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The History of National Academic Advising Association: A 2006 Update
Authored By: Karen C. Thurmond and Marsha A. Miller

This update of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) is framed around J.D. Beatty's 1991 Brief Narrative History as well as milestones in the history of the organization identified by Virginia N. Gordon in her keynote address to the membership at the national conference of the association in 1998. Additional milestones, especially for the time period 1999-2005, are added by the authors to update the history through 2006.

"The National Academic Advising Association evolved from the first National Conference on Academic Advising in 1977, was chartered in 1979, and now has over 10,000 members representing all 50 states,Puerto Rico, Canada and several other international countries. Members represent higher education institutions across the spectrum of Carnegie classifications and include professional advisors/counselors, faculty, administrators and students whose responsibilities include academic advising" (NACADA, 2005a). Virginia N. Gordon, NACADA past president and a senior editor of the association's journal, addressed the membership at the 1998 NACADA national conference on the theme of the conference, "New Horizons: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future" (Gordon, 1998). Her address provides the second installment to that written in 1991 by J.D. Beatty, long-time NACADA archivist, and entitled The National Academic Advising Association (Beatty, 1991). Both documents discuss important aspects of the history of the association, its impact on academic advising, and its connection to the history of higher education. Gordon focuses on important developments from the past that led to initiatives for the future. This third installment of NACADA history is written in a time of great prosperity for the association. Here we will tie the two documents together and expand upon these resources to chronicle the association during a time of phenomenal expansion.
Establishing the Association
The 1960s, with its record number of students, and the 1970s with its increased enrollment of diverse populations of students were decades of increased student demand for individualized attention. Gordon (1998) identified academic advising as an important vehicle for assisting individuals with academic planning and noted that O'Banion (1972) and Crookston (1972) identified a concept of academic advising that had been characteristic of "earlier faculty-student relationships" (Gordon, 1992, p. 5). Beatty (1991) tells of the chance meeting of Toni Trombley and Thomas Grites at the April, 1977 meeting of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Trombley was carrying flyers to announce "The First National Conference on Academic Advising" and Grites was presenting at the ACPA conference on the topic of academic advising. Later that year, with these historical realities as backdrop, Grites, Trombley, and 275 educators gathered for the first National Conference on Academic Advising (Beatty, 1991). The conference, held at The University of Vermont (Burlington) was not the first modern gathering of academic advisors. California State University and the University of California held an Academic Advising Conference on September 30, 1976 in Fresno,California, but the Burlington conference signaled the beginnings of a formal national association. By 1979 NACADA was officially incorporated and Toni Trombley elected its first president (Beatty, 1991).

As the association began to grow from its 429 charter members (NACADA, 2004), Beatty (1991) recorded its sense of purpose:
"The purpose of the National Academic Advising Association is to promote the quality of Academic Advising in institutions of higher education, and to this end, it is dedicated to the support and professional growth of academic advising and advisors."

Strengthening the Association
Today it is easy to see that academic advising, as practiced by faculty, academic and student affairs professionals, and student peers, integrates the academic and student affairs sides of the academy. Understandably, founding leaders could not have envisioned either the growth of the organization or the diversity of individuals the association would draw as members. In 2006 the association boasted members from a variety of institutional types, disciplines, professional positions, and racial/ethnic groups who bring varied needs and viewpoints to association governance. But in the 1980s, the health of the national organization concerned the Executive Steering Committee. The organization was forced to seek permission to pay bills in installments in 1982 (Beatty, 1991). Shortly thereafter the association's finances and membership records were computerized, resulting in greater efficiency in record keeping.

Beginning with the First National Conference on Academic Advising in 1977 and continuing to the present day, the national conference continues as the premier annual event for NACADA members. The early leaders had no way of knowing that national conference attendance would grow from 275 in 1977 to more than 3300 today or that nationally known speakers such as John Holland (1979) and George Kuh (2006) would provide keynote addresses. With national conferences as the flagship of the association's educational opportunities, founding leaders sought other mechanisms to reach advisors.

In the 1980s the new organization struggled to define a governing structure that would promote the national organization as well as encourage regional affiliation. In 1984 regional conferences were held in Michigan and New York one year before the association was divided into ten regions with Canadian advisors included in regional affiliations in the 1990s. Initially there was disagreement concerning the importance of the regions. Some feared that regions would overshadow the national presence; others argued that regional bodies would enhance the national organization by expanding the opportunities for professional development. By 1988 all regions held annual meetings. Regional conferences have continued to grow in popularity, in part for economic reasons. With their lower registration fees and lower travel costs, regional conferences attracted over 2200 members in 2005, many of whom could not afford the time commitment or cost of attending a national conference.

Managing the Association
The burden of maintaining and nurturing a growing professional organization was beginning to overwhelm its volunteer leadership. The Division of Continuing Education Conference Office at Kansas State University provided NACADA with the help it needed to manage the national conferences. Computerized records along with a proposal that conferences be self supporting led to greater financial health. Regional bodies were encouraged to operate under the same financial philosophy. In 1990, NACADA and Kansas State strengthened the partnership with the official opening of the NACADA Executive Office within the College of Education at Kansas State University and the reincorporation of the association in Kansas. By 1991 NACADA claimed a $200,000 reserve fund and today " NACADA is designated by the IRS as a 501(c) 3 non-profit educational association incorporated inKansas" (NACADA Website, 2006a).

With NACADA volunteers serving as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, the Executive Office took over the day-to-day operation of the organization, and the planning of national conferences. In 1992 positions on the executive committee grew to include a vice president for commissions and a president-elect. The existence of the NACADA Executive Office (original staff included an Executive Director - Roberta "Bobbie" Flaherty, office manager, and two student assistants) provided ongoing and operational structure to the organization outside of the national and regional conference schedule. The Executive Committee focused their energies on the development of initiatives to broaden the association while the Executive Office managed the national conferences and supported regional conferences, and, in 1995, established a NACADA Web site (1995).

Since Gordon's 1998 speech, the association has almost doubled in size (from 4600 members to over 9100 in 2006). Much of this growth occurred at a time when governance and implementation was in the hands of a 37 member board. The phenomenal growth led members to vote to reorganize the association in 2001. The reorganization took governance from a time consuming and cumbersome process to a streamlined mechanism consisting of an elected Board and representative Council made up of leaders from Commissions, Regions, and appointed Committees. This structure allows the leadership to focus on the formulation of ideas and leave implementation of ideas to the Executive Office. To assist in implementation, two content positions were added to the Executive office (2002), one position to increase the exposure of academic advising within the academy and the other to coordinate member research and resources; all to assure that the association is responsive to changing member needs.

In 2006 "NACADA is the leader within the global education community for the theory, delivery, application and advancement of academic advising to enhance student learning and development.(NACADA, 2006h). With this vision, NACADA's mission is to:

  • Address the academic advising needs of higher educationAdvance the body of knowledge of academic advising

  • Champion the educational role of academic advising to enhance student learning and development
  • Affirm the role of academic advising in supporting institutional mission and vitality
  • Encourage the contributions of all members and promote the involvement of diverse populations (NACADA, 2006h).

Expanding resources
Gordon (1998) notes that NACADA began a relationship with the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education in 1981, "so that we could take the lead in establishing the national standards for academic advising" (p.7). In 2005 these standards were revised to emphasize the assessment of academic advising and to include student learner outcomes.

Also in 1981, after a campaign led by Carol Ryan, the term "academic advising" became a descriptor for the Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC) (Cook, 2001). Through the expertise of Edward L. Jones, the NACADA Journal emerged in the same year. The inaugural issue emphasized research priorities for academic advising (Gordon & Grites, 1998). Toni Trombley, NACADA's first president, stated in the initial issue that the Journal was intended to "promote our understanding and knowledge of the importance of academic advising and advisors to the fulfillment of student and institutional goals.and to lead the way to more efficacious policies and practices" (Trombley, 1981).

The NACADA Consultants Bureau provided consultation services in response to a demand for expertise in many advising related areas in the mid 1980s. Under the direction of Claudia Fischer, Editor, the NACADA News, expanded to include articles addressing pertinent issues of the day. In 1989, the National Clearinghouse for Academic Advising was established at Ohio State University under the direction of Virginia Gordon. The National Clearinghouse functioned at Ohio State University through 1999.

In 1991 with a "Brief Narrative History," published in the NACADA Journal, J.D. Beatty became the first to chronicle the association's history. Tom Grites, introduced the history as a way "to stimulate action in new areas of academic advising practice and research, as well as to provide contemporary viewpoints regarding the many facets of academic advising and the Association" (Beatty, 1991, p. 5).

In 1993 The Core Values for Academic Advising were drafted and printed in the Academic Advising News for member comment and adopted in 1994). The Core Values were updated in 2005 "to guide professional practice and remind advisors of their responsibilities to students, colleagues, institutions, society, and themselves"(NACADA, 2006d). These Core Values guide our professional practice as advisors are responsible: to the individuals they advise, for involving others, to their institutions, to higher education, to their educational community, and for themselves and their professional practices (2006d).
In 1995, the NACADA monograph series was established under the direction of past-president Gary Kramer. That year three monographs were published that reaffirmed the role of faculty in advising, established advising as a comprehensive campus process, and provided an opportunity for the association to collaborate with another national group, the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition. NACADA continued to publish advising monographs and to collaborate with other publishing houses with the publication of Gordon and Habley's (Ed.) Academic Advising Handbook (2000) in conjunction with Jossey-Bass.

Since Gordon addressed the national conference in 1998 ever expanding technologies have impacted the daily lives of academic advisors. Information technology 'is not only changing the way institutions function and perform their roles, but also is modifying the economics of higher education and research and the modality for institutional and personal relations' (Alonso, 2000). To meet advisors' growing need for advising related information. In 2002 the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources debuted on the NACADA web site with three Web pages. In 2006 the Clearinghouse included more than 280 Web pages with links to thousands of advising resources. The Clearinghouse along with the association's electronic quarterly, Academic Advising Today, and Commission and Interest Group electronic listserves, provide real time professional development opportunities to members along with links to the Core Values and the updated CAS Standards. 

Expanding Educational Development Opportunities
As stated previously, the national conference continues to be the premier annual event for NACADA members. Regional conferences, too, have grown each year in participation and popularity. In 1986 a new event, the week-long Summer Institute (SI), was instituted by ACT, Inc. In 1993 NACADA  assumed responsibility for the Institute with the purpose of "offering more concentrated development of professional and faculty advisors and administrators" (Gordon, 1998). Since 2004 Summer Institute has been held in two locations each summer and provides advisors with opportunities to work on a single advising initiative for their institutions with the assistance of leaders in the field.

In 2003 the association offered a winter Administrators' Institute (AI) "designed for all levels of advising administration whether they are new or experienced and administering centralized, decentralized, or faculty-based advising programs" (NACADA 2006e). The success of AI led to inauguration of an annual seminar series that has included the topics of assessment (2004), now an institute of its own with a supplemental assessment guide in CD format (Campbell, Nutt, Robbins, Kirk-Kuwaye, and Higa, 2005), faculty advising (2005), and ethical/legal issues (2006).

The association's other professional development opportunities have included the Faculty Advising Training video/CD, the Academic Advising: Campus Collaborations to Foster Retention teleconference produced in conjunction with PBS, and the Foundations of Academic Advising CD series.

Outstanding Academic Advising Awards
In 1984 the first NACADA national awards were initiated through a partnership with the ACT, Inc. to recognize excellence in the field of advising. The awards grew over the years to honor outstanding research, advisors, and institutional advising programs. Today three awards honor those who contribute globally to the field: the Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising, the Service to NACADA Award, and the Pacesetter Award, which is presented annually to Chief Executive Officers, Provosts, and Chief Academic or Student Affairs officers who exemplify a commitment to advising and are true advocates for students and advisors (NACADA, 2006f ). In the 1990s, NACADA began to recognize its retirees and in 1998, NACADA made its first advising technology award.

Supporting Research in the Field
Research concerning academic advising has been an interest for the profession and the association from its beginning. In 1979 Toni Trombley spoke of it in her presidential address when she outlined an agenda for academic advising that included:

  1. Advising has measurable impact upon students.
  2. Advising must be recognized within the institution.
  3. Advising must have well-articulated goals.
  4. Components and criteria for quality advising must and can be isolated for the purposes of research, improvement, and evaluation.
  5. Research is essential to discover new advising methods and to improve present methods.
  6. Central coordination of advising is necessary to prevent fragmentation and to maintain advising excellence. (Trombley, as quoted in Beatty, 1991)

Research was encouraged by grants and awards initiated in 1988 to "promote and encourage research devoted to academic advising and related areas" (Gordon, 1998). Various task force reports and position papers were generated by members including - "Advising Students in Oversubscribed and Selective majors", "Adult Student Advising," "Advising as a Profession", and "Designing an Effective Advisor Training Program." Some of these task force reports contained significant quantitative content. NACADA monographs report the results of the ACT National Survey on Academic Advising (the Sixth National Survey is current) provides data concerning academic advising, advisors, and institutions across the country.

In emphasizing the importance of research to the association, NACADA supports research grants of up to $5,000 per year to advance knowledge about academic advising as both a field of practice and a field of academic inquiry. Through its grants NACADA seeks to cultivate scholarship by providing opportunities for advisors and faculty to engage in research and to contribute to the scholarly literature (NACADA, 2006g).

The NACADA Journal is the pre-eminent venue for the publication of scholarly articles relating to academic advising. The NACADA Journal publishes quantitative and qualitative articles that reflect the view that practice, research, and theory are inextricably intertwined.

Planning for growth

  • The NACADA Board of Directors developed its first strategic plan for growth in the early 1990s. The plan was approved in a time of renewed activity within the organization including the publication of the first monographs, changes in the NACADA Journal, and the adoption of the Core Values of Academic Advising. The strategic plan sets the initiative for the association. Each year the Board revisits the strategic plan; find the current strategic plan on the NACADA Web site at

Challenges for the future
As an educational association, NACADA has a clear mission and strategic plan for its future. The association has experienced tremendous growth in a relatively short period of time; growth that has paralleled the growth of the profession of academic advising. Effective leadership, a NACADA hallmark since the association's inception, continues to provide the vision needed for continued growth in the academic advising profession within higher education.

The association continues to enjoy fiscal and organizational health in a time when higher education institutions are reported to be experiencing stable or curtailed budgets (include citation). NACADA remains resilient even as higher education faces tough economic times because it is responsive to the varied needs of advisors, uses sound management principles, and functions as a learning organization. NACADA has provided educational development opportunities for thousands of academic advisors, and offers academic advisors a variety of forums for sharing knowledge and skills. NACADA encourages its membership to embrace higher education's vocabulary, and to align academic advising with the academy's core processes of teaching, learning, and assessment.

Even with this solid foundation, NACADA faces several challenges as it moves forward in the first decade of the 21st Century. As one generation of academic advisors begins to retire, Jo Anne Huber, 2006 NACADA President, has noted that the association must support new advisors entering the field because these new higher education professionals who understand and embrace academic advising will provide valuable allegiances.

In summarizing some of NACADA's challenges for the future, it must continue to press for greater participation of advisors from diverse backgrounds and for them to assume leadership positions. The Association must also continue its efforts for increased visibility of academic advising throughout the academy. The variety of available professional development opportunities must continue to expand via the array of technology options available to advisors. Last but certainly not least, research must continue to validate the importance of the advising experience in our students' success and provide new avenues for expansion within the field. Such efforts facilitate future consideration of the role of academic advising and its practitioners in higher education.

As academic advisors "light student pathways," NACADA provides the intellectual and practical resources to raise the field of academic advising to new heights.

Karen C. Thurmond
Coordinator General Education & Degree Audit
University of Memphis

Marsha A. Miller

NACADA Assistant Director of Resources & Services

Kansas State University


Alonso, Marcelo. (2000). The Information Revolution, Higher Education, and Research. RetrievedMarch 24, 2006from


Beatty, J. D. (1991). The National Academic Advising Association: A Brief Narrative History. NACADA Journal, 11(1), 5-15.

Campbell, Susan, Nutt, Charlie, Robbins, Richard, Kirk-Kuwaye, Michael, and Higa, Lynn.

(2005). Guide to Assessment in Academic Advising. Manhattan,KS: National Academic Advising Association


Cook, S. (2001). A chronology of academic advising inAmerica. The Mentor : an Academic

Advising Journal, October (15). RetrievedMay 10, 2005, from Center for Excellence in Academic Advising, The Pennsylvania State University Web site: http:/ / dus/ mentor/ 011014sc.htm

Council for the Advancement of Standards. (2005) Academic Advising Program: CAS Standards and Guidelines. Retrieved November 8, 2005from

Crookston, B.B. (1972). A developmental view of academic advising as teaching. Journal of College Student Development , vol. 13, pp. 12 -17.

Glennen, R., & Vowell, F. (Eds.). (1995). Academic Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process . Manhattan, KS: NACADA.

Gordon, V. (1992). Handbook of academic advising.Westport,CT:GreenwoodPress.

Gordon, V. (1998). New horizons: learning from the past and preparing for the future. NACADA Journal, 18 (2), 5-12.

Gordon, V., & Grites, T. (1998). NACADA Journal : fulfilling its purpose? NACADA Journal, 18(1), 6-14.

Gordon, V.N. & Habley W.R., (Eds.). (2000). Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

NACADA (Ed.). (2004). Lighting student pathways for 25 years: 25th anniversary commemorative booklet . Available here.

NACADA. (2006a). About NACADA. RetrievedMarch 8, 2006, from

NACADA (2006b). NACADA. Retrieved March 8, 2006from

NACADA (2006c). Strategic Plan and Implementation Strategy. RetrievedMarch 8, 2006


NACADA (2006d). Statement of Core Values of Academic Advising: Introduction. Retrieved March 8, 2006from

NACADA (2006e). Academic Advising Administrators' Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2006 from

NACADA. (2006f). NACADA National Awards Program. RetrievedMarch 8, 2006from


NACADA (2006g). NACADA Academic Advising Research Support Grant. RetrievedMarch 8, 2006from

NACADA (2006h). NACADA Strategic Plan. Retrieved October 25, 2006 from


O'Bannion, T. (1972). An Academic Advising Model. Junior College Journal, 42, pp. 62, 64,66-69.

Trombley, T. B. (1981). Our inaugural issue. NACADA Journal, 1 (1), iii.

Cite this using APA style as:

Thurmond, K. C. & Miller, M. A. (2006).  The history of National Academic Advising Association: An update. Retrieved * insert date * from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site:

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