UK Social Work Strengthens Advising Through Investment in Professional Development

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Advisors at the UK College of Social Work (CoSW) recently completed a six-week Appreciative Advising course through Florida Atlantic University. Appreciative Advising is the intentional collaborative practice of asking positive, open-ended questions that help students optimize their educational experiences and achieve their dreams, goals, and potentials.

The advisors’ participation in the course is part of CoSW’s ongoing commitment to professional development through the Investment in Ingenuity and Initiative Program, or I3. The program, created by Dean Justin “Jay” Miller, provides annual funding for eligible college staff to pursue professional development opportunities that enable them to develop the skills necessary to be successful in a modern, changing workforce.

“Our primary goal in advising is to create the best experience possible for our students,” says Wainscott. “We integrate different models depending on each student’s needs and goals, what program they’re in, and where they are in their academic journey. We wanted our advisors to have as many tools as possible in the models that we’re pulling from to enhance their advising practice and the students advising experience.”

Appreciative Advising is based on the organizational development theory of Appreciative Inquiry is designed to provide a framework for increasing adviser and student success. It is composed of six phases:

  • Disarm: Make a positive first impression with students, build rapport, and create a safe and welcoming space.
  • Discover: Ask generative, open-ended questions that help advisors learn about students’ strengths, skills, and abilities.
  • Dream: Inquire about students’ hopes and dreams for their futures.
  • Design: Students and advisors co-create a plan for making students dreams a reality.
  • Deliver: Students deliver on the plan co-created during the Design phase, and advisors are available to encourage and support their students.
  • Don’t Settle: Students and advisors set their own internal bars of expectations high.

Senior Academic Advisor Sara Green felt that the course was extremely helpful in terms of connecting with peers at other colleges, as well as learning how the concept of Appreciative Advising is universal across all programs. “This certification not only strengthened our own approach to advising, but our advising practices as a team.”

Wainscott believes that the program was very complementary to the social work skills and approach that CoSW advisors bring into their roles. “The Appreciative Advising course helped me to be more intentional about what I’m integrating into my advising practices. It gave me tools and language to use, and things to consider when I’m interacting with students…what the purpose of those interactions are and how I can use those interactions to help my students be as successful as possible.”

Advisor Kyle Phillips agrees, sharing “The Appreciative Advising course was a phenomenal experience that reiterated what academic advising is all about: building relationships with our students and helping them identify and accomplish their long-term goals. I left the course with practical ways to improve my practice and better serve my students, and I can’t wait to implement them!”

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.