Lindsey Morford, Summer Institute Scholarship Recipient
Scottsdale, Arizona, in August is hot...very hot. I’ve never been a big fan of “hot.” When I attended the NACADA Summer Institute in Scottsdale this past summer, I went strictly expecting to learn and to put my newly acquired knowledge to work. To me, that trip was all about business. However, I returned to Manhattan, Kansas and my job as an academic advisor at Manhattan Christian College (MCC) thoroughly refreshed and excited after a week at the Institute. With morning runs through the beautiful Arizona desert, excellent speakers in the main sessions and workshops, and my first experience singing karaoke, the NACADA Summer Institute was the perfect balance of work and play, which combined to rejuvenate me for returning to campus and my students. I even discovered that I enjoyed Arizona, despite the heat!
After my second year as a young advising professional at MCC, I had begun to search for professional development opportunities where I could improve my student services skills and become a better advisor. Soon after I joined NACADA, I received information about attending a NACADA Summer Institute. I was immediately interested. The cost seemed to be an insurmountable barrier, but I decided to apply for the Wesley R. Habley NACADA Summer Institute Scholarship in an effort to make attending the Institute more doable. To my great surprise and gratitude, I was awarded the scholarship from NACADA, and my employer graciously decided to cover the remainder of the cost.
Initially, the NACADA Summer Institute attracted me because of its focus on helping attendees actually use the information they were receiving. Institute attendees choose a project, something they work on throughout the week that will improve advising at their institution. For my project, I wanted to find a better way to spread important curriculum and policy information to our advisors (most of whom are faculty members) so that they could, in turn, advise students more effectively.
My personal view of my role as an academic advisor expanded significantly as a result of the Institute. One concept continually stressed by several of the speakers was “advising as teaching.” In other words, as an advisor, I should teach my students how to navigate campus policies and resources for themselves, eventually working myself out of a job. Before we at MCC could improve our advisor training program, we would need to clarify necessary learning outcomes for the students and our role expectations for the academic advisors.
As the Institute progressed, I realized that I needed to narrow the focus of my project, but I was not sure what direction to pursue. We were given the opportunity to participate in individual consulting sessions, and I was able to discuss my concerns about my project with one of the Summer Institute faculty. He helped me break my broad, vague idea of providing more extensive training for our advisors into a specific, long-term vision for MCC advising which could be accomplished over the next few years, and a clear, short-term objective to focus on for my project during the Institute.
Some sessions at the Institute focused on starting from creating an academic advising mission statement and an academic advising syllabus which outline goals and objectives for advising and specific learning outcomes for the students. This was an entirely new concept for me, but it was a very practical first step, based on my project goals for the conference.
By the end of the week, I had created an outline of a plan for expanding advisor training at Manhattan Christian College. This outline included deadlines for specific steps to accomplish that plan. After returning to campus, I joined three of my colleagues at MCC as members of our newly formed Academic Advising Team to create a syllabus and objectives for academic advising at our institution, based on what I learned at the Summer Institute. We also created a checklist of topics for advisors to cover with their advisees that were developmentally appropriate for that student’s academic level. These resources were made available to our academic advisors in time for the spring 2014 advising and enrollment period, which met the deadline set in my project outline. Our next step is to revise the MCC Academic Advising Handbook, which we plan to complete by the fall 2014 enrollment period in April.
The Institute contributed to my development as a professional, but it also challenged me to grow as a person. The diversity represented at the Summer Institute amazed me...not only of the professionals attending, but also of the institutions they represented. Connecting with so many advising professionals from various backgrounds was one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire week. We enjoyed eating together, working together, discussing advising issues together, and exploring Scottsdale together. In my small group alone, there were student affairs professionals from Japan, Canada, and the United States. Private schools, historically black colleges, Native American tribal colleges, public four-year universities and community colleges all sent staff members to the Summer Institute. It opened my eyes to the endless directions a career in academic advising could take me. Maybe even back to Arizona!
Retention and Learning Skills Coordinator
Manhattan Christian College