Carlos Delgadillo, Spokane Falls Community College
I walked into a situation where the two people in the position before me were let go in fairly quick succession. Day-to-day academic advising was done by unionized, tenured, faculty counselors with a long history of doing things 'a certain way.' They really did not appreciate a non-counselor advising students, much less administering the college's academic advising program (my assigned task). Unionized faculty, while very devoted to students, were not contractually required to advise. Those who did advise were paid extra and usually scheduled after 2:30 p. This meant that retired faculty were employed to supplement the advisor corps. Faculty advisors were disheartened because there had not been advisor training in years. It was, needless to say, a tough, politically-charged situation. What should I do?
Very rarely do I recommend a service without reservation, even a service provided by an incredible professional organization like NACADA, but the NACADA Consultants Bureau provided answers to what ailed our college's advising program. Let me explain how they helped us and how they might help you.
Soon after being hired, my boss was kind enough to send me to the Academic Advising Administrators' Institute and the How to Effectively Engage Faculty in Academic Advising Seminar. Both the Institute and the Seminar were extremely valuable to me as a brand new advising administrator. However, when I returned to my institution and tried to implement what I had learned, I was admittedly too green; I simply could not figure out how to move beyond the history and politics of our situation.
Luckily, during one of our Institute sessions I heard about the NACADA Consultants Bureau. At the time, I really did not consider it an option, but after several months of frustration, I discovered that the best way to institute change in my organization was to bring in a third party. If factions within the college heard about advising from an outsider, maybe we could begin to institute the changes necessary for an effective advising program.
Once again the administration gave our advising program the needed support and approved hiring a NACADA consultant. The reasons they approved: we needed an outside opinion as a catalyst for change; NACADA has a tremendous reputation for professionalism and results; and the NACADA consultant service was relatively inexpensive.
Once approved, I immediately went to the NACADA Consultants Bureau website. The Web page told me what services the Bureau provides, how much it costs, and how the NACADA Executive Office could help us find the consultant that best matched our needs. We ended up selecting a consultant who truly matched our needs; one who has been an advisor, counselor, faculty member, and advising administrator at a community college about our size.
Once we took care of the details with the Executive Office, we worked directly with our consultant to set up the visit. After listening intently to what our situation was and to what we thought we wanted to accomplish, the consultant delineated the purpose of his visit:
- to meet with selected representatives of various groups at the college, including students, faculty and other personnel with a vested interest in advising;
- to review current advising practices at SFCC;
- to recommend a model and advising practices that would be best suited for the culture of the college; and
- to provide professional development at the Advisor Cadre meeting' (Champardé, 2005).
Of course, what another institution may require from a NACADA consultant might be totally different, but this was exactly what we needed.
Once our consultant arrived on campus, he accomplished everything he said he would. What amazed us was not only his expertise in each area, but the ease with which he was able to get along with every group he met and make his points in an easily understood manner. He was accepted as an expert in the advising profession and people listened to what he had to say.
So what did this consultation do for us? Where are we today? The consultant's report provided recommendations that came as little surprise to me, but his well-written report gave us the words of a NACADA-sanctioned advising expert and his suggestions for improvement. He was able to word things much more eloquently and professionally than I ever could, and the key was that recommendations for change came from an outside source.
While it has taken a year for us to see solid results, things are happening as a result of recommendations offered by our NACADA consultant. The lines of communication between advising areas are much improved. I've learned how to work more effectively with the faculty, and we re-energized our advising committee that now provides the college with official academic advising policy. Some of the counselors provided our first advisor training in almost five years; it was well received by our faculty.
We still have a long way to go to institute all of the recommendations offered by our NACADA consultant, but we are making progress. We are now a more cohesive and collaborative institution. Together we have made great strides toward improving our advising program for students. After all, isn't that the main goal?
If you would like to make changes to your advising program and could use an outside expert's help, then you truly cannot go wrong using the NACADA Consultants Bureau. It may just provide the agent of change you need.
Spokane Falls Community College
Champardé, Tim. (2005). Report for Spokane Falls Community College Regarding Selection of an Advising Model and General Advising Improvement.
Cite this article using APA style as: Delgadillo, C. (2007, March). Discovering the best way to institute change. Academic Advising Today, 30(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]