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Academic advising graduate returns to teach

Craig McGill smiling

For many people, “home” is a physical place. But for some of K-State's online students, the idea of home is a little more fluid.

Take Craig McGill. He’s been all over. He earned a certificate and then a master’s degree in academic advising from Global Campus while living in Nebraska. Since then, he’s earned a doctorate in education from Florida International University and conducted research at the University of South Dakota. Now, this Wildcat is “coming home” to Manhattan for the very first time.

But not as a student this time. As a Wildcat faculty member.

“For academic advising, K-State is the place to be,” he said. “It’s the center for the study of this field. I’m still speechless that this was my dream job and it came true.”

McGill will be an assistant professor in the academic advising program offered online at K-State. His background has combined advising, teaching and research. He’s excited to share his expertise with graduate students at the master’s level as well as with the first cohort in the new doctorate program.

“It’s a really unique program because it’s the very first doctorate program in academic advising,” he said. “It’s no mystery why that is — because NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising is here. NACADA and the K-State College of Education have a really beautiful, supportive relationship.”

McGill’s interest in academic advising began with his own experience consulting academic advisors as an undergraduate student. He was interested in a lot of different fields — music, English, film — and wanted to figure out how he could pursue all of these interests while at school. One advisor simply ran him through the catalog to find courses. Another advisor was more invested.

“She was so caring and so interested in what I was learning and about my experiences,” he recalled. “She had an infectious energy. I thought, ‘Wow, that was really cool!’ She’s the one who showed me I could have a career in this field.”

Her passion stuck with him and, after graduating with two bachelor’s degrees encompassing his varied areas of interest, McGill found himself asking what was next.

“I couldn’t get academic advising out of my head,” he said.

That drew him to K-State, where he earned a certificate in academic advising while working at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. When he finished his certification, he realized a master’s degree was only five courses away. He went for it. And his perception of the field shifted.

“Many people believe advising is about helping students get into the best coursework to get them to graduate. That’s not a bad goal, but there’s more to it than that,” he said. “When students engage in the academic advising process, they connect with a caring institutional representative. They build rapport. Through the process of academic advising, students learn and develop. They become better informed to make decisions academically and personally.”

He’s working to change the broad belief and develop a framework that will help the academic community better understand the power and potential of academic advising. Because people from all different backgrounds practice academic advising, there’s a richness in the field. But that diversity has also meant a lack of cohesion when it comes to the practice. Take McGill’s early experience as a student — same profession, two very different approaches. Today, McGill is working to help unify the field.

“One of my biggest goals is to communicate the value and complexity of advising,” McGill said. “I truly believe it can change the world.”

McGill’s other areas of research are social justice, student advocacy and identity development.

As McGill prepares to welcome his students to Global Campus this semester, he looked back on his own experience as an online student and even offered up some advice to future students.

“The No. 1 thing to be successful in a virtual place, you have to be self-motivated and self-directed. Online learning holds you to a higher level of accountability. You have to do things on your own and be organized,” he said. “Forming connections with your classmates is a really powerful thing to do. That way it’s not you in isolation somewhere in the world doing this on your own. It’s possible to form meaningful relationships even in an online space. And don’t be afraid to reach out to the professor.”

Even though this Wildcat is new to Manhattan, he’s starting to feel at home. He joined the K-State Alumni Association, stocked up on purple gear and is ready to engage with his students.

Interested in giving back? You can help support students like Craig McGill by contributing to K-State Global Campus foundation funds, which support student scholarships and online learning. If you are interested, learn more. If you would like to visit about giving back, you may contact Melinda Sinn, alumni and external relations coordinator at sinnpio@k-state.edu.