Advising Across Difference:
Academic Advisors Course

Advising Across Difference is a year-long program for academic advisors at Cornell.

Our goal is to continue expanding the reach of the program to individual advisors and units, in addition to influencing the broader culture of academic advising at Cornell. Since the program’s launch in fall 2019, we have provided over 40 advisors across 35 advising units and academic departments with tangible skills, concrete practices, and a dynamic professional community committed to meaningful advising and education.

Program Goals

Through an interactive process this course will provide participants with sustained opportunities to:

  • Learn tools and skills for advising, collaborating, and leading across difference
  • Practice ways to foster human connection in their role as educators, colleagues, and leaders
  • Explore the ways in which social identities and lived experiences inform advising and educational processes
  • Explore their role as an advisor and culture navigator in an uncertain, changing, and challenging reality
  • Prepare themselves to engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion processes in their unit and on campus
  • Build a professional network of academic advisors interested in enacting systemic change past the completion of this course

When is this program offered?

Advising Across Difference is offered every other academic year.

Next offered: 2025-2026 academic year

Program Structure

The program comprises nine two-hour sessions that provide opportunities to learn, practice, and implement dialogue skills with a cohort of peers. Sessions will be held in person. The course is co-facilitated by Steph Cowling-Rich, Assistant Director of OADI (Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives), and Adi Grabiner-Keinan, Executive Director for Academic DEI Education & Director of IDP.

Participants will be asked to:

  • Review assigned materials between sessions (approximately two hours between sessions).
  • Reflect on assigned materials and session content in writing (approximately 30-60 minutes between sessions).
  • Attend all nine sessions, and communicate promptly with course facilitators if unable to attend a session.  Active contribution to dialogues, interactions with other participants, and engagement in sessions are critical components of the course. Participants’ attendance and participation are required for the successful completion of this course.

Program Fee

To help offset program costs, we are asking units/departments to pay $1,500 for each of their staff members participating in the course. We understand this may pose a financial challenge to some units/departments, and we do have limited funding available to support participants from units/departments that are unable to cover the full program fee. If your unit/department falls into this category, please contact the IDP team at

Contact with any questions.

Testimonials from Former Participants

[An impact this program had on me as an advisor is] I listen better and thinking about social identities is more upfront in my mind as I advise students.

2021-2022 participant

I came to the IDP program with the expectation that I would get more knowledge and skills - things - to use as an advisor, tools that would help me to connect with my students. And I did get these things. More than that, I got more of an awakening. I've learned that I often have no understanding of the life and circumstances of some of my students...and that's ok. What's not ok, is for me to leave things that way. Cornell can be a transformative place and time in students' lives, and I can have a role in transformation. I can be there as they consider the new idea, the other person, the possible outcomes. I don't need to have the answer. The listening, questions, challenges I pose to them can allow them the space to make a decision that is right for them.

2019-2020 participant

We all come to our meetings - with students and with colleagues - with a different agenda, and a different story or perspective to share, and when we allow ourselves to be open to the stories and experiences of others, we can learn to support each other in new, exciting, and meaningful ways.

2020-2021 participant

This course challenged me to continue to think about the ways I could stir change from within my advising role and how those avenues of change may shift on various levels. As an advisor, this course reaffirmed for me in the fundamental conviction I have held as a teacher and a learner. Learning new tools, such as strategic questions, has allowed and will allow me to work with students in ways that embody curiosity and clarity.

2019-2020 participant

[This course has impacted me as an advisor by] Really thinking about students as whole complex humans and prioritizing dialogue so interactions go beyond answering questions to being more more meaningful and truly impactful.

2021-2022 participant was amazing to be surrounded by other advisors on campus who are doing great work and are the soul of student support & advocacy at this University, and to learn from them and build relationships.

2020-2021 participant

This course has strengthened my resolve to be a student advocate, to be more comfortable in my own skin and show my vulnerabilities to students and other colleagues in a more authentic way. I am more present to students in meetings and more aware of how social identities, especially my own, shape our interactions. I have been humbled in the best of ways by the work we are doing and the gift of privilege to participate in the course, on our campus with such an interesting and thoughtful group of advisors and instructors. The occurrence of the COVID-19 crisis part way through our course has been a powerful experience of putting IDP tools into practice to support students. I don’t think I would have handled the weeks of uncertainty and loss as well if not for the IDP training. I may not have recognized as well the disparities in students’ abilities to learn from home environments or to cope with the crisis.

2019-2020 participant

While much of my focus has been critically focused on myself I've also gained a wider perspective to critically analyze some of the policies, procedures, and practices of my unit. I can now more clearly identify practices that are not necessarily equitable and feel much more confident bringing them up for discussion with my supervisor or team when appropriate.

2019-2020 participant

This course has profoundly influenced the way I see my role as an academic advisor. Most broadly, learning about and practicing actual dialogue, generative listening, and strategic questioning have shifted the axis from which I do my work – namely, by highlighting specific ways (abstractly and concretely) in which we can and must place students as central agents and partners in our advising relationships.

2020-2021 participant

I've really been challenged to be more intentional about the actions I take and the conversations I have. I think it has changed how I want to start advising appointments in order to have students be able to drive the conversation where they want it to go.

2020-2021 participant

This course has helped me to see my role as part of a larger community of advisors, who can work together to make positive changes at the University... It has been particularly helpful to have the IDP tools and the structure of the class to make connections with other advisors, develop common language and understanding, and make an action plan… The readings, assignments, and discussions have pushed me to think beyond the transactional and informational aspects, and to work toward a more transformative and social justice oriented approach to advising.

2020-2021 participant

While I have always been a naturally empathetic person with a solid understanding of social identity-based issues, this course forced me to self-reflect in deeper ways about my own identity, the identities of others, the ways I communicate, and how I can move from feeling to action.

2020-2021 participant