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Voices of the Global Community


David Spight, NACADA President

President David Spight.jpgOver the course of this year, one of the greatest perks of being president has been the chance to meet lots of amazing professionals working in advising and student success. So many of them have mentioned some of the challenges they face at their institutions and the changes that have affected them. Sometimes it can feel like everything is changing: work, personal life, etc. Sometimes that change is wonderful and sometimes it is less desirable.

The topic of change, well, can be funny. Consider this: when something changes, our first reaction is that we do not like the change. One might even express that they “don’t like change.” This reaction is quickly followed by a wish to make another change, “possibly back to the way things were.” Suddenly we went from disliking change to wishing for it.

We often think about change in terms of the things someone or something else is changing that affect us. That perspective makes it easy to feel frustrated, overworked, underappreciated.

But what if we consider change from a different perspective? What can I, as an academic advisor, change to make things better? Herein lies the reason why getting engaged in your profession and getting engaged in the scholarship on advising becomes more important. Consider this: if you learn more about a particular factor that affects student persistence, how might you incorporate that new information into your practice? With changing demographics at many of our institutions, the more we learn about how college affects our students, the better we can help those students get engaged in their education. How we view change – the perspective or lens through which we view change –  that’s a choice that is up to each of us as individuals.

Being engaged in your profession helps you to have a better lens through which to assess your advising practice. Assessment provides you with data, both quantitative and qualitative, that you can use to tell the story of advising at your institution. That information, in combination with knowledge of the scholarship on academic advising and student success, enables you to be in a position to advocate for and make change. Then, you are not subject to change out of your control, but instead are driving change for the sake of your students.

Change at an institution of higher education is most often about the institution, about responding to challenges to higher education, about improving the student experience. Rarely is the change about us. I do not know of a policy change at an institution, or a new technology platform being implemented, that was decided upon with the sole purpose of upsetting one particular advisor.

Have changes that have been made negatively affected your ability to advise students? Maybe. But rarely do the changes made at our institutions dramatically affect that one-on-one session with a student. Despite the changes, we still can build rapport with the student, actively listen, and assist them with figuring out their educational and life plans. Sure, some of the pathways that students use to navigate their way through our institutions may change, but our ability to meet with them and partner with them in their success, well, that is determined by each of us.

Let us also consider what we hope to accomplish as institutions of higher education. We hope to help students grow and develop in a positive way. We are simply in the business of change. That growth and development means challenging a student’s perspectives and supporting them through that dissonance. That growth and development means trying to help students change and adapt to a new environment and new experiences and find ways to incorporate it all into who they are and who they will become.

So, I ask and encourage you again to get engaged in your profession and become a scholar-practitioner. Doing so will help you to change the lives of students, who will in turn, change the world.

David Spight, President, 2015-2016
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Dean, James W. Vick Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling
The University of Texas at Austin  ||  The School of Undergraduate Studies
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Spight, D. (2016, June). From the president: Change perspective. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2016 June 39:2


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.