National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2017


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2017), pp 151-162


© Copyright 2017 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


Recent studies on advising show considerable agreement about the sorts of practices that constitute good advising, whether by a professional staff advisor, an official faculty advisor, or an unofficial faculty mentor. These practices include creating a welcoming atmosphere, building a trusting relationship, and helping the student find resources to envision a flourishing future and make concrete plans to achieve it (Gregory and Edwards; Bloom et al.; Cooperrider et al.). Two important features of advising, though, do not receive the focus they deserve. The first is the advisor’s practice of attention, an activity that forms the basis of a trusting relationship and that does justice to the advisee. The second is helping advisees discern their vocation, or life goal, which students need in order to make rational decisions about their academic and post-academic careers. Attention and vocation, topics well established in philosophical literature (Weil; Murdoch; Adams; Frankena), are relevant to and valuable for the practice of good advising. While attention and focus on vocation should inform all advisors’ work, aiding students to identify the coursework and extracurricular activities that will help them flourish, they are especially important features of honors advising. While some honors students come to college without a clear vision for their future, many are well-prepared for advising, appear certain about what they want to do in life, have well-formulated, multi-year plans for college, and can articulate in detail what they want to pursue after graduation. The thoughtful detail with which they present their plans offers the illusion that honors students do not need the level of guidance other students need, especially if advisors assume that their task is no more than getting students through a coherent college program that will allow them to embark on their chosen career. While honors students may not need the same sort of guidance as other students, they still need an advisor’s guidance in subjecting their detailed and concrete plans to the continuing questions and scrutiny they would apply to a thesis under discussion in an honors classroom. Such querying opens the door to a richer advising experience in which students have a better understanding of their career goals and how they fit into the larger scheme of the students’ life goals. A focus on attention and vocation ensures that honors advising will share key features with the honors classroom and curriculum. For instance, a typical honors curriculum has as one of its goals the students’ increased intellectual autonomy. Courses are often taught in a seminar style: students can decide what they find important in their readings and projects; study questions, if used at all, do not prejudice the students’ learning; and the professor is a senior partner in the collaborative enterprise of learning. Similarly, the practice of attention in advising, with a focus on the students’ vocation, enables students to arrive at greater self-knowledge and awareness, encouraging them to see for themselves how to structure their academic and post-academic careers. The pedagogies of honors advising should thus resemble those of the honors classroom.