We understand that first-generation students and students of color have unique experiences while working towards their degrees. This resource aims to help advisors be inclusive when working with first-generation students and students of color to facilitate their success. This resource is not exhaustive. Instead, it is a starting point for incorporating inclusive practices into your work. We also encourage you to use the resources below for more information.  

Why Advising Matters

Academic advising and the sense of belonging created for students through positive advising interactions are central to student retention and persistence (Tinto, 1987; Tinto, 2016). The interactions between students and faculty/staff facilitated through advising can demonstrate to students that they are valued members of the campus community, seen, and can succeed. The relationship between advising, a sense of belonging, retention, and persistence makes clear the importance of practicing inclusive advising to foster student connections and success.

Inclusive Behaviors

  • Modeling respect - Help create a safe space and validate students’ experiences, feelings, and opinions even when they differ.
  • Active listening - Ask students their viewpoints, listen to understand before responding, and Ask clarifying questions.
  • Encourage self-awareness - Ask students to reflect on their opinions and decisions. Ask them to think about what they need to achieve their goals and where they are on that journey.
  • Ask, don’t assume - Proceed as if you do not know anything specific about a student’s experience, upbringing, status, and culture, and ask regardless of what information you have written before you. Each student’s case is unique and should not be generalized.
  • Assess and improve- Take time to acknowledge what you as an advisor have done well and where you can do better and need support. 
  • Understand Position Dynamic - Students usually see advisors as people with power. Acknowledge that and remind them that you and the student are a team working towards their set goals, and you are using your power to help them.

Non-Inclusive Behaviors

  • Insensitive remarks- Any remarks that may undermine or downplay a student’s knowledge, background, or experiences. 
  • Belittling jokes- These are jokes that point out a specific aspect of a student’s social identity for an intended laugh, and while the intent may not always be malicious, they are still wrong.
  • Non-Inclusive language - When addressing students, you may not know specific aspects of their identity (gender, sexuality, race, etc.), so you refer to a group of students as “guys” or a feminine presenting person as “she” without asking them their pronouns.
  • Stereotyping- Assuming about a student based on an overgeneralized notion about a group.
  • Hostility -Feelings of opposition, unkindness, or unfriendliness toward someone.
  • Othering and name-calling - Terms that insult individuals or specific groups may have historical significance.

Appreciative Advising: 6 Ds  

  • Disarm – Recognize the importance of first impressions and create a safe, welcoming environment for students.
  • Discover - Utilize positive open-ended questions to draw out what they enjoy doing, their strengths, and their passions. Listen to each answer carefully before asking the next positive question.
  • Dream - Help students formulate a vision of what they might become and then assist them in developing their life and career goals.
  • Design – Help students devise concrete, incremental, and achievable goals
  • Deliver – The students follow through on their plans. The advisor is there for them when they stumble, believing in them every step of the way and helping them continue to update and refine their dreams as they go.
  • Don’t Settle – The advisor challenges the student to proactively raise the student’s internal bar of self-expectations.
Citation: Bloom, J. L., Hutson, B. L., & He, Y. (2008). The appreciative advising revolution. Champaign, IL: Stipes Publishing.

Proactive Advising

  • Begin Building Relationships on Day 1 - Try to meet with your students during orientation if time permits. If not, try to meet them during the first month of classes. A personal welcome email can help; it \goes a long way on such a big campus.
  • Be Prepared for Advising Appointments - Advisees will feel more welcomed if you ensure you are prepared for the appointment.  Make sure the office and desk area are warm and inviting.
  • Ask Questions and Make Appropriate Referrals- Advisors should ask pointed and detailed questions to get to know their students and make a connection
  • Maintain Regular Contact with Advisees- Maintain regular, ongoing contact with students by sending emails; follow up regarding their mid-term grades; reach out any time an early alert is received from a faculty member; and use social media to your advantage.

 Guiding Questions to Ask

  1. How has your adjustment been (your new courses, campus life, professors, jobs, internships, etc.)?
  2. What do you need at UMASS to succeed more?
  3. Have you connected with any groups and organizations? Which ones?
  4. Have you sought tutoring or help in any of your classes? Why or why not? Could that help?
  5. Do you feel comfortable in your classes?
  6. This course requires a high level of _____. What is your ____ background? Do you feel comfortable registering for this course?
  7. I see you do well in ____ courses. Have you considered a major or minor in ____?
  8. Are you experiencing any difficulties with your class materials?
  9. Do you feel safe on this campus? How can I help provide you with a safer environment to ensure you succeed?

Campus Resources

Off-Campus Resources