A long time ago when I was but a wee graduate student at the University of Akron studying Higher Education, we did a lot of talking about professional development and research. We also discussed the multitude of positions in higher education and organizations that related to those positions. Some of our peers at OSU have asked me the question, “How do you even know about these organizations, Katie?” “I found out about them in graduate school” is my typical answer. And that got me thinking…there are a lot of advisors on campus that didn’t get their start in advising through a higher education graduate program. So, I wanted to offer an insider’s view of what these things are all about.
Who are these organizations? There are many to choose from and I would say it all depends on your role and job responsibilities. This is a fairly complete list of higher education professional organizations: http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/span/higher-education-administration-club/professional-associations-in-higher-education/. Do some online research for each organization, and talk to co-workers or peers to get thoughts about what organizations they’ve joined (and what they do with that membership). There isn’t one organization that works for everyone.
What can you do for professional organizations and what they can do for you? Most of us think of a professional organization and think, yeah, they offer a conference, maybe a journal, but not much else. That is so not true! They offer outlets to collaborate with our peers from across the country, improve our leadership skills, improve our writing and or research abilities, and about a ba-zillion other things that I won’t drone on about. I chose to use The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), and our on-campus organization Academic Advising Association of The Ohio State University (ACADAOS) to improve my leadership abilities, to work collaboratively on research and presentations, and to learn best practices from other advisors. Think about what you can do for the organizations you are joining, don’t just join to add a line to your resume.
When should you join? Now! Most organizations take memberships year round and will give you access to their online resources right away.
How can you get involved? It depends on the organization. It will typically be listed on their website, and most organizations have commissions or interest groups. If there’s a commission that catches your eye, email the chair and ask how you can get involved in their group. In most cases the level of involvement is up to you. I started by reading presentation proposals for the Region 5 conference for NACADA, then moved up to helping plan the region conference, to being a part of the STEM commission, to chair of the commission. I always think about professional organizations the same way I tell my students to think about their student organizations, “You get out of them what you put into them.”
If you don’t know where to get started, ask someone you know that is involved. Anyone on the ACADAOS executive board would be great people to start with 🙂