Chapter 1 My Advising Roles & Our Relationship

1.1 How I Roll in My Professor Roles

1.1.1 My Commitment of Service to You

I approach my involvement with you in WF ED graduate programs as service - which is defined as an act of helpful activity or aid - not as control - which is an act of restraining or directing behavior.

You are not a relative of mine. For the most part, I do not know people before they become my advisees. And, even if we know one another outside the context of the WF ED graduate program, we probably do not have natural emotional ties that can initiate and center our advisor/advisee relationship. Rather, through my role as your advisor, I have been assigned by Penn State to an official, authoritative, sanctioned position to help you finish your graduate degree with quality within the time period specified by Penn State’s Graduate School.

To be conscious of your needs as a graduate student and act on them with compassion, I require contact with you so that I can care for you. You can create this necessary contact by meeting often with me. During each semester during the academic year, I offer time approximately 12.5% of my work time for face–to–face and online meetings for Penn State students during Fall Semester and 27.5% during Spring Semester. Because I have a 36-week appointment to Penn State (Fall and Spring), I am typically not available for appointments during Summer Session.3

Establish meetings with me during the times on the calendar dates that I make available for student appointments (more about contacts with me later in this Guide). I conduct mostly weekly informal online group meetings (documented on my calendar) with my current advisees during Fall Semester and Spring Semester. Use the time that I make available to you.

1.1.2 Why My Commitment of Service to You is Important to Me

My service commitment to you nourishes me. My service to you is bound up in my own notion of my personal success in life. As an illustration, I relate to you a story told by Miguel de Unamuno - a now-deceased 19th-20th century Basque essayist, novelist, poet, playright - about an ancient Roman aqueduct located near the Spanish city of Segovia.

For 1,800 years the aqueduct carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. I have stood next to this aqueduct and felt connected to its Roman and Spanish history.4 It is both ancient as well as majestic.

People became concerned that this architectural marvel and historical treasure ought to be preserved from erosion that could result from continuing use. So, the city began detouring water flow away from the ancient stones and channeling it instead through modern pipes.

But, then, when water ceased flowing along its channels, the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun beating down on its now dry mortar caused it to crumble. In time, its massive structural stones threatened to fall. What eighteen centuries of hard service had not been able to destroy, a few years of idleness nearly did.

So in a similar way, my service to you is necessary to maintain against decay of my very humanity. It is easy in academic life to turn into oneself and to self-indulgently pursue the personal ideas and research that really requires no one else’s involvement. Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, warned against the dangers of detachment by professors. Bok wrote that

Armed with the security of tenure and time to study the world with care, professors would appear to have a unique opportunity to act as society’s scouts to signal impending problems long before they are visible to others. Yet rarely have members of the academy succeeded in discovering emerging issues and bringing them vividly to the attention of the public. What Rachel Carson did for risks to the environment, Ralph Nader for consumer protection, Michael Harrington for problems of poverty, Betty Friedan for women’s rights, they did as independent critics, not as members of the faculty.5

I admit that I struggle often with this “solitary research/social connection” balance. Striving for a proper balance requires concentration. However, at my age, to bolster my energy and rationalize my time I often recall a line or two attributed to American novelist and journalist Jack London, “I would rather be ashes than dust!….I would rather be a superb meteor…than a sleepy and permanent planet.”6

Well, amen, I respond. I promise you that I will burn and move as swiftly as possible with you while I still retain the privilege of the professorship. There certainly are rewards. As Satchidananda, a religious teacher, once said,

Always try to serve others. Don’t even call it helping, call it service because you are benefited by that. If someone begs from you and you give them something, you shouldn’t think you are helping them. Instead, he or she is helping you. ~Satchidananda Saraswati7

1.1.3 My Stewardship of Scholarship

I take the obligation of stewardship of academic scholarship seriously. Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

The word, steward, comes from the Old English word stiweard, with sti, meaning “hall,” and weard, meaning “ward,” or “guard.”8 Its primary meaning refers to an official or servant who was responsible for the domestic affairs of a household. The term also denotes a ruler or highly placed noble serving as a minister to a ruler and to offices. But, the term also refers to occupations such as gardener, magistrate, labor union representative, flight attendant, shipboard caterer, and financial manager.

The two key elements of the stewardship concept are (a) the ability to care for, manage, or control persons or things and (b) the accountability for the proper exercise of that ability. A steward exercises power and authority, but does not have license to do so in a self-serving or careless manner.9

I seek to be a steward of the vision, process, and product of academic scholarship. Stated simply, scholarship is the methods, discipline, and attainment of people who possess profound knowledge of a topic through valid, rigorous, and systematic study. To many, scholarship = research. However, Boyer10 classified scholarship into four types:

  • Scholarship of discovery - This type of scholarship comes closest to the “research” tradition of the university and, at its best, contributes not only to human knowledge, but also to the intellectual climate of the university.
  • Scholarship of integration - This type of scholarship links, interprets, and gives meaning to seemingly isolated facts. Although discovery asks “what can we know,” integration asks “what do these disparate facts mean.”
  • Scholarship of application - This type of scholarship moves toward engagement as the scholar asks “How can knowledge from discovery and integration be used?” Emerging imperatives by universities for engagement stand in marked contrast with traditional conceptions of higher education as a means as well as a measure of self-development and entirely as an end in itself. Scholarship of application is not a one-way street. It not only requires diffusion of knowledge from the university, but it also involves the learning acquired by the university from the engagement necessary to make the application. Knowledge is derived from practice.
  • Scholarship of teaching - A maxim ascribed to Aristotle asserted that “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.”11 The work of a scholar becomes consequential only as it is understood by others.12 And, while transmitting this knowledge, the scholar is pushed by students into creative new directions through the students’ comments, suggestions, questions, and dialog. And, due to advances in technology and through the ever-expanding reach of information networks, teaching activity has become more public and global and, therefore, more open to scholarly peer-review than ever before.

Glassick integrated a scholarly workflow with Boyer’s definitions of scholarship based on the opinions of grant funding agencies, scholarly press directors, and peer-reviewed journal editors to summarize six standards for scholarship: (a) clear goals that are realistic and achievable; (b) adequate preparation by understanding existing scholarship and adequately resourcing scholarly work; (c) appropriate methods matched to goals; (d) important results that achieve goals, add to the field of research, and open new exploration; (e) effective presentation that empasizes clarity and integrity; and (f) reflective self-critique to improve the quality of personal scholarship.13

My conception of stewardship over academic scholarship considers, then, Gassick’s scholarly workflow that guides each of Boyer’s four types of scholarship. You and I, as advisor and advisee, partner to develop, maintain, and extend our scholarship throughout this workflow and over these scholarship types in the field of practice in workforce education and development.

1.1.4 My Preference for Intellectual Synthesis

Immanuel Kant, 17th-18th century philosopher during what is called the Enlightenment Period in Western intellectual history, referred to intellectual synthesis as a process for “running through, and gathering together”14 of representations to make judgments and formulate concepts. I am drawn to the process of intellectual synthesis as a distinguishing attribute of scholarship.

The process of intellectual synthesis is much more than merely acquiring tidbits of knowledge. Graduate schooling certainly can make you a successful intellect worker, which Paul Baran, a now–deceased radical political economist, defined in an article, “The Commitment of the Intellectual,”15 as

Individuals working with their minds rather than with their muscles, living off their wits rather than off their hands. Let us call these people intellect workers. They are businessmen and physicians, corporate executives and purveyors of “culture,” stockbrokers and university professors. There is nothing invidious in this aggregation, no more than there is in the notion “all Americans,” or “all people who smoke a pipe.”

Yet, your development as an intellect worker is only a narrow view of my hopes for you as my advisee. A primary aim is to help you join or enhance your role as an intellectual, which Baran differentiated from the role of an intellect worker. I present Baran’s argument directly and at length because he states his case so eloquently:

What is an intellectual? The most obvious answer would seem to be: a person working with his intellect, relying for his livelihood (or if he need not worry about such things, for the gratification of his interests) on his brain rather than on his brawn. Yet simple and straightforward as it is, this definition would be generally considered to be quite inadequate. Fitting everyone who is not engaged in physical labor, it clearly does not jibe with the common understanding of the term “intellectual.” Indeed, the emergence of expressions such as “long-haired professor” and “egghead” suggests that somewhere in the public consciousness there exists a different notion encompassing a certain category of people who constitute a narrower stratum than those “working with their brains.”

The intellectual is systematically seeking to relate whatever specific area he may be working in to other aspects of human existence. Indeed, it is precisely this effort….to interconnect [emphasis mine] which constitutes one of the intellectual’s outstanding characteristics. And it is likewise this effort which identifies one of the intellectual’s principal functions in society: to serve as a symbol and as a reminder of the fundamental fact that the seemingly autonomous, disparate, and disjointed morsels of social existence – literature, art, politics, the economic order, science, the cultural and psychic condition of people – can all be understood (and influenced) only if they are clearly visualized as parts of the comprehensive totality….This principle “the truth is the whole” – to use an expression of Hegel – carries with it, in turn, the inescapable necessity of refusing to accept as a datum, or to treat as immune from analysis, any single part of the whole.

[The intellectual must] undertake ruthless criticism of everything that exists, ruthless in the sense that the criticism will not shrink either from its own conclusions or from conflict with the powers that be. An intellectual is thus in essence a…critic, a person whose concern is to identify, to analyze, and in this way to help overcome the obstacles barring the way to the attainment of a better, more humane, and more rational social order. As such he becomes the conscience of society and the spokesman of such progressive forces as it contains in any given period of history. And as such he is inevitably considered a “troublemaker” and a “nuisance” by [those] seeking to preserve the status quo as well as by the intellect workers in its service who accuse the intellectual of being utopian or metaphysical at best, subversive or seditious at worst.

All that can be hoped for now is that our country too will produce its “quota” of men and women who will defend the honor of the intellectual against all the fury of dominant interests and against all the assaults of agnosticism, obscurantism, and inhumanity.

Considered in the light of Baran’s argument, I do not regard intellectual synthesis merely as presiding over soulless knowledge and as taming the technical means of discovery, integration, application, and teaching. Rather, I view my intellectual synthesis as virtue-seeking, ethical activity, the consequence of which signifies to me that I must synthesize, as Baran quotes Hegel, “truth” from “the whole” or to seek Kant’s “gathering together.” The idea is to unite ideas, instead of seeing things piecemeal. This type of unification is exemplified in sociobiologist Edmond O. Wilson’s Consilience: The unity of knowledge16 and in a number of scholarly works in, for instance, history, psychology, ecology, and physics.

A prerequisite to intellectual synthesis is a being an omnivore of knowledge, a sop of information, a curious cat about all earthly ways (and maybe even a speculator about the unearthly). It is in this way that Eliezer Yudowsky equated intellectual synthesis as a virtue through which you:

Study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. Each field that you consume makes you larger. If you swallow enough sciences the gaps between them will diminish and your knowledge will become a unified whole. If you are gluttonous you will become vaster than mountains. It is especially important to eat math and science which impinges upon rationality: Evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory, decision theory. But these cannot be the only fields you study….17

1.2 My Four Advising Roles

I engage in four advising roles for graduate students in WF ED: (a) temporary advisor of a doctoral student; (b) chair/dissertation advisor of a doctoral committee for a doctoral candidate; (c) advisor/second reader of a research paper for a master’s degree student; and (d) member of a doctoral committee for a doctoral candidate.

1.2.1 Temporary Advisor (PhD)

The WF ED Program Coordinater can assign me to advise you during the period between your admission to the doctoral degree program in WF ED and the decision made by the Graduate Faculty to recommend your admission to doctoral candidacy status to the Graduate School. Neither you nor I choose whether I advise you temporarily. This is an administrative decision.

My duties as your temporary advisor are to (a) advise you about course enrollment during your first Summer Session (if you are admitted during Summer Session), your first Fall Semester, and your first Spring Semester and (b) to mentor you to complete the WF ED Doctoral Candidacy Examination successfully. I cease to be your temporary advisor when you are admitted to doctoral candidacy based on the recommendation of the WF ED graduate faculty.

1.2.2 Chair of Committee/Dissertation Advisor (PhD)

After the Graduate School admits you to doctoral candidacy status, you select a chair for your doctoral committee and a dissertation advisor. The chair and advisor can be, and often are, the same person.

The WF ED program allows you to suggest your own committee chair and dissertation advisor. However, if you fail to make these suggestions, the WF ED Program Coordinator will assign a WF ED graduate faculty member to fill these roles. Penn State’s Graduate School requires that each graduate student always can turn to a designated graduate faculty member for advice about degree progress and completion.

My duty as the chair of your committee is to help you create and manage the program of studies you establish to complete your degree requirements. My duty, if I also act as your dissertation advisor, is to help you propose, execute, write, defend, and submit a worthy dissertation.

I serve as an advisor only for dissertations that are within my areas of content and analytical expertise. Although I have conducted research through the lens of many disciplines,18 I mostly have conducted research and supervised dissertations that fall within the quantitative tradition using a wide variety of techniques generalized in some way or another from the statistical foundations of the linear model.19 As defined by Creswell20,

Quantitative research is a means for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables. These variables can be measured, typically in instruments, so that numbered data can be analyzed using statistical procedures. The final written report has a set structure consisting of introduction, literature and theory, methods, results, and discussion. (p. 247)

I am far less qualified to act as the advisor of students completing dissertations that are in the qualitative tradition21 or that use mixed qualitative and quantitative methods.22 I certainly can serve as the chair for any doctoral committee in the WF ED program because the committee chair mainly facilitates progress through the requirements, events, and deadlines faced by the student in a doctoral program. However, if your dissertation primarily is qualitative or involves mixed methods, you require a dissertation advisor other than me - or, I can serve as a co-advisor of your dissertation with another WF ED graduate faculty member who holds expertise in qualitative or mixed methods approaches.

1.2.3 Advisor/Second Reader of Research Paper (MS/MEd)

A WF ED faculty advisor is assigned to you by the WF ED Program Coordinator when you are admitted to the WF ED master’s degree program. My duty as your advisor for your master’s degree is to help you create and manage the program of studies you establish to complete your degree requirements.

I also advise you as you execute and write a worthy master’s paper or master’s thesis. If the degree program emphasis that you follow in the WF ED master’s degree program does not require you to write a master’s paper or thesis, then I help you prepare for the comprehensive examination you must pass at the end of your master’s degree program.

Master’s papers require a second reader in addition to the student’s advisor. If I am the second reader for your master’s paper, I review and approve your paper only after your advisor has approved your paper.

1.2.4 Member (PhD)

If I am a member of your doctoral committee, but not serving as your doctoral committee chair or dissertation advisor, I follow the lead provided by you and your committee chair/dissertation advisor to add my point of view about the structure of your program of studies, the process you follow for your comprehensive examination, and the nature and design of your dissertation. I can suggest ways to frame, execute, and report your research, but your chair/dissertation advisor and you make decisions about your research.

1.3 Aspects of Our Relationship

Our advisor/advisee relationship requires our friendship, self-direction by you, and our joint and continuous assessment of this relationship.

Recognize that the advisor/advisee relationship is complex and multifaceted and can appear ambivalent. On one hand, I act as your advocate by showing interest in you, by displaying concern for your happiness and welfare, by attending to details of your academic life, and by mentoring you as you progress from degree student, to degree earner, and, then, to the professional role you undertake in which you use the knowledge and skills you developed through earning your degree.

On the other hand, I act as a gatekeeper for the University and for society to ensure that you can complete the type of advanced academic work that is attempted by comparatively few students. You must convince me that you have the “right stuff” to make a genuine contribution to the sum of human knowledge in your area of interest and to produce work on which other researchers can build. I expect that you become an authority, in full command of a field of study right up to the boundaries of current knowledge. So, I also act as a judge of your qualifications for a degree. And, at times, this role in the advisor/advisee relationship requires me to suggest that you terminate your degree program. Making such a suggestion is serious, consequential, and just plain difficult — but, my duty.

1.3.1 Our Friendship

In Book VIII of Nichomachean Ethics,23 Aristotle described three kinds of friendship. One is based on utility, where friends merely do things for each other. Another is based on pleasure, where people are drawn to each other’s wit or good looks. The third kind of friendship is based on more stable moral qualities.

The first two kinds of friendship occur because people chance to have their needs and pleasures collide with one another. Friendships of these kinds can erupt and, then, wax and wane over time. The third is based on a more enduring and deep quality of human character: goodness, or what the ancient Greeks called arete, which is translated best as “moral virtue” or “excellence of any kind.”

I wish my friendship with you to be based on goodness. Goodness is an action, not a state of being. Aristotle believed that goodness evolves as people strive to live up to their potential, while they are burnished by the conflicts and difficulties that life delivers. Goodness is not a lofty abstraction, but is real, gritty, and hard won.

I associate so many concepts with the Aristotelian notion of goodness, among others: bravery, strength, effectiveness, affability, courage, cooperation, honor, openness, virtuosity, wisdom, integrity, diligence, competence, perseverance, discipline, and gravity. As Aristotle says in Book II in Nicomachean Ethics, action “at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the…best condition.” Goodness is synonymous with possessing the trait of strong character.

And, so, through goodness is how I wish our friendship to prosper within our advisee/advisor relationship. Friends admire each other’s goodness, and, at the same time, they help one another strive for goodness. In this way, our relationship as advisor and advisee is meant to be mutual, reciprocal, and beneficial. You are as responsible for helping me grow as much as I am responsible for helping you develop your moral character as a scholar.

1.3.2 Your Self-Direction

I start from the not-so-radical assertion that you are in charge of your WF ED graduate degree program.

You drive the graduate degree process by using a variety of resources, among which are your interests, motivations, prequisite learning, time allocation, and personal finances. At the end of the process, you are expected, especially with the PhD degree, to stand in the role of an independent scholar, an actual peer with the WF ED faculty members who guide you through the degree process. As a consequence, successful completion of your graduate degree program requires considerable self-knowledge, self-organization, and maturity.

Some consequences resulting from the asymmetry of our advisor/advisee relationship (“more you; less me”) include:

  • I guide, suggest, and recommend - but, I do not decide. I guide you when you request guidance. I suggest matters that could improve your graduate program as I believe you require and are able to receive constructive suggestions. But, note: I reserve the verb “advise” for use in oral or written communications with you when I believe you are following incorrect, counterproductive, or unproductive paths in your graduate studies. When you hear me say or read a declarative statement from me that uses the word, “advise,” you know that I am trying to communicate with you in my strongest and most urgent fashion. After my guidance, suggestions, and advice, you still decide.
  • You bear the consequences of your decisions. I do not direct or control your degree program. Rather, I guide, suggest, and advise. Even if I identify issues that seem to be impeding your progress or even represent what I consider to be errors potentially fatal to your degree program, you may, of course, still move ahead and ignore my guidance, suggestions, or advice. The choice is yours. I always act on my assertion that you are in charge. Gather the best information, and decide for yourself. You own any outcomes.

1.3.3 Our Ongoing Assessment

I consider a graduate student’s working relationship with an advisor and doctoral committees to more resemble “dating” than “marriage.” Stopping dating someone definitely is easier than divorcing a spouse. In a similar way, you or I easily can sever unilaterally our advising/committee relationship whenever either of us identifies that the relationship is unproductive or obstructive for our aims.

As you progress through your graduate degree program, you are likely to meet faculty members who can guide, suggest, and advise you better than can your current advisor or committee members. This opening of knowledge about faculty members is the result of a natural maturing of your knowledge, skills, and interests as well as a consequence of broadening your experiences and contacts through graduate study. A good outcome, right? You should feel free to replace your advisor or alter your committee structure any time that you believe another advisor or committee structure can serve you better. Remember, it’s dating, not marriage. Break the realtionship off whenever you wish.

Some students worry that an advisor or committee members could become unhappy or retalialate if the advisor or members are replaced or removed. However, removal or replacement happens more often than you might realize and can propel a student forward in their degree pursuits. As stated in the WF ED Graduate Student Handbook, “Such requests are a common, and well-accepted, occurrence.”24 The only exception that I note is when a student wants to remove an advisor or a committee member because the student wishes to sidestep the faculty member’s quality standards or ethical stance.

The conditions under which I might request my removal as your advisor, committee chair, or committee member are few. If I do not believe I can help you make adequate progress toward your degree, I will suggest that you transition to a new advisor, chair, or committee member to replace me. I also might decide to sever our advising relationship if I judge that you have violated ethical principles (especially related to protection of research subjects or plagiarism), trust, decorum, or respect for other faculty, staff, or students.


  1. The distribution of my current workload is displayed at https://sites.google.com/site/psupassmore/.

  2. The town of Segovia and its aqueduct are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List (see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/311).

  3. p. 17 in Bok, D. Universities and the future of America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  4. Attributed to London in the introduction London essays collected by Irving Shepard in 1956 in Jack London’s tales of adventure illustrated, published by Hanover House/Doubleday and Company.

  5. Satchidananda was the founder of integral yoga and received, among other honors, the U Thant Peace Award, the Humanitarian Award of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and The Albert Schweitzer Award.

  6. On p. 282 of Callicot, J. B., & Frodeman, R. (2009). Encyclopedia of environmental ethics and philosophy (Vol. 2). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Cengage Learning.

  7. Ibid., p. 282.

  8. Chapter 2 in Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

  9. Attributed, but unsourced, at https://goo.gl/49CeH8.

  10. As an aside, I view the process of writing as a subset of of the scholarship of teaching. There is an oft-quoted maxim that “You know nothing unless you can write about it.” A document targeted for graduate about scholarly writing processes: Passmore, D. L. (2013). Scholarly writing: Guide to honing your writing skills for success in the doctoral program in Workforce Education & Development at Penn State. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/59swvv.

  11. From table on p. 879 in Glassick, C. E. (2000). Boyer’s expanded definitions of scholarship, the standards for assessing scholarship, and the elusivesness of the scholarship of teaching. Academic Medicine, 75,(9), 877-880. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/eI2t90.

  12. Cited from German in Makkreel, R. A. (1990). Imagination and interpretation in Kant: The hermeneutical import of the critique of judgment. Chaicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

  13. Baran, P. A. (1961). The commitment of the intellectual. Monthly Review, 13(1). Retrieved from http://goo.gl/8Ylplw.

  14. Wilson. E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge (New York: Alfred A. Knopf) in which, on page 7, Wilson identifies consilience as “Literally a ‘jumping together’ of knowledge by the linking of facts and fact-based theory across disciplines to create a common groundwork of explanation.”

  15. Yudowsky, E. (2006). Twelve virtues of rationality. Retrieved from http://www.yudkowsky.net/rational/virtues.

  16. Including disciplines of micro- and macro-economics, demography, epidemiology, learning sciences; computer science, regional science, data science, and ethics; review my CV at http://goo.gl/lLDsLh.

  17. Described at http://goo.gl/H0VGrg

  18. Creswell, J. R. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. New York: SAGE.

  19. Cf. p. 246 in Creswell for definition of qualitative research.

  20. Mixed methods research defined, also, in Creswell, p. 244.

  21. Aristotle (approx. 350 B.C.E.), Nichomachean ethics (Translated by W. D. Ross). Retrieved from http://goo.gl/DYqlqN

  22. In section titled, “Academic Advisor and Registration,” at https://goo.gl/xQvCta