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Advising Interactive Worksheet: Intellectual Identity

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Intellectual Identity may be defined as that element of your “self” through which you interpret and understand the world around you. Intellectual Identity guides the manner in which you relate to your surroundings. It is that which you find compelling and meaningful—intellectual “personhood”. 

Intellectual Identity may have its foundation in artistic or aesthetic perceptions, culture and conduct, historical perspectives, human behavior, language and literature, scientific principles, or any other scheme or system through which people make meaning and find relevance in their environments. 

Educators from Academic Advising, along with those from the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning proposed that Intellectual Identity is the result of “reflective thinking”—a process involving dialogue with others, self-reflection, and personal discovery. Reflective thinking requires you to be curious and inquisitive, but also receptive to challenge. The proposed stages of this development are: Impression, Importance, and Intellectual Identity.1

  • Think of Impression as the what: It is that which piques curiosity and makes an impression. It’s an interest: ‘I love philosophy!’ or ‘Biology intrigues me!’ 
  • Think of Importance as the why: This is the rationale behind an interest, and addresses why the interest is compelling or meaningful in some global terms.  It’s a more elaborate answer than, “because it’s interesting.” 
  • Intellectual Identity is the so what: This is the synthesis of one’s interests and their importance into a relevant guiding principle or new world view. 

The development of Intellectual Identity begins with your personal interests but culminates with a discovery of why those personal interests are relevant to your life, the lives of others, and the world at large. Conversation and dialogue are essential in realizing your Intellectual Identity. Talking with others, particularly faculty, helps examine and challenge your ideas. Other ways to do this include: 

  • Practice academic exploration
    Investigate new course areas 
  • Evaluate your interests
    Think of “why” they intrigue you
  • Find your intellectual “home”
    Establish academic community
  • Visit office hours
    Engage instructors in dialogue
  • Hone your skill-sets
    Participate in research
  • Be reflective and challenge your ideas
    Keep a detailed academic journal

1 Mazow, C., Voigt, D., and Williams, R. (2002, June). Learning Portfolios: A Tool for Collaborative Formative Assessment of a Learning Career. American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) Assessment Conference. Boston, MA.

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Academic Advising is a planning process that helps students to approach their education in an organized and meaningful way… 

—National Academic Advising Association 

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