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Voices of the Global Community

From 56 attendees in its inaugural year to 280 participants in 2005, the Academic Advising Summer Institutes (SI) have blossomed into one of NACADA's most highly-anticipated annual offerings. SI founder Wes Habley recalls that "in the early '80s, the prevailing opinion about academic advising was that, just as every institution was different, every institution’s advising program was different. In a sense, there was no real common body of understandings and beliefs about advising." However, Habley's experiences suggested otherwise. He believed that "there were commonalities across institutions and across advising programs, and those commonalities formed a set of building blocks or core concepts that could be identified and shared." Thus, in establishing the first Academic Advising Summer Institute, Habley's intention was "to provide an extensive curriculum of building blocks (core concepts) that would affirm advisors and advising and provide participants with a support network and an impetus to take action to enhance advising." Although the SI curriculum has grown and changed over the years, "in many ways," says Habley, "the intended outcomes for the first Summer Institute continue to this day."

In the following article, Dorothy Burton Nelson (Southeastern Louisiana University) describes how Habley's goals have been realized in her life.

During my early years as an instructor, advising was 'assigned' to me. I met with students before registration, worked long hours, signed hundreds of 'advising' forms, and at the close of registration, I felt that I had done my duty. My department head, a long standing member of NACADA, encouraged me to attend a NACADA Conference that was to be held in Louisville, Kentucky. I did, and I continued attending on an annual basis. After a while, I learned the buzz words, read the articles, and met professional people, but I didn't actually connect with the field of advising until I attended an Academic Advising Summer Institute in Burlington, Vermont. During that highly intensive training week, the buzz words came to life: Advising: Informational, Conceptual, and Relational; Advising information: Current, Accurate and Timely; Prescriptive versus Developmental Advising.

Those phrases were assimilated into my mental schemata of advising for the first time. By the end of the week of my first Institute, I knew that I could no longer check-off my advising duties as signing course approval forms. My plan was clear to me – my Action Plan, that is! I was going to return home and develop a new conceptual framework for advising in my department, centered on 'ask' instead of 'tell.' I was energized and ready to embark on a new career in advising. I returned home, put my plan into action, and began interacting with students, as if their experiences and perceptions were the true starting point for my job. It was no longer an assignment, but rather a challenge. It's funny how a routine job can suddenly take on new life when you look beyond the moment into the ramifications of that moment.

My job grew – not only because of the expansion of my view of advising, but because of the other professionals with whom I connected. I visited Betsy McCalla-Wriggins at Rowan University. I collected information at every state, regional and national conference. The next step for me was a move into advising administration and a whole new set of duties: training other advisors, helping them to develop a personal advising mission statement, and looking for ways to improve the experience for students. I assumed the position of Director of the Career and Academic Planning Center, and sought new information through attending the NACADA Academic Advising Administrators' Institute in San Antonio, Texas. Eric White was my group facilitator, and he posed some very stringent questions for which I had to formulate answers and present to the group, such as How will you connect your advising center to the university as a whole? and How can you effectively communicate your ideas to faculty advisors and academic units who have been in the business much longer than you? I didn't have a clue, but that was my focus for the Institute. I asked each person I met, hoping to sculpt my Action Plan for the week, finding out that the strategies were as varied as the people to whom I spoke. That meant I had to really think about the culture of my campus and determine what would work for me and the students and the faculty advisors and higher administration. I created my plan, which was to return home with a fully developed collaborative framework to activate with one academic unit... at a time. And that's what I did. Over the last few years, I've worked closer with professional and faculty advisors, witnessed changes in advising structure at Southeastern, and have had the privilege of being included in important administrative decisions. Advising efforts are evident, practices are more student-centered, and advisors seem to be listening and asking rather than telling.

DorothyBurtonNelson.jpgI've had the opportunity to join the faculty at the NACADA Academic Advising Summer Institutes for the past two years. The metamorphosis that takes place within each participant (myself included) during that one-week period is phenomenal. The work that I conduct at my home institution is now a part of a much bigger picture; that is my employment within the field of advising. What I believe and how I practice represents a deeper understanding of the role, scope and mission of advising, of advisors and of advisees, and most importantly, of the humanity present in each interaction.

Dorothy Burton Nelson
Southeastern Louisiana University
[email protected]

Editor's note: Our celebration of the Academic Advising Summer Institute's upcoming 20th anniversary will continue throughout this issue, with commentaries from other participants and faculty members, and – at the end of the publication – a little 'walk down memory lane.' We hope you'll enjoy revisiting these memories with us!

Cite this article using APA style as: Nelson, D. (2006, February). NACADA celebrates the 20th anniversary of the academic advising Summer Institutes. Academic Advising Today, 29(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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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.