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Marsha A. Miller, NACADA Executive Office, Kansas State University

Marsha Miller.jpgWelcome to NACADA!  You are an integral part of the 13,000+ members of this vibrant organization that celebrates and supports the role of academic advisors in student success. 

Thirteen thousand NACADA members! Almost 4,000 of these members attend the annual conference each fall with an additional 400+ members at each of 10 spring region conferences and the annual international conference.  The sheer size of those numbers can seem overwhelming, especially to advisors who prefer more one-on-one exchanges.  While extroverts more easily mingle in crowds and gain energy from those interactions (Cooper, 2013), many introverts may wonder how to become involved; yet becoming an integral (and celebrated) part of what is known as the “NACADA family” may be as easy as asking one question.    

NACADA involvement starts one member at a time 

Those attending a NACADA conference invariably hear much talk about the “NACADA family” and witness many “NACADA hugs” in hallways.  NACADA leaders extol the virtues of becoming a member of the NACADA family and advise participants to “get involved” in the association.  It may seem like everyone belongs but you! 

The best advice I received before attending my first NACADA conference (of course I went alone) was to determine the most important thing I wanted to learn at the conference.  The mission I was assigned by those paying my conference expenses was to discover ways to “fix faculty advising.”  In each session I was advised to introduce myself to the individuals on either side of me and ask “do you know a college that does faculty advising well?”  It was not easy to have those first conversations, but I soon learned that most conference participants are happy to talk about their experiences and recommend colleagues who do something well.  I came away with several business cards for follow-up. 

Before attending a NACADA-sponsored activity, connect with the conference chair to determine what volunteer opportunities exist.  One of my first NACADA volunteer jobs was posting arrows from parking lots to the conference registration area.  While there, I talked with other volunteers and asked about their professional interests and we exchanged business cards.

When back on campus, I contacted each card-holder, asked questions, and visited three campuses recommended for faculty advising to see strategies in action.  In short, that one simple question not only provided needed perspective to “fix advising” on campus, but helped me make the connections to start my personal branch of the “NACADA family” tree. 

Build your branch of the NACADA family tree

Peter Hagen, a fellow introvert and a member of my personal branch of the NACADA family, routinely asks colleagues to identify their professional passion (personal communication, October 7, 2016).  Whether your passion is learning new ways to help students, how to be a better advising administrator, or discovering the why behind a particular advising phenomena, the NACADA website is a great starting place to find those who share your passion. 

First, write down key terms important to your advising passion.  Then use those keywords to search various NACADA publications including the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, Academic Advising Today, or the NACADA Journal.  Reach out to authors of your favorite articles and contact directors of the most intriguing advising programs in reference lists.  Email addresses are included on many articles; where no email is available, log into the NACADA website and search the membership directory.  Most authors love to hear from readers.  These discussions are a key step in creating your personal branch of the “NACADA family” tree.   

Other methods for branching out from your office chair to advisors with similar passions include subscribing to a NACADA Commissions and Interest Group’s NACADA listserv, joining a NACADA Facebook group (e.g., NACADA Nerds), or following an advising Twitter feed (e.g., #acadv).  Post a question to the group and answer individuals who provide the posts you find most helpful.  Make plans to meet those individuals for coffee at an upcoming conference, enroll together for a NACADA online education e-tutorial, or take advantage of a NACADA Reads opportunity. 

Consider exploring opportunities in your interest areas on NACADA advisory boards and committees.  Reach out to the chair of the group you find most intriguing and determine how you can assist with their current projects.  Most advisory boards and committees post goals and supporting documents well before meetings.  Making time to study documents is a strategy that works well for introverts who “need time ‘to digest’ information before responding” (Sword, 2002, para. 21). 

Keep tending your NACADA branch 

As your NACADA family branch grows, routinely reach out to individual members.  Between conferences, learn what they are doing and discovering; celebrate their discoveries and be willing to provide needed perspective when things do not go as planned. 

Before each conference, connect with members of your branch who also plan to attend.  Together study the conference program and decide which presentations will be attended by each branch member.  Meet at the end of each day (over dinner or a beverage) and debrief.  Determine the take home points from each session, what will be tried by each member, and when the group will connect again (electronically, by phone, or in person) to discuss how strategies fare in practice.  One such end-of-the-day debrief that I participated in (with other introverts who attended the conference by themselves) led to each of us recording and sharing an advising session.  The result laid the groundwork for what became the NACADA professional development DVDs.

After returning home, email presenters of the conference sessions you found especially enlightening. Most presenters, like authors, love hearing from participants.  Share what you found most helpful from the presentation and ask the presenter which additional articles or presentations they would recommend on the topic.  Search for the presentations and writings of these recommended thought leaders (McClellan, 2009) and reach out to them.  Share who suggested their work and find out what areas they are currently exploring.  The resulting interactions help expand the branches of your NACADA family tree and open new opportunities. 

Other ways to continue connecting after a conference include reaching out to colleagues (via listservs, Facebook, or Twitter) to discuss what you have learned.  Consider writing about your learning experiences for the NACADA Blog or doing a joint research project with members of your branch of the NACADA family tree.  Connect with Wendy Troxel, Director of the NACADA Center for Research, to discuss research ideas and possible strategies for exploring them.   


Getting involved in NACADA need not be overwhelming for those of us who prefer more one-to-one experiences.  Start small; implement one strategy shared above.  With each implemented strategy you will find that you become more involved in this vibrant association.   With each one-to-one interaction I participated in, I not only impacted my advising practice, but built and strengthened my personal branches within the vast and diverse NACADA family tree. 

Marsha A. Miller
Assistant Director, Resources & Services
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Kansas State University
[email protected]


Cooper, B. B. (2013). Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What it means for your career. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3016031/leadership-now/are-you-an-introvert-or-an-extrovert-and-what-it-means-for-your-career

McClellan, J. (2009). Thoughts leaders wanted: What each of us must do to advance the field of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 32(4). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Thought-Leaders-Wanted-What-Each-of-Us-Must-Do-to-Advance-the-Field-of-Academic-Advising.aspx

Sword, L. (2002). The gifted introvert. Retrieved from http://highability.org/the-gifted-introvert/


Cite this article using APA style as: Miller, M.A. (2017, March). An introvert’s guide to becoming involved in NACADA. Academic Advising Today, 40(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2017 March 40:1


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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.