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Voices of the Global Community


Nathan Vickers, ELP-AB Past Chair (2008–2010) and Mentor (2015–2017), Past NACADA Vice President
Erin Justyna, Emerging Leader (2012–2014) and Mentor (2015–2017), Incoming NACADA President
Cecilia Olivares, Emerging Leader (2009–2011) and Mentor (2018–2020), Incoming NACADA Vice President
Melinda Anderson, Emerging Leader (2011–2013) and Mentor (2015–2017), Incoming Board of Directors member
Michelle Smith Ware, Emerging Leader (2013–2015), Incoming Board of Directors member
Kyle Ross, Emerging Leader (2015–2017) and Mentor (2017–2019), Incoming Board of Directors member

The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) of NACADA was created in 2006 to accomplish the following goals:

  • Encourage members from diverse groups to get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization.
  • Outfit participants with the skills and tools necessary to pursue elected and appointed leadership positions.
  • Increase the number of leaders from diverse groups.
  • Encourage and assist members of populations who are under-represented in the association's leadership to attend state, regional, or annual conferences.

2007-2009 Class.jpgSince the first class in 2007, ELP graduates have contributed to nearly every aspect of the association, from serving on committees and advisory boards to writing book chapters. It was not until 2015 when graduates were elected/appointed to Council positions and not until 2017 for the Board of Directors. This year, however, is a once-in-a-lifetime moment when numerous graduates and current Emerging Leaders have been elected/appointed to roles across all Divisions, to the Council, and to the Board of Directors. While this is a strong indicator of the program’s successful efforts, it more so demonstrates the widespread involvement of all ELP graduates and their significant impacts on the association and on the advising profession, which are collectively summarized on the Emerging Leader Accomplishments page.

As ELP graduates and supporters, we decided to write this article to celebrate the efficacy of ELP through reflections of those leaders who have been elected as President, Vice-President, and Members of the Board of Directors, along with Nathan Vickers, who was the first ELP Advisory Board Chair.

Looking back from when you were a part of founding this program to today, what are your thoughts on what ELP has turned into?

Nathan Vickers.jpgNathan: It seems surreal, looking back, that the 2019–2021 class of Emerging Leaders is the program’s thirteenth. What a phenomenal accomplishment. The program’s impact is remarkable and is one of the highlights of my career in NACADA. I had the good fortune to be on the team tasked to write the proposal for the Emerging Leaders Program. Creating a program like this took a lot of work and a lot of people, and our approach was intentional, focused, and practical, while shooting for the stars. I imagine all of us on the development team for the Emerging Leaders Program wanted and hoped that the program would be as successful as it has been but could not imagine the scope of its success. As the first Chair of the ELP Advisory Board, I learned so much: the selection process improved; the orientation of both Emerging Leaders and Mentors improved; and we all sailed into this big blue sea of uncertainty, wanting, so much, to see where it would go. Looking back, the program has become everything that I hoped it would be and more. Its scope and impact are enormous, and I’m so proud to have been part of it. When I read the email about new members to the Board of Directors, Council, and other elected/appointed positions, I beamed with pride as a number of the newly elected/appointed officials are graduates of the Emerging Leaders Program. What a feather in the cap of this exceptional program.

What was the most impactful experience from being involved in the Emerging Leaders Program?

Erin Justyna.jpgErin: As a fiercely independent, busy human, I do not always keep up with relationships as well as I wish I did. The ELP was transformative for me because it connected me to the leaders and mentors in my cohorts in a very intentional, consistent manner. When normally I might have said, “I am too busy,” I said, “I have this commitment.” Perhaps the biggest gift the ELP gives participants is the time and space to talk through NACADA leadership—whether discussing our own leadership paths, increasing the diversity of leaders, or sustaining leadership over time. In my time as a leader and mentor, and since, I have been able to connect—through Zoom, FaceTime, e-mail, Facebook—not only with a cohort of 20 colleagues, but to their colleagues and the entirety of past ELP participants as well. The program’s influence extends long past the graduation days of its Emerging Leaders.

Cecilia Olivares.jpgCecilia: The highlight of my Emerging Leaders Program experience was the development of the “Women Thriving: Not Just Surviving a Career in Academic Advising/Higher Education” series of annual conference panel presentations with my ELP Mentor, Sandy Waters. The idea was born from bonding over the complicated balancing act of personal and professional obligations. We invited a panel of female leaders in NACADA to share their triumphs and struggles while trying to manage competing priorities, and the participant response was incredible and well beyond what we ever imagined it could be. To me, these experiences (Women Thriving and ELP) are about the power of human connections—intentional or unexpected and everything in between—and creating opportunities for shared successes and challenges.

Melinda Anderson.jpgMelinda: My relationship with my ELP Mentor was a turning point for me in my growth and development as a NACADA leader. Peg Steele was encouraging, supportive, and knew when I needed a nudge out of the nest. She is a great listener because she heard the things that I was not saying out loud. Fear, lack of confidence, and limited knowledge of NACADA pathways spoke volumes as I worked through my goals. When she heard what I was not saying, she took action and helped me develop in ways that allowed me to take steps towards positions and roles in which I never saw myself serving. I use the word serving intentionally, because the other lesson I learned was to pay it forward. Everything that was given to me by my mentor I give back to NACADA members, colleagues, and friends that I have met in the organization. This work has allowed me to support the growth and development of others in our profession, and ELP provided an amazing foundation in which to grow.

Michelle Ware.jpgMichelle: In reviewing my Emerging Leaders statement (submitted in 2013), I reflected on seeing few minoritized candidates on the 2013 NACADA Leadership Elections ballots and envisioned myself on a future ballot as a member of the Council and/or Board of Directors. I also listed many goals I wanted to accomplish on my leadership path, including being “involved within the Administrative Division as a member of the Diversity Committee [now the Inclusion & Engagement Committee], ELP Advisory Board, and NCAA Advisory Board.” But, how was I going to make it happen?

Mentors have played (and continue to play) important roles throughout my life. Building support networks has aided in my personal and professional development. ELP provided the mentorship I needed. More specifically, being matched with my ELP Mentor, Heather Doyle, was life changing in so many ways. Almost immediately after connecting with Heather, we co-designed a two-year plan that provided a framework for achieving my goals within and outside of NACADA (e.g. pursuing my doctorate and publishing an article). She continuously encouraged me to dream, supported me in discovering my passions, and reminded me, “Don’t settle for good enough—be great.” The ELP structured mentoring and focus on leadership gave me the motivation I needed to make my leadership goals a reality and gifted me with the knowledge to guide others on their leadership journeys.

Kyle Ross.jpgKyle: My most impactful learning experience through participating in ELP was that even when I did not feel qualified to run or to apply for leadership positions, I needed to just try anyway. My mentor was Nathan, and he consistently advised me that I would always feel like I am not adequately prepared to take on a role, no matter how much experience I had. He also reminded me that I would not win every election or would not be appointed to every position, and that is okay, as long as I keep trying. However, it also took many other colleagues and friends to encourage me to step up and put my name in the hat each time, and I will always be grateful for having that network that extends beyond my cohort that ELP helped me develop.

The 2017-2019 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured below), who began work at the 2017 Annual Conference in St. Louis, have been diligently pursuing their goals over the past two years and look forward to receiving their Certificates of Completion at this year's conference in Louisville, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

2017-2019 Class.jpg

Current Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Amy Korthank is also pleased to announce the 2019–2021 Class:

Emerging Leaders

Julia Bedell, Northern Kentucky University
Brantley “Banks” Blair, Virginia Polytechnic & State University
Jessica Camp, Texas Woman's College
Danielle Flores Lopez, Michigan State University
Amber King, Delaware Tech Community College-Owens
Margaret Mbindyo, Millersville University
Stephanie Morawo, Auburn University
Leslie Ross, Georgia Institute of Technology
Jacob Rudy, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Billie Streufert, Augustana University


Karen Archambault, Rowan College at Burlington County
Ross Hawkins, Missouri State University
Dana Hebreard, Aquinas College-Grand Rapids
Amber Kargol, Iowa State University
Stephanie Kraft-Terry, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Alex Kunkle, Nevada State College
Karen Lewis, University of Maryland-College Park
Brandan Lowden, Pikes Peak Community College
Kyle Ross, Washington State University
Calley Stevens Taylor, Cedar Crest College

New Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Louisville to create partnerships and begin development, conversation, and group-building. Partners will develop goals pertaining to leadership in NACADA over the next six months and continue their work together over the two-year program.

Visit the Emerging Leaders Program website for more information and consider applying for the 2020–2022 Class!

Nathan Vickers
Academic Advising Coordinator
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of the Core Texts and Ideas
College of Liberal Arts
The University of Texas at Austin
[email protected]

Erin Justyna
Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences
Texas Tech University
[email protected]

Cecilia Olivares
Transfer Center
University of Missouri
[email protected]

Melinda Anderson
Interim Associate Vice Chancellor
Academic Affairs
Elizabeth City State University
[email protected]

Michelle Smith Ware
Academic Advisor
Co-Director of the Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars Program
The First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame
[email protected]

Kyle Ross
Academic Coordinator
College of Nursing
Washington State University
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Vickers, N., Justyna, E., Olivares, C., Anderson, M., Smith Ware, M., Ross, K. (2019, September). NACADA emerging leaders program promotes and celebrates successful leadership development. Academic Advising Today, 42(3). 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.