Sarah Ballard, a staff member working in UK’s Student and Academic Life division, along with other team members, attended the Student Autonomy: Advisors Creating Positive Change for Students conference in Hasselt, Belgium this past summer. The conference was sponsored by the National Academic Advising Associated (NACADA), and is intended to connect advising practitioners as they search for ways to empower students back at their schools.
Reflecting on her experience at the conference, Ballard reports that in addition to being able to meet colleagues from across the globe, she gained a new appreciation for how diverse the world of student advising is. Not only do universities in different countries across the globe structure student advising in quite different ways, professional advising is done differently around the world. So, Ballard realized, students coming to UK from other countries often may have very different understandings of what advising actually is.
“We attract students from all over the globe, domestic students and international students— they’re all our students so it’s important to understand their experiences and where they are coming from so we can connect with them and support them,” Ballard said.
Beyond cross-disciplinary collaboration, conference attendees learned about new research on how students identify their needs, set goals and apply various learning strategies in their different national contexts. The research she learned about resonated with Ballard as it addressed topics and challenges that she faces everyday as a UK advisor.
“There was a little bit of validation in recognizing that colleagues across the globe are confronting the same issues with their students and we are all trying to think of the best ways to support and serve them,” said Ballard.
Advisors are professionals dedicated to student success. They play a significant role in the lives of UK students, and assist students as the navigate their academic planning and career preparation. Ballard not only tries to help her students grow as responsible individuals by developing autonomy in terms of their decision-making, but she also advises them on related issues such as how to manage and structure their time effectively.
“I have the privilege of working with students from the time they start at UK through degree completion and so we are working with students at different moments—not just in the life cycle of a student experience, but also developmentally in a student,” Ballard said. “I really think about all of those things that they need not just to be successful here at the institution, but beyond.”
This was the second NACADA conference that Ballard has traveled overseas for. She is hopeful to have the opportunity to attend next year’s NACADA International Conference held in Athens, Greece to continue her learning from professional colleagues across the globe. Ballard believes that bringing cross-cultural perspectives to bear on how advising works at UK and other U.S. universities allows her to bring back some great fresh ideas to her own practices as an advisor and to serve her diverse student advisees more effectively.
For more information on NACADA and their annual conferences, visit the NACADA website.