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Voices of the Global Community


Audrey Jackson, NACADA Emerging Leader
Karen Sullivan-Vance, NACADA Mentor

TheELPlogo.jpg Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), a new initiative for NACADA in 2007, was created to prepare members within the organization for leadership positions by providing them with mentoring and growth in their professional capacities. Emerging Leaders and Mentors are required to apply for the positions. Audrey Jackson, Counselor Coordinator for the Deerwood Center at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, was chosen as one of the ten Emerging Leaders for the 2007-2009 Class. Karen Sullivan-Vance, Director of the Academic Advising and Learning Center at Western Oregon University, was chosen as one of the initial ten Emerging Leader Mentors. At the mid-point of their appointed time together, they share their experiences with us.


The Emerging Leader (Audrey’s Perspective)

Why did I apply for the Emerging Leader Program? I was looking for an opportunity to work in NACADA. I had an urgency to work and not just attend sessions and meetings. I wanted to take a giant step into being a part of the progress that was being made by NACADA. I wanted to be able to say 'I helped accomplish that goal.'

One reason I had such an urgency to get involved was because I completed my degree and started in higher education late in my career. I felt behind and had a need to act immediately. I wanted to have a professional resume with contributions I made to the profession. My goal was to be connected to the association and involved in projects at the state, regional, and national levels. I desired to be able to correspond with someone who could help me identify and strengthen my weak areas. I also had a secret desire to write, but I had no clue how to produce a professional writing sample or who to contact to get involved in writing. My writing had only gone as far as class assignments.

I was encouraged to apply for the Emerging Leaders Program after listening to NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt talk about it. I mustered up the courage to talk with him personally, and his warm personality drew me in and made me believe that ELP could be my open door to being involved. I was ecstatic about becoming one of the first Emerging Leaders. It was an awesome experience to meet the other 2007-2009 leaders, mentors, and program facilitators at the 2007 Annual Conference in Baltimore. My first conversation with Karen was the best indication of how the mentor/leader relationship would be. Karen's support is stretching across the nation to help me grow.

The Role of the Mentor (Karen’s Perspective)

Mentoring always seems to be a fluid experience for me. As we mentor our students, staff, and colleagues, so too do they mentor us. In some instances the differences in experiences can be so marked as to ensure that the flow of information and support is in one direction, but I believe that individuals open to the mentoring process will find that they can learn from those they mentor. The act of mentoring causes us to stop and take stock of our own values, paths chosen, and what we still have to learn.

I chose to apply to the Emerging Leaders Program as a Mentor to give back. I have been fortunate enough to have numerous mentors in my life who have positively impacted my professional development. Currently, I have mentors within my peers, a cadre of colleagues I aspire to be like. At different stages they have advised, pushed, encouraged, challenged, and supported my professional growth.

After applying to the ELP, I was chosen as a Mentor. At the NACADA Annual Conference in Baltimore, the Emerging Leaders and Mentors got to meet each other, spend time talking, and find out about each others' areas of interest. In something akin to speed dating, we tried to ascertain as much as we could in a short time. On the second day, we were paired with our Emerging Leaders. Audrey Jackson and I had the chance to sit down, away from the noise, and just talk. Seriously, NACADA could not have gotten a pairing that was physically further apart, as Audrey resides in Florida and I am in Oregon. Even so, we connected.

The Process

How did we begin the leadership/mentoring process without a road map? Quite honestly, it was a little daunting. For us, as part of the inaugural class, we started to hack a path through the woods.

  • Karen: Audrey shared her resume so that I could see what she had done and help her identify key interest areas.
  • Audrey: Karen not only recognized my strengths and areas of interests, she helped me organize my resume so it looked ordered and professional. Now, my resume made sense! I could see how my career had evolved and identify directions for future growth.
  • Karen:The next step was for Audrey to verbalize her areas of greatest interest. In identifying key areas, we could focus our energies on them, keeping the process manageable. At the same time, it was important to look for bigger goals Audrey identified as important, such as getting involved in her region and professional writing. We discussed starting small, with a book review for the NACADA Journal. At approximately 600 words, this was a task that Audrey felt she could accomplish and it could serve as a building block to the next writing project which could be an article for the NACADA Clearinghouse. A mistake many people make is to take on too big a project and then fail because it becomes overwhelming. By breaking goals into smaller steps, we can scaffold the experiences. Growth comes from this process. Few of us will go out and write a novel, but as an aspiring writer, it is important to start the process small and build on it with subsequent challenges. A book review is the first step to an article. An article is the next step towards a chapter in a book and so on.
  • Audrey:Karen supported my endeavors by being encouraging and resourceful. She had presented at several conferences and shared her experiences of developing and presenting a topic with me. With her encouragement, I submitted two proposals to my Regional Conference, and they were accepted. I presented with my Dean of Student Services on “Carrots or Sticks: Focusing on Options and Opportunities for Student Success When Working with Suspension Students” and “Advising Teamwork: Unmasking the Behind the Scenes Operations to Increase Efficiency.” The experience was successful and proved that I had information that others wanted to hear! I also am testing the writing waters by writing a book review for the NACADA Journal.

Goals for Second Year

Audrey identified that during her second year in the program she would like to be instrumental in bringing a drive-in conference to her state. She is currently working with her Region Chair to start the process of building a conference. This article is a joint writing project between us and another opportunity for Audrey to scaffold experiences into professional development. Audrey is also beginning to explore doctoral programs.


Often we look at professional development in terms of adding lines to the resume. The reality, though, is that experiences lead to our growth as professionals. By challenging ourselves to go beyond what we know and try new things, we model and mentor to our students and colleagues. Audrey is a great example of an individual who is challenging herself professionally and becoming a leader. The skills she is developing benefit her in her job, but also as an Emerging NACADA Leader.

At the halfway point in the program, we can honestly say that we have both benefited from the ELP relationship. At this point the leader/mentor lines blur at times. We encourage each other to take on new challenges. In some relationships, it might be a one-way street with information flowing from mentor to leader, but for us, it is a two-way street. As a mentor, Karen is getting as much out of the relationship as Audrey is as the Emerging Leader. We are learning from each other, evaluating, encouraging, and questioning. What an amazing gift of professional growth and belonging from NACADA! What more could we ask?

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Program and begin preparing your application to be a NACADA Emerging Leader or Mentor today! You’ll be very glad you did!

Audrey Jackson
Florida Community College-Jacksonville
[email protected]

Karen Sullivan-Vance
Western Oregon University
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Jackson, A. & Sullivan-Vance, K. (2008, December). Emerging leaders program: A year into the process. Academic Advising Today, 31(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]



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