At the welcome on April 7th, 2016 at the NACADA Region V Conference in Toronto, I had the good fortune to participate in the official opening. As I told those who attended, it was indeed one of my favorite events given the intimacy of the conference as well as the cross-cultural perspective inherent in a region that transcends geographical boundaries. True to form, the dialogue overheard throughout the three days did not disappoint. Academic advisors, personal tutors, administrators and faculty alike reflected on NACADA’s core values, as well as theory and practice, really getting to the center of what it means to be an “academic advisor” regardless of historical or cultural context. Through these conversations, three major themes seemed to appear: inclusivity, integrity, and a deep passion to impact student success in a holistic way.
In relation to inclusivity, attendees wanted a place and a statement that encouraged all aspects of “advisor” identity to be considered in decisions we make as an organization from gender to race and ethnicity; language to vocabulary; and from one higher educational history and context to another. It became clear that those of us in the United States are the forebears to other countries and this may be a space where we take our own history with academic advising for granted at times when we discuss the field. What might looking at the stages of advising in other locations offer the field? How are these practices evolving differently? How might NACADA better address these needs? How are researchers examining these unique contexts?
Secondly, integrity was noted – not only in discussions around advisor responsibility and personal integrity, but the integrity of our institutions as well. As advisors, we walk a delicate line of doing what is right by the students and what is right by our institutions sometimes. What happens when what is best for our students conflicts with the interests of our organizations? How do we best balance these competing needs as advisors? Can we make a statement for our profession that helps us reinforce this is who we are and what we do when that integrity is called into question?
Finally, methods for working holistically with our students and colleagues in ways that attended to cultural difference and recognized that “success” may not be the same for every culture or every student emerged. For one student, success might mean completing their degree, but to another, it may mean gaining a particular skill in a course. How do we, as an advising community, prevent biased notions of “success” from clouding the student’s vision? How do we expand to other approaches and grab for a tool from our toolkit to best meet their needs? How can we lean on other disciplines to inform our own practice?
I do not pretend to have the answers to the questions I have just posed related to inclusivity, integrity or student success – yet. However, I do sincerely invite you to continue your engagement in the broader discussions of our field through the core values, as well as through conducting your own research, just as the Region V participants did in a global way. Engage in deep conversations on your campuses. Help to answer some of the big questions that surround our work and know that NACADA is sincere in it’s wanting to hear from membership. Truly, academic advising is expanding globally and as new voices become engaged in the conversation, I can only imagine and hope for what the future of the field may hold.
Shannon Lynn Burton, Ph.D.
Associate University Ombudsperson / Research Integrity Coordinator
Michigan State University
Shannon Lynn Burton, PhD, is the Associate University Ombudsperson at Michigan State University, as well as the Research Integrity Coordinator. In these roles she has sought out ways to build a culture of academic integrity by restructuring and institutionalizing the Academic Integrity Consortium, which she directs, as well as by engaging faculty, staff and students in other venues to address this issue at a grassroots level. Shannon seeks to give voice to issues on campus including those affecting student rights and responsibilities, as well as student success. Her accomplishment in these endeavors is evidenced by her receipt of a 2010 Outstanding Academic Advisor Award and 2011 Outstanding Dissertation Award by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA), as well as the 2013 Distinguished Civilian Michigan State University ROTC Service Award and MSU’s 2014 Student Veteran Supporter of the Year. Her research interests include ombuds practice, academic advising, academic integrity, ethics and legal issues, and organizational culture.
Shannon serves the broader professional community through her work on the International Ombudsman Association’s (IOA) Title IX Task Force, as one of the inaugural co-chairs for the Research and Assessment Committee for IOA and as Associate Editor for the Journal of the IOA. Additionally, Shannon is Michigan State University’s lead representative to the International Center for Academic Integrity. Finally, Shannon continues to serve in leadership roles for NACADA: the Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA) as she has since 2006. Currently, she serves as a member of the Board of Directors and as a reviewer for the NACADA Journal, as well as a consultant for NACADA’s Consultants and Speakers Bureau.
Shannon can be reached via email@example.com or on Twitter @msuburton