Isaiah Vance, President of TEXAAN
As we approach the start of a new school year and the many preparations necessitated by the upcoming fall, I’d like to begin by saying how much I appreciate the work that each of you do. The longer I work in higher education, the more I see just how critical it is to have excellent academic advisors. In fact, it was seeing the value and impact of academic advising which led me to leave a faculty position to advise full-time. No matter how our field is shaped or re-defined moving forward, advising will always be one of the most important services we offer students.
I have worked in higher education for over a decade now, beginning my career immediately after graduate school, so I’ve stopped counting the new years by January arriving. I now count the passage of time according to the school calendar. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I’m always excited and anxious as we enter August, because this time of year offers a new beginning in many ways.
For those of us at public institutions, this time also marks the start of the new fiscal year, and the State’s appropriations for higher education in the new budget have significantly limited financial resources for many of us. I recently read a book by Ryan Holiday titled The Obstacle is the Way, and this work provides great insights that are useful to us in this tumultuous time. The primary theme in the book focuses on our perspective and how we react when challenges arise. In the face of adversity we have a choice to either take on a defeated mindset or to see the problems on the horizon as an opportunity to thrive. I personally choose the latter.
In thinking about how we, as advisors, can tackle the challenges laid before us, I believe there are two great opportunities for us.
First, when faced with limited resources, we must rely on one another to help us improve the delivery of academic advising on our campuses. We have the opportunity and the rationale to focus in, even more than at other times, on developing a strong network of advisors throughout Texas. I’ve personally profited in tremendous ways through the friendships that I have formed with many of you.
Secondly, and somewhat related to the building of relationships, is the need to improve our tools and resources. Over the past few years my department has implemented several new tools, including an automated degree audit system and graduation planning program. My staff and I continuously look for ways to improve these resources. Each of us should work with our colleagues, both within our department and institutions, and also across institutions, to ensure we are utilizing resources to the best of our ability.
This year TEXAAN is exploring ways to strengthen our connections with one another. We are planning to have more networking opportunities within the regions; we plan to better promote the excellent professional development opportunities taking place; and we are forming interest groups in an effort connect advisors with similar responsibilities and skills. We’re also deep into planning the 2018 TEXAAN Conference, which will take place February 28th-March 3rd in Houston. There are other great efforts going on within the organization and I am excited to see how many people are participating in TEXAAN this year in various capacities. Our goal is to serve you as advisors, so that you, in turn, can serve your students.
If TEXAAN has been of any benefit to you, then I encourage you get involved in some way. All of the positions in our organization are completely voluntary, and have various levels of commitment. If you want to be more involved and help to grow TEXAAN, there is a place for you. Although the annual conference and officer elections are still some time away, I would like to encourage those who are willing to consider running for one of our executive board positions. At the annual conference in February we will elect (1) President-Elect, (2) Treasurer, (3) VP of Publications, and (4) VP of Membership. With the exception of President-Elect, which requires a three-year commitment, those selected for these positions will serve a two-year term (until February of 2020).
These positions are crucial to TEXAAN, and I encourage you to carefully consider the responsibility before becoming a candidate for any one of them. The officers currently serving in these roles are happy to speak with you, if you would like to consider serving in this capacity. The continued success of TEXAAN depends on advisors like you.
Finally, throughout all of the discussions I have been a part of recently, whether at my institution, or the state and national level, nearly all of the talk about how higher education centers around student success. We are entering an age where data science is critical and many are striving to define and measure “student success.” Whatever definitions are formed and whatever measures are used, I am confident that we, as academic advisors, are one of the keys to student success.
As we begin another academic year, my hope for you is that you have the opportunity to impact the lives of many students for the better.
Director of Academic Advising & Retention
Texas A&M University-Central Texas