Erin Justyna, NACADA President
It would seem that in the fourth and final column of Academic Advising Today, NACADA presidents usually take the opportunity to reflect back on the year and consider what the immediate future may hold. It is 2020. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and all the implications stemming from that. I am taking multiple deep breaths just so I can bring myself to put words onto paper. One of our members, Katie Cooper, is also a wonderful artist who typically creates amazingly lifelike portraits of humans and pets. Recently Katie began creating ornaments for the year 2020 – and the image is a dumpster fire. I purchased five.
We don’t know when the end of this pandemic will arrive. We don’t yet know its full impact. It seems each day brings a multitude of decisions that must be made, from the most minute decision of whether to go to the grocery store to decisions about sending our own children to school or moving campus and Association events online for the foreseeable future. As I write, campuses across the globe who have decided to hold on-campus instruction are beginning to welcome students. Our campus communities are adjusting to masks, outdoor classrooms, and social distancing guidelines. By the time you are reading these words, we may be just beginning to understand the results of these decisions and efforts.
The constant stress of deciding – both in our professional and personal spheres – when we have so little data is exhausting. I’ve seen the fatigue on the faces of faculty, staff, and students. I’ve seen the fatigue on Zoom calls with the NACADA Board of Directors and Executive Office staff. I’ve seen the fatigue staring back at me from the mirror. And yet, life does not stop.
If each of us are to succeed in our work, we must continue to recognize or create opportunities in the chaos. If we look at history, and any moment within that brought great challenges, we can always find those who rise above or even excel under the pressure. They are adapters, innovators, tinkerers, thought leaders. You have likely seen these people emerge on your own campuses, and certainly I have watched members and staff of NACADA surmount each new challenge and nimbly adjust processes and practices to continue to support advising professionals and students.
I hope you have been reading the monthly NACADA Highlights to keep up with the many projects and events occurring throughout the Association, as well as updates coming from, among others, the NACADA Council, the Research Center, the Region Review Implementation Committee, and the Race, Ethnicity, and Inclusion Work Group. The work of NACADA is expansive and constant, and these updates allow members to see the work occurring in almost real time.
Given the ways our lives have been rapidly changing, it seems timely that the Board of Directors is finalizing the Strategic Goal benchmarks put into place in 2017 during Dana Zahorik’s presidency. We’ve made great strides as an Association in three years, but the need to continually evolve is more heightened than ever, and work has recently begun to review and revise NACADA’s mission, vision, strategic goals, structure, and bylaws.
Perhaps, as one of my colleagues said, some of the changes that we are being forced to make because of the pandemic – whether in how we think about our campuses and professions or how we operationalize our work – are long overdue. The circumstances stink, but in thinking of new ways to offer a campus experience or NACADA event, we may find ways that are more accessible and more inclusive. To offer just one example of this – members for whom either long international or domestic flights, budgets, time away from office/family, etc. made participation with in-person NACADA events difficult may now be able to join us from the comfort of their own homes or campus offices. While I’m certainly disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet many of you at the Regional and International conferences, I look forward to interacting with you in new virtual spaces during our Annual Conference in October.
Looking back on a year as NACADA President is a surreal thing. I have moments where I wish I would have done something differently. I have many moments where I wish I was able to do more. I wish I had paused to have conversations with more members or thank a staff member or volunteer for all the hours worked. But, of course, I know that I did exactly what I could in each moment. I started a new job at a new institution. I was navigating a pandemic as a partner, parent, and professional. We must also have grace for ourselves. The work is happening. It takes time. It’s bigger than any one member. It takes all of us.
With that, I would like to share my immense gratitude for the staff members in the NACADA Executive Office and the individuals who have served on the Board of Directors and Council alongside me the last five years. I am proud that Cecilia Olivares and Megumi Makino-Kanehiro have been elected as incoming President and incoming Vice President of NACADA. As a member, I am humbled by their thoughtful leadership and steady dedication to NACADA and its members. As a human, I am in awe of their kindness and generosity. We are fortunate to have them lead.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to each of NACADA’s members. At the beginning of my term, I pledged to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to acknowledge all of our members and their experiences. During the fifteen years I have been a member of NACADA, I have been fascinated by the potential and professional identity of our members. You make our Association better every day. I’ve learned so much from you. It’s an honor and privilege to serve as President of NACADA. I hope I have served you well.
Erin Justyna, President, 2019-2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Provost for Student Affairs
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Cite this article using APA style as: Justyna, E. (2020, September). From the president: Opportunities in chaos. Academic Advising Today, 43(3). [insert url here]