "go to bat" for students, empowering them to:
- navigate the maddening maze of bureaucracy and cut through the multiple layers of organizational decision-making and procedural protocol;
- anticipate, troubleshoot, and circumvent arbitrary administrative policies and practices that serve the institution more than they do the student;
- serve as a sounding board and change agent for institutional injustices that frustrate and denigrate students.
7. Counselor. An advisor is an authority figure whom students can turn to for personal counsel and guidance and who serves as:
- a caring, compassionate confidante with whom students can share personal problems and freely explore their personal values and belief systems;
- an active listener who responds to students' transitional issues and struggles in an empathic, non- judgmental manner;
- a mirror for reflective introspection, self-awareness and self-exploration;
- a sensitive diagnostician who helps students make realistic self-appraisals of their personal strengths and limitations.