by Traci Bonds, CSL Class of 2014
Imagine a room full of over 600 people who all have the same goal as you: to grow in their profession. The National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics held its National Convention this year in Orlando, Florida. Athletic Directors to interns congregating to learn from one another. The theme of this year’s convention was “Our Opportunity”, which truly embodies the essence of the N4A. For those in attendance, you have the opportunity to learn, to connect, and to be inspired by everyone in the industry.
As a first time attendee, I was overwhelmed by the camaraderie of this organization, which they value above all else. One of my mentors, Cheryl Walthers of Florida Gulf Coast perfectly described the weekend as less of a convention and more of a family reunion. The conference kicked off with a welcome reception where each new person I met immediately asked my name, where I was from, and how he or she could help me accomplish my goals. If they couldn’t help, they would personally introduce me to someone who could. Throughout the night I was able to connect with industry leaders such as Steve Duzan of Clemson and Walt Holliday of LSU. The number of business cards I collected that evening was ridiculous.
The rest of the convention was filled with informative programing, organized in different tracks based on the attendee’s occupation and interests such as Directors, Learning Specialists, and New Members. Different institutions conducted the lectures with each presenting on a variety of topics that they found to be valuable. However, unlike many conventions, the programing was designed less as an information session and more as a platform for institutions to share successful strategies and best practices. For example, Ted White of the University of Georgia provided a description of their new Objective-based Support 2.0 system. Lecture attendees were able to ask detailed questions and learn the ways in which this program could be tailored and utilized by their own institution. Overall, the lectures shared one school’s knowledge, experience and resources to help elevate the industry as a whole.
While institutions shared their knowledge, inspiration came from the convention’s guest speakers. The conference kicked off with an address from Myron Rolle, former NFL player, Rhodes scholar, philanthropist, and aspiring neurosurgeon. His commitment to both athletics and academics epitomizes the desire of every academic advisor as we strive to assist our students in achieving all of their goals. At the conclusion of the convention, five student-athletes were presented the Wilma Rudolph Award, which recognized their success in overcoming extreme obstacles. Listening to these individuals describe their struggles with injury, loss, addiction, and abuse only feeds my passion to provide student athletes with the support they need.
At the end of each day, attendees were given time to socialize with each other whether it be by the pool, in the hotel’s restaurants, or on outings.
I personally enjoyed a scheduled outing to City Walk at Universal Studios as well as an unplanned trip to Krispy Kreme on Free Donut Day!
Walking away from this convention, I am energized in my pursuit of becoming an academic advisor. I have learned that I am not alone in my daily trials and that the N4A family is there to support and guide me in my journey. For anyone who wants to be involved in this industry, N4A is truly the gateway to academic advising in athletics.