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The Academic Advisor’s Role in the Development of a Student’s Sense of Belonging: Essence Stories from the Field

Lisa Giudici, Johnson & Wales University


A student’s sense of belonging on campus is critical to their success in college (Strayhorn, 2018). Finding a sense of place can affect a student’s academic adjustment, achievement, or persistence at that institution (Strayhorn, 2018). Research suggests that a sense of belonging in college and a feeling of connection to the campus community are extremely important in terms of students’ well-being and performance (Tinto, 1993, 2001). Academic advisors are uniquely positioned to understand not only the structural elements of student success but also the contextual ones (Troxel, 2019). Although there are many programs and services within a campus community that ensure student retention and success, academic advising has always played an integral role in supporting students (Zhang et al., 2019). Thus, the purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand how students ascribe meaning to the role of academic advising in their search for a sense of belonging on campus, guided by an overarching research question: What is the role of academic advising in a student’s lived experience of developing a sense of belonging on campus? Three data sources supported this exploration: 1) interviews with former students (N=11), 2) debriefing reflections (N=11), and 3) campus messaging documents (N=22), which were designed to acculturate students to college. Interview and reflective data analysis applied Boyatzis’ thematic analysis strategy (1998), and Bowen’s (2009) content analysis strategy supported document analysis. Five themes emerged from the findings of this study: 1) “I thought I knew the kind of school I was looking for”, 2) “I am growing up with these people in this strange new place”, 3) “Me, becoming my best self through struggle and triumph”, 4) “I trusted her and she accepted my vulnerability”, and 5) “A powerful experience I will never forget”. By exploring the lived experiences of these former students, new approaches to academic advising may be uncovered. These approaches may facilitate a deeper, more personalized relationship between student and advisor to enrich a student’s sense of belonging in college, ensuring their academic and personal success through graduation.

Subject Area

Higher education|Counseling Psychology|School counseling

Recommended Citation

Giudici, Lisa, "The Academic Advisor’s Role in the Development of a Student’s Sense of Belonging: Essence Stories from the Field" (2021). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI28494169.