Growing the Advisor Experience through Advisor Institute

Photo by C. Jason Aguila

Michael Bauer, advisor to the Alpha Lambda Gamma Chapter at Leeward Community College in Hawaii, recently traveled nearly 4,800 miles to attend his second Phi Theta Kappa Advisor Institute, this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He previously attended a 2014 Advisor Institute in Dallas, Texas.

“I had a valuable experience at it in the previous year, and I want to coach my chapter to make the most out of the Phi Theta Kappa experience and opportunities,” he said. “I knew that I would gain important insights into the operation of our chapter.”

Phi Theta Kappa recently hosted more than 175 advisors at two Advisor Institutes, giving both new and seasoned advisors the opportunity to learn more about the Society, network with others and gain key knowledge to help grow their chapters’ overall success. The events, held September 11-12 in Philadelphia and September 18-20 in Oxford, Mississippi, drew attendees from 31 states in all four of the Society’s divisions.

“In its third year, Advisor Institute continues to be a constructive experience for all advisors, regardless of how long they’ve been serving in this role,” said Jennifer Stanford, Phi Theta Kappa’s Chief Student Engagement Officer. “This year, the range of advisor experience was from a few weeks to 26 years, and Advisor Institute offered something beneficial for everyone.”

Bauer has served as an advisor for four years. Some Advisor Institute highlights for him were a panel discussion with veteran advisors, an overview of the new chapter management system, a breakout session on Hallmark Award writing tips and the overview of the advisor’s role as a coach as applied to a chapter’s Honors in Action Project.

“An overview of the benefits and opportunities for chapter advisors was also helpful,” he said. “It was nice to learn about the opportunity to serve as a Faculty Scholar and various awards. So many advisors who have served as Faculty Scholars rave about the outstanding professional development opportunity — it compels one to check it out!”

Amanda Hood didn’t have to travel as far to attend the Advisor Institute at the University of Mississippi in Oxford; she is in her third year as advisor to the Alpha Alpha Zeta Chapter at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus in Mississippi.

“This particular Advisor Institute was relatively close to home, and I had to take advantage of that, along with the fact that, other than travel, our other expenses were covered,” she said. “This helps ease the burden of guilt when spending money that our chapter could use that would directly benefit our members.”

Phi Theta Kappa covered all costs associated with Advisor Institute, including lodging and meals. Attending advisors only had to cover their transportation costs.

Just a few weeks after the event, Hood already feels that the members of her chapter have benefited indirectly from her attendance.

“The wide variety of programs and benefits of Phi Theta Kappa, as well as the details needed to successfully navigate them, require having experienced leaders ask and answer questions that I often don’t even realize I don’t know that I don’t know!” she said.

For Hood, the interaction with other advisors is a big part of what makes Advisor Institute so powerful. Practical chapter-management advice, benefits and opportunities for advisors and stress-fighting tips are shared, allowing attendees to learn almost as much from each other as they do from the presenters.

Small group activities, smaller breakout sessions, on-site meals, as well as an overall limit on the number of attendees, create a more intimate environment for the advisors and reinforce a networking environment.

“The interaction that is so organic in settings like this is far more valuable than a pre-packaged program where you are simply reading or watching to obtain information,” Hood said. “It moves away from being abstract and becomes more concrete.”

The Middle States Region was a major sponsor of the Advisor Institute in Philadelphia. Regional Coordinator Pattie Van Atter, four-year advisor to the Alpha Epsilon Zeta and Alpha Zeta Kappa Chapters at Delaware Technical Community College’s George Campus in Wilmington, said attending Advisor Institute is a great way to gain a better sense of what Phi Theta Kappa is all about and the important role advisors serve in engaging members in that experience.

More seasoned advisors will find it’s a good “pick me up” as well, and both new and longer-serving advisors will gain a nice confidence boost from the information shared, she said. Van Atter urged the advisors in her region to attend, and about 40 of them came.

“I encouraged our advisors to attend because it gave them an opportunity to hear, learn and experience Phi Theta Kappa programming from the experts,” she said. “Sometimes a fresh perspective is what you need to grow from. I am thrilled that our advisors attended so that they can now share and implement Society programs with confidence!”

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