Susan Campbell, Advising Administration Commission Chair
Budgetary reductions and constraints; Dealing with technological change; Understanding and implementing assessment strategies; Accommodating students with disabilities; Increased role of advising in retention; Changing student demographics; Institutional recognition for advising; Providing for professional development needs of staff; Encouraging and rewarding faculty participation in advising.
Of all the critical issues identified during the annual Advising Administration Commission meeting in Ottawa, these were among the most salient. However, more important than the list itself is what it represents, that is, the increasing complexity of academic advising administration. This complexity parallels that of higher education in general and, for many of us, has begun to reshape our campus roles. Whether reflected in our titles or not, as campus experts on academic advising, our positions are increasingly viewed as (and are) central to student persistence and success. We ought to be delighted - the important role academic advising plays in student retention continues to receive heightened attention, to wit, the popularity of the Academic Advising Handbook, the comments about advising made by John Gardner and Vincent in this spring's satellite downlink sponsored by the National Resource Center on the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and the concern for advising by regional accrediting associations. That which we have worked so hard to achieve-broad-based recognition of the importance of academic advising is literally on our front doorsteps.
As academic advising administrators, are we ready to capitalize on this expanded interest? Are we as equipped as we ought to be to lead the academic advising agenda? Are we able to move forward on what appears to be an ever-growing, increasingly complex list of critical issues? Or have the struggles for recognition and support for academic advising been so long and arduous and the tasks of administration so 'daily' that we no longer have the energy or time to focus on the bigger picture?
Our ability to take advantage of opportunities to further the academic advising agenda means revitalizing, or structuring, as the case may be, our roles as campus change-agents. From my vantage point, this means engaging in professional development that provides grounding in a lot of areas but, in particular, organizational theory and leadership. This grounding provides us with insight into the complexity of the organizations within which we work, the multi-dimensional nature of being human, and a perspective on what motivates individuals and groups. What emerges from these insights are tools we can use to be effective in navigating our 'systems,' negotiating for resources, and facilitating the development of a cohesive community committed to academic advising.
It is a great time to engage in this type of professional development. Organizational and leadership theory has come a long way since Max Weber and the 'trait' and 'behaviorists' of the 30's, 40's and 50's. With each addition of new research, we learn more about how truly complex organizations and the concept of leadership can be. In particular, the literature that explores organizations holistically and leadership in the context of relationships is very exciting, significant, and particularly relevant to higher education. My personal favorites are the works of Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal.
In Modern Approaches to Understanding and Managing Organizations (1984) and Reframing Organizations (1997), Bolman and Deal present four frames through which to view organizational processes; these frames also provide a 'roadmap' through which to trace organizational theory. The Structural Frame focuses on organizational rationality and such processes as division of labor and coordination of activities. The Human Resource Frame focuses on the fit between people and the organization and assumes the needs of each are not mutually exclusive. In the Political Frame conflict is viewed as a naturally occurring phenomenon and resolved through bargaining, negotiation, and coalition building. Finally, the Symbolic Frame explores the organization as a culture and the development of shared meaning.
Bolman and Deal suggest that we each have a frame 'preference' through which we tend to view organizational situations the problem is, of course, that not all situations call for the same frame. At times policies and procedures (Structure) are in order, while at other times, the development of a common vision (Symbolic) might best suit the situation. The challenge is to develop a facility with each of the frames such that one is able to apply them appropriately, thereby increasing leadership effectiveness. Their work speaks to the relationship-embedded nature of organizations and, thus, the need to understand individual and group differences and similarities. In Leading with Soul (2001) and Escape from Cluelessness (2000), Bolman and Deal immerse us in the leadership relationship. In Escape, they remind us that, "Leadership isn't about position or solo heroics. It's about working with people to help them figure out where they want to go, how they can get there, and how they can summon the courage to move ahead" (2000, pp. 197-98).
In Leading with Soul, they refer to the Gifts of Leadership - Authorship, Power, Love, and Significance - as those things that add spirit and meaning to our work. Through Authorship, the leader fosters the conditions through which others can put their own signatures on work; through Power, the leader finds that she/he can give away power and actually get more; through Love the leader demonstrates that she/he cares enough to find out what really matters to others; and, finally, the Significance of it all emerges from working with others, doing something worth doing, and having a sense of pride of association.
Taken together these works provide us with a framework through which to view and engage our organizations and a way to cultivate a community committed to academic advising. Is this enough? No, but it is a beginning. We also need to be involved in NACADA activities. NACADA continues to explore expanded opportunities for administrator growth through the summer institute for administrators, Commission activities, the organizations Professional Development Task Force, etc. Through active engagement in the Associations work, we not only educate ourselves, we help NACADA continue to develop a powerful community committed to advancing academic advising.
University of Southern Maine
Bolman, L.G., and Deal, T.E. Modern Approaches to Understanding and Managing Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
Bolman, L.G., and Deal, T.E. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
Bolman, L.G., and Deal, T.E. Escape from Cluelessness. New York: AMACOM, 2000.
Bolman, L.G., and Deal, T.E. Leading with Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit (revised edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.
Cite this article using APA style as: Campbell, S. (2002, June). Advancing academic advising through leadership. Academic Advising Today, 25(2). [insert url here]