posted on November 18, 2021 01:02
Melinda J. Anderson, NACADA Executive Director
Growing up as the youngest of three children, I followed the path of my older siblings. As a first-generation student, I didn’t know how to do college. I just knew that it was important to go as my brother and sister did before me. My parents were raised in a segregated south and felt strongly about education being essential to my ability to be successful in life. My maternal grandfather couldn’t afford to pay for my mother, raised in a family of ten, to attend college, so the military became her vehicle to achieving a better life. My father, raised by a single mother, saw the military as his path to better career opportunities. I saw my parents work hard to instill an understanding in us that education provided endless opportunities. My siblings and I were raised on the belief that life will be hard, but it is in the process of living that we learn, grow, and become successful.
It is in this season that I try to remember my grandfather’s words “No rest for the weary.” I have listened carefully to the voices across campuses this semester as advising staff, faculty, and administrators worked hard to navigate the pandemic changes on their campuses while advocating and providing support for their students. It is a difficult line to walk, being there for others, when there is little left in the tank. Maya Angelou was quoted to have said “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Her words pour into my spirit as I hope it fills yours. Rest well and come back. We are not meant just to survive. You can be tired, take a break, and come back ready to support those who need you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. I share this message explicitly because as my daughter entered her freshman year this fall, I was filled with worry and concern, yet hopeful that she would find someone to advocate for her, support her, and guide her on her academic journey. She has shared with me that she has found community at the University of Richmond, amongst the pandemic shifts, despite the challenges of social injustice, amidst the conversations of being vaccinated and having to wear a mask. She has found her campus community to be tired, yet committed to students, weary, but dedicated to helping all not just survive but thrive. Being online for most of her senior year, she was worried about how she would live away from home, find friends, and demonstrate her ability to be academically successful. And she wondered most about if she would fit in. It is because of her advisors, student affairs staff, and faculty who remain committed to the mission of student success that I know she will continue to find her way.
Academic advising has found a foothold in the institutional commitment for student success. Once viewed as only a service to students, academic advising has grown to become the hallmark of a good educational experience for institutions. Holistic academic advising strategies take a lot of time, energy, and resources—yet it makes a difference. Especially during a time when so much has interrupted how students are developing and finding their way to achieving a good, quality education. Academic advising services have become the backbone supporting institutional student success strategies. As advisors and administrators, we battle compassion fatigue, worry, uncertainty, all while lifting others up. However, it is incredible to see how academic advising, as a profession, has become important and not always an afterthought. It has its own growing pains, but I remain hopeful that as the profession and field continue to raise their profile on campuses, our students will benefit.
It is Maya Angelou’s words “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive” that gives me critical hope for how we will continue to navigate this space together. Grace, communication, and compassion are key during this season. Many of us will continue to need our colleagues, family, and friends to be our champions. As the semester comes to a close, know that your students are grateful for your presence, your energy, and your listening ear. NACADA will continue to be here, dedicated to you, your growth, and your professional development. We will continue to provide ways to support you during this season, and we will do it with compassion, humor, and lots of style. Be well; stay safe.
Melinda J. Anderson, Ed.D.
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Cite this article using APA style as: Anderson, M. (2021, December). From the executive director: Seasons of change. Academic Advising Today, 44(4). [insert url here]