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Skip Crownhart, Jane Jacobson and Terry Musser, NACADA members

Since the 1980s, NACADA leadership has recognized that the Association suffered from the same lack of leadership representation from underrepresented groups as other organizations within higher education. The NACADA elected officials did not reflect the diversity of the Association, and there was much discussion about how to remedy that.

Skip Crownhart.jpgAt the 1999 mid-year Board of Directors meeting ,Skip Crownhart (Metropolitan State College of Denver), 1999 Annual Conference Chair, challenged the Board of Directors to bring more people of color into positions of leadership within the organization. NACADA President Nancy King responded by appointing a Task Force to investigate diversity within the organization. For the next several years, Skip and others continued to repeat the message of opening leadership doors.

The reorganization of NACADA in 2001–04 was designed to make NACADA more inclusive and reduce the influence of “old boy networks.” The Diversity Committee was created to address diversity within the organization. One of the committee’s first assignments was to examine issues of access and privilege. In 2002-03, the Diversity Committee’s goals were to identify the scope of the challenge with regard to diversity issues in NACADA. In 2003, the committee discussed a plan to develop diversity workshops for NACADA leaders. This included conducting needs assessments and developing a definition of diversity for NACADA.

In 2004, based upon a report written by members of the Diversity Committee, the Board of Directors approved a concept of diversity that embraces ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation as well as institutional type, size, and employment position. The report outlined the breadth and depth of the Association’s definition of diversity to include: gender, type of institution, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity.

Discussions were held at several regional and annual conferences about this broad definition of diversity. The Diversity Committee identified several obstacles to participation and leadership advancement. These included lack of financial support from the member’s home institution, lack of knowledge of Association structure, and limited understanding of how to gain recognition as a potential leader.

In February 2005, Karen Gould (Brandeis University) wrote an article in Academic Advising Today noting the lack of color in the face of NACADA’s leadership. Meanwhile, the Diversity Committee, now chaired by Skip Crownhart, was developing a set of recommendations. These were presented to the Board of Directors at the 2005 Annual Conference. Among them was the development of an Emerging Leaders Program for the Association. The program was to include strategies for:

  • identifying members to be a part of the program;
  • connecting program participants to a NACADA mentor;
  • involving participants based upon their expertise and interest – writing for various association publications, research, leadership, presentations, etc.;
  • identifying people with diverse backgrounds to specifically present at national and regional conferences; and
  • helping the program be consistent, continuing, and long-term for all Association leadership.

Terry Musser.jpgNathan Vickers.jpgThe Board of Directors accepted the recommendations and directed the Diversity Committee to work with the Executive Office to develop a specific Emerging Leaders Plan during the next year. During 2006, a subcommittee of Skip Crownhart, Terry Musser (Pennsylvania State University), Nathan Vickers (University of Texas at Austin), Jane Jacobson (Iowa State University), and Adrienne Thunder (University of Wisconsin-Madison) designed the Emerging Leaders Program. The goal was to mentor nascent NACADA leaders who belonged to underrepresented populations within the Association. These individuals would be matched with current NACADA leaders for a two-year mentorship. NACADA would provide someJane Jacobson.jpg financial Adrienne Thunder.jpgsupport to the Emerging Leaders. The Emerging Leaders were expected to make a contribution to the organization at a level that reflected their individual interests and talents – writing for publications, serving in leadership at the regional and national levels, participating in NACADA training events, etc. The Board of Directors approved the concept at the 2006 Annual Conference.

A new Task Force of Jane Jacobson, Nathan Vickers, Karen Thurmond (University of Memphis), and Jennifer Joslin (University of Iowa) was formed to launch the inaugural class for the program (2007-2009). The first class of ten Emerging Leaders was identified in July, along with the first ten Mentors. During the three months preceding the 2007 Annual Conference, Emerging Leaders and Mentors participated in a series of on-line exercises to introduce themselves and probe their thoughts about advising and the role of academic advisors.

Prior to the opening of the 2007 Annual Conference, the new Emerging Leaders participated in workshops to acquaint them with each other and prepare them for the mentoring experience. They were introduced at the annual Awards Reception and met with all of the Mentors. Following a preferencing exercise, each Emerging Leader was linked to a Mentor, and the two-year leadership journey began.

The 2008-2010 ELP Class was chosen during Spring 2008, and at the 2008 Annual Conference the second-year class attended training sessions that included members of the 2007-2009 Class. Mentoring now included advice from peers in addition to current NACADA leaders. The ELP Task Force also invited Mentors and Emerging Leaders from both classes to offer assessment and stories of personal change during a focus group session.

Emerging Leaders and Mentors.jpg

Following the 2008 Annual Conference, Diversity Committee Chair Jane Jacobson recommended to NACADA President Casey Self the establishment of an independent Advisory Board to oversee the Emerging Leaders Program. This status transferred ownership of the program from the Diversity Committee to the Association and reflected NACADA’s commitment to the continuing development of leaders from its underrepresented populations. Nathan Vickers was appointed as Chair of the new Advisory Board.

The success of the Emerging Leader Program is without question. Members of the Emerging Leaders classes now serve (or will soon begin to serve) as Multicultural Concerns Commission Chair, Canada Interest Group Chair, Native American and Tribal College Interest Group Chair, Membership Committee Chair, Diversity Committee Chair, and Region 7 Chair. Another Emerging Leader has initiated a potential Interest Group for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Emerging Leaders are serving on the Awards Committee, the Diversity Committee, the Membership Committee, the Webcast Advisory Board, and the Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board. Several Emerging Leaders presented (some with their Mentors) at regional and annual conferences, one is serving as the Exhibits Chair for the 2009 Annual Conference in San Antonio, and another will serve as Chair of the 2010 Annual Conference in Orlando. Six Emerging Leaders have written for Academic Advising Today, and three have taken part in NACADA Webinar broadcast presentations. Emerging Leaders also report that they have become more involved at their home institutions. One said, “We’ve taken what we’ve learned through the program back to our home schools. This program has not only made an impact on NACADA, but also on the institutions where the NACADA ELP participants work.”

Yet there is still work to be done, for another part of the Diversity Committee’s Emerging Leaders recommendation still needs to be carried out. Each Region has been charged with developing a leadership program designed to address the unique needs of underrepresented populations within the Region. This chapter of the Emerging Leaders Program is still being written, and we look forward to many more chapters in the years to come.

Skip Crownhart
Director of Academic Advising
Metropolitan State College of Denver
[email protected]

Jane Jacobson
Director of LAS Student Academic Services
Iowa State University
[email protected]

Terry Musser
DUS Program Coordinator for College of Ag Science
Penn State University
[email protected]


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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.