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Voices of the Global Community


2006 February 29:1

From 56 attendees in its inaugural year to 280 participants in 2005, the Academic Advising Summer Institutes (SI) have blossomed into one of NACADA's most highly-anticipated annual offerings. SI founder Wes Habley recalls that "in the early '80s, the prevailing opinion about academic advising was that, just as every institution was different, every institution’s advising program was different. In a sense, there was no real common body of understandings and beliefs about advising." However, Habley's experiences suggested otherwise. He believed that "there were commonalities across institutions and across advising programs, and those commonalities formed a set of building blocks or core concepts that could be identified and shared." Thus, in establishing the first Academic Advising Summer Institute, Habley's intention was "to provide an extensive curriculum of building blocks (core concepts) that would affirm advisors and advising and provide participants with a support network and an impetus to take action to enhance advising." Although the SI curriculum has grown and changed over the years, "in many ways," says Habley, "the intended outcomes for the first Summer Institute continue to this day."

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I am very honored to be writing my second letter as President of NACADA. We had a record number of attendees at the National Conference in Las Vegas, NV Oct. 5-8, 2006, with over 3380 registered. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we hope those in attendance found this Conference to be a most rewarding professional experience, which will lead to more opportunities in the coming year.

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As we continue to celebrate our growing membership (now over 9100!), it seems appropriate to pause just a moment to consider how we got to this point. So, I am going to try to highlight some of the important moments in NACADA’s history that have contributed to its continued growth and success. I am convinced that NACADA has been blessed with exceptional leadership at all stages of its development – leaders who had a vision for the Association and recognized how to continually change the organizational structure to be most responsive to the needs of the growing membership.

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Light (2001) notes that “good advising may be one of the single most underestimated characteristics of a successful college experience.” Yet, academic advising is as diversified as our varied institutional missions and purposes. Therefore, it is important that we keep in mind that advising programs are designed and implemented to meet the unique and changing needs of today’s students, their enrollment patterns, population groups, budgets, and diversity within the institution.

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Gambling on academic advising success? Using the balanced scorecard approach could lead to advising windfalls.... Development of a BSC begins with a clearly stated mission or purpose, measurable objectives and strategies to meet those objectives. Then under each perspective, specific outcomes are identified for each strategy. For example, if one of our strategies is to utilize faculty advisors, then a desired outcome might be the development of faculty’s advising skills.

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Even in this day of expanding job duties, an academic advisor’s primary function remains to assist students in reaching both their academic and career goals. However, completing the primary function of the job has become more challenging because of unrealistic career expectations developed through media influence.

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Preparing students for a career is not higher education’s primary focus. However, the question is understandable. We expect an action to produce an outcome, a direction. “Undecided” insinuates unknowing, and unknowing suggests lack of direction. We stress the need for critical thinking, developing transferable skills, immersion in learning situations, and studying a topic in-depth, i.e., the importance of college for the intellectual experience itself. Nonetheless, the anxiety over what happens the Monday after graduation weighs heavily from day one for students (and their parents); thus it demands our attention.

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...Assessing dispositions is an area that is necessary but difficult and is still in the process of development. Academic advisors have a plethora of valuable information about student dispositions and this resource is underutilized. More information needs to be gathered about the who, what, when, and how of disposition evaluation. Increased formal involvement of advisors needs to be explored and implemented.

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The Marquette University School of Education prepares teachers for urban classrooms. As the School’s Director of Undergraduate Advising, I occasionally hear complaints from beginning students (who, as a group, are predominantly Caucasian) about what they consider to be the disproportionate focus on diversity issues within their Education courses.“I’m not a racist!” each student invariably proclaims. They report that the recurring discussion about white privilege and social justice makes them feel uncomfortable. “Good!” I think to myself. “Here’s the opening for a serious teachable moment.” I feel prepared to talk with these students about the program’s goals. We discuss the importance of recognizing ourselves as cultural beings and how biases aren’t always apparent intellectually but can manifest themselves in practice.

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Last summer I attended the NACADA Summer Institute (SI) as a team member from my community college. There were about 130 participants in this SI; about twenty were faculty members. Of those twenty faculty members, I was the sole ESL teacher. I asked a lot of questions, and I did a lot of listening. Once again, I was struck with the dissimilarities when it comes to ESL students.

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From June 2005 through December 2011, this publication was titled Academic Advising Today: Lighting Student Pathways. Articles included in these archived editions will be presented in a compiled version as well as broken down into individual articles to facilitate search capacity. News features from this period may be attained by contacting the Managing Editor.

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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.

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