Casey Self, NACADA President
As I write my comments for this column, I am feeling many emotions that I am sure are shared across institutions around the world. For many, the United States presidential inauguration of Barack Obama has created excitement, hope, and a renewed sense of energy. Yet as I write this on the day President Obama takes office, it is also a time when the economic climate of the world and questions about the financial welfare of our institutions are creating a great deal of anxiety and stress within academic advising communities. Many of us are hearing of impending cuts on our campuses which may directly affect academic advising services for our students. It is a time when we must be sensitive to the economic realities of our world and institutions and yet be there for students who are dealing with their own uncertain financial and educational circumstances.
Academic advisors have always helped with a variety of student issues; however, as budget cuts are considered, it may become even more important that we be aware of the wide variety of knowledge and assistance we, as academic advisors, provide on a day-to-day basis. If institution jobs are cut, advisors may have to pick up new duties, become more adaptable, and be even more sensitive to the various needs of our students. And we will, most likely, do this without pay increases, or even accustomed annual cost of living increases.
In the midst of this turmoil will be the students who show up every day on our doorsteps, who e-mail us, or who call in a panic with their emergency situations. As professionals, we must never forget that our students’ needs must come first, even when our lives are altered. The economic situation requires that many students, and especially adult students who must reconsider their professional options, are facing new financial situations. For our traditional-aged students, Mom or Dad may have just lost their jobs or institutional financial aid may have decreased. Returning adult students who have lost their jobs may require remedial assistance which they may not understand, appreciate, or want to pay for. Our skills and knowledge as professionals will certainly be tested with new student situations; all at a time when we are also dealing with potential personal losses or stressful situations resulting from the current economy.
Economic challenges may affect our ability to participate in academic advising professional development activities at the same levels as the past, e.g., conference or institute attendance. I encourage my administrator counterparts to do their best to avoid the total elimination of travel-related professional development opportunities. If cuts are required, consider setting priorities on who should attend events, i.e., send one or two new advisors who have not had previous NACADA experiences in cases where larger numbers of staff have attended in the past. Utilize budgets creatively, such as paying for some expenses, e.g., airfare or conference registration, for the fall annual conference in San Antonio out of year-end funds; then pay for hotel and meals out of next year’s budget. Ask staff to share hotel rooms. Require those who are fortunate enough to attend a conference to come back and share highlights with the staff who were unable to attend. These types of strategies may help to keep NACADA event participation a possibility.
It is times like these when our academic advising community across the world can be most beneficial in helping us address the tough issues. We should pay close attention to maintaining our professional relationships whether those are on campus or at other institutions. These relationships can be critical when we are in the job market, when we must deal with new issues on our campuses, when we are the administrator making very tough decisions relating to the loss of jobs, or if we are the one in charge of maintaining high academic advising standards with less financial support. Network with others in the Association: join at least one NACADA Commission or Interest Group, participate in a listserv or have an online conversation with others with similar interests or values. Now is the time to make this happen! Let NACADA be the gateway to the professional communities that benefit members in the good times as well as these more challenging ones. NACADA members often tell me how important these connections are and how nice it is to know that they are not the only ones facing these challenges.
The NACADA Board of Directors encourages suggestions and comments on how they or the NACADA Executive Office can assist members with the challenges they are facing. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Casey Self, President
National Academic Advising Association
Cite this article using APA style as: Self, C. (2009, March). From the president: Demonstrating adapatability in a challenging economic climate. Academic Advising Today, 32(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]