Advising Time

The middle of the semester is always rough for me as an advisor.  It’s the perfect storm of anxiety-making things happening to our students: midterm grades, illness and injury, personal and relationship problems, the consequences of bad choices, and of course, registration for next semester.  All of which seem to end up in my office at the same time.  Not to mention my responsibilities that are related to the other hats I wear as a faculty member.

An additional complication for me is that all of my advisees (200 future Neuroscientists) are required by WSU to come and see me face-to-face before they can complete the process of registering for spring semester.

Things can get interesting pretty fast.  When you’re trying to accomplish things in short intervals between back-to-back appointments, and everything that walks in the door or lands in the inbox is URGENT!!!!, it’s easy to get focused on one thing to the exclusion of others and completely drop the ball.  Even though “advising season” is never a surprise to me, for a long time I would let it overwhelm me every semester.  As a new advisor, I slogged through and worked 12 hours days and weekends for a month just to keep up with everything because I thought it had to be that way.  I was so naive about the breadth of advising practice, that I thought this was the best use of my time.  In reality, I was so behind that I couldn’t even think about how to get ahead.

This is no way to advise.  When you feel overwhelmed as an advisor, you don’t have the mental energy to work effectively with your students.  Motivational interviewing? HAH, I was lacking my own motivation.  I was working twice as hard because my head wasn’t in the game, so I finally made the decision to work smarter, not harder, and reduce the drain on my time during registration advising.

The first thing I did was change my interactions with students during registration appointments.  I realized that I was spending a lot of my day just repeating myself over and over.  Instead of trying to impart a ton of information to each student individually during a 30 minute appointment, I started holding “group advising” sessions where I could share that information with many students at once without rushing through it. I also decreased the time allotted for registration appointments down to 15 minutes.  Surprisingly, when I’m not instructing students about the mechanics of the registration process, 15 minutes is enough time to deal with classes AND start conversations about career goals, internships, etc.  Further, this opened up a lot of my schedule to continue those conversations later, deal with other student issues, and keep up with my other responsibilities.

The second thing I did was to set boundaries with my schedule.  In addition to blocking out my classes and regularly scheduled meetings, I don’t schedule meetings with students before 9:00 am or after 4:00 pm.  This gives me time to work on other things and answer emails every day, so I don’t get behind.  I also block out an hour in the middle of the day for “lunch”, but I will schedule an appointment with a student over the noon hour if their schedule is full, though that happens rarely.  I also make sure to take at least 15 minutes during the day when I don’t work, usually reading or working on a puzzle, especially since I usually eat at my desk.

(Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’m still working on it!)

Finally, the third thing that I did was to empower my students to take responsibility for the things they can control.  By scaffolding opportunities for them to use the tools and resources at their disposal before they need to choose courses, they are more confident to explore and plan on their own.  I’ve started being more deliberate about building long term course plans with every student and talking about career goals and back-up plans early in their college career.  I also make it a point to discuss extracurricular opportunities during individual appointments.

These three simple changes have really paid off for me and for my students. Being smart about delivering information in a group setting and reducing my appointment times accordingly has really opened up my schedule to deal with all of the responsibilities that don’t go away during advising time.  Blocking off time to catch up on email at the beginning and end of the day also keeps me on track and able to communicate with students and others in a timely manner.

The majority of my students still only come in to see me because they have to, but now we have a chance to go beyond the basic registration pieces in these brief appointments.  I have also noticed that more students are contacting me about a second appointment for a follow-up conversation than ever before.  More students are coming to registration appointments prepared with a list of courses, and many of them indicate that they are exploring opportunities like study abroad or taking on a minor because they are planning ahead.

So far, making the most of the time that I have with students has really improved the relationships I have with students and the quality of my advising.

How do you make the most of your time to have time for advising?  How do you meet students’ needs during the busiest times of the term?




NACADA 2017 Take-Aways

If you went to St. Louis:

What did you take away from the NACADA meeting?

Did you meet new colleagues or re-connect with old friends?

Learn something that will change your advising practice?

Hear an inspiring speaker?


If you (like me) were unable to go to St. Louis:

What would you like to hear about from others who DID go?

What would you like the Faculty Commission to work on for NACADA 2018 that would make you more interested in going?

Meet you in St. Louis?

If you’re headed to NACADA 2017 this week, there are several faculty advising focused events where you can connect with the Faculty Advising Commission:

  • Thursday October 12:

    • 11:30 AM in Room 241/242 “Supporting faculty who advise: Using findings from Faculty Survey of Student Engagement to activate discussions.
  • Friday October 13:

    • 7:15 – 8:30 AM in Hall 1  Visit us at the Commission and Interest Group Fair during breakfast. If you’re interested in assisting with the Commission table, please email Help is appreciated before the conference or at the fair.
    • 11:15 AM in Room 105 “Advisors are from Mars. Faculty are from Venus…or are they? Collaborative advising to support a faculty advising model.”
    • Spend your lunch-on-your-own time networking with fellow Commission members at Gio’s Ristorante and Bar at 12:30pm. If you think you may join us for lunch, please RSVP at
    • 4:30 PM in Room 229  “The implementation of a holistic faculty training program to impact student success. “
  • Saturday October 14:

    • 9:15 AM in Room 267 Commission Meeting: Get updates from the Commission Steering Committee, connect with colleagues interested in faculty advising, and help guide upcoming Commission activities.
    • 10:30 AM Room 336 Hot Topic discussion on Faculty Advising and Scholarship

Welcome Back!

It’s been a while, and it’s time to shake the dust off this old blog!  A lot of things have changed for the Faculty Advising Commission since the last blog post in 2014.

First of all,  NACADA has gone GLOBAL.  In addition to serving academic advisors in the US and Canada, NACADA members have the opportunity to interact with advisors from many different countries at the International Advising Conferences held annually.

Also, there have been a few changes in personnel.  My name is Samantha Gizerian, and I’m a Clinical Assistant Professor at Washington State University.  I’m a member of the commission steering committee and the new coordinator for the blog.  Hi!  Thanks for dropping by!

The current chair of the commission is Dr. Calley Taylor, the Director of Student Success and Retention at Cedar Crest College.  Under Dr. Taylor’s leadership the commission’s steering committee is looking to find new and innovative ways to serve your needs as faculty advisors.  We hope that you let us know how we can help you!

Making faculty advising better depends on dialogue, and we hope to start communicating with you (not just TO you!) more often.  Be on the lookout for updates to the commission website, posts on the commission listserv (click the link to join!) and new posts here on the blog with questions, ideas, reflections and more.

If you want to join the conversation, you’re welcome to respond to posts, add comments, or write to the listserv at any time!  If you’d like to submit a blog post, email me (see the About link for my address)



My thanks

Greetings, colleagues. . .

This post will be my last as Faculty Advising Commission chair.  The last two years have been full of joys, challenges, accomplishments and disappointments; on balance, though, I wouldn’t trade the experience for any I’ve had with NACADA.  I really appreciate those of you who have contributed to the Commission over the last two years, whether through writing, reviewing proposals, suggesting activities, helping carry them out or in the countless other ways members have been involved.

In “passing the torch” to Dr. Kristan Venegas of the University of Southern California for the next two years, I’m filled with optimism about the future of the Faculty Advising commission and pride at the things we’ve accomplished together over the last two years.  I hope Kristan will, as commission chair, continue to benefit from your wisdom and enthusiasm for NACADA and the important role faculty advising plays in the lives of students.

My thanks and best regards. . . .


Minneapolis faculty advising sessions

Greetings, colleagues. . .

I hope many of you are making plans to attend NACADA’s upcoming annual conference in Minneapolis this October.  The Faculty Advising commission received nearly two dozen presentation proposals for the conference, and choosing which to recommend was a rewarding and challenging task.  Here are some of the sessions you’ll find at the conference this year:

  • Advising Students about Online Classes:  Questions for Success
  • Collaborating Across Disciplines:  Development and Assessment of Advising Resources
  • Faculty Advisor Training and Development:  A Blended Approach
  • Faculty Advisors’ Perceptions about Advising:  Comparing Faculty in Two Models
  • Faculty Multicultural Competence & Practices:  Lessons for Collaborative Advising
  • New Director of Advising, New Advising Centers, and New Faculty Advising Requirements:  How We Survived One Busy Year

My thanks to all the folks who helped review the presentation proposals, and my congratulations to the colleagues who were selected.  The annual conference will also include the usual Commission and Interest Group Fair, pre-conference workshops, poster session and many other opportunities to expand our knowledge and skill as advisors.  I’ll look forward to seeing many of you there!

NACADA’s strategic goals (8 of 8)

Greetings, colleagues. . .

As we conclude our discussion of NACADA’s strategic plan, let’s consider the Association’s goal to “Pursue innovative technology tools and resources to support the Association.”

Information technology tools are as ubiquitous today as air and water–and, depending on whom you ask, at least as necessary!  The Technology in Advising Commission is a central force in helping NACADA achieve its goal.  The commission’s web site states:

This commission seeks to serve as a central resource and clearinghouse for information about innovations and issues in academic advising technology. Through our commission Web site, listserv (TECADV-L), and our social media platforms including our NACADA Technology in Advising Facebook Group, on Twitter (using the hashtag #AcAdv or #AdvTech), and at national and regional conferences, we actively seek to encourage NACADA members to engage in topical discussions and activities related to the uses of technology in advising. We encourage you to check out information on this web space and our active AdvTech Wiki.

Staying abreast of technology tools and appropriately using them in advising research and practice allows NACADA members to exploit synergies and serve our students better.  Whether via blogs like this one, social media platforms or simple email, technology is an important way to expand the Association’s reach and help our advisees grow into confident, competent professionals in their respective fields.

I hope this series on NACADA’s strategic plan has been interesting and beneficial to you, and I thank  you for reading it.

NACADA’s strategic goals (7 of 8)

Greetings, colleagues. . .

In our ongoing exploration of NACADA’s strategic goals, this month we consider the penultimate in the list:  Engage in ongoing assessment of all facets of the Association.

For better or worse, “assessment” is firmly planted in the higher education landscape.  And, in the final analysis, assessment isn’t something we do solely (or even primarily) to satisfy accrediting bodies and campus administrators.  Rather, assessment gives us important information about how we’re doing; it allows us to “take the pulse” of an organization and make decisions to improve it over time.  In their outstanding article on assessment of academic advising in the NACADA Clearinghouse, Robbins and Zarges discuss many important topics, including evaluation vs. assessment, the assessment cycle and stakeholders.

NACADA assesses its operations in a variety of ways, including formal strategic plans, session evaluations at conferences and events and direct feedback from the membership.  I’ve been working with NACADA for a decade now, and I’ve rarely seen an organization more dedicated to what a colleague of mine calls “assessment–the good kind.”  And, I’ve seen the tangible results of NACADA’s assessment activities in its program offerings, organizational structure and strategic plans.

If you have thoughts on the assessment process in general, NACADA’s application of it and / or any aspect of the Association where assessment is concerned, please share them in any of the customary ways.

NACADA’s strategic goals (6 of 8)

Greetings, colleagues. . .

In this month’s post, we continue looking at NACADA’s strategic goals, with a specific focus on the goal to “develop and sustain effective Association leadership.”  Of all the professional organizations I’ve worked with in my career, NACADA is far-and-away the best at involving members, developing and equipping those interested to lead the Association when the time comes.  Consider the following thoughts about leadership:

  • If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.  (John Quincy Adams)
  • Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. (Peter Drucker)
  • A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.  (Jim Rohn)

NACADA offers a multitude of leadership positions, ranging from those that are very visible to the membership to those that are more “behind the scenes.”  Whether through a commission, advisory board, publication or standing committee, members who want to demonstrate their leadership skills and the value of academic advising will find plenty of opportunities through NACADA.

One of the most important tools for developing and sustaining effective Association leadership is the Emerging Leaders Program.  Both your incoming chair, Dr. Kristan Venegas, and I are “graduates” of the ELP; participating in its activities provides an outstanding (but not exclusive) path to leadership positions in the Association.

We’re all busy with our daily personal and professional lives, but NACADA is very respectful and conscious that, as a volunteer association, members must balance their commitment and desire to the Association with the demands of their “real” lives.  I encourage you to explore the leadership opportunities available in NACADA and to get involved as your schedule permits.  As always, I’m happy to dialogue about this topic with you any time; please contact me using any of the regular venues.

Faculty advising webinar

Greetings, colleagues. . .

On Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 11 a.m. PDT, I’ll be moderating an official NACADA webinar titled “Balancing Faculty Advising with Other Faculty Responsibilities.”  The webinar will be a panel discussion focusing on:

  • How academic advising factors into reappointment / tenure / promotion decisions
  • Synergies between advising and teaching / research / service
  • NACADA resources that capitalize on those synergies
  • Best practices for maintaining balance between advising responsibilities and the other demands of  faculty positions

The panel will include diverse faculty from a variety of institutions and disciplines, including:

  • Allison Hoffman, Northwest Missouri State University
  • David Boose, Gonzaga University
  • Jeanne Westgard, Salt Lake Community College
  • Nancy Dreschel, Pennsylvania State University

More information about the panelists, the webinar and the registration process is available here.  I encourage you to assemble a group of colleagues, participate in the webinar and perhaps conduct a local follow-up discussion using the questions we’ll provide (or others).  If you have questions that are not answered by the linked material, don’t hesitate to contact me in any of the usual ways.  I hope to see many of you there!