Cultural Navigators

I am delighted to share with you another issue of this monthly column, Trending Topics, that features highlights from my talks and other provocative points that come up while “on the road” or “in the air,” so to speak. As a student success scholar and Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) at The Ohio State University, I often have the opportunity to speak across the nation sharing insights from our #goodwork on matters related to student success. Trending Topics was launched to expand the reach of such opportunities.

On Thursday, November 9th, I delivered the keynote address at this year’s National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Conference, which was held in the Minneapolis Convention Center. With over 3,000 academic advisors, directors, and faculty in the audience, I framed my research insights around the conference theme: “Adventures in Advising: Explore, Discover, Collaborate, Transform.” Here are a few highlights from my keynote:
  1. Academic advising is a critical functional area in higher education, having great influence on student success. This is especially true for historically underrepresented and otherwise vulnerable students.
  2. Advisors play important professional roles in students’ academic lives, sometimes unknowingly; thus, intrusive advising may be superior to more passive approaches.
  3. Yet, intrusive advising need not be intrusive. The difference is in one’s intent. Intrusive advising is born of a commitment to student success.
  4. College is a journey. It takes time. Students create or follow multiple pathways to and through it. Time in college is marked by personal growth and development.
  5. Academic advisors know something about the journey. They know the paths, beaten and unworn. They know the directions, language, and rules.
  6. As such, I challenged academic advisors to reimagine their role as “cultural navigators.”
  7. As cultural navigators, academic advisors help students set reasonable goals. Translate and demystify college life. Decode higher education lingo and make rules and requirements plain. They help students find belonging by helping to direct the course until the path is familiar or clear.
  8. Cultural navigators use intentional strategies to increase odds for student success such as access to accurate, timely feedback about students’ progress to confidence-building exercises including verbal persuasion (i.e., “You can do it”), rewriting negative scripts (i.e., “Failure is one step from success”), and role modeling.
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Cultural Navigators

I am delighted to share with you another issue of this monthly column, Trending Topics, that features highlights from my talks and other provocative points that come up while “on...