At Simon Fraser University (SFU), disparity in academic outcomes between students from international pathways and Canadian students persists, which is incongruent with SFU's goals for internationalization, student learning and success, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Good academic advising is foundational to an institution's student retention strategy (Habley et al., 2012). However, students from international pathways have largely been overlooked in empirical research on academic advising. This qualitative case study sought to understand the curricular, pedagogical, and professional issues that must be addressed when implementing an enhanced academic advising model that is responsive to the needs of students from international pathways. Data were gathered through interviews with nine current or former academic advisors and managers in SFU's Back on Track Program. Documents relevant to the program's advising curriculum provided supplementary data and informed the six themes that emerged from the data analysis: (a) students faced a high-stakes, high-pressure environment that heightened their needs and expectations from advising; (b) students had distinct advising needs regarding navigating Canadian university culture; (c) students required specialized guidance for academic and career exploration; (d) advisors adapted appreciative advising and utilize culturally responsive advising approaches; (e) the Back on Track advising curriculum had strengths and limitations; and (f) advisors needed specialized competencies. Based on these findings, essential features to enhance academic advising for students from international pathways at SFU are proposed: (a) tailored and coherent advising curriculum including navigating the university culture and integrated academic and career exploration, (b) culturally responsive pedagogy and blended advising strategies, and (c) advisor competencies in international and immigrant students adjustment needs, intercultural skills, theory and practice in student development and career and academic advising, employment trends, and English language assessment and support referral. Academic advising models based on this research have the potential to contribute to the overall experience and success of students from international pathways beyond the context of this study, thereby addressing a significant gap in research and practice in the field. Future research should consider the perspectives of students from international pathways, different types of institutional contexts, and the experiences of immigrant students, all with a Canadian focus.
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Thesis advisor: Gajdamaschko, Natalia
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