Wes Habley, NACADA Past President
Editor’s Note: In the February 2006 edition of this publication, we took a “Walk Down Memory Lane” for the 20th anniversary of the Academic Advising Summer Institutes. In this edition, Wes Habley recalls their beginnings.
Just imagine participating in a 6-day professional development activity that focused entirely on academic advising. Then, think about the fact that this professional development activity included all materials, five nights lodging and 15 meals for the amazing registration fee of $400. These were the costs of attending the first Summer Institute in June of 1987 at the University of Iowa. Although inflation has taken its toll, the low fee was the result of working with the University of Iowa Center for Conferences and the faculty of the College of Education. Because of that relationship, use of the University hotel and meals were all provided at cost and the facility utilization fee was waived.
The low cost and burgeoning excitement about the field of advising attracted 56 individuals to attend that first ACT Summer Institute. The Institute was described as a “…participative, action-oriented, and in-depth exploration of the issues and concerns expressed by college administrators.” Many of those who attended were already known to the advising community and, although many have since retired, they continued to make significant contributions to the field long after attending the Institute. The format for the first Institute included many of the approaches still in place today: general sessions, workshops, concurrent sessions, small group discussion, and development of participant action plans. And, the major presentations at the first Institute included topics that continue to be mainstays on the current Institute agenda. They included key concepts in advising, delivery of advising services, assessment, training, recognition, and change. Even though the major topics remain the same, the content of those early presentations has evolved significantly over time. And, as advising issues have continued to change, new topics and workshops have been added while others have long since disappeared.
The Institute was led by a group of core faculty members, several of whom are still active in advising today: Virginia Gordon from the Ohio State University, Peggy King from Schenectady County Community College, Michael Keller from Aquinas College, Wes Habley from ACT, and Sarah Looney from George Mason University. In addition, David Crockett (ACT) and David Jepsen (University of Iowa) also participated as general session presenters.
The first Institute also set in motion a tradition which, when a body of water is nearby, continues with every Institute. For the final night’s social activity, Institute participants hopped on a cruiser bus and headed for a riverboat dinner cruise on the Mississippi River. An added feature of the Mississippi River cruise was entertainment and dancing to the music of ‘Electronic Leroy.’ Rock ‘n Roll, Disco, show tunes – you name it, and ‘Electronic Leroy’ could play it. Since then, Lake Champlain, Lake Michigan, the Colorado River, and the James River have served as venues for the Summer Institute cruise.
The excitement generated by the Institute was evident in participant evaluation comments:
- “The best buy for the money and the best organized conference I have attended in over 25 years as a professional.”
- “One of the best learning experiences I have ever had.”
- “My small group was one of the best support groups ever. Sharing was at an optimum.”
- “The presentations were outstanding --- so much information was covered and all so relevant.”
This positive reception clearly indicated that there was great interest in the field of advising.
The Summer Institute continued to be offered annually at the University of Iowa through 1992, when a number of circumstances resulted in moving to various sites around the country in the years following. Those concerns included:
- termination of an at-cost arrangement with the University of Iowa,
- demand for the Institute exceeded the 75 person capacity of the University hotel,
- requests to rotate locations so that more people could participate without major transportation costs, and
- program management transference from ACT to the NACADA Executive Office.
Twenty-three years, twenty-eight Institutes and nearly 4,000 participants are testimony to the value of the Summer Institute as one of the cornerstones of NACADA’s comprehensive professional development program.
ACT State Organizations
Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarships are presented annually as a professional development experience to selected NACADA members who demonstrate involvement in national, regional, state and/or local advising organizations and exhibit the potential for national leadership roles.
Cite this article using APA style as: Habley, W. (2009, September). Recollections of the first summer institute. Academic Advising Today, 32(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]