Academic Advisors and Versatility

Academic Advisors are versatile

Full disclosure: I am currently an academic advisor. It’s my first full-time academic advising experience. I actually was quite pro-active about avoiding academic advising experiences when I was in graduate school. I never thought that I would be an academic advisor. I’ve been in my current advising position for 3 years. It’s been an incredible experience. Having said that, this post is not about me. It’s for anyone who has ever been an academic advisor who has dealt with the subject matter of this post.

A friend of mine is an academic advisor. She’s currently looking for a new position within student affairs. Having applied for several positions that have not yielded an offer. She came to the conclusion that having “academic advisor” at the top of her most recent experiences on her resume was resulting in her application being ignored or devalued. We chatted about how her resume could be re-worked to be more of a skills-based document. While I wasn’t happy about the apparent devaluing of academic advising that seemed to be occurring, I could empathize with both my friend and prospective hiring departments.

The state of academic advising in higher education is that it is a field that is predominantly seen as being in academic affairs. What this means is that while academic advisors may do exactly the same kinds of work as their student affairs colleagues, they might not be recognized for this due to the “silo effect” in higher education.

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Multiple Mentors = Lifelong Mentoring

Mentoring, mentorship, and lifelong learning

One of my mentors once told me that mentors are everywhere and that all I needed to do was to seek them out. At the time, I had been struggling with finding experienced practitioners who were as into learning / using technology within student affairs as I was. It took me a while to realize that what I had been looking for was the ultimate mentor. I was seeking someone who matched up with every nuance, every interest area, in effect, the “perfect” mentor.

When I woke up this morning, I had a realization. A thought that I had never really allowed to materialize. I currently have multiple individuals who I call “mentor.” No single person. Not a lone individual. I have multiple mentors. Some of my mentors provide professional advice. Some of my mentors assist me in the “apprenticeship of life.” This cadre of mentors provides me with an amazing breadth and depth of learning, experiences, and guidance. A community of mentors who I look to for strength, insight, humor, and caring.

My mentors come from all over the place. They have been instrumental in where I am and where I want to be. Here are a few ideas that I have been pondering about mentoring:

  • Sometimes mentors bring mentorship into your life without it being strategic or intentional. It just happens.
  • Age does not always equal wisdom. Be open to mentoring from anyone. Wisdom can surprise you.
  • If your mentors are well-known, be prepared to spend less time with them. Learn as much as you can when you have access. Maximize your time with them.
  • Social media spans the globe. Your access to mentors has just increased…be ready.
  • Sometimes mentors and mentees switch roles depending on circumstances, timing, and need. It’s okay.

Photo credit: quacktaculous

Disagreeing with Bill Gates

Bill Gates and I don’t often disagree. However, at the recent Techonomy conference, Bill was predicting the future of higher education. I took umbrage with some of his comments. Per his usual rhetoric, Bill positioned technology as the panacea for the future of higher education.

Here are some of Bill’s comments:

“The self-motivated [college] learner will be on the web and there will be far less place-based things.”
“College, except for the parties…. needs to be less place-based.”
“Place-based activity in that ‘college thing’ will be 5 times less important than it is today.”
“The room for innovation, thank God for charters, there’s no room for innovation in the standard system.”

Bill’s commentary at the conference was picked up by TechCrunch and posted as “Bill Gates: In Five Years The Best Education Will Come From The Web.”

The post quickly spread like a wildfire throughout Twitter:

“In five years, the best education will come from the web.” – @billgates http://cot.ag/aK6f0Mless than a minute ago via CoTweet

The interesting thing is that the quote that’s being passed around on Twitter as originating from Bill Gates seems to have been actually just the post title from TechCrunch. I wasn’t able to find video or text where Bill Gates actually said what is being attributed to him by a lot of folks on Twitter.

The disturbing aspects of Bill’s quotes from the video are that he seems to have a negative attitude toward the physical spaces of higher education. Bill constructs his arguments around cost and access, but fails to adequately critique his own points. “Self-motivated learners” generally do not include students from traditionally marginalized groups. Bill Gates went to an exclusive preparatory high school and attended Harvard College. His is not a story of overcoming obstacles. Access issues are pervasive in higher education. Socioeconomic status catapulted Gates to where he is today. His arguments around access fail to include awareness of the digital divide in terms of both class and disability. Simply offering more web-based opportunities for learning will not improve access issues. And don’t get me started about the bit about “parties” being the only rationale for “place-based” institutions.

Bill’s rhetoric is consistently anti-student-involvement. Gates approaches his arguments from the position that every student is coming out of an innovative charter school and where self-motivated learners roam the higher education sphere. What Bill is forgetting is that involvement is crucial to student success. Can a student be successful when there primary involvement opportunities take place via the web — absolutely. However, most of our students benefit tremendously from their involvement and interactions within the brick and mortar activities of their educational institution.

Student involvement theory is a foundational element for student affairs professionals. Research has shown that increased involvement leads to higher amounts of persistence and greater academic success.

According to Alexander Astin (1984) [pdf]:

[S]tudent involvement refers to the amount of physical and psycho- logical energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. Thus, a highly involved student is one who, for example, devotes considerable energy to studying, spends much time on campus, participates actively in student organizations, and interacts frequently with faculty members and other students.

Astin (1984) concluded that “the greater the student’s involvement in college, the greater will be the amount of student learning and personal development.”

I wish that Bill Gates would offer a blended approach. Why can’t we have both? Amazing opportunities can be created to support students in both the virtual and physical spheres.

References
Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: a developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308.

Student Affairs + Technology: IHE Recap

Career Services and Social Media: Todd really says it best ;-)

@EricStoller If there is a single Student Affairs dept that could *pwn* social media it is career services.less than a minute ago via web

Let’s shift some paradigms: Introducing my new blog at Inside Higher Ed.

Challenge and Tech Support: Student Affairs practitioners and Tech Support departments…please let us be admins.

Do you YouTube? Don’t forget to add captions: Would you build a new building without an elevator? Nope… Then why would you ever create videos without captions?

George Orwell, Web Stats, and Your Site Visitors: Student Affairs + Web Stats….Nerdvana :-)

Blogging Student Affairs and Technology

Inside Higher Ed - blogging about student affairs and technology - Eric Stoller

I am thrilled to announce that I’m going to be blogging about Student Affairs and Technology for Inside Higher Ed (IHE). As an avid reader of IHE, I am very excited to join the IHE blogging team. I think that my posts on student affairs + technology will complement Joshua Kim’s blog on Technology and Learning.

Recently, I held a contest via Twitter to name my new blog. The incentive — a $100 Amazon gift card — courtesy of Inside Higher Ed. Several folks came up with interesting/creative blog names. I think the #SAChat Community provided the majority of ideas. Student Affairs folks are uber creative.

Here are my 3 favorite submissions:

  • Jeff Jackson: The Stoller Strikes Back, Return of the Blogosphere, Student Affairs….I am Your Blogger
  • Zack Ford: Challenge and Tech Support
  • ACUHO-I (sent via DM): Binary Code of Conduct

Choosing a winner from these 3 has been extremely challenging. Star Wars references, Sanford, and an entire Association…how cool is that?!! After more than a week of deliberate (intentional ;-) ) deliberating I have decided that the winner of the gift card is:

eric-stoller-challenge-and-tech-support

Zack Ford’s submission made me laugh. It’s subtle….and I love subtlety. The obvious nod / homage to Nevitt Sanford warms the heart. Challenge and Support is one of my all-time favorite, and oft-used, student development theories.

It should be noted that Julie Larsen was correct…the official name of my new blog is going to be: Student Affairs and Technology. The name needed to be something that would be simple enough that any IHE reader would know exactly what it was about. The blog also needed to be search engine friendly…”Students Affairs + Technology” is simple and searchable.

Stay tuned for my first official post on Inside Higher Ed!

Honorable mention:

Julie P-Kirchmeier: Stoller: Resistance is Futile

Niki Rudolph: Epic Stoller

Justine Carpenter: Tech Tips for SAPs

Christopher Conzen: The Stoller Coaster