The purpose of this collected papers dissertation was to better understand the professionalization of academic advising. Advising can claim several features of widely-agreed upon professional components, but the question of whether academic advising constitutes a “profession” has caused much debate. Three primary obstacles stand in its way: advising is misunderstood and lacks a consistent unifying definition; there has not been a substantial literature to define the content and methodologies of the field; and there is insufficient empirical research demonstrating its effectiveness. Two studies were conducted.
Study #1 was a structured literature review of higher education, student affairs, and academic advising to understand how these fields have conceptualized their professional status, especially with respect to clearly defining disciplinary boundaries given significant overlap with one another, and having insufficient knowledge bases. Findings were organized by field and revealed three themes in each. Obstacles for higher education concerned the diversity and rigor of its scholarship, the (mis)conception of being a singular field, and confounding the field with the industry of higher education. Themes that emerged from the student affairs literature were scholarship, professional preparation and development, and community. For academic advising, obstacles were scholarship, expansion of graduate programs, and community. Implications for the professionalization for these three fields are: loose boundaries separating the fields, interconnectedness between educational programs, practitioner’s credential lacks currency, inconsistent language used in fields, autonomy, and demonstrating effectiveness.
Study #2, a phenomenological ethnography, sought to further clarify defining functions of academic advising and to elucidate how further definition of the scope of academic advising will help professionalize the field. To acquire a description of the essence of academic advising, approaches from phenomenological and ethnographic methodologies were used. The analysis revealed that through academic advising, students learn and develop, make meaning, and connect with a caring institutional representative.
The findings from this dissertation will help inform NACADA: the Global Community for Academic Advising, to help move academic advising toward professionalization, further develop academic advisors and position them to be better scholars, to educate our constituents, and to add to the body of literature on professionalization in any field.