Jacqueline Wood, Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
In October 2008, I attended my first NACADA Annual Conference in Chicago. Sitting with 3,000 fellow advisors during the opening session, I could barely see the Leaders at the front of the giant room talking about the various ways to become involved in NACADA. Someone mentioned the NACADA Summer Institute of Academic Advising, and past attendees praised the Institute, the great work they did while there, and the wonderful time they had. I remember three specific thoughts I had that night: “I would love to attend a summer institute;” “I wonder if I’ll ever have my picture on one of those posters out in the hallway;” and “someday I’d like to meet those people on the stage.”
A few months later, I was perusing the NACADA Web site and saw a familiar place on the events page – Kansas City! A Summer Institute would be only a three hour drive from my house! With my fingers crossed, I completed a Summer Institute Scholarship application and submitted it. I knew if I received a scholarship that my school would be likely to let me go. My plan worked and before I knew it, I was at the Institute ready to begin my journey to becoming a better advisor.
When I looked around the room during the opening session, I saw around 100 advisors in attendance. I also saw several past and present NACADA Leaders who were going to be my teachers that week. That’s when I realized this was going to be an intimate few days in which I would have an incredible opportunity to improve myself as a professional. During the first afternoon, I made great connections with people who were faced with the same advising issues I was and who shared my passion for helping students. By the time the first day was over, I was tired, but ready to work!
The next morning, we met with our Small Groups and began discussing our Action Plans. Some group members were charged with tasks from their supervisors, others had specific ideas they wanted to develop. Personally, I had so many ideas that I was not sure where to begin! With the help of others in my group and our fearless leader, Jayne Drake, I narrowed my focus to faculty advisor development.
The Small Group meetings became my favorite part of the Institute. We came from different institutions and each contributed our own unique perspective to the issues discussed. Not only did we share ideas, we also provided encouragement and support to each other. Being a part of this group made the difference for me that week. This was the venue in which I was able to connect what was presented in the general sessions, topical sessions, and workshops to my own advising situation. In addition to my Action Plan, I brought back ideas for my first year experience course, advising exploratory students, peer mentoring, and more – and that was just from my Small Group!
The general and topical sessions offered each day were led by the Institute faculty. I was able to attend presentations that helped me further develop my Action Plan. The general sessions presented topics for all participants, e.g., campus collaborations, theories of advising and how to apply them to our professional practice, why assessment is imperative and how to do it well, and how to be a change agent on our campuses. After getting fired up at the general sessions and Small Group meetings, we used the topical sessions to fill in the gaps and find ways to address our unique issues of concern.
Throughout the week, we attended several after-hours events. It quickly became clear that the Institute faculty were “party animals;” I was thoroughly impressed by their dance moves at a piano bar – up on the stage! On my last night, I went shopping and ate Kansas City barbeque with my new friends. It felt like we had known each other for much longer than four days; realizing that we were going home the next day gave me a nostalgic “end of summer camp” feeling.
On the final day, we each presented our completed Action Plans to our Small Group. I couldn’t believe how much I had learned during the week and how much I had to show for my efforts. When I returned to campus, I presented my Action Plan to my supervisor and we have started to revamp our advisor training.
One day at the Institute I talked with my group leader, Jayne Drake, at lunch. When I asked her how she became so involved with an advising association instead of an organization for faculty; she explained that the people in NACADA are unlike those in any other associations. I didn’t have to attend the Summer Institute to know that this was true; it was in the caring attitudes of Institute faculty and attendees that made my experience more memorable. For this reason, and many others, I encourage anyone who wants to grow as a professional and make a difference on their campus to attend a Summer Institute.
Less than one year after attending my first Annual Conference, I had completed an Institute, seen my picture on display as a scholarship winner, and met and interacted with the Leaders of the organization. I look forward to continuing my involvement with NACADA and to my continued growth as an advisor. Do yourself a favor: make plans to attend Summer Institute and experience a professional development opportunity unlike any other!
Academic Advising Center
Kansas State University–Salina
Cite this article using APA style as: Wood, J. (2010, March). Sharing our passion for helping students. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]