Jayne Drake, NACADA President
Kathy Stockwell, NACADA Vice President
We wracked our brains in search of just the right pithy opening quote for this article to dazzle you. We pored over past issues of Academic Advising Today in search of what previous NACADA leaders have had to say to the membership at this point in the year. We traveled far and wide in search of the most genial, awe-inspiring stories calculated to warm your heart and renew your sense of purpose. We even called upon the muses to shower their inspiration upon us. And while we did, indeed, find glimmers of inspiration in these sources, it soon became clear to us that what we neglected to do was to peer into the most obvious place of all—our own backyards.
In America’s post Civil War Gilded Age, the famous orator, Baptist minister, and founder of Temple University, Dr. Russell Conwell, delivered a speech entitled “Acres of Diamonds” over 6,000 times to audiences around the world. In it, Conwell tells the story of a wealthy farmer who is captivated by the promise of enormous wealth—acres of diamonds—if he will but search for it. His quest led him away from hearth and family to journey the world in pursuit of this treasure. After years of relentless searching, he died a penniless, ragged, and disillusioned old man, unaware that the diamonds and untold wealth he sought were just beneath his feet on the farm that he had abandoned years before. For Conwell, the message was clear: we need search only within ourselves to discover immensely rich resources, our own diamonds—those of courage, adaptability, resiliency, resourcefulness, and the capacity to live up to our potential. These qualities build character, and from character, he asserts, comes greatness. “Greatness consists not in holding some [grand] office; greatness really consists in doing some great deed with little means, in the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private ranks of life. That is true greatness.” It was on this foundation of doing great things with little means by using the diamonds within all of us that Temple University was built. It occurs to us that, perhaps more than ever with the many pressures and exigencies we all face in higher education in general and academic advising in particular, Conwell’s words continue to strike true.
We would also like to think that NACADA’s diamonds are our members whose work every day in their offices or advising settings around the world inspires our students to unlock and discover the resources within themselves. Does our rhetoric sound a bit overblown? Perhaps it is. But the reality is that professional academic advisors and counselors, faculty advisors, and advising administrators make an important difference in the lives of our students. As we labor away—always hard and sometimes feeling isolated in our offices—we can lose sight of the fact that there are many thousand diamonds in our Global Community for Academic Advising who embrace our shared commitment to help others make their way, to help students both to navigate the academy, and to grow into satisfying careers.
It is especially your adaptability, resiliency, and resourcefulness, as well as your inspiration, that define and shape the work of the other brilliant diamonds in NACADA’s backyard. Members of the Board of Directors, the Council, chairs of our ten regions, chairs of commissions and interest groups, chairs of administrative committees, advisory boards, and taskforces, and all those who hold leadership positions freely volunteer their time to promote quality academic advising, to provide opportunities for professional growth through the Association’s institutes, conferences, and consulting and speakers services, and to offer Webcasts, print, electronic, and other resources to promote student success. The five goals of NACADA’s Strategic Plan—1) champion the educational role of academic advisors to enhance student learning and development in a diverse world; 2) affirm the role of academic advising in student success and persistence, thereby supporting institutional mission and vitality; 3) anticipate the academic advising needs of twenty-first century students, advisors and institutions; 4) advance the body of knowledge on academic advising; and 5) foster the talents and contributions of all members and promote the involvement of diverse populations—assume life through the good work of these NACADA diamonds. And it is, of course, from you, our members, that we take guidance in order to ensure the current and future direction of the Association. We are grateful to you all.
And if we can stretch (and belabor) a bit farther the metaphor of our members as diamonds in our own backyard, then we have to acknowledge the many faceted and highly polished diamonds in our Executive Office. These amazing folks consistently have shown the savvy, adaptability, resiliency, resourcefulness, and just plain good sense that have built NACADA into a world leader among higher education associations. From the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas (the Little Apple), they work behind the scenes making sure that the pulleys and levers and bells and whistles are working as they should. Just to give you some sense of the extraordinary range of activities they are responsible for, we have inserted here a brief summary of their responsibilities from NACADA’s Web site. “The Executive Office supports the association in all activities and provides services to the members. This includes implementation of all approved activities as designated by the Board of Directors. In addition, the Executive Office staff will maintain the Archives of the Association, act as the fiscal agent of the Association, provide Web services to all units of the Association, and lend expertise in meeting planning, contract negotiations, service contracts, marketing and promotion, copy editing, grant writing in support of Association activities, research efforts, and clerical support as needed. The Executive Office has been given more responsibility for the implementation of association activities to lessen the burden on the volunteer leadership of the association. This includes coordination of publications and events, marketing of all activities and the association in general, conference planning, tech services, and other tasks as assigned. The Executive Office is assisted by member based Advisory Boards and Review Boards. The Executive Director serves on the Board of Directors and meets with the Council.” Please check out these amazing diamonds on the EO webpage.
In the end, we hope that all NACADA members will think of themselves as diamonds in a vast backyard—a world-wide network of advising professionals. You are the change makers both on your own campuses and among your students. We urge you to inspire and be inspired. John Quincy Adams once famously said that “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” We couldn’t agree more.
Jayne Drake, President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Kathy Stockwell, Vice President
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Cite this article using APA style as: Drake, J., & Stockwell, K. (2010, March). From the president: In search of inspiration in our own backyard. Academic Advising Today, 33(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]