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Sharon Wight, 2018 Wesley R. Habley Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient

Sharon Wight.jpgI first heard about the Summer Institute in October 2017. My supervisor came back from the NACADA Annual Conference with information about it, and when I saw that it was a week full of activities, and in Albuquerque, I knew I had to go. I had always wanted to go to Albuquerque and, since beginning my position in July 2017, had felt a need to have the ability to network outside of my institution. I have been at my institution since I was 18 years old, both as a student and an employee, but have not had a lot of opportunities to venture away. Also, the position I received in July 2017 was my first full time appointment; all other jobs prior had been adjunct teaching opportunities at various institutions in my area.  

When making my plans to attend the institute, I knew I would need additional funding assistance. I received a scholarship from my Advising Council that covered a large amount of the cost and had departmental support, but I knew the Wesley B. Habley scholarship would make my argument for going to the institute stronger. I applied and waited to hear if I had received the scholarship, then heard back on the day of my institution’s commencement. From then on, the concept of attending was finally real.

Leading up to the institute, I started to feel a sense of nervousness and urgency. Having received the Wesley B. Habley scholarship and the scholarship from my institution, I knew I needed to make the most of this opportunity. It had been a long time since I had felt nervous in this particular way, but I knew I recognized it. It was how I had always felt in the days leading up to summer camp as a teenager. I would get nervous and excited about the people I was going to meet and the things I was going to do while away at camp. As a recipient of the Wesley B. Habley scholarship, I knew I was going to be asked to write something upon my return from the institute, and in recognizing the emotion I was feeling I knew: I was going to compare the Summer Institute to summer camp.

Sharon Wright girls.jpgOne of the first similarities of the NACADA Summer Institute and camp was meeting new people. I knew that I was going to have the opportunity to meet people from all over the country, and I was very excited to do so. Being in my institution’s bubble has given me a great depth of knowledge about my institution, but not a lot of opportunities to get perspectives from other institutions. To me, this opportunity to network was one of the most important parts of the institute, aside from the development of an action plan. I call myself an extroverted introvert, which can sometimes cause issues when I am in situations where I must interact with others for several days at a time. I love meeting new people, and consider myself to be fairly social, but at the same time can get tired quite easily. Since meeting people was one of my primary goals, I had worked on preparing myself for that exhaustion. Thankfully, because of the structure of the institute, I never got overwhelmed nor exhausted. I had plenty of time to get to know my new colleagues and friends, while at the same time moments of calm. In going to the Summer Institute, I also identified that this introverted extroversion was why I was always so exhausted at the end of summer camp.

Sharon Wright SI friends.jpgI also compare the institute to summer camp because of the highly structured atmosphere and the learning opportunities. At summer camp, it was breakfast, lessons, small group time, lunch, more lessons, free time, dinner, and campfire every day. The institute is also very structured, while at the same time gives plenty of free time to go and enjoy the area in which the institute is taking place. I attended each foundation session, group session, and topical session and made sure I remained present at each one. I took copious notes to bring back to my institution and also for my own memory. Each evening is free and open, and since I was working hard to put myself out there, I was able to experience new things. For example, I rarely go hiking on my own at home, but two of the individuals I met asked if I wanted to go, and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever encountered. I also encouraged my new friends to try something new and asked them to do one of my favorite activities with me: an escape room. I was so glad I pushed myself to do this.

Another way that the institute was similar to summer camp was that it had specific goals. In a summer camp setting, you are, even if you do not realize it, meant to accomplish specific goals during your time there. I learned life skills at camp, put together talent show performances, and developed a deep network of individuals, many of whom I still am in contact with to this day. At institute, there was a clearly defined goal of coming with and working on a specific project as well as identifying my own goals. The most important goal to me when I wrote my Wesley B. Habley essay was to develop more of a network, and I accomplished that goal in spades.

Sharon Wright SI team.jpg

Attending the institute was one of the most pivotal experiences of my career thus far. While in some ways it was like the summer camp I adored in my adolescence, especially in the emotions it evoked in me, it was also a substantially different experience. I left with great ideas, some of which I have already implemented into my advising program, and also, I believe, gave others great ideas. I communicate regularly with my group leader and members of my group, and I know they are there for me in times of need. I am so grateful to NACADA and the Wesley B. Habley scholarship for the opportunity to attend summer camp again.

Sharon Wight
Academic Advisor
Purdue University Fort Wayne
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Wight, S. (2019, June). NACADA summer institute as summer camp. Academic Advising Today, 42(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]

Posted in: 2019 June 42:2


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