Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Jayne Sommers, Thomas Fish, Sarah Noonan


Academic advisors encounter ethical dilemmas and tensions in their work with students and with their institutions. The scholarly literature in the field provides various normative insights to guide practice. Moreover, advisors must grapple with ethical practice as advising emerges as a profession. In the existing literature, scholars ask whether or not an ethical code is necessary and desirable in order to fully emerge as a profession. In order to frame such a code, a deeper understanding of the ethical tensions in advising and how advisors understand and respond to those tensions is necessary. Additionally, a dearth of studies report on descriptive ethics. Although the existing literature on ethics in advising answers the question of what ought to happen when advisors face ethical tensions, it does not provide clear insights into how these advisors make decisions when faced with ethical dilemmas

This qualitative grounded theory study examines how primary role academic advisors working in large state university systems engage in ethical practice. In my analysis, I propose a four-phase cyclical model of pre-encounter, encounter, discernment, and response. Each phase highlights discrete but interconnected themes grounded in the data from semi-structured interviews with twelve primary role advisors. Finally, I provide recommendations for practitioners and scholars to implement this understanding of how primary role advisors understand and engage in ethical practice.


academic advising, ethics, ethic of care, descriptive ethics

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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