Colleen Bauer, Northwest Christian University
My experience at the NACADA Summer Institute in Philadelphia was my first formal introduction to NACADA. I first became aware of NACADA when I was appointed to coordinate undergraduate academic advising at Northwest Christian University (NCU) in 2009. My first assignment was to complete the faculty advising manual begun by my predecessor. As I read through the working copy of the manual, references to NACADA kept appearing. But what was NACADA? I conducted an internet search for NACADA and found what would become a very valuable resource as I proceeded in my new role.
During the first part of the school year, it became very apparent I needed training. While my previous experience and training in education served me well, it was not sufficient preparation to address the complexities of academic advising on campus. I became aware of the NACADA Summer Institute scholarship opportunity, applied, and, much to my amazement and delight, was awarded the scholarship. I was off to historic Philadelphia!
To prepare for the week-long institute, I met with my supervisor and key campus personnel to outline an Action Plan that would be in accordance with the university’s mission and goals. I arrived in Philadelphia with my Action Plan draft in hand for the creation of a mentorship program which would revolutionize academic advising at NCU. I was ready to meet with academic advising veterans to obtain the help needed to fine tune and formalize the plan for implementation when I returned to campus.
Summer Institute faculty laid a foundation for the week by taking participants through the history of academic advising and helping us understand the role of academic advising within our campus environment. We learned how to create effective advisor development programs, conduct effective assessment, and how to lead from our positions to effect change. These themes, along with what was learned in topical sessions, were addressed each day in assigned Small Groups where group leaders facilitated discussion and encouraged group members to identify an important aspect of what was learned in the last 24 hours. My group included participants representing small independent colleges and universities; we were facilitated by seasoned advisor Blane Harding. Through his guidance, Action Plans were shared and discussed. Each day brought more insight and direction as we examined our individual Action Plans and delineated goals, challenges, and methods for implementation. Action Plans were amended, redesigned, and refined as we processed information gathered from the various sessions held throughout the week, from the feedback of other participants and facilitators, and from the individualized meetings with advising experts.
My Action Plan focused on developing and designing a faculty/student mentorship program to be implemented over a five year period. The main goal of the program was to create a sense of belonging and assist students to successfully adapt to the numerous academic, career, social, spiritual, and personal issues that accompany being a college student. However, soon after my arrival, as I listened to foundation sessions, topical sessions, workshops, presentations, and small group discussions, I began to realize the full magnitude of the Action Plan I was assigned and recognized it would be more profitable to focus my attentions on developing a plan to firm up and develop the existing academic advising program at NCU. The input gained from fellow group members, other participants, and NACADA faculty was invaluable.
The NACADA Summer Institute was not “all work and no play.” Free time was allotted for sightseeing, visiting with new found friends, and relaxing. The NACADA team treated us to a dinner cruise where we were entertained by the musical talents of the crew and invited to dance as the sun faded over the horizon. We walked the cobblestone streets of the historic district and rode horse drawn carriages while narratives depicting early Philadelphia life unfolded before us. We experienced local cuisine, such as the Philly Cheese Steak, and drank coffee in street cafes. We shared experiences and told stories that cemented our bonds of friendship and camaraderie.
By the end of the Summer Institute, I had received a thorough introduction, or induction, if you will, to NACADA. Not only did I have a greater appreciation for and understanding of academic advising, I had a viable and realistic Action Plan to take back to NCU. I was now equipped with the tools, skills, and resources needed to strengthen my campus academic advising program. Furthermore, I was encouraged to lead and effect change from my position. I went to the Summer Institute alone, but came back as a colleague within an international team of advisors with common challenges and goals.
I strongly encourage all academic advisors to attend a Summer Institute during your career. You will be encouraged and motivated; you will learn new skills and be introduced to comprehensive resources. You will discover a wealth of wisdom, assistance, and knowledge from all you meet.
Coordinator, Academic Advising
Student Records and Licensure Counselor
School of Education and Counseling
Northwest Christian University
Cite this article using APA style as: Bauer, C. (2011, March). Preparation for addressing the complexities of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 34
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