The Transformative Influence of Academic Advisors

As a college student in the early 2000s, I was fortunate to have an academic advisor to guide me as I pursued learning opportunities, faced challenges, and explored career goals.

Now, as a researcher of academic advising and former post-secondary advisor, I’m sharing my experience to shed light on what advisors do, help students connect with their advisors – and maybe even inspire some future academic advisors!

What is an academic advisor?

Academic advisors fill many roles, but primarily provide guidance, care, and support to students as they navigate their academic journey – from setting & achieving educational, career, and life goals, to ensuring a meaningful learning experience.

I came to see academic advisors as symbols of empowerment who could positively influence the life trajectories of advisees and assist them in their own journeys of self-discovery.

What can an academic advisor do?

Originally, I thought academic advisors mainly assisted students with understanding degree requirements and selecting classes. Today, academic advisors perform many essential responsibilities to serve their advisees (Bermea et al., 2023) like:

  • Recruitment and Registration: Support registration for new and current students while recruiting prospective students.
  • Teaching and Learning: Use reflective pedagogies to teach students strategies for academic, personal, and career success.
  • Coaching and Development: Support advisees’ academic coaching & career development, including goal setting and planning.
  • Intervention and Support: Monitor students’ progression towards graduation and educational goals, with outreach and intervention to keep them on track.
  • Wellness and Well-Being: Help students navigate unexpected challenges and connect them with institutional resources & supports.

What are the benefits of being an academic advisor?

I find my advising work to be incredibly rewarding, with benefits like:

  • Personal Fulfillment: From helping them overcome challenges, to seeing them succeed academically and achieve their goals, it’s deeply fulfilling work.
  • Building Relationships: My work allows me to build meaningful connections with students, understanding their individual needs, aspirations, and challenges.
  • Positive Impact on Campus Culture: Firsthand, I see how effective advising creates a positive culture for students, faculty, staff, and the broader campus community. When students succeed, we all succeed!

How do I prepare to become an academic advisor?

My advisees often ask me how to become an academic advisor – no surprise given that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023), the demand for advisors is expected to increase over the next decade. Reflecting on my experience, here are a few suggestions:

  • Develop Your Interpersonal Competencies: Focus on improving communication, active listening, cultural humility, and empathy skills to connect with students and provide meaningful and culturally congruent guidance.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Becoming a peer advisor or mentor allows you to gain hands-on experience advising fellow students & addressing unique challenges.
  • Study Academic Advising: Earning a certificate or degree provides a foundation in the theories, principles, and approaches of advising.
  • Get Involved in the Profession: Academic advising conferences, workshops, and seminars are great opportunities to network with professionals & learn about best practices.

The guidance I received over 20 years ago not only helped my personal growth but sparked a genuine interest in the profession of academic advising & shaped the trajectory of my career and purpose. My journey – from advisee to advisor – is a testament to the transformative power of advisors and the power of helping others navigate their paths in school & beyond.

Biography

Gabriel Bermea is a Visiting Scholar at The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), where he conducts research on academic advising practices and student success within and across Minority Serving Institutions.

We Want to Hear From You: Supporting Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Needs in Higher Education

We Want to Hear From You

Supporting Mental Health And Substance Use Disorder Needs In Higher Education

By: Roberto Rodriguez, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. 

If you need suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or are worried about someone else, please call or text 988 or visit the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s chat to connect with a trained crisis counselor.  

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Preparing Your Military-Connected Child for (Another) New School

Lizann Lightfoot and her four young children standing in an airport arrivals terminal with "Welcome Home Daddy" and "We Love You!" signs.

By: Lizann Lightfoot

PCS season – when service members receive permanent change of station orders – is right around the corner, which means that military-connected children across the country are preparing to move and enroll in a new school. If you’re a parent or caregiver of a military-connected child, you’ve likely witnessed how challenging it can be for your child to start over and make new friends … again. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your child’s transition to a new school goes as smoothly as possible.

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Second Chances: Education and Justice Involved Students

Second Chances: Education and Justice Involved Students

By: Amy Loyd, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education

On the first work day of April, during which we celebrate Second Chance Month, I had the honor of joining colleagues from the Department of Justice and local and state leadership at an event held at a Miami-Dade College campus located within Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida.  The event celebrated the upcoming reinstatement of federal Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated individuals and was an important reminder of how essential postsecondary education in prison is for students, their families, correctional staff, and our communities.  As we come to the close of Second Chance Month, the Department of Education (ED) lifts up and reaffirms our commitment to providing equitable access to and engagement in high-quality education and training for people who are justice-involved, including people who are incarcerated and those returning home from jail and prison. Education has the power to transform lives and communities and open doors to rewarding careers and meaningful community engagement. Research demonstrates that people who obtain their high school equivalencies while in prison increase their earnings by 24-29% within the first year of release, and those who participate in correctional education programs are 13% less likely to recidivate than those who do not.  The Department calls upon institutions of higher education (institutions) to join us in celebrating Second Chance Month and treating all people who are justice-involved with dignity and respect by banning the box and equitably mitigating barriers to high-quality postsecondary education.   

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Updated College Scorecard Will Help Students Find High Value Postsecondary Programs

Find the right fit. Search and compare colleges: their fields of study, costs, admissions, results, and more. U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard.

By: Roberto J. Rodríguez, Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development

We need a system that’s inclusive, that delivers value, and that produces equitable outcomes. We need transparency in data more now than ever before.

Secretary Miguel Cardona

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard is a free online tool to help students of all ages, families, educators, counselors, and other college access professionals make data-informed decisions when choosing a college or university to attend. Through an open and easy-to-use website, the Scorecard supports students on their pathway to college and future careers by increasing the transparency of information that will help them understand the benefits of a higher education, such as college costs, student debt, graduation rates, admissions test scores and acceptance rates, student body diversity, post-college earnings, and much more.

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Presidential Scholars Program Recognizes Outstanding CTE Students and Teachers

Presidential scholars program recognizes outstanding CTE students and teachers

In 2015, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program began recognizing outstanding students in the field of Career and Technical Education. The move was designed to highlight innovation within CTE programs and the educators who empower these students.

“The opportunities I received through CTE allowed me to realize my full potential and helped me to familiarize myself with various industries so I could make an informed decision about my future. CTE is an educator-driven, empowering opportunity that allows students to learn in an engaging environment, setting them up for success in any field they choose to pursue,” said Tristan Lee, 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education.

Recipients are also asked to identify a distinguished teacher that influenced them in the classroom and beyond. For Tristan, that teacher was Benjamin Femmel who has taught English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) for 25 years. He recently transitioned to teaching at the high school level and shared his thoughts on the importance of CTE.

We asked. “How has CTE impacted you?”

During my years teaching KSAT (Krueger School of Applied Technology), where I had Tristan Lee (the Presidential Scholar that nominated me) in 8th grade, I was able to see first-hand how the application of knowledge invigorated the learning process and retention. This is true for every subject, not just their CTE classes.

We wanted to know “What is the most meaningful interaction/memory you have had with CTE?”

A major focus of school last year (21-22) was SEL (social emotional learning). I designed multiple Minecraft projects and competitions that simulated engineering dilemmas/challenges. My students love the unconventional approach and I feel they learned the material to a greater dimensional depth than they would have without the technological extensions.

What advice would you provide to teachers starting their careers?

My advice would be to always keep thinking and searching for new ideas and new ways to do things. Collaborate with veterans (experienced teachers). Collaborate with people beyond your discipline. The best collaboration doesn’t begin within a formal setting, it usually begins with a conversation.

Working with teachers from other pathways and disciplines has helped motivated students to get involved in these programs. CTE also helps students find pathways and careers that are right for them. Behind every successful CTE program are the educators that inspire and empower their students.

These dedicated adults spend their time planning, sponsoring, and supporting students in their classrooms. During this CTE Month, we would like to thank all those educators who have encouraged students to broaden their horizons within a CTE pathway.

CTE Grantees Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!

CTE Grantees celebrate today, own tomorrow!

Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month provides a platform to showcase the Native American Career and Technical Education Program (NACTEP), Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Education Program (NHCTEP) and the Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Institutions Program (TCPCTIP) and their important role in building knowledge and skills in different fields for different communities. The theme for 2023 CTE Month is reflected well in the work of our Native American and Native Hawaiian CTE (Perkins V) grantees, Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!  

These two student profiles provide perspective on how diverse CTE experiences can be in the learning journey.

Girl holding large dog with emoji hearts around her head

Robi Lono: A NHCTEP participant with Windward Community College through ALU LIKE reports on the value of her Information Technology internship. During each week of this internship, she covered different jobs offered, job descriptions, tools, day to day tasks, career progressions, certifications and much more. Robi conducted numerous hands-on activities that provided valuable insights on the different aspects of cybersecurity. Activities included help desk operations, postmortem incident attack, quantum ransomware attack, creating a network diagram, working with window servers and cloud engineering, project management, human management. Robi took Azure Fundamentals training offered by Microsoft. Robi stated, “I really enjoyed … hands-on experience in which we had to complete a NMAP module on tryhackme.com as well as find a publicly disclosed vulnerability.” Robi concluded, “(a)fter completing the ‘Ao Kahi x CBTS Technology Internship with Hawaiian Telcom, I have gained an abundance of knowledge and techniques which could potentially benefit me in my future career.”

Justin Forbes: A Cook Inlet Tribal Council NACTEP graduate reports improved quality of life and expanded employment opportunities for his career through his CTE training. Justin said his favorite part was the hands-on learning. Justin completed the Heavy Duty Diesel Mechanic program in 8 weeks. Following graduation, he was hired at Red Dog Mine as an Entry-Level Mechanic. In the future, he would like to commercial fish, with the ultimate goal is to return to his village of Togiak to be the village’s Mechanic so he can support his community by creating a road that assists hunters. Justin is thankful he had this opportunity to receive support and concluded, “I now have a reliable foundation for my family, I see a future of learning, working, growing, and earning vacations. I am more focused on being a light in this world by being a better role model for my brothers, cousins, and community.”

Robi and Justin are just two examples of how CTE works for students’ career success. CTE educates the whole child and:

  • provides not just classroom instruction by teachers with industry experience, but hands-on or experiential learning,
  • adult mentoring opportunities through work-based learning (e.g., apprenticeships, internships, etc.),
  • leadership opportunities through Career and Technical Education Student Organizations,
  • application of core skills to a career (e.g., technical writing, presentation skills, construction math, culinary science, economic application to a small business, etc.),
  • earn industry certifications and/or credits toward an Associate or Baccalaureate degree, plus
  • create partnerships and networks to provide career entry-level opportunities and to advance careers.

For more information on NACTEP, NHCTP or TCPCTIP, contact Patti Beltram, Ed.D., patti.beltram@ed.gov.

Virginia Elementary School Invokes Code to Fight Bullying

“Red, Green, Black, and Blue. 

My Tribe is my Crew. 

We are O-C-C-O-Q-U-A-N! 

My school is the perfect 10…at The ‘O’!” 

These are words from one of the cheers we recite when we welcome new students to our school. At Occoquan Elementary School in Woodbridge, Virginia, we have a House System that fosters our sense of community. This is a common practice where the school is divided into subunits called “houses” and each student is allocated to one house at the moment of enrollment.  We compete to see who has the most spirit, but we also strive to uphold a code of behavior we call The 30 Essentials

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Colleges Have a Responsibility to Protect Students’ Best Financial Interests

Colleges have a responsibility to protect students' best financial interests

Students look to their college as a trusted source of information as they determine how to pay for tuition, housing, books, and other basic needs. In today’s environment, students are facing additional financial challenges coinciding with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising interest rates, and inflation. Each year, millions of students look to their college when receiving federal financial aid and may receive information about financial banking products, debit cards, and deposit accounts.

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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: Prioritizing Student Mental Health In Higher Education

By: Heather Ward, Special Assistant, Office of Postsecondary Education 

If you need suicide or mental health-related crisis support, or are worried about someone else, please call or text 988 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s chat to connect with a trained crisis counselor. 

As U.S. Department of Education officials have traveled the country visiting institutions of higher education and talking with students, a constant theme is mental health and the growing crisis facing our nation. In conversations, the Department has heard from students about losing peers to suicide and the effect these tragedies have had on them personally.  

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