Joshua S. Smith, NACADA President
As usual, the academic year is flying by. As we head into the home stretch of the spring semester I wanted to follow up on the theme of Professionalism and consider some of the ways we can keep academic advising in the forefront of conversations in higher education. One component of professionalism in academic advising is clearly evidenced in NACADA’s commitment to creating conditions for excellence in academic advising. In the month of February alone, advisors and advising administrators from over 20 college campuses attended the Administrators’ Institute, Adult Learner Seminar, and/or the Assessment Institute. Additionally, Region 7 (South Central) kicked off the first of 10 Regional Conferences in San Antonio (Feb. 28-March 2). Participants at NACADA events benefit tangibly from hearing about cutting edge practice, having dedicated time to collaborate and share ideas, and demonstrate their knowledge and expertise by presenting what is working on their respective campuses.
I truly enjoy attending Regional and Annual Conference sessions and am always impressed with the quality and care that presenters put into each session. However, I often find myself wondering what philosophy, theory, and existing research undergird the implementation of a particular practice or development of a program. In addition to session topics, I have gravitated toward sessions that explicitly cite a reference from a journal in the abstract. I am pleasantly surprised when I receive a short paper citing the research, theory, and/or philosophy that is the basis for the session. As stated in my Presidential address at our Annual Conference last October, some of the leading scholars in academic advising have called for the development of a robust body of literature to validate advising as a field of study, discipline, and profession. The only way to grow that body of work is for us to do it.
A good starting point is preparing a literature review and clearly identifying a theoretical basis for our practice when presenting at conferences. The NACADA Journal and other higher education journals provide rich perspectives of our field and its impact of student experience and learning. We need to push even further if we are to confidently declare, as I do, that academic advising is a field of study.
I would like to pose an academic challenge to presenters at Region and Annual Conferences. Please accept the challenge of writing a short paper and making it available to attendees, and resisting the temptation to hand out a copy of a PowerPoint. Use a PowerPoint or Prezi to guide the presentations, but consider giving attendees something to read on the way home. Include a list of references, pointing readers in the direction to expand their knowledge of the philosophy, theory, and practice you are presenting. In preparation for this challenge, review recent articles in the NACADA Journal and explore recent editions of Academic Advising Today. I find AAT articles to be exemplary “praxis” in advising; that sweet spot connecting research, theory, and practice. Moving in this direction accelerates the volume and quality of expert voices in the conversations about the direction of higher education that are happening within campuses and at the state, national, and global levels.
At a recent College Completion Forum in Maryland, Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of Education, stated that the “greatest challenge to progress is the status quo.” She was speaking within the context of the United States’ desire to increase the percentage of adults with higher education credentials. She and others made a strong case that our collective efforts to increase access to college has been more successful than our ability to assist students in getting through college, as Governor O’Malley put it. Similar forums are happening across the globe as multiple stakeholders discuss and debate the best way to provide quality, affordable education that meets the diverse needs of students. As advisors, we are the innovators and challengers of the status quo. In just a short few decades, the study and practice of academic advising has generated news ways of thinking and practice to address the ever-changing student body attending various institution types. There are no single solutions or one-size-fits-all models, but rather innovative practices: reducing re-admission barriers for transfers, navigating inarticulate articulation “agreements,” retaining first-generation students struggling mid-semester, and helping students connect what they are learning in general education core classes to their development as individuals. These are just a few areas where academic advising is leading the way. In order for advising to remain relevant in these conversations, we need to produce scholarship documenting our impact, post insight on widely read blogs and twitter, present at statewide conferences on college completion, and actively engage in transition and retention initiatives on our campuses.
Finally, I wanted give a brief update on my exploration into Twitter. After an early hacking or spamming incident, I have emerged unscathed as a full-fledged follower of many talented and insightful advisors, advising administrators, and Jason Alexander (best known as George Costanza from Seinfeld). I have learned a lot and have been able to keep up with timely higher education issues that previously I would either have missed entirely or heard about weeks or even months later. I have even Tweeted some musing and re-Tweeted valuable articles and sentiments. Follow me at @NACADAJosh
Joshua S. Smith, President, 2012-2013
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Dean, School of Education, Loyola University Maryland
Cite this article using APA style as: Smith, J. (2013, March). From the president: Keeping academic advising in the forefront of conversations in higher education. Academic Advising Today, 36(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]