Friday, February 20, 2015


February is DISCOVER PHASE Month of UAAC’s Appreciative Advising Challenge.

The Discover phase is when advisors work with students to discover their unique stories and help them recognize their strengths, skills and goals. “By utilizing positive, open-ended questions they can extract narratives through which they can help students identify their strengths, passions, and skills.”

Reference: Bloom, J.L., Huston, B.L., & He, Y. (Eds.). (2008). The Appreciative Advising Revolution. Stipes Publishing L.L.C.

 Challenge: What are some of your favorite open-ended questions you use to discover a student’s story? Please share your questions and the contexts in which you use them (e.g. during a second-year MAP appointment) by emailing We are looking for interesting and creative ideas to share with UAAC at the March 19 meeting.

 For example, when Lisa Shaw—one of the subcommittee members—first meets a student, she asks: What brought you to the department? What are you most interested in gaining from this major? Where do you see yourself headed from here? “Once I get them talking about what they want from us, I can usually find out what we can do for them,” she says.

More Discover phase prompts to get to know students:

·       What brought you to the University of Utah?

·       Why have you decided to study ____?

·       What are your strengths?

·       Tell me about an accomplishment that you're proud of. 

·       Look back on your last week. What activities energized you?

·       Who are the positive, influential role models in your life? Why do you admire them?

·       What does your academic support system look like?

·       What impact will your college degree have on your life?

For more ideas about how to incorporate Appreciative Advising into your professional practice, check out The Appreciative Advising Revolution Training Workbook: Translating Theory to Practice by Bloom, Hutson & He (2014).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

College of Fine Arts

Having current students and the activities that they are involved in is one of ways that the CFA attempts to both support our students and disarm them.  I think that when students see their work or peers and sometimes themselves engaged at the institution it can be really inviting. It sends the message that we value the work that they are doing and their efforts. We also share student stories through our blog the CFA Finer Points – the feed is on our main page



I think some the suggestions about disarming from the class that I am taking that might be good to share are: 

  • When I have time to prepare for a student meeting, I will take a minute to read through the PeopleSoft notes to remind myself if I have met with the student before and/or a little bit about the student.  Even if I do not remember the student from the notes that I have written I feel it is important for the student to know that I am glad that she or he is coming in again. I purposefully greet them by saying “it is good to see you again.”
  • I try to clean off my desk of projects that I am working on before I have a student appointment. This way neither the student or I are distracted by piles of paper or things to look at.  I think this leads to my ability to focus on the student.  

School of Business Advisors

Here are some photos, demonstrating how Undergraduate Advising Services in the David Eccles School of Business is implementing the Disarm Phase of the Appreciative Advising Challenge:

·        Amanda Miller uses her whiteboard as a calendar to display important dates and upcoming events.

·        Ben Repak changed the lighting in his office and added wall art to create a more welcoming environment for students.

·        Jason Barkemeyer displays family photos in his office.

·       Rachel Osterman keeps treats on her desk, next to handouts that may be of interest to students.

·       The Peer Advisors created a list of pros and cons, regarding our reception area.

John Nilsson - University College

Before I was exposed to the concept of Appreciative Advising, I only shook hands with students who initiated it.

Now I initiate the handshake and it sets a nice friendly tone for the appointment.  Doing so also helps me gauge the emotional state of the student I am meeting with before we begin our conversation. 

Traci Noyes - Business

I have attached a picture of my office from the student perspective.  I have always felt it is important to have an office that is warm and inviting, and free of clutter.  I try to keep the paper piles to a minimum and off to the side of my desk.

Other things I do to Disarm the student:

Always greet them by name in the lobby and usually shake their hand and tell them it is nice to meet them or nice to see them again.  If I can’t pronounce their name (a lot of international students) I will ask who is here to see me, then ask them to pronounce their name for me and do my best to repeat it.  I think this helps relax them in that I care about getting it correct and I want to be able to call them by name.  If they give me a nickname, I note that in peoplesoft and make sure I call them that at the next appointment.

I invite them to sit when they enter my office, and ask how they have been (how was your break, how was last holiday, how is semester going).  I follow up by asking how I can help them.

When talking with students I will ask what their commitments are outside of school.  This allows them to talk about work, family, children, etc.  It helps me understand all of their commitments and how to help them build a balanced schedule and discuss possible challenges.  I also ask what they are involved with on campus, which allows me to refer them to different activities and events if they are not at all involved.

I really feel like I am building relationships with students by asking these questions and I try to refer back to things they have shared with me when we meet again to continue to connect with them.




Kelsey Nicholson - The Transfer Center

I feel like disarming is a strength of mine, and one super easy way for me to help students feel at ease is to make my office not feel sterile, awkward, and strictly academic.  I have a bunch of pictures, posters, and a couple of maps on my walls.  I have one map in particular of the United States where I mark what schools students that I have personally worked with have transferred from.  It is a work in progress and it serves as a good conversation starter, especially since such a big portion of the students I work with transferred from a different school.  Tiny simple things can make such a difference when trying to disarm!

Kira Jones - Fine Arts/UC Bridge

I welcome them and ask if they want a treat. Seems to be working well. If they don't take a treat when they enter, they usually always take one on their way out.