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General Information

Who Should Attend

Professional advisors, counselors, faculty, and administrators working to enhance the educational development of students are encouraged to attend the Advising Matters Conference.

Conference Overview

The Advising Matters Conference will kick off at 8:30 AM on Friday, March 1, 2024, and conclude by 4:15 PM. The 2024 conference will provide you with the following opportunities:

  • Formal and informal networking with faculty and professional advisors committed to facilitating student academic success
  • An interactive workshop and concurrent sessions focusing on advising tools, collaboration across the university and professional development for academic advisors
  • Opportunities for professional development for all advisors
  • Discussions on critical issues in academic advising
  • A range of theoretical, practical, and interactive presentations

For more information about the Advising Matters Conference, please email


  • 8:00–8:30 AM: Registration and Continental Breakfast
  • 8:30–9:00 AM: Welcome
  • 9:00–11:00 AM: Keynote Speaker
  • 11:00–11:15 AM: Break
  • 11:15 AM–12:15 PM: Concurrent Session I
  • 12:15–1:15 PM: Lunch
  • 1:15–1:45 PM: Student Panel
  • 1:45–2:00 PM: Break
  • 2:00–3:00 PM: Concurrent Session II
  • 3:00–3:15 PM: Break
  • 3:15–4:15 PM: Concurrent Session III

Concurrent Workshops

Affirmation, support and advocacy: Foundational Practices for Radical Love and Belonging
Jasmine Lee, Goucher College
Latham DEF
Research describes the unique challenges of first-generation students, students of color, and students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds.  When specifically considering students of color attending predominantly white institutions, challenges include overt racism, facing daily microagressions, experiencing role strain, and difficulty feeling as if they belong at their college. How are these challenges exacerbated when a student’s academic or faculty advisor is unable to or unwilling to understand their racialized experience on a predominantly white campus? How can academic advisors work to affirm, support and advocate for students of color on predominantly white campuses? This session utilizes Critical Race Theory (a theory that validates everyday racialized experiences) to explore affirming, supportive, and advocacy techniques for advising students of color attending predominantly white institutions.

Where do I belong? Student and advisor panel on students changing majors and finding their place
Lauren Varboncoeur, Virginia Tech
Melissa Cumbia, Virginia Tech
Julie Burger, Virginia Tech
Assembly Hall
Given the significant number of college students who change majors, academic advisors must be well equipped to support change of major students - helping these students gather information, find their fit, and achieve degree completion. In this panel session, advisors who work with a high percentage of major changes and students who have changed majors will share their insights. Session attendees will hear directly from students to learn more about change of major experiences, including these students’ sense of belonging in their previous and new programs, as well as discuss best practices for supporting students through a change of major.

Bridging the Divide to Increase Access and Equity for Underrepresented and Underserved Students
Nasim Schwab, Virginia Tech
With the transition from traditional in-person orientation to virtual orientation modules, Virginia Tech has found there is a need to intentionally engage and support our first-generation and underserved/underrepresented students during the summer months when different tasks need to be independently completed (i.e. orientation, course registration etc.). A free virtual peer mentor program has been developed and piloted to connect newly admitted students with current students during the summer to help prepare them for their transition. This session will review the needs of our new students, the programmatic and student learning outcomes, and the development of this program.

Supporting International Students' Sense of Belonging: Practical Advice & Approaches
Anya Work, Virginia Tech
Suzanne Shelburne, Virginia Tech
As the number of international students studying in the United States continues to increase, it is crucial for advisors to grow their awareness of factors affecting this student population, including loneliness, cultural adjustment, homesickness, and stress. Presenters from Virginia Tech’s Career and Professional Development will discuss asset-based approaches and scaffolds to support students’ sense of belonging, including how international students can utilize their global competencies as strengths. In addition to general advising practices, the presenters will share practical advice for working with international students as they navigate the job search process, networking, and interviewing in the United States.

Beyond the Model Minority Myth: Appropriately Advising APIDA Students
Teresa Wilson, Virginia Tech
Nina Ha, Virginia Tech
Michelle Ausman, Virginia Tech
The U.S. Department of Education designated Virginia Tech as an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) with at least 10% of the student population identifying as Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) and Indigenous students. This panel discussion explores three different approaches to working with and advising APIDA students. Discover how to leverage the graduate/undergraduate mentorship relationship to build a sense of belonging. Learn how academic advisors can assist APIDA students to navigate identity conflicts through cultural sensitivity. Gain new perspectives on fostering leadership skills through advising student organizations.

Towards becoming: The Role of Advisors in managing cultural shock and stress
Emmanuel Ojo, Virginia Tech
On the journey towards belonging, first-generation students face myriad of challenges due to the transition into a new/different academic and social environment. These challenges which stems from the culture shock these students experience revolve around time management, academics and personal life. Without proper management, these culture shock can lead to stress and burnouts which can ultimately affect the academic performance of the students. It is therefore important that advisors are equipped with the requisite knowledge on how to help students to be open minded, willing to learn, go out of their comfort zone and reach out for help when needed. 

Circle of Support for College Mathematics
E. Fanny Jasso Hernandez, Virginia Tech
Jessica Hurdus, Virginia Tech
Sadie Powell, Virginia Tech
Jessica Schmale, Virginia Tech
Latham DEF
In this interactive session we will discuss and explore typical obstacles that students face when taking math courses. We will review best practices for students and ways that advisors can help by encouraging these strategies. Our conversation will dive into topics such as:

  • The process of learning mathematics.
  • Growth mindset as a tool to support students.
  • Timing advising and strategic courses of action.
  • The benefits of student-formed study groups and some tips to optimize learning.
  • Effective study skills for mathematics courses; compare/contrast studying for 1000,2000- level courses to studying for more advanced courses.

Disability Studies 101: Facilitating Belonging for Disabled Students
Victoria Lael, Virginia Tech
Assembly Hall
This presentation will provide information and strategies to facilitate connection and belonging with disabled students. Participants will be introduced to different frameworks for understanding disability and how they relate to the experiences disabled students have in higher education. After participating in this session, participants will be able to identify examples of ableism, explain the difference between person-first and identity-first language, and evaluate personal beliefs that may be problematic. Participants will be provided with resources they can use to continue learning about this topic, as well as information they can share with disabled students who may be seeking support.

Creating a Sense of Belonging: Engaging Students in the Performance Improvement Process
Deanna Flora, Virginia Tech
Donna Faltin, Virginia Tech
Research shows that academic success is closely related to positive student engagement. Engaged students have a higher sense of belonging and demonstrate a stronger commitment to the performance improvement process (PIP). Data on students who are not successfully progressing in their major, including students on probation and in violation of Progress Toward Degree will be presented. Research-based advising strategies and best practices for improving performance and retaining students will be introduced. Participants learn inclusive engagement strategies and strength-based advising approaches to build a sense of belonging and empower students. Tools that advisors can utilize will be demonstrated through interactive activities.

Cultivating Belonging through Equity-Minded Student Data Analysis
Claire Robbins, Virginia Tech
Kayla Goodwin, Virginia Tech
Heather Whedbee, Virginia Tech
Kendall Keyser, Virginia Tech
Shaila Mehra, Virginia Tech
Many campus partners want to cultivate a culturally engaging campus environment to improve students’ sense of belonging, academic dispositions, and academic performance (Museus, 2014), but it requires a collaborative effort across traditional boundaries of academia that can be challenging to implement. In this session, participants will learn how a professional development series on equity-minded data analysis (McNair, Bensimon, & Malcom-Piqueux, 2020) highlighted equity gaps in our academic units and catalyzed a peer mentoring initiative that aims to improve student success, retention, and a sense of belonging through an innovative collaboration across the student, advisor, and administrative levels.

Pawffice Hours: Building Community and Belonging One Hour and Dog at a Time
Teresa Wilson, Virginia Tech
Latham DEF
The Surgeon General recently declared loneliness a national epidemic with “some of the highest rates among young adults” (Alonso, 2023). Many students feel disconnected and like they do not belong on campus. To combat this issue, the Virginia Tech Animal Assisted Therapy team developed an office hours program that brings together students over a common bond – their love for dogs.  This session will focus on the structure of office hours, observed benefits to students. Additionally, the session will share ways to develop similar programs with the aim of connecting and building a strong sense of community and belonging. 

Advising Student Veterans: Where to Begin
Jana Moser Moore, Virginia Tech
Sarah Deisher, Virginia Tech
Ryan Adams, New River Community College
Assembly Hall
This session explores skills and approaches for advisors working with student veterans and their unique life experiences and needs.  We also discuss what advisors should know to assist students (both veterans and dependents) in maintaining their status for funding using veteran education benefits. Advisors are provided a benefits “cheat sheet” to reference upon return to their institutions.

We will address questions like:

  • Who is a student veteran?
  • How best do we communicate and connect with them? 
  • What are their experiences? How does that affect the kind of student they are?
  • What are the does and don’ts of VA funding?

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Conversations With Students Who Are Debating To Transfer
Rebekah DeToma, Virginia Tech
Students that want to transfer to a different institution may be a small percentage of your case load, but are you prepared to have that conversation? This presentation will focus on how campus environments play a role in a students decision to transfer, while also providing advisors a way to have more meaningful conversations with this particular student group. With the use of case studies and guiding questions, advisors will leave the session feeling more confident and ready to help students identify if they should stay, or if they should go.

Is this too much pink? A maximalist’s guide to using office design to create a welcoming space for both students and academic advisors
Barbara Parker, Virginia Tech
The disarm phase of the Appreciative Advising model emphasizes creating a safe, welcoming office environment. In this interactive workshop, participants will identify the key components of good office design: color, furniture placement, lighting, and personalization. They will also recognize how creating a welcoming space correlates with the wellbeing and sense of belonging for both advisors and students. Finally, they will collaborate with other participants to evaluate the design of their office and develop a plan to redesign their own offices.

A Community Approach to Professional Development
Dana McGuire, Virginia Tech
Heath Furrow, Virginia Tech
Carolyn Ballard, Virginia Tech
Brandy Respess, Virginia Tech
Kayla Goodwin, Virginia Tech

The Advising Network (AN) is a forum for idea-sharing and community-building at Virginia Tech. Our goal is to provide our members opportunities for professional development and peer support related to advising, creating a sense of belonging and a network of colleagues across the university. The presentation will address the formation of AN, the structure of the Steering Committee, AN’s mechanisms for capturing member feedback, and how AN works collaboratively with university-level leadership to produce and facilitate workshops and socials for our members. Participants will leave with ideas of how to cultivate an advising community across their institution.