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Allison Morgan, 2015 Wesley R Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

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Not long after starting my professional career in academic advising, I learned of the NACADA Summer Institute in Colorado Springs, and I was excited to have the opportunity for professional development and networking with inspirational leaders in the industry.  My educational background is in business and organizational leadership, the opportunity to learn specifically about the advising field was a great way to expand my knowledge and job skills.  I was grateful to learn that I was selected as a scholarship recipient for the NACADA Summer Institute, which I attended in 2015.  This article summarizes the highlights of my experience, and I hope it inspires others to participate in NACADA events.

The Summer Institute offered several topical sessions designed to teach new strategies for student advising.  I was most inspired by the topical session Proactive Strategies for Working with Probationary Students, presented by NACADA Executive Director Charlie Nutt.  The presentation brought to light the idea of redesigning our thinking to what we as the college or university could do differently to better assist students with academic difficulties, rather than thinking what the student needs to do differently.  In essence, this means adopting a “growth” mindset as opposed to the traditional “fixed” mindset.  The goal is to not view the situation as a problem related to the student, but instead to look at what the university or college is doing to impact these students.  Are we providing the right resources and in a manner that is helping or hindering?  Advising needs to be intentional: teach students how to seek out support, make decisions effectively to direct them toward the right activities, and maneuver within the higher education setting.  In order to retain students, colleges and universities need to analyze the student experience and educational activities, including programming that focuses on probationary or academic warning students.  One size does not fit all, and probationary programs need to meet the needs of the students.

The Summer Institute also offered structured work group sessions with small groups, organized by our home institution type and size.  The work groups reemphasized the information presented in the workshops and topical sessions by providing real-world scenarios and opportunities for information sharing, which was extremely helpful.  Within our small groups, we reviewed and analyzed the information presented each day and how this information could be applied to our own college or university goals.  I had the honor of working with NACADA Associate Director Jennifer Joslin as my small group leader, and with her assistance I was able to utilize the various concepts brought forth in the conference and reevaluate our institutional goals for probationary students.  Again, rather than assisting students with a “fixed” mindset, I identified ways to promote a “growth” mindset, by designing and implementing a study group that allows students to share information and experiences and brainstorm as a group to form ideas to help them overcome their challenges .  The study group focused largely on identifying a student’s learning preference (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) and using those preferences to study effectively.  

Not only was the Institute helpful in providing learning and networking opportunities, I found it extremely inspirational.  Working in advising can be tough—especially when dealing with students who are struggling.  Sometimes it’s good to hit the “refresh” button to provide the motivation for continued progress in one’s own professional career.  The energy of the conference began the first day we all stepped inside and continued until the day we left.  The buzz of excitement in the day’s activities could be heard echoing down the hallways.  All of the attendees I interacted with seemed excited, passionate, and energized to learn more from experts in the field.  We were there to learn how we as advisors and administrators could make an impact on students and our home universities.  Each day we had the opportunity to network and bounce ideas off others in similar positions, which added to the overall experience.  As a newer advisor, the opportunity to be surrounded by leaders and learn from the best was an incredible experience.  As I sat in seminars and workshops, I kept a running notebook of ideas to bring back to campus, including retention events, opportunities for student to get to know their academic advisors better and build a stronger relationship, advisor training and assessment, and best practices to assist those with academic difficulties.  The ideas all focused on new opportunities to strengthen the vital role we as advisors play in student’s lives, including: hosting registration events that allow students to register and enjoy dinner with their advisor; scheduling bi-weekly meetings with students who are struggling academically (via phone or in person); and having advisors attend classes to discuss the role of the academic advisor and how advisors can be a resource to students.  These activities strengthen the advisor-student relationship and promote growth thinking amongst students. After leaving the Summer Institute, I returned home with more ideas than I knew what to do with in ways to assist students. I not only grew as a professional in my role, but I was also able to help strengthen the advising practices at my home institute.

The weeklong experience is something I will never forget, and I am honored to be one of the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship recipients.  Had I not been a scholarship recipient, I would not have been able to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Budgets can be a hindrance for many in higher education to pursue professional development opportunities; the Wesley R. Habley Scholarship afforded me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of best practices and the most successful ways to connect with students.  I walked away from the conference feeling charged and motivated to consider improvements to my institutional action plan and develop new ideas and goals to assist students.  Thank you NACADA for the amazing experience!

Allison Morgan
Advising Specialist
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
Department of Movement Sciences
College of Education
University of Idaho
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Morgan, A. (2016, June). NACADA summer institute: Growth thinking, motivating self and students through advising. Academic Advising Today, 39(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2016 June 39:2


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