advising with purpose and passion…

In the last post, I wrote about transformational coaching in higher education; I received several interesting responses from listserv participants.  In a nutshell, almost all of the “coaching” done in higher education is at Level 1 (changing one specific situation/action) and a few are working on Level 2 (change in a specific life area).  However, no one mentioned coaching at Level 3, where we change our entire being, change the way we interact with the world.  For almost all of our students, they institute Level 3 change on their own, typically due to some life-changing event (death of a loved one, natural catastrophe, etc.).

This summer, I’ve dedicated myself to reading articles and books on spirituality and purpose in higher education; as I’ve read these books, I’ve noticed some sobering facts about students in higher education:

– Less than 50% of students who attend college graduate from college.

– As many as 80% of new college students don’t really know what they want to do in college, even those that have declared a major.

– Anywhere from 40% to 80% of college students change their major at least once during their college career.

– Students today will have 10 to 14 different jobs and 5 to 7 different careers in their lifetime.

With these statistics, doesn’t it seem logical that colleges and universities spend a little more time helping students find themselves, on Level 3 coaching that helps this process?  Author Ken Bain, know for his book, “What the Best College Teachers Do” has just come our with another book titled, ‘What the Best College Students Do” (review of book –  In this book, he talks a good deal about passion and purpose as the fuel that enhances student success.  Do you believe that having purpose and passion for your work increases your likelihood for success?

In 1972, Terry O’Banion created an advising model ( focused on developing the whole students,as follows (in sequential order of importance):

Exploration of Life Goals

Exploration of Vocational Goals

Program Choice

Course Choice

Scheduling of Courses


As you probably are aware, most institutions actual practice the model in a reverse order of tasks, since the primary objective of most students is to get out of college as soon as possible and, for many, the easiest way possible.  Courses (especially general education/liberal arts courses) are typically chosen to fulfill requirements and/or to fit a certain time of day, not for anything related to purpose or passion.  Many times, program choices are arbitrary, not necessarily for the love or the interest, but because of the demands of parents, financial concerns, etc.  And honestly, how many advisors truly spend a good portion of their time working with students on the exploration of vocational (in relation to one’s purpose) and/or life goals?

My solution?  A new model of advising focused on developing the student as a WHOLE person, where more of the time is spend on knowing one’s self and less time figuring out scheduling tasks.  Why am I proposing a new model?  If less than 50% of our students are graduating from college, shouldn’t our time be spent helping students develop a plan for life instead of a plan to graduate from college?  If they spend only one or two semesters at our institutions, wouldn’t it be worth their time to at least leave with an idea of how they would like to impact the world – or just be a better person?  The model I would propose – Advising for Purpose and Passion (or Purpose-Driven Advising – still trying to decide) – would look like the following:

Understand Self (What are my strengths?  What do I do well?  What’s Important to me?)

Discover Purpose (What am I here to do?  Who am I here to serve?  How do I make the world better?)

Identify Meaningful Work (What work should I do?  What major should I pursue?)

Create a Vision (What do I want from my life?  What are my dreams? Who can help me?)

Develop a Plan (What steps do I need to take?  What courses should I take?  What experiences should I get?)


I will be implementing this model as a part of my classes this Fall Semester, using a coaching tool that I’ve developed over the years.  By the end of the semester, students will be able to work through the five parts of the advising model, leaving the scheduling and course selection to the advisors.  Even if they decide to leave the institution, they will at least have an idea of their purpose and passion, so they can at least seek opportunities related to it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea…please share your comments below.

One thought on “advising with purpose and passion…

  1. YES! It is what I’ve been sharing with my peers since my recent career change this past year!

    As a person who was involved in Business, then obtained a BA in Theology and Education, then taught middle school and high school, lead church religious education and service summer mission trips, directed a college campus ministry program, lead alternative spring break trips, obtained a MA in Education, obtained a coaching certificate, and taught a “Search for Meaning” course, I TOTALLY AGREE!!!!

    Now that I am an academic advisor, which I moved into because of the many students I came to know in all of my past positions, I believe it is a moral responsibility for HIGHER education to be about purpose and passion. Especially with the debt load students are willing to carry with the idea that they will be more able to be productive in society.

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