Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Elizabeth Niehaus

Date of this Version



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Elizabeth Niehaus. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 Nicole Michelle Smith


The purpose of this study was to identify what CASNR professional advisors are and could be doing to foster a sense of mattering within the undergraduate student population, which ultimately could impact retention and graduation rates. There was a need to understand the variance of advising experiences of undergraduate students and how exemplar professional advisors foster a sense of mattering in undergraduate students of CASNR. The focus of this research was to decipher if and how professional advisors foster a sense of mattering with undergraduate advisees. The problem of practice was that advising can impact retention and graduation rates through fostering mattering within the undergraduate advising experience, yet professional advisors may not all be fostering this sense of mattering in undergraduate students of CASNR. There were three main research questions. How do exemplar advisors in CASNR describe their advising skills and practices that foster a student’s sense of mattering? How do undergraduate students of CASNR perceive the relationship between advising and their sense of mattering? How do undergraduate students of CASNR describe their advising experience?

Rosenberg and McCullough’s (1981) theory of mattering was the foundational theory used for this study. This theory of mattering included four components of attention, importance, ego-extension, and dependence. A multiple case study methodology was used to explore the skill sets and professional practices of three exemplar advisors. There were multiple forms of data that were collected. Those forms of data included interviews with advisors, interviews with students, observations of advisors and students, and observations and photographs of advisors’ offices. There were three themes found that all three advisors had in common. Those themes were investment in the whole student, wealth of information, and meeting students where they are. The last theme varied among the advisors but included utilizing soft skills, humanizing the advisor, and meeting the demands of today’s students.

Advisor: Elizabeth Niehaus