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Erin Justyna.jpgErin Justyna, NACADA President

I stared at this blank page for weeks trying to meet this publication deadline. What does one say as President of NACADA in this moment? The internal dialogue (and dialogue with my husband and friends) went a little something like this:

I can’t bear to add one more thing for people to read about the pandemic. Our inboxes are brimming with communication about COVID-19. We don’t need more. But . . . if I don’t acknowledge the pandemic, then I don’t honor the life-altering effects this event is having on the human beings who make up our membership. No, I need to save this avenue to focus on the important work occurring throughout the association. I can speak to the innovative ways we are approaching our work. (Big sigh.) Except, that isn’t what my heart is telling me to say. I have to be real and acknowledge the mess.

Our lived experiences are anything but business as usual right now. My lived experience is this: I am working 14-hour days to try to keep  afloat in my role as Assistant Provost, attempting to be available to provide support for the staff members in our division; I am trying to be here for my two older children who were forced to move to online college courses; I’m struggling, and mostly failing, to still have mental and emotional energy for my spouse; and I’m trying to breathe and problem solve—rather than just scream—when I find out my high school teen has been turning in all blank work so his online classroom app will show “nothing is due” when any of his parents log in. Things are a huge mess.

But amidst all of this, we still have great things occurring across our lives, our institutions, the association. We couldn’t meet in Manhattan, KS for our midyear Board and Council meetings in April, but we did find six hours across three days (and many time zones) to Zoom in. In our first two days, we received final reports on the Region Review and the Professional Development Committee gap analysis. In the coming weeks, we will determine a plan for moving forward with these groups’ recommendations, which will include the formation of an implementation team. These reports represent years of diligent work that will shape how NACADA engages with members and operates in the future. On our final day, we engaged in very intentional small and whole group discussions around NACADA’s mission and vision. These conversations seemed remarkably timely, given the COVID-19 pandemic is causing people across the globe to rethink education, business, and how we engage with our social networks.

Certainly, the association has had to make some tough decisions—such as cancellation of many regional conferences and other in-person events—and we will have more decisions to make and hurdles to pass in the coming months. Many of us look forward all year to recharging with our colleagues at campus advising award ceremonies, drive-ins, conferences, and institutes. We can and should acknowledge the frustration we feel for things that cannot be, for added stress, for the forced separation from our fellow humans. Things are a mess, and that’s okay. Hopefully, as we are mourning our very real losses and challenges, we can also open our minds to the opportunity to use this crisis to become even better—better as an association, better advisors, better humans.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by members displaying their agility and resourcefulness as they’ve navigated sometimes daily challenges on their campuses, and they’re sharing their ingenuity with all of us. I’ve also been deeply moved by members showing compassion and creativity to lift the spirits of others—both those they know and complete strangers: Facebook groups to highlight what our “new coworkers” are up to at home, toilet paper challenges, virtual celebrations, and safe distance parades. I hope you found ways to honor your colleagues and that others honored each of you during NACADA’s inaugural Global Advisor Appreciation Week the first week of May. We often show our truest selves in times of crisis. I see you, and I thank you.

Erin Justyna, President, 2019-2020
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising 
Assistant Provost for Student Affairs 
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center 
Pronouns: She/her/hers
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Justyna, E. (2020, June). From the president: Things are a mess, and that’s okay. Academic Advising Today, 43(2). [insert url here] 

Posted in: 2020 June 43:2


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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.