Mary L. Ward

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership


What started as an activity valued for its oversight, the work of academic advisors have become a means leading to other ends, such as retention, student engagement, student satisfaction, persistence, and time to degree. The purpose of this research was to identify the essential characteristics of academic advisors; this was achieved by asking a Delphic panel of academic advising experts to identify these characteristics. Academic advisor primary responsibilities include but are not limited to academic advising on general education requirements, serving as a liaison between academic units, and maintaining academic records (Tuttle, 2000). In the process of doing these things academic advisors listen, guide, suggest, provide information, and assist students as they adjust to campus and beyond, all in the context of being an advisor. In order to understand how professional advisors deliver on all their responsibilities, this study turned to professional advisors who have been nationally recognized for the work they do.

A panel of 30 expert academic advisors was invited to participate in this study. These experts presented extensive academic advising experience with a range from six years to 28 years as academic advisors. The opening qualitative survey was used to elicit items for consideration in the subsequent rounds of questioning. The items were broken into three categories: what advisors need to know, what advisors need to have and be, and what students need to learn as a result of advising. These categories were also studied for alignment with the NACADA Concept of Academic Advising and NACADAs core values.

The findings of this study indicate there are relationships between the essential advisor characteristics and the NACADA framework for academic advising. A generalized model of what is essential to academic advisors and the work they do could be written using the findings of this study to guide advising curriculum, inform new professionals or to create an advisor assessment instrument.