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Voices of the Global Community

John Nilsson, Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

John Nilsson.jpgIt was the hottest summer Wisconsin had seen in ten years and I loved every minute of it. As a Summer Institute Scholarship winner, I was participating in the NACADA Summer Institute for the first time. In the air-conditioned comfort of the Concourse Hotel, I was surrounded by advising friends, both new and old, from around the country. In the evenings I strolled through the student quarter of Madison, a very lively place even in the beginning of August. At first I walked alone, but by the second day I strolled with new friends from colleges and universities across the country. I found this an ideal atmosphere to consult with the best advising experts in the nation.

Two of my colleagues back home in Salt Lake City had attended previous Summer Institutes and encouraged me to apply for the scholarship; they believed that I would greatly benefit from the experience. Both of my colleagues brought back exciting ideas which were implemented on our campus. One particular colleague helped guide me through the application process and gave me needed assistance when I had questions.

I am relatively new to the advising profession, having fallen into the craft in 2001 while in graduate school at the University of Washington. Although I had recently attended my first Annual NACADA Conference in Las Vegas, I still felt unsure of my footing in the field and hoped to meet more experienced practitioners who were facing similar professional challenges. From the moment I walked in to the first General Session of the Institute, I felt welcomed by the other attendees and especially by the board of experienced practitioners. Institute faculty members made me feel a valuable part of the NACADA organization and imparted deep insights into the nature and practice of advising.

The Small Group sessions held each day balanced the General Sessions nicely and gave me the chance to get to know a dozen other advisors from around the country, certainly not least of whom wasSusan Campbell, our group leader. Her expertise in the assessment of advising and the Institute's general focus on that topic was just what I needed to jump-start progress on the personal goals within my Action Plan. She gently guided each discussion to help us illuminate a vision of advising on our campuses that was exciting and liberating. The possibilities for positive change seemed endless. Susan encouraged us to learn from each other and to keep a record of our discussions, a practice that has helped me remember the essential points after I came back to Utah.

Social activities - for instance, the barbecue and dance held midweek - kept me refreshed and excited to return to Small Group work and General Sessions with new friends. The exchange of light-hearted banter while waiting for sessions to begin was much easier after the judiciously planned social events. I saw some of the friends I made at the Institute at the Annual NACADA Conference in Indianapolis, and we followed up with each other's progress on the Summer Institute Action Plans we crafted in Madison.

Another benefit of the Institute was the consulting appointment. Here participants were invited to schedule an appointment with any one of the group of advising experts at the Institute. My consultant provided valuable pointers on the best way to approach a campus assessment project and offered follow-up encouragement to move ahead with my plans. What I learned one-on-one from this consultation was reinforced in the Institute's General Sessions where the nature of academic advising was discussed. The General Session presenters inspired us to think of ourselves as educators concerned with the development of the whole student rather than class-schedulers tied to the rhythms of registration.

Returning to campus, I shared my reflections on the Summer Institute in both written and oral formats with my colleagues. Many were curious to know just how the Institute differed from a conference, the usefulness of the advice given, and what I planned to do with what I had learned. I explained that the main difference between the Institute and a conference was the targeted personal attention I received as an Institute participant. Conference attendance is very helpful, but Institute participation is invaluable.


The culmination of the Action Plan I fine-tuned at the Institute lies in the future, but I am much closer to realizing it, and most importantly, more confident that the goal I set lies within my reach.

I encourage NACADA members to apply for a Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship. The people I met and the experiences I had at Summer Institute were invaluable to my professional development. The Annual Conference Awards Ceremony, which included the Summer Institute Scholarship winners, was a very gratifying way to be recognized by NACADA. This recognition, along with my experiences at Summer Institute, was a professional highlight of my year. I will always be thankful for the opportunity NACADA extended in awarding me the Summer Institute Scholarship.

John Nilsson
University of Utah
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Nisson, J. (2007, March). Hot summer,cool institute. Academic Advising Today, 30(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2007 March 30:1


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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.