Joanne K. Damminger, NACADA President
As I write this fourth, and final, article for AAT as part of my term as President, I am very reflective and appreciative of the past year's wonderful experiences as President. I thought it fitting, therefore, to share my thoughts and more importantly, what I learned this past year, especially from the most valuable component of this great Association – its members!
The term as President of NACADA begins at the conclusion of the Annual Conference in the fall. Soon after returning home from the conference last October, I found myself preparing a keynote for an advising conference in our fiftieth state, Hawaii! I learned a great deal during the Advising Kuleana Across the UH System Advisors Workshop 2013. I brought back a concept that builds on the Front Door Experience that I wrote about in the May AAT article. Attendees at the conference explained to me the Hawaiian custom they use to extend the Front Door Experience at their campuses and likened their approach to inviting students not only through the front door, but into the warm kitchen and living areas of their homes so that strong connections are made through advising sessions and processes. This analogy truly demonstrated the importance of relational skills in effective advising. Although the informational and conceptual aspects of advising are critical to advising's role in student success, it is often the way advisors relate to students that builds relationships with students and encourages them to return.
I am going to jump ahead to an experience I had more recently at the NACADA Summer Institute because it also reinforced my belief in the acute importance of relational skills. A wonderful group of undergraduate peer advisors from St. Petersburg College in Florida did a panel presentation for attendees at the Summer Institute. When asked what the students wanted in their own advisors and advising experiences, every answer had to do with relational skills. Each peer advisor wanted an advisor who was accessible, nice, pleasant, welcoming, caring, and asked questions to help the student learn what s/he needed to meet academic and career goals. We cannot argue with students' needs that are identified by the students themselves! This does not minimize the importance of the informational and conceptual components of effective advising, but clearly demonstrates the impact of building effective advisor-student relationships.
As my presidential term moved into the months of December, January, and February, I experienced once again how much of the work of NACADA leaders is completed electronically. I was very busy emailing to and from the Executive Office and Board of Directors and utilizing Adobe Connect for communications and virtual face-to-face meetings. During this time, the Board adopted a new initiative to gauge our accomplishments throughout the year by writing outcomes that would help measure our progress. Two sub-groups led by Janet Spence and Nathan Vickers began their work on these outcomes and extended it throughout the year. During this time, I also kept abreast of the work of our Administrative Division, led by Blane Harding and Terry Musser, who took on the task of reviewing the membership, charge, and responsibilities of each committee and advisory board in the Administrative Division. The resulting work will have a positive impact on the Association for years to come. The CIG Division met regularly and started several new initiatives including virtual online office hours so members could ask questions and receive immediate answers during online chat times.
Early spring brought the invigoration that results from attendance at our regional conferences and living first-hand the direct results of the work of our Regional Division. I experienced what a difference a year can make in the development of a region, its leadership, succession planning, and team building. I had fun facilitating first-time attendee orientations, meeting our newest members, and sharing NACADA updates and pathways to NACADA leadership. The regional sessions entitled "NACADA Listens" were equally enjoyable as I learned about the interests of our members and what they wanted to know about our Association. Providing information at these sessions was both intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding.
Throughout the remainder of the year, I presented at several institutions, met wonderful people, and learned that advisors everywhere are driven by their passion for advising and desire to contribute to students' goal attainment and next steps. My visit with our members in Canada affirmed how much our structures and processes are alike and, although a few terms may be different, the underpinning of student success is at the core of what we all do.
In April, when the Board met once again face to face, we discussed the progress of the two newly created standing committees, the Committee for Sustainable NACADA Leadership and the Committee for Global Initiatives – two noteworthy accomplishments of the Board this year. The Committee for Sustainable NACADA Leadership is creating pathways to NACADA leadership and opportunities for members' professional development. Stayed tuned for more details to come! The Committee on Global Initiatives is working on a lexicon of advising terminology that can be understood worldwide and opportunities for members to meet biennially at the international NACADA conference. More recently the Board approved a policy for collaboration with key constituents in higher education that can greatly benefit members and the scholarship of advising as a profession.
As we consider the scholarship and research of advising, let us be reminded that all of us as advisors and administrators of advising bear responsibility to the profession of advising and can assist by making advising the focus of conversations about completion on every campus. Consider doing research on your advising practice and publishing the results. It is also important that we spread the word to all types of institutions about the benefits of NACADA membership. And to all of the community colleges out there, I mean you, too! I hope that my work in the community college sector will encourage more community colleges to get involved in NACADA and reap the benefits for staff and students. If you want to learn more about how to get involved, please reach out to me, other NACADA leaders, or anyone in the Executive Office.
As my presidential year is not complete until the Annual Conference in October, I will continue the progress and momentum of the past 10 months. I have many more stories and lessons to talk and laugh about, so please reach out to me at the upcoming Annual Conference so I may share them with you. I hope you are all currently putting in place the support you need to attend the Annual Conference in Minneapolis October 8-11. I look forward to seeing you there!
Congratulations to JP Regalado and David Spight, the incoming President and Vice President of NACADA respectively. I am confident that they will excel in building on current NACADA initiatives. I recommend that the Board continue its focus on enhancing advising as a profession and NACADA leadership development for our members. There are tremendous opportunities on the horizon in these areas so stay tuned for more information.
I want to also take this opportunity to say thank you to the membership for putting your trust in me the last year, to the Board of Directors with whom it has been my pleasure to work the past three years, and to the Executive Office for their help during my time on the Board and as Vice President and President of NACADA. You are all my NACADA family, and you have made this a truly wonderful journey. I thank you all!
Joanne K. Damminger, President, 2013-2014
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Delaware Technical Community College