Lisa Laughter, NACADA Emerging Leader
Kazi Mamun, NACADA Mentor
The ELP Leader’s Perspective – Lisa Laughter
I was sitting in the audience at the plenary session of my second NACADA Annual Conference in Baltimore in 2007 when they introduced the first class of NACADA Emerging Leaders. I hadn’t previously heard about the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), but what I heard at this session got me intrigued. I said to myself, I want to do that! I am passionate about my professional development and love getting involved in my professional organization. I was fairly new to advising but knew that I wanted as many opportunities as possible to grow. I found more information and took the idea back to my supervisor, who, unfortunately, did not have the same passion for getting involved with professional development as I did, and thus did not support my desire to apply to the Program. However, by the next year I had a new supervisor who supported my application to be an Emerging Leader in 2009. I was ecstatic when I found out I had been accepted; what a privilege to have been chosen!
The work started with summer assignments to prepare us for the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio. I was challenged right away with thinking about how I would like to contribute to this amazing organization that had given me so much already. The program Orientation Team (comprised of Executive Office staff and members of the ELP Advisory Board) did an excellent job of helping our new 2009-2011 Class members feel comfortable with one another and really dive into why we had chosen to participate in such a unique experience.
One of my favorite memories is of the “speed dating” experience with potential mentors. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet the mentors who had so much to offer the eager mentees. I was really anxious to find out who my mentor was and to begin working together on my goals! I was delighted to find out I had been paired up with Kazi Mamun, who was at that time a member of the NACADA Board of Directors.
Over the past two years, Kazi and I have had a “standing” phone call once a week. This has provided us with consistent communication about where I was with my goals as well as a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know one another. I am eternally grateful for our conversations and Kazi’s wisdom, experience, and guidance. I have grown a LOT in the past two years, personally and professionally.
One of the things this program has helped me with is to shape more realistic and achievable goals. I am a very ambitious, pie-in-the-sky kind of person and have many lofty goals which are at times a bit over my head for the moment and not very focused. Working with an experienced professional like Kazi helped bring me down to earth and gave me a place to start. I now have a better understanding of the hierarchy and ways to contribute in order to reach and achieve my goals (which are now a bit more narrowly defined and focused!). I thank Kazi for helping me narrow my goals and take things one step at a time. I tend to want to take on the world all at once, and having someone rein me in and help me realize what I can handle realistically given the resources available to me at any given time has been invaluable.
Kazi has given me excellent guidance not only with my involvement within NACADA but in my professional life within my organization as well. It has been great having someone with that outside perspective to help me see not only what some of the options are in situations I deal with at my institution, but sort through them as well. I feel overwhelmingly connected with my organization as a result of my interaction with other ELP classes and NACADA leaders. It is wonderful that no matter what level of experience we have, we are welcomed into this family and built up from the ground up!
The ELP Mentor’s Perspective – Kazi Mamun
I was nervous. Unbeknownst to me, I was probably a mentor to some people in the past because I have been a professional academic advisor for about two decades. When someone new was hired at my place of work, I remember training some advisors and helping them through some tough situations. But this was different—it was a formal program. Was I up to the challenge? The Coordinator of ELP had asked me to step in because there was a disparity in the number of mentors who had volunteered and leaders who were eager to participate in the program. With
everything that I had to do as an advising administrator in challenging budgetary times, would I be able to give this new professional the time she deserved? Shaking aside all my reservations, I jumped in. Whether it was my own desire to mentor a young professional or whether the persuasive powers of the ELP Coordinator at the Executive Office made the difference, we’ll never know. Having gone through the process, what I can say with certainty is that I am glad that I did it. It was one of the most rewarding professional experiences I have had!
The “speed-dating” scenario in San Antonio was invigorating in that I got to meet ten professional advisors asking me all sorts of questions about what I found rewarding in being an academic advisor. In addition to answering questions, what I realized was that it made me think clearly and hard about why I had chosen the profession that I did. Although I had been an “undeclared” professional and “tumbled” into advising because of a series of discrete circumstances, over time I grew to love it and eventually embrace it as a calling. I subscribe to the philosophy that even though we guide our students through the labyrinth of college life, some of them may adopt us as a mentor, a coach, or even a role model. This is all the more reason why we need to be on our A-game all the time, despite all the pressures of the job, the particular day, and the turbulence of our personal lives.
The next day, Lisa Laughter from Washington State University was paired with me as her mentor. We exchanged cell phone numbers immediately and decided to work on communicating with each other on a regular basis. Before we left San Antonio, we found several opportunities to get to know each other: lunch by the San Antonio river with all the mentors and mentees, a fantastic dinner at a Brazilian restaurant picked out by one of the ELP leaders (a veritable meat fest and an exercise in gluttony!), and informal meetings and networking with the group, as well Lisa and I just meeting together. Before we left, we had come up with a schedule to contact each other on Fridays from 9:00 to 9:30 am.
For the two years that we were in this formal partnership, unfailingly Lisa would call me every Friday and we would talk about a variety of things focusing mostly on how she could get more involved in leadership positions in NACADA. We found that being in the same time zone helped a great deal! I distinctly remember those first few conversations when Lisa wanted to be involved in just about everything one can imagine. Being careful not to burst her bubble and still keep her at a high level of enthusiasm, I slowly but firmly preached to her the idea of not only focusing on what could be done, but on what was achievable given all of her other personal and professional responsibilities. I do not know if she initially appreciated this fully, but as time went by she realized that a true professional makes discerning choices about what she selects to do and delivers on what she has taken on. This is an area that I think we have come to appreciate fully, and both Lisa and I will benefit from our exchanges on this subject.
Our relationship progressed over time. Even though we were not able to connect with each other every Friday, we both made an effort. I remember that there was a period of a few weeks where we were not able to connect because of scheduling conflicts, and so I had her call me at home (a few times), when I was on the road (on my cell), and once when I was in Las Vegas on vacation. Lisa went to a program in Las Vegas on many occasions but she called me from there even if to chat for a few minutes. What started as an obligation because of the ELP soon became a part of my life. Talking to Lisa about her involvement in NACADA and her own institution invigorated me professionally. Here I was a “seasoned veteran” prone to bouts of cynicism who was challenged by this young professional with oodles of positive energy. There were so many things we talked about that listing everything would focus on the minutiae. Suffice it to say that we really began to enjoy our conversations, which turned philosophical at times, constantly challenging each other in our perspectives on advising. I am from an age that believed advising to be adjuvant to the mission of higher education, while Lisa comes from the perspective as do many of her peers and NACADA that advising is central to the mission of higher education—that it has its own theories, its own pedagogy, and its own place in the annals of research.
I am a better advisor for having undergone this great program and having Lisa as a mentee. I only hope that I have been of some help in furthering her leadership abilities!
Academic and Career Advisor
Washington State University
Assistant Dean, School of Business Administration
University of California-Riverside
Editor’s Note: Interested in becoming a NACADA Mentor orEmerging Leader? Visit the Emerging Leaders Program sectionof the NACADA website to learn more!
Cite this article using APA style as: Laughter, L. & Mamun, K. (2012, March). Perspective on the ELP experience: A journey in leadership and friendship. Academic Advising Today, 35(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]