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Voices of the Global Community


Heather Doyle, Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Amy Korthank, Incoming Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair
Cindy Firestein, Incoming Emerging Leader (2018-2020 Class)
Leigh Cunningham, Emerging Leaders Program Coordinator

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising is committed to providing opportunities for professional development, networking, and leadership for our diverse membership (Vision and Mission).  Association strategic goals include developing and sustaining effective leadership, as well as fostering inclusive practices within the association that respect the principle of equity and the diversity of advising professionals across the vast array of intersections of identify (Strategic Goals).  To support these goals, the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) was developed in 2006, as an initiative from the (then) Diversity Committee (now the Inclusion & Engagement Committee), to encourage members from diverse backgrounds to explore and get involved in leadership opportunities within the organization.

Each year, beginning with the 2007-2009 Class, 10 Emerging Leaders and 10 Mentors are selected for the two-year program.  Leaders are matched with Mentors who have a wide range of experience within NACADA, from research and publication to serving on the Board of Directors.  Leaders and Mentors work closely to connect the Leaders to the areas of the association they are interested in and develop a plan for continued involvement and growth within the association.  Emerging Leaders receive a $2,000 stipend to assist them with travel to NACADA conferences, institutes, and seminars, helping to promote their engagement and involvement.

2016-2018 ELP Class.jpgWith more than a decade of successful leadership development now behind us, we are excited to recognize the many members of the Emerging Leaders classes who have served in elected and appointed positions—as chairs of NACADA regions, advising communities, committees, advisory boards, and task forces—as well as those who have stepped up to leadership in other service, scholarship, and research areas.  ELPers have already made a lasting contribution to NACADA and have a long list of accomplishments.

The 2016-2018 Emerging Leaders and Mentors (pictured here), who began work at the 2016 Annual Conference in Atlanta, 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 Phoenix, where they will be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.

Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board Chair Heather Doyle is pleased to announce the 2018-2020 Class:

Emerging Leaders

Kelly Briggs (Kansas State University)
Lindsey Byrd (Pensacola State College)
Domonique Carter (North Carolina State University)
Mary Etienne (Hofstra University)
Neena Fink (Southern New Hampshire University)
Cindy Firestein (Simmons University)
Jill Putman (Colorado State University)
Jessica Staten (Indiana University-Bloomington)
Comfort Sumida (University of Hawaii-Hilo)
Leonor Wangensteen (University of Notre Dame)


Sara Ackerson (Washington State University)
Jared Burton (Emporia State University)
Joanne Damminger (Delaware Tech Community College)
Kathy Davis (Missouri State University)
erin donahoe-rankin (University of North Texas)
Tracy Griffith (University of Central Florida)
Sarah Howard (Ohio State University)
Cecilia Olivares (University of Missouri)
Pamela Stephens (Fairmont State University)
Kevin Thomas (Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville)

Incoming Emerging Leader Cindy Firestein shares about her journey into the Program: 

Cindy Firestein.jpgAs an actively involved NACADA member for almost eight years, I applied to the Emerging Leaders Program in hopes of further evolving as a leader within the organization.  My preparations to apply for the program took over a year, including writing responses to essay questions for the application and gathering letters of support.  Since it’s such a competitive program, submitting a strong application is critical.  I attended an information session at the Region 1 conference to learn more about the program, and I then developed a plan for myself with a timeline.  I spoke with colleagues who were already involved with the program to learn about their experience, and their willingness to proofread my application essay proved extremely helpful.  I strove to have each piece of my application completed, reviewed, and ready for submission by a certain date in advance of the submission deadline. 

I believe my involvement in Region 1 helped me stand out as a strong candidate for the 2018-2020 Emerging Leader class.  Being the state liaison for Massachusetts for slightly over two years allowed me to network with many NACADA members in Region 1.  This role allowed me to spearhead several state drive-in conferences and smaller professional development events for NACADA members.  Being involved with NACADA for several years helped to show the application reviewers that I am dedicated to NACADA and have contributed to the association and the profession.  Involvement in NACADA is also a great way to grow personally and professionally. 

When I submitted my application, I was very nervous. It took me several minutes to gain the courage to actually hit the submit button!  Then came the wait.  I had to wait several weeks for a decision, which felt like an eternity.  Supportive colleagues checked on me every week to see how I was doing and if I had received a response.  Having a strong NACADA support system was very helpful during the waiting period.  When the decision finally came, I jumped up out of my seat and screamed “YES” in excitement!

Now, I am in the next phase of preparing for our Orientation meeting in Phoenix.  I am putting a lot of effort into our summer pre-meeting “get acquainted” assignments, and I am thinking deeply about potential leadership development goals for my first year in the program.  I am very excited about being paired with my Mentor during Annual Conference and looking forward to working with my Mentor to refine and solidify my goals.  I can’t wait to get started on steps to achieving those goals!

My advice to anyone looking to apply for the Emerging Leaders Program is to take yourself out of your comfort zone and get involved in NACADA before applying.  Consider getting involved at your state or regional level.  I started getting involved by volunteering a few hours at the registration table during regional conferences before I took on a position within my region.  Begin networking now, and any support you receive from NACADA leadership—pay it forward.   Strive to support new professionals entering the profession.  Some of my most rewarding moments in NACADA are from supporting new professionals.  Lastly, develop a plan to have the application completed in advance of the deadline to ensure it has been proofread and allows you the ability to highlight who you are as well as what you hope to achieve by being accepted into the Emerging Leaders program.  Good luck.

Cindy and the rest of her Class of new Emerging Leaders and Mentors will meet at the Annual Conference in Phoenix 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 2019-2021 Class!

Heather Doyle
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2016-2018
Dalhousie University

Amy Korthank
ELP Advisory Board Chair, 2018-2020
University of Iowa

Cindy Firestein
ELP Class 2018-2020
Simmons University

Leigh Cunningham
ELP Coordinator
NACADA Executive Office
Kansas State University



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