By Devon Hutchinson, University of Waterloo
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the NACADA Region 5 Conference in Toronto April 6 – 8. Here’s what I took away from those inspiring few days…
Advisors are busy. We multi-task; dance the line between Advisor/Mentor/Counsellor/Cheerleader; and deliver a lot of bad news. Some of us have neat, tidy, small student cohorts. Others have over 2000 students in 30 different plans that they alone take care of.
Conferences give us the breathing room to ask ourselves: am I doing this the best way I can? I felt pretty good about my approach to my students at the end of the conference. I also learned a few areas where I can develop more and master a particular skill or approach.
I went into the conference thinking about streamlining Advising on my campus. This is not an uncommon challenge and goal for all of us but, oh man, there are a LOT of barriers to accomplishing this.
I was lucky enough to attend Lara Ubaldi’s (York University) session on “A University-Wide Undergraduate Advising ‘Professional Practice Model’” presentation and it was so inspiring. They are taking action to create Advisor training. Really doing it! I connected with Lara after the conference and hope to connect with her more as we move forward with a similar goal on my campus.
Shea Ellingham (Mount Royal University) and her team approached a campus-wide strategy that clarified the Advisor/Student relationship from a communications and marketing perspective: what can we do for you, and what do we need you to do – sort of idea. Using communications to get people on board and increase awareness of Advising across campus.
But the biggest take-away I got was that we can make SUCH a big difference in our students lives and overall the success of our institutions. We need more research and literature to support this claim that we all know is true and Tim Fricker’s Blog post outlines this point really well.
This is what conferences are all about though right? Learning how other people try to solve the challenges that we all have. Take a little from each different approach and make it work in your institution. Even if the starting point is simply in the way you approach your students as an individual. We have to start somewhere.
With over 370 attendees at the conference, NACADA Region 5 2016 made it clear that we have so many people to talk to and brainstorm with moving forward. The OAAP is your community, and there are Advisors further afield that can be a great resource for you too. Reach out to other Advisors just to chat, get ideas, and start making small changes at home.
Leave your comments below and start connecting! What did you take away from the conference?