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Voices of the Global Community


David Spight, NACADA President

President David Spight.jpgI am fully aware that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Still, I am hopeful and optimistic that what happened at the conference in October has already been shared at institutions around the globe.  It was truly an amazing conference and a great place to kick off a year as your president!  I always come away from the conferences re-energized by the passion the members have for what we do as advising professionals.  I love that NACADA has always been an association where all of the leaders are willing to speak to any of the members, and I hope that you all feel that too.  To help with that, I should take a moment and introduce myself.  My name is David Spight, your NACADA president for the 2015-2016 year.  My day job is to help undecided/exploratory students at the University of Texas at Austin with finding their way.  

David Spight & JP Regalado.jpgIt has been an amazing past year with J.P. Regalado as our association president.  J.P. is someone truly invested in what we do, and we have been blessed to have him at the helm during an exciting time in the association’s history.  As a history major, I am a firm believer that the past builds the foundation upon which future accomplishments are possible, so I must also take a moment and thank the past leadership, the past presidents, board and council members, and association leaders for all they have done.  All we accomplish this year is in great part because of their hard work.

As an association, we have focused the past couple of years on leadership sustainability, diversity, and research.  We have made strides with all three topics, but we still have a way to go, especially as we continue to grow globally.  Consider for a moment that this past year was the first time in NACADA history that both the president and vice president were ethnic minorities.  We have to remember that not all forms of diversity are visible and that there exists an intersectionality of identities that make up each and every one of us.  We must continue to remember that diversity includes our geography, our institutional types, and our roles, in addition to what we most commonly attribute as characteristics of diversity.  Recently, the Board pulled together a task force to consider the association’s core values, and that group has been asked, as part of their task moving forward, to consider our core values through the lens of inclusivity.

As I mentioned at the conference, the philosophy from which I approach my work, our profession, is based on a book written by Nevitt Sanford (1967) called Where Colleges Fail.  Sanford describes how individuals need two things, in balance of each other, in order to grow and develop: support and challenge.  For me, not only do I believe in trying to support and challenge students, but I also believe that advisors need to be supported and challenged to continually seek to grow and develop as individuals, as academic advisors, and as members of the higher education community.  There are plenty of challenges that we are being asked to overcome, from access to affordability, from retention to graduation rates.

I have challenged the Board of Directors and the Council to focus on engagement.  We are working on increasing engagement in leadership opportunities in the association all the while keeping in mind our emphasis on inclusivity.  We are seeking ways to get you more engaged in the scholarship of advising.  We are going to hold member Q&A web events throughout the year.  We want to make sure that we are transparent, we keep you all informed, and we keep you all connected to the work of the association.

But of utmost importance, when I spoke in Vegas I challenged all of you.  As a reminder, and for those of you who were not able to attend the conference, here are those challenges:

  • Get engaged in this profession.  As I mentioned, we expect our students to be engaged in their profession, the profession of being a student.  How can we not do the same when we expect that of our students?
  • Get involved in this association.  The collective result would be nothing less than inspiring.  Consider writing an article for Academic Advising Today or the NACADA Journal, or helping with review of conference proposals, or updating commission and interest group webpages, or submitting a proposal of your own to present at an upcoming regional or annual conference.  Consider running for a leadership position in the association.  There are over 13,000 of you in this association.  Imagine the impact if every one of us engaged in this association’s efforts, even in just a small way.
  • Become a scholar-practitioner.  Be experts in the scholarship of advising as well as the practice of advising.  You do not have to conduct research, but you should be engaged with it.  Read about the scholarship that is happening in advising.
  • Learn another approach.  We have been, in many ways, like the dualistic student.  Often I hear advisors say, “I’m an intrusive or proactive advisor” or “I’m a developmental advisor” or “I’m an appreciative advisor.”  I believe an academic advisor is an academic advisor.  An academic advisor can adapt approaches for each student.  Each student is unique, with their own unique combination of experiences, of intersectionality of identities.  As a result, no one approach alone will work with every student.  It is time we moved away from being dualistic in our approach, away from seeking that one perfect approach for all students.  It’s time we increase the number of tools in our approaches toolbox, to become multiplistic in how we approach working with our students.

Consider when you advise a student to complete a task or when you refer a student to a resource on campus.  Without following up later to see what they have accomplished, or to see if they connected with that resource, then the student may perceive that what you advised was not that important.  That follow-up is an integral step when advising students.  In the same way, what kind of professional would I be if I did not follow up and see how you are doing so far with those challenges I gave you?

Have you shared what you learned at the conference from sessions or from interactions with your colleagues?  Have you tried to implement a new idea?  Have you read any articles or other publications related to academic advising and student success?  Have you discussed any readings or research with your colleagues?  Have you read up about an approach you did not know about and tried utilizing it?  The more we engage with our work, the more we know about how to help students successfully navigate through your institutions.

As I said before, with challenges must also come support.  This association has so many resources to assist you and support you: the Board of Directors and Council, the Executive Office staff, all the other leaders, we’re all here to help.  Connect with us.  Lean on each other.  Reach out to a commission and interest group.  Connect with others in your regions or parts of the globe.  Get connected to your local advising associations.  I have come to experience such great support from the people I have met in this association.  I do not have “NACADA friends,” I have my “NACADA family.”  Through all of life’s events, weddings, separations, loss, the birth of children and grandchildren, that NACADA family is always there.  Talk about a support system.

So, get engaged.  Get connected.  Become the experts.  The outcome of doing so will benefit the students we serve.  The outcome of doing so will do nothing less than change lives and 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]


Sanford, N. (1967). Where colleges fail: A study of the student as a person. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Cite this article using APA style as: Spight, D. (2015, December). From the president: Four challenges. Academic Advising Today, 38(4). Retrieved from [insert url here] 


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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.