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Brenda Hart and Tom Brown, NACADA members

Brenda Hart.jpgBrenda Hart , a NACADA Charter Member, currently serves as Professor of Engineering Fundamentals and Director of Student Affairs at J.B. Speed School of Engineering at Kentucky’s University of Louisville.  She has served as Chair of the NACADA Multicultural Concerns Commission, Region 3 Representative, Editor of the Academic Advising Newsletter, and 1991 National Conference Co-chair.

Brenda says: When I first think of NACADA, I recall receiving an announcement in the mail of an upcoming conference on academic advising to be held in Burlington, Vermont. Having been born in western Massachusetts and spent many summers in the Berkshires, I always jumped at the opportunity to return to New England, so I registered for the conference and soon became a charter member of the fledgling organization. I had no idea how much this would change my life.

At the time, I was relatively new in advising. My undergraduate degree is in French, and I had earned a Master’s in College Student Personnel Services–Counseling, but like so many of us, I had eased into an advising role almost by accident. Becoming an active member of NACADA provided me with expertise in the field and with a life-time of friends. Even though I am no longer actively advising students, I treasure the friendship and use the developmental advising techniques emphasized by this professional organization.

When I reflect on my early involvement with NACADA, I also recall issues of diversity and how my colleagues of color and I used to look forward to getting together. This was long before we had a formal commission or committee tied to diversity. We’d reconnect over meals and during sessions, and we soon decided to formalize as a group. It was vital that NACADA embrace issues related to diversity, so several of us took on leadership roles and pressed to make sure our issues were being addressed. We gave presentations on how best to work with diverse student populations, and we spoke up at Board meetings.  We published articles in the NACADA Journal and in the Academic Advising Newsletter, and we made presentations at regional and national conferences. NACADA became a special organization for us as we shared our individual experiences and areas of expertise and made life-long friends. “Those were the days.”

Tom Brown is currently the Managing Principal of Thomas Brown & Associates. He served as NACADA Vice President for Commissions in 1997-98, Region 9 Representative, Chair of the Multicultural Concerns Commission, 1990 National Conference Co-chair, and Summer Institute Faculty 1987-2008. He is the recipient of the 2000 Service to NACADA Award.

Buddy Ramos and Tom Brown.jpgTom recalls: In early fall of 1979, the Academic Vice President at Saint Mary’s College of California forwarded a notice about a conference on academic advising meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.  Several months earlier, the College had appointed me Dean of Advising Services/Special Programs, likely making me one of the first deans in the nation with advising as part of my title.  Prior to my first NACADA conference, I attended meetings of the ACPA, NASPA, and other organizations, where I scoured the programs for sessions having anything to do with advising. There usually were few to none, and NACADA was a gift that would keep on giving!

My first impressions of that Omaha meeting have informed my involvement with the Association in the intervening three decades.  The first was the genuinely welcoming and inclusive manner of the Association's leaders. People like Tom Grites,Toni Trombley, and Wes Habley brought their reputations to enhance the credibility of a fledgling organization. However, they were friendly, accessible, and—to use a term from the '70s—they were “for real.” There were no cliques or hierarchies; only academic advisors trying to figure out how to do our jobs better.

My second impression was the diversity of NACADA’s founding leadership. Among the founding members was Ed Jones, a distinguished University of Washington scholar who created the NACADA Journal. Brenda Hart, Judy Sanford Harris (Pine Manor College), Reginald Browne (University of San Francisco), Joan Nelson (Dartmouth) and Wenette Pegues (Langston U) served on the Board of Directors, while Washington State’s Bob Clayton was Parliamentarian.

Ashville Conference.jpgIn NACADA’s early days, “diversity” usually meant African-Americans, and people like Brenda, Judy, Skip Crownhart, Catherine Joseph, Sidney McPhee and Brian Stanley, made powerful contributions to NACADA. However, the Association also produced leaders like Juan Alvarez of Modesto Junior College, Kazi Mamun of USC, Evette Castillo of Cal State Hayward, Mario Rivas of San Francisco State, Kris Rugsaken of Ball State University, Carol Fimmen of Western Illinois, and Remy Sotto of Pima Community College. And Manuel “Buddy” Ramos provided distinguished leadership as a NACADA President.

Among my fondest memories were the annual gatherings of multicultural advisors to which Brenda refers. We would search out restaurants in conference cities that served good “ethnic food”—whether Ethiopian, Mexican, or down home soul cooking. We would pass the word to folks we knew and didn’t know, then gather in hotel lobbies for long walks, shared taxi rides, or Metro trips. On the journeys and at dinner, strangers became colleagues, then friends.  We shared our triumphs and frustrations; we talked about new ideas and successful programs; we toasted children born, new jobs, and degrees completed. We returned with a sense that NACADA was a place we could call our professional home—a place where we would always be welcomed.

Brenda Hart
University of Louisville
[email protected]

Tom Brown
Thomas Brown & Associates, LLC
[email protected] 

 Ohama conference.jpg

Cite this article using APA style as: Hart, B., & Brown, T. (2009, September). Reflections on 30 years of membership in NACADA. Academic Advising Today, 32(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.