Academic advising is a university-provided resource designed to support student persistence (Pascarella 8c Terenzini, 2005). Academic advisors, whether professional staff' or faculty, work with students holistically to collaborate on the students’ completion of their academic and professional goals (O’Banion, 1994). Advising practices are rooted in student development theories (McGill, 2016), which are programmatic in nature, “based on what professionals do to encourage learning and student growth” (Patton, Renn, Guido, 8c Quaye, 2016, p. 8). Research has shown a positive correlation between successful advising and persistence (Pascarella 8c Terenzini, 2005), but there is a lack of literature on variations within advising practices that can better support minoritized students across STEM disciplines and specifically in engineering (Ong et al., 2011).
Many student development theorists developed generalizable frameworks (Hernandez, 2017) that minimally focused on the role of gender, race, or ethnicity in advising practices (Pascarella 8c Terenzini, 2005; Patton et ah, 2016); therefore, developmental advising is rooted in an exclusionary theoretical framework. To provide a truly holistic approach, student support resources must incorporate the experiences and identities of minoritized students, which leads to an engagement of social justice and political issues (Patton et ah, 2016).
The Racialized and Gendered Climate
In the context of higher education, a negative racial climate is a “social and academic environment that exhibits and cultivates racial and gender discrimination” (Yosso, 2006, p. 101). Specifically, Latinas in STEM experience racial battle fatigue (Smith, Yosso, 8c Solorzano, 2011), race and gender microaggressions (Yosso, Smith, Ceja, & Solorzano, 2009), stereotype threat, and low faculty expectations (Solorzano, Villalpando, & Oseguera, 2005) as hurdles impeding degree attainment. These negative experiences reinforce exclusionary outcomes. Indeed, a well-documented explanatory factor for minoritized students’ low participation rates is the racialized and gendered climate in STEM (Samuelson & Litzler, 2016).
Prior research has cited successful practices to address the racialized and gendered climate, such as those that foster inclusion (Yosso et ah, 2009), develop women’s sense of identity (Blackburn, 2017), and align with societal and familial oriented goals (Diekman, Weisgram, 8c Belanger, 2015). Addressing minoritized students’ negative experiences by developing strategies to ease their experience and help them achieve degree attainment should be a central focus in advising FGLS through their engineering studies. Rincon and George-Jackson (2016) found that within engineering, increased support systems like academic advising positively influenced underrepresented students’ perceptions of the racialized and gendered climate.
Theoretical Framework and Key Constructs
Theory of Validation
The theory of validation emerged in the early 1990s from a study of the Transition to College Project, which considered how student learning was affected by student involvement in academic and social experiences (Rendon, 1994). Rendon (1994) reported five key findings that emerged from the research: (1) students expressed concerns about their ability to succeed; (2) intervention from key college representatives can help to ameliorate these concerns; (3) success in college depends on an “external agent [who] can validate [minority] students in an academic and interpersonal way” (p. 8); (4) validation transforms students into powerful learners; and (5) “validation may be the missing link to involvement, and may be a prerequisite for involvement to occur” (p. 9). Validation occurs through interactions with an agent; academic advisors are considered out-of-class validating agents, and they can play a key role in providing academic and interpersonal validation (Rendon, 1994; Rendon Linares & Munoz, 2011, p. 21).
When engaging a validating advising approach, the academic advisor seeks to empower, support, and affirm the student. Validating advising practices require advisors to actively participate in affirming their students’ experiences and histories as forms of knowledge, assets, and strengths (Rendon Linares & Munoz, 2011) to empower them to be successful. By incorporating the experiences and identities of individuals, advising is inclusive of students’ and advisors’ lived experiences (Hernandez, 2017). Through a practice based on these validating approaches, academic advisors build a holistic understanding of the student’s past and current experiences, which helps them better support their advisees. Students who experienced validation from an out-of-class institutional agent, such as an academic advisor, ultimately persisted at higher rates (Hurtado, Ruiz Alvarado, & Guillermo- Wann, 2012).
Community Cultural Wealth
Central to validation is the incorporation of a student’s strengths and assets. An asset-based approach, such as Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth (CCW) model, considers how certain types of capital are developed within and from students’ communities, becoming sources of strength and ultimately resources for mobility and advancement (Samuelson & Litzler, 2016;
Yosso, 2006). These overlapping and intertwined forms of capital include aspirational, navigational, social, linguistic, familial, and resistant capital (Yosso, 2005). Aspirational capital is one’s ability to be hopeful about the future in the face of real challenges. Linguistic capital consists of intellectual and social abilities to communicate through and in multiple languages. One’s sense of community and family nurtured among communities and families is familial capital. Social capital includes the community’s resources, spaces, and networks, while navigational capital is the ability to operate within social institutions and places. Finally, Yosso and Burciaga (2016) described resistant capital as skills and knowledge that emerge by challenging systemic invalidations. Studies have explored the positive benefits of and increased need for validation of the CCW model within engineering classrooms and support services (Romasanta, 2016; Samuelson & Litzler, 2016), to increase the inclusion of and positive academic experience for minoritized students.
A long-standing, widely referenced model used to explain minoritized students’ academic performance is deficit thinking (Valencia, 2010). This model attributes students’ failures to their own internal deficits resulting from their family socialization, genetics, class, and culture (Valencia, 2010). Cultural capital, the most widely referenced capital in literature describing minoritized student departure (Solorzano & Yosso, 2002), comprises the system of meanings and symbolism within a community or group acquired by adopting the dominant group’s values and norms (Lin, 2002). Education support services and programming focus primarily on helping students acquire the dominant cultural capital, thereby devaluing and invalidating a minoritized student’s multitude of other capitals (Ong et al., 2011). By describing students as deficient, researchers argue that educators begin to expect students to be deficient (Martin, Smith, & Williams, 2018), thereby reinforcing low expectations and ultimately lower outcomes (Liou, Martinez, & Rotheram-Fuller, 2016). Bearing this in mind, educators are encouraged to consider their own expectations of and for students to better support positive outcomes (Martin et al., 2018).
Asset-based views serve as a counterpoint to deficit models of student support. Based on their study of how minoritized students experience STEM college programs, Beals and Ibarra (2018) concluded that the integration of student identities and their diverse ways of thinking better supports persistence. Thus, educational reform should focus on the forms of capital these students do have, rather than the capital they lack (Solorzano & Yosso, 2002). An asset-based approach accomplishes this by considering how varied types of capital that develop within and from minoritized communities can become sources of strength to support student persistence (Samuelson & Litzler, 2016). Stevenson et al. (2019) described how Latinas used their strengths to reject deficit viewpoints and were able to develop resiliency within the STEM climate as a result, such resiliency representing an individual’s ability to succeed despite difficulties (Benard, 2004). Thus, validating advising practices in the context of this study engage asset-based views of students and focus on the activation of student strengths within the hostile climate of engineering.