Erin Justyna, NACADA President
During the opening of the 2019 Annual Conference in Louisville, I had to opportunity to share remarks with many of the 3300+ conference attendees. I would like to share some of those words with you here, both to reiterate to those who were there and to speak to those who were not able to be in attendance. However, I should disclose my words have been altered since I first delivered them. You see, shortly after conference ended and I returned home, I received some constructive feedback from a concerned member regarding my opening remarks. I grappled with the feedback and continued to ask for clarification on exactly where the member felt I had gone wrong. I hope as I share my words now, that I honor our members and their lived experiences more effectively.
The work of a NACADA President spans a singular year. This time will pass as though only a moment. This might cause me sheer panic if I did not embrace the words of Sir Isaac Newton when he wrote, “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I know the work of NACADA is not dependent on me. I simply share in the work with many members and leaders who have gone before me, those working, volunteering, and presenting during events, and those supporting students in the advising offices at each of our campuses.
As advisors, in whatever ways we engage—reading literature that informs our practice, attending conferences, presenting, researching, writing, taking on a leadership role—each of us push the association and profession further, and a little further, and a little further into an unfathomable new future. That future also includes those new to the profession and/or the association and those who have not been fully engaged by the association.
About ten years ago, I read that the Zulu tribes of South Africa acknowledge each other with the greeting “Sawubona” in much the same way we say “hello” in the English language. The phrase “Sawubona” translates to “I see you”. In essence, this greeting conveys, “all my attention is with you. I see you and I allow myself to discover your needs, to see your fears, to identify your mistakes and accept them. I accept you for what you are, and you are part of me” (Sawubona, 2018). Often, this greeting is met with the reply, “Sikhona,” which is equivalent to saying “I am here.” The order of the greetings within this exchange is important—and what it is saying…in literal translation is, “Until you see me; I do not exist” (Senge, 1994).
I know NACADA is wholly committed to seeing those who may be more likely to be overlooked. Over the last several years, a team has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the regional division of the association—to determine how to best serve our members around the globe, rather than just those in North America. The Professional Development Committee has simultaneously been conducting a gap analysis to determine what professional development needs exist that are not currently being met. The Global Initiatives and Inclusion and Engagement Committees have been focused on disrupting inequities that exist in membership and leadership activities for our members.
Karen Archambault’s last action as sitting NACADA President, with full support from the Board of Directors, was to appoint a Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion. The task force was specifically asked to challenge the status quo and present the Board of Directors with the best practices and next steps for moving the association to a next level of meaningful inclusion. As my first order of business, I have re-appointed this Task Force for work during my presidency.
As an association, we work to serve each and every one of our members, and therefore to support the success of all students in higher education. We don’t always get it right; we don’t always truly see every advising professional or every student with whom they work. Some of our members have raised their voices again and again and still have not been heard. I pledge to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to acknowledge you and your experiences. And I challenge each of you, as well, to remember our shared humanity—to actively work to see one another, to embrace and engage one another. Sawubona. Sikhona.
If nothing else, I wish for my NACADA presidency to be remembered for radical transparency and an ethic of care. I hope members continue to tell us about the things we are doing as an association that effectively support you and your work and continue to tell us when you think we fall short. There is no doubt, a great deal more must be done to see all of our members. We will do the work. Our profession is all of us. We exist together. We create the future of advising.
Erin Justyna, President, 2019-2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Provost for Student Affairs
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Senge, P. M. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. Crown Business.
Sawubona: An African tribe’s beautiful greeting. (2018, October 18). https://exploringyourmind.com/sawubona-african-tribe-greeting/
Cite this article using APA style as: Justyna, E. (2019, December). From the president: Because you see me, I exist. Academic Advising Today, 42(4). [insert url here]