Miranda M. Sloan, Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
I have been a proud NACADA member for a number of years and an enthusiastic attendee of several NACADA annual conferences and webinars. I have enjoyed these events and have found them all helpful and relevant. My experience at the NACADA Summer Institute, however, is easily one of the most profoundly insightful professional development opportunities I’ve ever had. It allowed me to examine how to approach my work in support of the student success goals on my campus and has deepened my respect and admiration for my colleagues in the field.
I was honored to be one of the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship recipients for the 2013 NACADA Summer Institute. It was a blessing given when I truly needed it most. I had been an academic advisor for graduate students for 10 years and, with the retirement of my supervisor, I became the longest tenured member of my office team. It became my responsibility to lead our team and set a new vision for our office. I believed that the Summer Institute would allow me the chance to take a look at the strengths and assets that help us to support our students and faculty well. I also needed some fresh ideas to help us work through the inevitable challenges.
The most immediate of those challenges was funding. As is surely the case on many campuses, budget constraints had reduced the amount of professional development funds available for advisors. Were it not for the scholarship, I would not have been able to go to Jacksonville. Now, this many months later, I can say that the things I learned at the Institute helped to give me the confidence and vision to lead our team.
The Institute brings together advisors and administrators from all over the country and around the world, from institutions large and small. In spite of these differences, most everyone I met seemed to be addressing one or both of two major challenges: improving the quality of the advising activities on their campuses and finding ways to advocate for academic advising to faculty and administrators on their campuses. Though we had common concerns, the Institute’s virtues are not of the grousing, “misery-loves-company” variety. Rather, they are of the “we’re-in-this-together” sort, powered by the belief that our collective experiences, research, and perspectives will reveal solutions and strategies that we can use to meet the demands of our various stakeholders.
The workshops and talks inspired ideas and revelations that seemed to flow as freely as the complimentary coffee outside the ballroom where we met each morning for our foundational sessions and workshops. I particularly enjoyed the session by Rich Robbins on conducting research in advising. Rich impressed upon us that research is vital to both the growth of academic advising as a field and in advocacy for resources for the advising done on individual campuses. Data is the language spoken by those who hold the pursestrings. We are charged as members of our campus communities and our field to continue to prove the effectiveness of our efforts with data. As he says in the presentation, “He or she with the data wins.”
Marsha Miller’s session on creating effective advising handbooks and websites was excellent. Her presentation emphasized that our online and print resources are most successful when they are created with a mind to be accessible to our students both in terms of timeliness and the student’s ability to retrieve the information that they need when they need it. As she flipped through a few websites of advising units that had done things correctly, I at one point let out a small groan. I was thinking about our office’s website—and knew we had some work to do. By the end of the session, I knew we had the information to create the best resources for the students we serve.
NACADA’s support of both the role of advising and the role of the advisor on college and university campuses is one of the reasons I remain a member and encourage colleagues to join as well. NACADA is the one place where our work is affirmed and, as is increasingly necessary, defended. My time at the Summer Institute was an enlightening and focusing opportunity that has renewed my commitment to this field and has encouraged me to continue to grow as an advising professional.
Miranda M. Sloan
Coordinator of Graduate Support Office, College of Education
University of South Florida