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Virginia Gordon, NACADA Past-President

Editor’s Note: The Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising, inaugurated in 1982, is annually presented to a NACADA member who has made significant contributions to the field of academic advising.

Virginia Gordon.jpgThe early years of NACADA were full of interesting dilemmas, successes, and experiments.  As the third president of the burgeoning organization, I (along with others) experienced many of NACADA’s growing pains.  As a group of volunteers working out of our campus offices and homes, we sometimes lacked the means of communicating and accomplishing our responsibilities efficiently.  We managed to overcome many of these difficulties, however, because of the commitment to build the organization on the part of those involved. We were constantly creating new policies, procedures, and precedents as the need arose.  It was a fun and challenging time!

Many of the organizational policies, resources, and activities we now take for granted were born out of the needs and concerns that appeared in those early years.  Often these issues surfaced because we were still trying to build an organization that was responsive to advisors who represented such a diverse group in background, position, and title within so many different types of institutions.  There were many issues and procedures to be resolved during my tenure as president, but I only have space to share a few that stand out in my memory.

One of the earliest problems was the lack of continuity from one “Board of Directors” to the next.  Information was passed on to newly elected Board members in an uneven way, depending on old Board members’ filing system (or lack of one) and their ability to meet with their successor.  Some new Board members had never seen the NACADA By-Laws or their job description.  It seemed obvious that we needed to provide a more organized way to record information to improve this continuity.  I sent a questionnaire to all Board members prior to the 1983 Board meeting asking them to write a job description and their short and long range goals.  At the next meeting, I gave each Board member a divided notebook that contained everything we had on paper about NACADA up to that point (e.g., By-Laws, policies, procedures, minutes, leadership directory, regional map, a section for their particular position that contained their job description and other information).  How long this system lasted, I’m not sure, but for awhile at least, we had important NACADA information in one place to pass on.

Virginia and friends.jpgAnother related Board issue was who paid the expenses for members to attend Board meetings. Since the organization was not flush with funds, it was decided that Board members’ transportation be paid only for mid-year Board meetings with no reimbursement for the meetings held at the national conferences (that required coming early). For Board members whose institutions did not reimburse them for any meeting (yes, there were some that did not in those days!), it was a financial burden to some.

An issue that was constantly discussed was the role and responsibilities of the Regional and Institutional representatives on the Board. The original intent of creating Institutional Representatives was to address the concerns of small colleges who feared large universities would dominate the organization. The problems that ensued from this arrangement were that the responsibilities for each group were not clearly defined and often seemed to overlap. Several representatives expressed frustration with this lack of direction. Although general guides were developed, representatives of the same type often interpreted their roles differently. This problem was finally resolved years later when the establishment of Commissions and Interest Groups replaced the institutional category.

Discussion also was held about the establishment of Regional meetings. (Some institutional representatives also proposed meetings for the seven institutional types). It was decided to endorse several regional “pilot programs” in the Spring of 1984. NACADA would offer $700 “seed money” to fund initial costs, to be repaid to NACADA after the conference. 

Another important discussion centered on minority representation in NACADA.  The appointment of a minority representative to the Board was proposed. After considerable discussion, a Committee on Minority Recruitment was established and a chair was appointed by the president. This committee was charged with identifying and recruiting more minority members and to organize a “Black Caucus” at the next national conference.

Another important policy that was not clearly defined in the early years was how to structure and conduct a nominating committee. Not much was written at the time, so each new nominating committee chair interpreted the procedure differently. The role and make-up of the nominating committee was debated vigorously in 1983.  Many questions were raised (e.g., What procedures should be in place for soliciting candidates? Who can nominate and how many candidates should there be per office?  What are the qualifications for each board position? Who can vote?  Who should serve on the nominating committee?  How are they chosen?). These are only a few of the questions that were raised. After considerable debate at the spring Board meeting, the nominating committee’s chair was asked to submit recommendations to the Board in the Fall. 

Other examples of issues that were discussed at Board meetings during my tenure included the inefficient way that sites were selected for national conferences; the need for clearer policies about the NACADA Awards Program, particularly for research awards; the need to purchase computers to keep track of NACADA records and for the use of the Journal editor; interest in establishing relationships with other similar organizations (e.g., representatives from NODA and NASPA attended the Spring 1983 Board meeting); the need to establish a placement committee; and interest in determining the existence of graduate courses about academic advising. A FIPSI Grant was submitted to establish a Consultants Bureau (denied). There was even discussion about possible reorganization of the Board because of continuing problems with continuity, overlap of Board terms, and confusion about certain job descriptions.

If some of the issues described above sound familiar, it’s because we are still trying to resolve or improve our approaches to many of them. Looking back, it took many creative and committed people many hours to organize and maintain this organization through its formative years. Fortunately, we still have capable, dedicated members who are willing to serve in leadership roles.  Other writers of articles in this issue of AAT describe the early periods in NACADA’s history from their perspective.  This article just highlights one small snippet of our early years from one president’s memory. I feel honored to have been part of helping to form the dynamic and responsive organization that NACADA is today.

Virginia Gordon
The Ohio State University
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Gordon, V. (2009, September). A small but loud blip in NACADA history. Academic Advising Today, 32(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.