My Advising Philosophy

I believe that academic advising is the intersection of higher education, formal and informal learning, career planning, coaching, and informal counseling to fully and holistically support the student, their career aspirations, and their academic goals. Advising is personal, individualized, ever-changing, and a necessary part of every student’s success. I have the pleasure currently of working with Undergraduate Students that are interested in earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences at NC State University. These students can be in their first semester in college through our Spring Connections program, half way finished with the second semester of their freshman year after completing the Environmental First Year program, transferring from community colleges or other universities, transferring from other majors at NC State University, or Environmental Sciences sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I work with students of many different communities such as, but not limited to, the GLBTQ+ community, Military Veterans, students with disabilities, First Generation students, Scholars Students, Student Athletes, and International Students.
Higher education is supported by many different theories. I believe that educational and psychological theories are not just for the classroom, but imbedded in other interactions both on and off campus, building a complete student experience. My students are typically in that fourth stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development; they have proven that they are abstract thinkers when they are accepted into college, they can see beyond their current situation towards the direction that they want to go, and use logic and problem solving skills to develop a plan to move in that direction (Phipps, Osborne, Dyer, & Ball, 2008). However, they may not be able to articulate exactly what that direction is or have enough experience to know with certainty that the direction they want to go matches to their expectations of that field of study, interests, and skills. As an Academic Advisor I have the unique opportunity to walk beside students on this journey to connect their interests and abilities with their academic and career path. Being an Academic Advisor can be a position of power from a student’s perspective and therefore our interactions can build confidence and support or inferiority and failure according to Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development (Phipps, Osborne, Dyer, & Ball, 2008). My goal is to support a positive self-concept for my students, encouraging and motivating my students while also being realistic and practical as to the approach for how they can reach their academic and career goals. According to Wlodkowski’s Motivation Theory motivation is needed for learning to occur (Phipps, Osborne, Dyer, & Ball, 2008). I aim to create a positive space for my students to grow and flourish. I share relatable experiences, connect students with similar interests, encourage positive study habits as their efforts affect the outcome of their learning experiences, get to know my students through open ended questions and dialog, help students to clarify or define their goals, and create a plan to help them achieve these goals (Phipps, Osborne, Dyer, & Ball, 2008). Although Academic Advisors are not therapists, Carl Rogers’s client-centered approach to humanistic psychology provides a foundation for how each student appointment should start through the practice of empathetic listening, building mutual respect, and empowering the student to make the desired changes in their life (Wildflower & Brennan, 2011). The Fritz Perls and Gestalt Therapy provides us with the guidance to assist our students to examine interests and barriers alike through self-observation and co-creating a safe and open space where a student can be completely honest (Wildflower & Brennan, 2011). Adding to these theories of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow furthered this field with the creation of his hierarchy of needs (Wildflower & Brennan, 2011). He proposed that meeting the needs on each level, starting with the lowest level of biological and physical needs and working your way up the hierarchy, frees an individual to work towards the next level of needs (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002). Next, he proposed that once a need has been met, the individual is better prepared to meet that need in the future and handle the potential situation of no longer having access to the means to fulfill that need (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002). Finally, he believed that the healthiest individuals were those who had met their basic needs and were now motivated to reach their full potential through self-actualization or personal growth (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002). Utilizing this psychology theory during advising allows us for me to help a student to understand and visualize their own needs, academic goals, and career goals (Wildflower & Brennan, 2011).
To support my students through academic advising, I require that each student assigned under my care attend at least two one-on-one advising meetings with me each fall and spring semester. Usually, these appointments last for at least 30 minutes, but are sometimes much longer. This is to allow us ample time throughout the semester for quality discussions to better support my students. In the first meeting each semester, Initial Advising, we review how the student is doing in their classes, discuss what they like and dislike about school, talk through what their academic and career goals may be, discuss what external experiences they are applying for, and start brainstorming on courses they should consider taking to reach their goals. During the second meeting in the semester, Preregistration Advising, we follow-up on the first meeting and discuss classes for the upcoming semester. Students are highly encouraged to make additional appointments as needed throughout the semester. The Environmental Sciences curriculum is unique to many other more prescribed areas of study on campus as students have a Focal Area and Advised Electives making up twenty-four credit hours of their curriculum. The Focal Area consists of fifteen credit hours that build a cohesive body of study that supports the students’ academic and career goals. The Advised Electives consist of nine credit hours and support the Focal Area. Their curriculum is flexible, but must be cohesive and with intension. It is common for students to make appointments just to discuss their focal area in more detail, begin planning, and preparing for the declaration process for departmental approval. In addition, this curriculum requires an External Learning Experience. Students can also make appointments to discuss their options for the experience, participate in mock interviews, review their resume, and discuss strategies for seeking out positions such as where to look for postings or how to approach faculty for opportunities.
During my meetings, I take notes on the conversation. My notes include links for resources on campus that the student should utilize, policy information, and action items for the student to work towards before our next meeting. To show transparency and build a relationship with my students, I share a copy of these notes via email. I have designed a planning form when working with students on their focal area to aid in the planning and declaration process which I also share with students after meetings. Any information in my notes has been discussed with the student during our meeting in detail. This allows for the student to focus on our conversation and ask questions or share concerns during the meeting while having access to the resources afterwards from my notes making our conversations more organic and less formal. Students are aware that I am sharing this information with them, taking the pressure off of them to take notes and allowing them to actively participate in the moment. In addition, I have what I call an “open door” policy with my students, meaning that as long as my door is physically open and I am not meeting with another human, they are welcome to meet with me. Even in the virtual world, I keep my “open door” policy by utilizing technology instead of a physical office setting. I also use email to introduce students to other faculty and staff when appropriate.
Advising can also benefit from Group Sessions. As a team, the Environmental Sciences Advisors work together to create two types of group sessions offered throughout the year: Environmental First Year (ENVFY)/ ES Initial Group Advising Sessions in the Spring Semester for students completing the first year program and Senior Meeting in the Spring and Fall Semesters for students graduating that semester. Summer Graduates attend the spring session as well. Group sessions are an opportunity to provide a specific population of students with valuable information pertaining to where they are in their academic career. Students leaving the ENVFY program should know what the expectations of advising are, have a chance to meet face to face or virtually with their advisors before preregistration, and have the opportunity to ask questions. The group setting allows for everyone to benefit from the answers and information discussed collectively. Graduating Seniors are entering their final semesters, and therefore need more information about applying for graduation, discuss expectations of their final semester, gain understanding about the graduation ceremony, and discuss the career advising opportunities available to them through their Academic Advisor and additional resources on campus.
Academic Advising is a gift. I have the privilege of working with amazing individuals from many different backgrounds and beliefs and assist them towards their academic and career goals. I have the privilege of getting to know them, helping them make more informed decisions about their education, and watch them graduate to the next phase of their lives. It is an honor to be an Academic Advisor and to work with such an amazing team of leaders and outstanding students.

Boone, E. J., Safrit, R. D., & Jones, J. (2002). Developing Programs in Adult Education (Vol. Second Edition). Prospect Heights, Illinois, United States of America: Waveland Press, Inc.
Phipps, L. J., Osborne, E. W., Dyer, J. E., & Ball, A. (2008). Handbook on Agricultural Education in Public Schools (Vol. Sixth Edition). Clifton Park, New York, United States of America: Thomson Delmar Learning.
Wildflower, L., & Brennan, D. (2011). The Handbook of Knowledge-Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.