Student Success Insights Blog

How three advisors stood out from the crowd at NACADA 2017

by Lindsay Miars

Last month, I traveled to St. Louis with a dozen EAB colleagues for the annual conference of NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. This year, the theme of our booth was Advising Explorers: Guiding Students to Success. Not only did this theme give us the opportunity to celebrate the dedication, curiosity, and leadership of advisors—it give us the opportunity to go crazy with camping puns on our signage and buttons: Time for s’more advising! Advising is in-tents! Canoe handle my caseload?

Puns aside, I was truly inspired by the energy I felt at the conference. More than 3,000 academic advisors convened from as far north as Canada and as far south as Hawaii (I even met one advisor from an international college in Japan) to soak up knowledge from peers, share their own research, and advance the profession.

Celebrating Advising Excellence

For me, a highlight of the trip to NACADA every year is presenting three advisors with the EAB Advising Excellence Award. These advisors are nominated by leadership at their respective schools for their exemplary commitment to students and integration of EAB technology into their work. Congratulations to our 2017 EAB Advising Excellence Award winners:

Nadia Eslinger

Nadia Eslinger is an Academic Advisor in the College of Education at the University of Central Arkansas. In addition to being a full-time advisor and instructor of two Journeys to Success courses, Nadia led the roll out of faculty progress reports across campus, raising the faculty response rate to 90%. Nadia said her proudest moment as an advisor was helping a student overcome obstacles and ultimately get accepted into his top-choice graduate program. “At his graduation dinner, he thanked three people for his success: God, his mom, and me,” she said.

Diane Rodriguez

Diane Rodriguez is an Academic Success Coordinator at the Center for Academic Readiness and Success at Tarleton State University. Diane embraces technology and uses her communications expertise to craft action-oriented outreach campaigns. She works tirelessly to reach students in need, especially first-generation, Pell eligible, and underrepresented students. Diane said it is always “heartwarming and satisfying” when students come back to tell her, “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Rachel Moody

Rachel Moody is an Academic Advisor at the University at Albany. Rachel serves as the point person for campus-wide advising campaigns, and developed an early outreach program for probation students that led to a significant increase in students submitting Academic Improvement Plans. Rachel said her proudest moment as an advisor was helping a student turn his path around, improving his GPA from less than 1.0 to more than 3.5. “He is now in graduate school, she said. “He reminds me never to give up on our students, even when they give up on themselves.”

Exploring New Territory

Our booth wasn’t the only space at the conference that celebrated exploration. While still rooted in academic research, topics at NACADA’s annual conference have increasingly ventured into new territory. Specifically, the use of new communication channels, new technology for case management, and (to use a term prevalent at NACADA this year) “big data.” Frontline advisors and advising scholars are grappling with the consequences of these innovations on their work, both positive and negative.

Read more about the evolution of academic advising

A few days before we traveled to NACADA, I presented The Advising Office of the Future at CONNECTED, our Student Success Collaborative Summit in D.C. In that presentation, I defined “advisors of the future” as holistic, success-oriented advisors who are centrally managed and committed to driving measurable outcomes with their students. These next-generation advisors embrace technology and innovation, working to reach key milestones with their assigned caseloads. Short-term student success metrics—like percentage of students declaring a major, submitting a degree plan, improving their GPA, or persisting to the next term—are increasingly a part of these advisors' formal evaluation.

At NACADA and in other spaces, there has been some resistance to change for change’s sake and fear that technology would outpace (or displace) advising. In particular, leaders have been hesitant to incorporate student success metrics into formal advisor evaluations. One of the most surprising findings from my research was just how open advisors are to metrics-based evaluation. We found that—with the right tools and support—advisors are confident in their ability to help students and they want to get credit and recognition for doing it.



Innovations in communication channels, technology, and evaluation may be new but they are not necessarily in conflict with advising of the past or present. In fact, our vision of advising’s future combines deep care for students (something that has always been a part of academic advising) with new tools and new approaches that make advisors’ lives easier and their work more effective. This year’s Advising Excellence Award winners embody that vision and the spirit of exploration.

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