Building Foundations: The Phenomenological Experience of Doing Academic Advising

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This phenomenological study examines the advising experiences of six academic advisors at a large state university, including those of the author.

By engaging in the phenomenological method of inquiry, the author explores the nature of doing academic advising with college students. The writings of two philosophers--Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer--provide insight into the existential aspects of phenomenology and lived human experience. The writings of Edward S. Casey and the guidance of Max van Manen help to further illuminate the nature of human science research, providing an essential grounding for this exploration.

The engagement with other advisors through narratives and anecdotes, written reflections, and individual and group conversations, provided insight into their lived experiences. These conversations helped unearth the underlying pedagogical turning toward an-other, the foundation of the relationship between advisor and student.

This phenomenological study engaged the metaphor of building a house by examining the academic and personal "building" between advisors and students throughout a student's college experience, and within the context of each advising session. The exploration of this metaphor deepens the understanding of the relationship between advisor and student in the lived experience of doing academic advising.

At its core, academic advising centers on the relationship between advisor and advisee, and understanding the pedagogical nature of the turning toward an "other" is critical to the creation of that relationship. Recommendations for the profession emphasize the continued personal engagement with "other" over the creation and implementation of procedures aimed at expediency. The experience of "doing" academic advising must focus on the human nature of the relationship, re-minding us of our connection to our students. Individual advisors should also continue to engage with one another through professional development opportunities, and seek out the advising experiences of others to help them develop their own approaches and to round out their own understandings of the dynamic nature of the advising relationship. Ultimately, we must allow each student to guide us in our understandings of the nature of this phenomenon since it is through their eyes, words, and experiences that we find our calling displayed.