Empowering Student Success: The Role of Trauma-Informed Academic Advising in Higher Education

Michelle Stephenson (Leeds Beckett University )

Monday, April 8, 2024 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

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Session Outline

This session discusses the importance of academic advising, emphasising the pivotal role it plays in fostering students' sense of belonging, reducing drop-out rates, and empowering students’ overall success (Mooring 2016). It will explore a review of the academic advisor role within the School of Health at Leeds Beckett University and the unique challenges faced within nursing and higher education. Alternative perspectives will be discussed with a focus on how adopting a trauma-informed approach to academic advising could improve student experience (Brown et al, 2021). The session will offer an interactive platform where participants can explore how they can become more trauma informed in their advising role.

Challenges in the Academic Advisor Role:

University can pose a unique and varied set of challenges for students, both within their contact time on campus and life outside of their studies. Every student coming to university will have their own challenges which may include, disability or learning needs, financial stress, mental health concerns or previous trauma. Within the nursing school review, students reported feeling that their pastoral needs can be overlooked, with greater emphasis given to performing well academically and on clinical placement. Academic advisors play a critical role in helping students succeed by creating a nurturing environment that can empower students academically but also fosters a sense of community, however the role is not without its challenges (Gidman et al, 2000). This session addresses these challenges and discusses the importance of a holistic approach.

Trauma-Informed Approach:

A trauma-informed approach acknowledges the potential impact of adverse life experiences on students’ performance. By acknowledging and addressing this, a trauma-informed approach aims to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and growth. By prioritising the well-being of students, academic advisors can play a pivotal role in creating a campus culture that values empathy, understanding, and support. This can lead to improvements in student mental health, increased resilience and therefore improved academic engagement (Berman, 2020).

In this session, participants will explore the six principles of trauma-informed care and how they could be integrated into academic advising (SAMHSA, 2021). Attendees will engage in group discussion around practical strategies to implement this approach, considering small changes they could make to improve student experience.


Academic advising in higher education is a vital component of student success, with the potential to address the challenges students face both within and outside the university (Holland et al, 2020). By adopting a trauma-informed approach, advisors can play a crucial role in creating a nurturing and supportive environment that empowers students and enhances their sense of belonging.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
P2 - Appreciate students’ views and cultures, maintain a student-centred approach and mindset, and treat students with sensitivity and fairness
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality