Becky Sanchez, Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
I am excited to write about my experience at the NACADA Summer Institute. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Wesley R Habley Summer Institute Scholarship, allowing me to attend the Summer Institute (SI). I was not sure what to expect going into SI; I was not certain I understood the difference between a conference and an institute. I only knew that people I respected, such as NACADA Associate Director (and Past President) Jennifer Joslin, said it was phenomenal and that I should try to do it. I tried it, and they were so right!
I have attended six NACADA regional conferences and found them all to be helpful and rejuvenating for me as a professional. At the end of a three-day-long conference, I returned to my campus with many ideas gleaned from what others are doing, but more often than I care to admit, those PowerPoint slides and notes pages ended up going into a folder and getting filed in the “To-Do When I have Free Time” area on my desk. I found that the way the Summer Institute was structured, it was necessary for me to take the information I was learning and apply it immediately to my Action Plan.
I was able to delve into improving an area of advising on my campus that needed work. Every day, a component of the Action Plan was due when we met in small groups, so I was able to make steady progress on fleshing out a thorough Action Plan. The improvement I worked on in my Action Plan was something I had needed to focus on for many months on my job, but due to the overwhelming number of emails and appointments I handled on a daily basis, I put off the work, day after day and week after week.
I walked away from the Summer Institute with a comprehensive Action Plan for developing a freshman retention program that adds a high touch experience for our students. The guidance and encouragement I received from both our group leaders—Jayne Drake from Temple University and Karen Sullivan-Vance from Western Oregon University—really made a difference in my planning. The suggestions, ideas, and collaboration from all the members of my Small Group was something I had not expected. Advisors are such a great group of people because we are all so student focused that we are happy and willing to share our ideas across institutions.
I found Becky Ryan’s session on the First Year Experience very helpful to me as I began developing a freshman program to reach students. There were some “ah-ha” moments for me in her session that informed all the planning I did from that day forward. Marsha Miller’s special session on using NACADA resources (like the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources) was tremendously helpful to me as I gathered research to support my ideas. Sonia Esquivel’s foundation session on assessment made me feel prepared to add the assessment piece into my programmatic plans. However, Jo Anne Huber’s session on administration of academic advising was probably the most useful to me at the place I was in my career (a newly appointed director of an advising unit).
I am so appreciative that I had the opportunity to attend the Summer Institute. For anyone who is considering attending, I highly recommend finding a way to do it. I have a few tips:
- If possible, bring the whole advising team. I came on my own and daily wished I had the team to help me think through the ideas.
- Plan to take advantage of the time at the conference to work on an Action Plan. Come a few days early and/or stay a few days afterward to have time for sight-seeing. The days and evenings during institute can be extremely productive if the time is well managed.
- If possible, plan ahead to avoid dealing with the stress back at the office (checking emails or dealing with problems remotely). I did not check out from the office, and I was answering email and dealing with issues between sessions when I wish I had taken that time to breathe and engage with colleagues from other schools.
- Advice I heard at the beginning of SI was to try to sit with someone I didn’t know at every meal. I did this and found so many colleagues who helped me with my ideas; I learned some great best practices that were happening across the country.
I plan to attend the Summer Institute with all the advisors from my unit in the next few years, so maybe I will see you there! Until then, happy advising!
Director, Undergraduate Programs Office
School of Business
Portland State University
Cite this article using APA style as: Sanchez, B. (2015, March). What makes the NACADA summer institute different from a conference? Academic Advising Today, 38(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]