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Voices of the Global Community


Elizabeth “Betsy” McCalla-Wriggins, NACADA President 2002-2003
Ruth Darling, NACADA President 2004
Eric R. White, NACADA President 2005
Jo Anne Huber, NACADA President 2006

As we have seen in other articles in this publication, NACADA was incorporated in Vermont in 1979 with 429 members and 18 members on the Board of Directors. Twenty years later, in 1999, there were 5318 members in the Association and more than 50 members on the Board. While not all Board members had voting rights, they all attended the meetings and had a voice in discussions where there was much conversation regarding who should Betsy McCalla-Wriggins.jpgspeak and who should vote as representatives of different member constituencies. The Board also spent a large portion of its meeting time on operational issues, which resulted in limited time allocated to strategic planning for the Association. Therefore, at the Fall 1999 Board meeting in Denver, President-elect Betsy McCalla-Wriggins (Rowan University) was appointed to chair a Task Force to investigate possible restructuring of the Association to better address these issues.

The Task Force, made up of Board representatives, explored numerous reorganization options. These were first presented to the Board and then to the full Association membership in 2000 via a white paper. Forums were held at all regional meetings so members could ask questions and provide suggestions regarding the proposed structural changes. At its 2001 mid-year meeting, the Board approved the new structure and in May 2001, members voted on the restructure proposal and By-Law changes with 96 percent of those voting approving the changes.

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The next year, under the leadership of President Betsy McCalla-Wriggins, the Board focused on developing implementation strategies so that the new structure would be fully operational by Fall 2002. During this time, the major implementation and transitional challenges revolved around issues of change. Taking the risk to operate in a different manner can be difficult; it takes time to develop new ways to respond and think. However, the growth of the Association, both in members and in services, certainly suggests that the creation of a new structure was a wise decision.

Ruth Darling.jpgRuth Darling (University of Tennessee) served under the new structure as the first Vice President of the reorganized Board and as Chair of the Council (2002–2003); she then was elected as President (2003-2004). The years of “transition” (2002–2004) represented a time to redefine roles and purposes as well as provide needed support so that the newly elected and appointed leaders could fully implement the approved NACADA structure and By-Laws. One critical transition issue was to help the Executive Director and Executive Office staff establish good working relationships with the new Board, the Council (made up of division representatives), and advisory board members. Strengthening of these relationships helped build an Association infrastructure that today supports the work of these various groups and the programming resulting from their work. Serving as the first Vice President of the Board (and the Council’s Chair), and then as President under the new structure, gave Ruth Darling the opportunity to involve many members in the building process. The change in structure and the resulting changes in By-Laws provided new leadership opportunities for members at the national level as well as engaged both new and returning leaders in the Association’s work – thus better serving the Association and focusing on NACADA’s mission and goals. We emphasized strategic decision making, policy design, programming, and program content; the Executive Office then supported the day-to-day operations and program implementation as our growing Association provided more resources to serve its members.

NACADA flourished under the new structure. The Council and advisory boards supported an “expanded” and more participatory leadership and quickly provided the context for innovative programming and member services. During this time, membership reached 8,000 members and this translated into an increase in Regional Conference participation and attendance at NACADA conferences, institutes and seminars. The Academic Advising Graduate Certificate program was inaugurated and grew to more than 200 students. The expanded NACADA Web site, with the inclusion of the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources quickly grew to be considered the premier Web resource on academic advising within higher education. Partnerships with other higher education associations and groups (e.g., Association of American Colleges & Universities, National Collegiate Athletics Association, National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics, and The National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Transition Issues) were formalized as common goals and mutual benefits were established.

Also in transition were NACADA’s various publications, including the NACADA Journal.  The newly established Publications Advisory Board, along with support from the Executive Office staff, focused on the effective delivery of information to members through the NACADA Journal, the Academic Advising Newsletter, the monograph series, and other publication venues. New co-editors of the NACADA Journal were appointed with the expressed goal of providing the higher education community with the premier journal of research on academic advising.

Eric White.jpgReorganization of the NACADA administrative structure resulted in the establishment of one-year presidencies, and Eric White (Pennsylvania State University) took the reins next. For one-year presidents, time is of the essence. White focused on sustaining the future of the organization, working collaboratively with the Executive Office, and taking on “big picture” issues. As the second of the one-year presidents and as the former NACADA treasurer, White was convinced that growth in membership and a successful Annual Conference were essential to the future of the Association. Consequently, there was much discussion on how to grow our membership, and especially how to be more strategic in our approach. Were there advisors we were not reaching? Which advisors were more likely to join the association? How do we retain members? We did not always have the answers, but we sensed that there were many advisors in American higher education (indeed, across the globe) who were not members of the Association. And indeed, there were advisors who were not even aware of NACADA.

Huber & White.jpgThe membership effort paid off as the Association continued steady growth. Perhaps driven by a reasonable annual dues structure and a continual effort to assure the visibility of NACADA, the membership roster grew to more 10,000. Is more growth possible? No doubt it is, but the same challenges remain, including coordination of Annual Conferences for increasing number of attendees.

Running an Annual Conference is a monumental task. Much of the success of a conference is determined by its location. As much as we want to believe that advisors will attend a NACADA Annual Conference at any location, attendance records indicate that some cities are more popular than others. White’s presidency concluded with a second visit to Las Vegas (the NACADA Annual Conference was previously held there in 1994), with more than 3300 in attendance.

Jo Anne Huber.jpgSeveral new initiatives were realized in 2005-06, which proved to be a successful year for the Association and its members under the leadership of President Jo Anne Huber (University of Texas at Austin). One initiative, “Building the Next Generation of Academic Advisors,” was designed to embrace and connect with our newest members (those with fewer than three years of advising experience), and proved fruitful. The New Advising Professionals Interest Group was established and has steadily grown, and a topical monograph (The New Advisor Guidebook) has been published. The Academic Advising Summer Institute celebrated its 20th year, and a scholarship was named for its founder, Wesley R. Habley. A Task Force co-chaired by Eric White and Ruth Darling finalized the “Concept of Academic Advising,” which is proudly displayed on our Web site.

Partnership discussions begun earlier by Ruth Darling with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) were finalized and unveiled. NCAA President Miles Brand was present at the 2006 Annual Conference in Indianapolis to publicly voice his pleasure in this joint endeavor. To further promote the international dream of Eric White, (then) NACADA Associate Director Charlie Nutt spoke at the annual conference of the Counseling Arabia Association in the United Emirates and was asked to speak again the following year. Additionally, NACADA was asked to provide the keynote speaker for the Second Annual Conference on Personal Tutoring (academic advising) sponsored by the Higher Education Academy in the United Kingdom. Since then, there has been a jointly sponsored International Conference yearly, rotating between the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Board of Directors was also pleased to focus on the issue of diversity and what it means to our Association. The Board voted to define diversity from a broad perspective, which includes diversity in regard to ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, as well as diversity in regard to institutional type, institutional size, and employment position. This definition provided the foundation for our work internationally and for the Emerging Leaders Program.

The Emerging Leaders Program, the brainchild of former Vice President Elaine Borrelli, was guided through the Council and Finance Committee by Vice President Jane Jacobson and sent to the Board for final approval. The first class of leaders/mentors was chosen for 2007, and the program has steadily proven its worth.

As is evident from the many initiatives described here, the restructuring of the Association has led to enhanced services for NACADA’s 10,000+ members. Members are well represented through 23 Commissions, 18 Interest Groups, 10 Regions, as well as on seven committees and nine advisory boards.  Their collective issues and program ideas are presented and thoroughly discussed by the Council, which then makes recommendations to both the Executive Office and the Board of Directors. Even with this large number of members, the nine members on the Board of Directors have the opportunity to engage in strategic planning to ensure that the Association is well positioned to meet the needs of advisors not only today, but well into the future. When reflecting on the issues that led to restructuring, it is apparent that the reorganization has accomplished its goals….to make NACADA more responsive and provide more services to its members, to engage more members in the work of the Association, to make the advising professional more visible, and to strategically plan for the future of the Association.    

Elizabeth “Betsy” McCalla-Wriggins
Director Emeritus, Career and Academic Planning Center
Rowan University
[email protected]

Ruth Darling
Associate Vice Provost
University of Tennessee-Knoxville
[email protected]

Eric R. White
Executive Director, Division of Undergraduate Studies
Pennsylvania State University
[email protected]

Jo Anne Huber
Senior Academic Advisor
University of Texas-Austin
[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.