When starting my first Student Affairs role, I recall reading my job description and my eyes quickly jumped to the last bullet – ‘other duties as assigned’. I was both curious and confused as to what the potential implications of this component actually meant. Over time, I have learned in most positions this encompasses very insignificant roles like helping set up an annual event or organizing records. In my advising positions, however, I was struck by how often those other duties became the norm of the role and no longer were just an outlier.
My career in advisement was particularly influenced by the changes at Arizona State University. One such change occurred when Academic Advisors were re-titled as Academic Success Specialists. Beyond the unfortunate acronym this lent advising, the role was impacted by new technology and policies, changing institutional visions and philosophies, and severe budget reductions by the state leading to re-organizations and re-classifications.
These experiences guided my own early research and continued through to my dissertation: A Case Study on the Processes of Academic Advising in a School-Centric Environment (Dickson, T., 2014). My dissertation journey reviewed the history of advising, the vision and mission change at my then institution, my personal advisement experiences, and NACADA‘s exploration of establishing a definition and methods for professionalizing advisement. The study was a qualitative case study examining the processes of advisement and the individual roles and responsibilities therein. The study utilized the O’Banion Model of Academic Advisement (1972) as a foundation for comparison and a greater presence of responsibilities outside the model were found than within – 332 within versus 460 outside.
Beyond the daily responsibilities of advisors, my findings indicated a host of issues that cause additional role ambiguity and apply pressure to the role. Advisors reported ambiguity between the concepts of career counseling versus career advising, not knowing boundaries, personally exceeding them, or being required to exceed traditional boundaries. The same boundary issues were found in advisors attempting to go beyond guidance-based counseling skills and moving into therapy. Finally, a few advisors noted considerable duties in curriculum and instruction which obscured the lines between faculty and advisor responsibilities. The findings indicated mixed feelings over technology. There were perception conflicts over positive feelings about various technologies which are easier to use, and negative feelings associated with a less personal advisement process through increased electronic interactions and tracking.
These days, many Academic Advisors and other professionals in Student Affairs have acclimated to the phrase ‘other duties as assigned’ as part of their regular job descriptions. We must be careful as professionals not to let others define our roles and to advocate for ourselves (and others in the profession) to ensure the success of our students and the retention of great advisors. I highly recommend reviewing the work by Dr. Marc Lowenstein and others who have written extensively about the attempts toward a unified theory of advising.
1. Get involved: join NACADA and read about the profession while continuing to develop as a professional.
2. Connect: form a professional group of advisors and/or advising administrators and advocate for yourselves.
3. Seek Representation: advocate for the profession and your students by seeking participatory roles in vital campus committees which impact advising (orientation, curriculum, admissions, program approval, recruitment, leadership and engagement, policy).
4. Inclusion: do not forget to include faculty advisors and graduate coordinators/support staff.
5. Define Yourself: set clear guidelines and expectations for advisors. If you do not define the roles of the profession, someone else will.
The presentation upon which this article was based was given to the advising community at the University of Arizona as part of a greater lecture series for advising professional development. The presentation includes a review of higher education history, NACADA’s research into defining the profession and the roles, my dissertation on advisement processes at one institution, and the findings of that study. You can view the full presentation here: Other_Duties_As_Assigned_27FEB2015_Public.
Originally posted at: A Career in College.com