…how about you submit a proposal to present at the NACADA 2022 Annual Conference? Proposals are due February 21st – only one week away but there’s still time! With over 200 members in our WACADA family, there are endless ideas and great work to share with our regional and national colleagues. As Stanley Choi and Kerry Kincanon share in NACADA’s most recent blog post, “putting yourself forward to share your ideas is crucial to advancing and improving the field of academic advising.”
Perhaps you want a little more insight and inspiration from closer to home (WACADA) before you submit a proposal. We sat down with some of our WACADA Executive Board members, past and present, to learn about their experience submitting proposals and presenting at past NACADA conferences. Here are some insights from Sara Gomez (WACADA Secretary 2019-2021), Ann Hintz (WACADA VP of Membership 2019-2021, 2021-2023), and Danielle Stertz (WACADA VP of Membership 2017-2019; President-Elect 2021-2023)!
When did you submit a proposal to NACADA and what motivated you to submit a proposal?
Sara: I submitted a proposal many years ago but then took a break from submitting. More recently in the last 2-3 years I decided to submit a couple of proposals with a couple of my advising colleagues. We were both passionate on specific topics and had worked together in previous committees and in advising and had similar interests. This increased my motivation and passion for submitting some proposals to present. At the same time, it was a good opportunity to motivate my colleagues to co-present and/or present individually. I was also encouraged by some of my colleagues and staff to submit a proposal. The proposals were relevant to our work and closely aligned with our college’s mission and department’s goals. I was also motivated based on past experience. This is one of my favorite conferences to attend because there is always such a variety of topics, presentations and opportunities to connect with new advising colleagues across the nation who have similar interests, ideas and best practices.
Ann: For a long time I have wanted to submit a proposal, but really had no idea where or how to start. This year, I was encouraged by professors in my doctoral program to submit a proposal. For a long time I have felt imposter syndrome, but attending NACADA last fall helped me to see that I can submit a quality proposal. As a deadline drive individual, my proposal will be submitted by the deadline – February 21, 2022.
Danielle: I submitted a proposal for the national conference in 2018, and then submitted another proposal to the regional conference in 2020 (which was postponed to 2021 as a result of COVID). With both proposals, my colleagues and I submitted topics that were not only closely tied to our project work at the time but also seemingly relevant to some of the communities of practice within NACADA. Before 2018, I had never submitted a proposal to a national organization before and simply thought, why not? (Which came with a friendly nudge from my supervisor too!) It was an empowering experience and reenergized my pride in those projects.
Tell us more – what was the proposal process like? What kind of feedback did you get?
Sara: The process was very clear, understandable, and well organized. The information on the NACADA website on what to submit for the proposal and instructions were very clear and easy to understand. Writing the proposal and abstract took a little time but it was well worth the effort. Most of the proposals I submitted were accepted except one, in which the committee provided excellent input and feedback. I also used the NACADA tips for submitting a proposal. This helped me develop my action steps and timeline to submit the proposals. I also now read and review proposals which gives me a great understanding of what topics individuals are submitted and a brief outline of what could be included.
Ann: In preparation for submitting a proposal, I attended a few NACADA sponsored events talking about the process. I also reached out to colleagues who have submitted proposals in the past. I created a checklist using the NACADA tips for submitting a proposal. What also helped me was volunteering to be a proposal reader last year. Reading and reviewing the proposals allowed me to really develop a sense of what should be included in the proposal.
Danielle: The whole process was well organized and thorough. The level of detail NACADA asks for in proposal submissions motivates you to do a lot of the thoughtwork for your presentation well in advance, which helps boost confidence leading up to the presentation itself. My 2018 proposal was not accepted but the feedback was so helpful. The readers took careful time to consider how the proposal would impact NACADA, and their constructive feedback was overall encouraging and empowering. Truthfully, it didn’t feel like a “rejection;” the feedback was a rewarding part of the process. My colleague and I revised the proposal based on that feedback and presented at a few other conferences (WACADA included!). My/Our 2020-21 proposal was accepted for the virtual Region 3-5 conference and again, the feedback was so empowering. Having been through the proposal process, I had a better idea of what to focus on and which elements to include in the proposal. Overall, there was a lot of support and inclusion throughout the process.
What are some advantages of submitting a proposal?
Sara: There are so many advantages to submitting a proposal. First, it is an opportunity for you to present on a national level on a topic you feel passionate about. Another advantage for you to submit a proposal is that it is also an opportunity for you to share your insight, contributions, relevant research and or best practices with the national academic advising community. The requirements of writing a proposal gives you an opportunity to practice writing about your proposal, citing your research and/or data, sharing your best practices, re-writing and editing, and sharing how the topic is relevant to the field of advising. This is good practice to submit for future presentations.
Ann: Going through the process for the first time isn’t easy, but knowing that you’ve done it will make it easier the second time around, or for submitting a proposal for another conference. The feedback will help me further develop the ideas, and if not selected, allow me to expand on the information to use for a different proposal in the future. One thing to keep in mind is that the NACADA Annual is about a month after the WACADA Conference. If selected for NACADA, you could submit your proposal for WACADA and use that as a trial run.
Danielle: Whether your proposal is accepted or not, the whole process makes for a great learning experience. You gain experience to grow from and towards a future conference proposal opportunity, whether through WACADA or another conference. The requirements for NACADA’s proposal submission also challenge you to put thorough thoughtwork into your presentation, an invaluable way to get creative, think critically, and challenge your professional bravery – all things that transcend the proposal process into your daily work.
What did you enjoy the most about the process?
Sara: What I really enjoyed the most was the opportunity to really think creatively about what to present, if I wanted to co-present, creating the outline and abstract. It really was a great opportunity and there was so much to learn each time. It was also really enjoyable to collaborate with some of my colleagues who had similar interests. It was a great experience to receive the acceptance letter to present and even when I did have a rejection letter, it was a great learning opportunity.
Ann: What I have enjoyed is really digging into the information and deciding what I’d like to present. I am working on two proposals right now, both of which will feed into my dissertation for my doctoral program. If selected, not only will I be presenting on materials I enjoy, but also working on information that supports my research agenda and will help me write my dissertation.
Danielle: Challenging myself to submit a proposal, regardless of the outcome, felt (and still feels!) like a great accomplishment. I learned a lot, I met some great people in the process, and I was able to do some really creative and collaborative work with my colleagues. Additionally, it gave me confidence to submit proposals for other conferences. Often, presenting at a conference is heralded as a great professional development opportunity, which indeed it is! In the same breath, the proposal process itself is equally great and sometimes underrated professional development. I learned so much!
What are your top 3 tips and tricks for submitting a proposal?
Sara: Remember, if you have the passion, dedication, and drive, you can do this! Set aside dedicated time to write, re-write, edit and submit. Think creatively about what you want to present on, create your purpose, objectives and if it would be relevant to the entire advising field. Envision yourself already presenting at a future conference. Keep a notebook or phone close by, so when you feel inspired you can write down your ideas. Dialogue, and connect with some of your colleagues to bounce your ideas and ask for their ideas.
Ann: First, Just do it! The hard part is getting the information together and waiting. Don’t worry about funding or going or the other details yet. That can be worked out through grants and thinking creatively. Second, take some time to put together a proposal – don’t just quickly sketch something out. Block off a couple of hours and make sure the materials meet the criteria for submission. Third, have confidence in yourself. You’ve got this!
Danielle: 1. Be brave, brainstorm, and do it! You have nothing to lose and much to gain from the time it takes to write up your proposal, especially if you are feeling inspired. If a presentation opportunity doesn’t come from submitting a proposal to NACADA, more opportunities may be ahead (perhaps a future NACADA!). 2. Bounce ideas off of your colleagues/your network, and consider current theory/research. Connecting your ideas to existing research, theory, or other concepts strengthens the work you bring; likewise, the research/theory lays some groundwork for what your presentation will bring to the table. 3. Take careful time to consider what you want attendees to get out of your presentation, and how they might take your ideas/information back to their campus. Consider that you will be presenting to colleagues from different types of institutions who work with different student populations.
Consider submitting a proposal, not only for the potential opportunity to present at a regional or national conference but also for the rich learning opportunity from the whole experience. Our WACADA family has so many great ideas just waiting to be shared on a conference platform, and some of those great ideas are likely yours!
Attending conferences in this day and age can be challenging with budget concerns, scheduling conflicts, and/or other constraints. Maybe you feel the impact of these constraints and/or aren’t yet ready to submit a proposal for a national/regional conference just yet.
In that case, where are some places you could start?
- Volunteer to be a NACADA proposal reader! This is a great way to get experience and gain insight into crafting a conference proposal.
- Consider presenting at your own campus, with your department, or with other cross functional areas on your campus.
- Present at a smaller scale – submit a proposal to the WACADA Annual Conference or one of the Professional Development workshops! Present and get feedback through a local and lower cost option (and still connected to NACADA!).
- Apply for a WACADA grant to fund part of your conference fees. All WACADA members can apply for grants!
- Check out NACADA webinars (accessible through WACADA) for some inspiration.
- Consider signing up for a NACADA mentorship. Applications close February 27th!
We hope to see you at future NACADA and WACADA events, sharing your great ideas and contributions to the field of academic advising. You have so much to offer to your students as well as your colleagues. Don’t hesitate to lean on your WACADA family for support if you decide to submit a proposal. We’re all behind you and cheering you on!