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Joshua D. Adams, Brandan L. Lowden, and Kyle W. Ross, NACADA Emerging Leaders
Melinda J. Anderson, NACADA Emerging Leader Mentor

NACADA’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) started its first class in 2007 and has been an opportunity for individuals to seek leadership opportunities within the organization through a two-year mentoring experience with a current leader.  Both aspiring leaders and mentors apply to the program and commit at minimum to attending two of the three Annual Conferences during the program period and completing several assignments throughout the two years, and also are encouraged to participate in other regional and association events.  Joshua Adams, Brandan Lowden, and Kyle Ross are Emerging Leaders, and Melinda Anderson is a Mentor for the 2015–2017 class.  In this article, they share their perspectives on deciding to apply to the program and the application process to help clarify some common myths about ELP and encourage members to consider being a part of this very rewarding experience.

Why Did I Decide to Apply as an Emerging Leader?

Josh Adams
Joshua: At first glance, the Emerging Leaders Program appears to benefit most those at the beginning of their career.  I was hesitant to apply for the program and wondered if I could benefit from involvement within ELP.  At the time of application, I was 14 years into my career.  As a practitioner, I felt confident in my ability to navigate my university, have the education and knowledge base to be successful, and enjoy working with professionals at all levels of their careers.  What I realized I was missing from my experience and skill set was involvement at the leadership level in NACADA.  I had attended and presented at conferences, but I had not yet sought a leadership role.  I needed assistance navigating the organization and learning from others who have been NACADA leaders.  Taking this into account, I was paired with a Mentor who could assist with these needs while also recognizing my day-to-day needs differ due to my position and years of experience within our field.  I have gained insight into NACADA and now have an accountability partner in my mentor who is assisting me with getting involved in the leadership of the organization.  To me, what makes ELP so valuable is that while all Emerging Leaders have a similar goal—to focus on leadership experiences within NACADA—the program is nimble enough to adapt to the needs of each Emerging Leader and Mentor.

How Did I Know I Was Ready to Be a Mentor?

Melinda Anderson
Melinda: There is a moment in every advisor’s professional career when they move from being the new kid on the block to becoming a seasoned professional.  One minute, they are the new advisor trying to learn curriculum, programs, and campus resources, and the next, they are training other advisors and making sure that they are supported in their role.  This is exactly what happened to me when I realized I was ready to become an ELP Mentor.  When I first joined NACADA, I took the Associate Director Jennifer Joslin’s advice to heart: “Get a mentor, get a major, and get’a moving.”  I became an Emerging Leader, took on a leadership role in the Regional division, and took off in the organization.  Then there came that moment when I realized that I could be a Mentor.  Now, to be honest, no magic light illuminated my office when I thought about becoming a Mentor, although that would have been pretty cool, but when I realized I wanted to help someone else find their passion in our organization, I knew it was time. 

Becoming a Mentor is not for those who are perfect, know-it-alls, or people who never make mistakes; being an ELP Mentor is not related to your job title or function.  An ELP mentor is someone who values NACADA and is willing to help others learn how to get involved and discover their passions to lead within the organization.  An ELP Mentor is like that seasoned professional who wants to make sure that others are finding their own way.  To become a Mentor, applicants must be a NACADA member for at least two years, have current or past NACADA leadership experience, and be willing to provide guidance and time necessary to make a difference in their Emerging Leader’s NACADA journey.

Is ELP an Opportunity for Career Development?

Melinda: ELP is designed to help Emerging Leaders figure out how they want to lead in NACADA.  The beauty of NACADA is in its diversity: diversity of ideas, people, and opportunities to engage its membership.  NACADA works hard to provide its membership with the professional opportunities needed to grow and develop in the profession.  ELP, however, is not intended specifically for an individual’s personal career development or advancement, although sometimes that is a result of growing as a professional.  ELP is a wonderful opportunity to learn how to give back to NACADA by actively seeking a leadership role in the many different facets of the organization.  If an Emerging Leader or Mentor happens to move up in their organization, career, or into a different role as a result of their growth in the profession, that is a bonus benefit, but that is not the intention or goal of this program.

How Did I Prepare to Apply to ELP?

Brandan Lowden
Brandan: Applicants should be actively involved in the association and be looking toward moving into a leadership role.  NACADA looks at involvement and leadership from a broad perspective.  Examples of involvement include presenting at a state or regional NACADA conference, serving on a commission steering committee, or co-authoring an article for Academic Advising Today

How does one get involved in these and other areas of NACADA? Just ask! One great resource is the Region Chair in each respective region.  Those folks can provide information about initiatives that are taking place and they might need people to help in different areas.  For members who have a specific area of interest, NACADA has many different Commission and Interest Groups that are always seeking volunteers.  Presenting and publishing as an advising practitioner is another way to get involved and demonstrate readiness for leadership by sharing insights and best practices.  Many advisors struggle to find the time to prepare a conference presentation or write an article; collaboration with colleagues across the association can be an effective way to “share the load.”  Most Regions, Commissions, and Interest Groups within NACADA have e-mail listservs and social media pages to help facilitate networking opportunities to share ideas.  All of these involvement opportunities further our profession and are actually a lot of fun!

There is not an ideal set of experiences that makes one ELP applicant better than another.  Applicants should not fall for the myth that there is someone better suited to the program.  Remember, this is a program committed to diversity in leadership.

Kyle Ross
Kyle: While preparing my responses in my application, I had some misunderstanding of this question: “How will your involvement in the Emerging Leaders Program support the program goal of providing increased representation from an underrepresented constituency in NACADA?”  The organization has a very broad statement of diversity, which includes race, gender, institutional type, employment position, and many other factors.  What I did not understand at first was that the question was asking about member representation within leadership rather than the makeup of membership at large.  Fortunately, I had a conversation about this with my colleague Susan Poch, who has served as an ELP mentor, and she clarified that for me.  ELP participants Carol Pollard, Michelle Sotolongo, and Mark Nelson also discussed this in the September 2016 issue of Academic Advising Today, where they explain:

“One of NACADA’s goals is simply to have our leadership appropriately reflect our membership.  For example, in NACADA’s definition of diversity, institution type is one of the diversity areas considered; therefore, since our analytics tell us that at this time our membership includes 15% advisors at two-year institutions, a goal is that our leadership also be about 15% members from two-year institutions.” 

I had initially assumed that being male would be a good piece to include because the large majority of membership is female.  However, as I thought more about it following my conversation with Susan, I realized that, from my perspective at least, it seemed that males are actually over-represented in the association’s leadership.  I then needed to think much more critically about this piece and ended up tailoring my response to my institution type and regional representation.


The Emerging Leaders Program is a wonderful opportunity to network with other members who also share an interest in giving back to NACADA in leadership roles that fit them best.  Anyone with this interest in mind is an excellent candidate for the program because it is so flexible to each participant’s needs, and all it takes is the time and willingness to learn from others.  For those interested in becoming an Emerging Leader, the first step is to demonstrate commitment to NACADA by being involved with the association, so get going now and then apply for ELP.  Excellent ways to start are with the Regions, Commissions and Interest Groups, a conference presentation, or a brief article.  For Mentors, we recommend anyone who meets the qualifications who wants to commit their time to helping an Emerging Leader forge their leadership path.  We hope our insights are helpful to readers, and we are happy to talk with anyone who has more questions.

Joshua D. Adams
Executive Director
Pioneer Center for Student Excellence
Texas Woman’s University

Melinda J. Anderson
University College
University of North Carolina – Wilmington

Brandan L. Lowden
Instructional Liaison to the Division of Business, Public Service & Social Science
Lead Advisor for Public & Human Services Programs
Career Planning & Advising
Pikes Peak Community College

Kyle W. Ross
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University


Pollard, C., Sotolongo, M., & Nelson, M. (2016, September). Why we serve on the NACADA diversity committee. Academic Advising Today39(3). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Why-We-Serve-on-the-NACADA-Diversity-Committee.aspx

Cite this article using APA style as: Adams, J.D., Lowden, B.L., Ross, K.W., & Anderson, M.J. (2016, December). Demystifying the emerging leaders program. Academic Advising Today, 39(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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