Joanne K. Damminger, NACADA President
March weather is upon us and many are happy to see the gray of winter, experienced in some countries, fade to the more vibrant colors of spring. For other worldwide colleagues, summer is coming to an end and March is welcoming the beautiful fall season. Whatever you experience in your geographical location, March is a time to reflect on the progress of one's resolutions and focus on students who are preparing to complete another semester, graduate, or join us for their first semester of college. For each of these student populations, advisors and supervisors of advising are a vibrant source of support and nurturing, preparing students for next steps in their educational and/or career journeys. Effective advisors, in the fashion of other good leaders, help students to blossom by giving them hope, direction, and the ability to dream and attain future goals.
Now is also a great time for each of us to take stock of what we have accomplished in the first quarter of the year and plan our next steps. Often our days are so full of daily commitments and operational tasks that we neglect to recognize our achievements and the ways in which they benefit students, our departments, and our campuses. Please reserve a few minutes to reflect on the ways you have improved, or created a plan to improve, your advising practice. Do not hesitate to challenge your own status quo, a critical characteristic of leadership and effective change initiatives (Kouzes & Posner, 1995; Rost, 1993). This could be as simple as creating a more welcoming message for new advisees, writing an advising syllabus, or enhancing your advising approach with students. Often we need to start such action projects on a small scale and allow them to gain momentum. Others will often gain interest in what we are doing as a project progresses. This strategy of influencing others with small wins is effective for bringing about positive change as modest successful projects often cause others to want to be involved in similar innovative measures (Kotter, 1996; Kouzes & Posner, 2002). So, take a minute in this new season to think about your recent accomplishments or make a plan to put something in place in the next six months, then assess its impact, and continually improve the project. You will be glad you did, as it will refresh you and your work.
Another good way to energize is to consider attending a NACADA Summer Institute where you can create an action plan to accomplish something you and/or your department have talked about for years, but fail to have the time to plan and initiate. Learn more about the Institutes in June and July and what you can accomplish in a five-day institute, immersed in what you love to do while networking with others who share your passion.
You might also consider attending one of NACADA's regional conferences taking place from February to May across the United States and Canada. Conferences are an affordable and commendable way to share your best practices and collect tremendous ideas for your campus. Please visit the NACADA website for the closest regional conference dates and locations or consider visiting a nearby region and networking with new colleagues.
Now is also a good season to give yourself a pat on the back for the important role you play in the lives of your students. Take a moment to think about a recent smile on the face of an advisee caused by your putting his/her mind at ease by answering an intricate question. Reflect on how good it felt when a new student promised to come back to see you because of the helpful professional relationship you created during his/her advising session. Yes, what you do as an advisor, personal tutor, career advisor, or other term used on your campus makes a difference in the lives of students, and you should feel wonderful about it! Remember Light's (2001) words that "Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience” (p. 81).
This season is often one of the busiest for advisors as you prepare students for the upcoming June or September semesters. Others are busy advising students who have applied for graduation. Let us also include the important role you play in advising students who are not making financial aid satisfactory academic progress to get them back on track. Effective advising does for students what we do for our own leadership development; we chart our course (Maxwell, 2007) and then we stay the course, an effective strategy for reaching an end result. This is the same strategy we share with our students preparing to enter a subsequent semester of college. Let's get our hope-to-return students to attend an advising session before leaving the campus for any summer-type break as they will be more likely to return. That is the difference advisors make!!!
And while everyone is busy with advising responsibilities, members of the NACADA Board of Directors are busy preparing for our mid-year meeting in April. We look forward to an update from our committees and advisory boards who just completed a self-study of their strengths and evolving needs. Blane Harding and Terri Musser are working hard with the Administrative Division to accomplish this noteworthy achievement that will impact NACADA for years to come. Our two new committees, the Committee for Global Initiatives led by Karen Sullivan-Vance, and the Committee for Sustainable NACADA Leadership led by Casey Self, will update the Board on their plans to take internationalization and leadership to the next levels. The Board will also continue the work on two outcomes related to enhancing diversity across the Association and how we can inform key people on our campuses about the invaluable nature of advising and its potential to impact every student (Light, 2001). A big thank you to Nathan Vickers and Janet Spence for their leadership of these two working groups. The Board's work on being outcomes- and assessment-based is also mimicked by every component of the Council. JP Regalado, Vice President of NACADA, is commended for his continued work with the Council on outcomes and achievements.
At the risk of appearing redundant, I reiterate my message from the recent Annual Conference in October 2013 and the advice of Maxwell (2007) who writes about effective laws of leadership, that I am committed to charting NACADA's course for this current year and staying the course for NACADA and its members. I encourage all members to chart their own courses within the Association and their professional lives. Always remember that your friends and colleagues in NACADA are here to assist and support you.
Have a wonderful season of reflection, growth, assessment, and accomplishment!
Joanne K. Damminger, President, 2013-2014
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Delaware Technical Community College
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. (2002). The leadership challenge. (3rd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: Follow them and people will follow you. (10th Anniversary ed.) Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Rost, J C. (1993). Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Cite this article using APA style as: Damminger, J. (2014, March). From the president: Staying the course, NACADA and you. Academic Advising Today, 37(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]