Close to 200 academic advisors, academic and student affairs professionals and educators in Doha, the region and beyond attended the 2014 NACADA Middle East conference, the first-ever conference on academic advising in the region.
Co-hosted by Qatar University (QU) Center for Academic Advising and Retention and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), the 2-day forum which is being held for the first time in the Middle East, drew presenters from more than 20 institutions across the Middle East such as QU, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi University, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa University, American University of Sharjah, University of Leicester, Isik University, and Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences.
The opening ceremony was attended by officials from both parties including QU President Prof Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, NACADA Executive Director Dr Charlie Nutt (both keynote speakers), QU VP for Student Affairs Dr Omar Al Ansari, deans, faculty and students. Also attending were representatives from Community College Qatar, College of the North Atlantic Qatar, Stenden University, and branch universities at Education City.
The ceremony also included presentation of the NACADA 2014 Outstanding Academic Advising Program Certificate of Merit Award to Prof Al Misnad (pictured) by Dr Nutt. The Award is in recognition of the Center’s distinctive academic advising programs, making QU the only university in the Gulf and the Middle East to receive this prestigious achievement. Plans are underway to submit application for NACADA accreditation of the Center’s programs.
In her opening remarks, Prof Al Misnad said: “Qatar University has set a strategic vision on 4 pillars, of which student success is a key component. In recent years, student services, including academic advising, have seen tremendous growth and development at QU. Their growth has been integral to the University’s strategic vision for providing high-quality education that extends beyond academic achievement”. She noted the importance of academic advising in the myriad of student services that include career guidance, student counseling, learning support, and services for students with special needs, which work together and complement each other to make the student experience a success.
Prof Al Misnad added that QU’s commitment to giving students a comprehensive experience of academic development and personal growth begins with a deep and culturally-rooted understanding of what the transition to university life entails, and noted that the transition comes with a distinct set of challenges. “For many students, university is the start of a phase of expanded opportunities, making choices, taking decision more independently, prioritizing tasks, and learning to manage time”, she said, continuing, “we understand that these are crucial skills that when properly supported, set up students for success at university as well beyond. This understanding is the basis for striving to make our student services effective, appropriate, responsive, and supportive.
We deeply appreciate our partnership with NACADA and its excellent global outlook which will help us work together and benefit from experiences and best practices in academic advising, a truly crucial piece of the student success puzzle”. Dr Nutt detailed academic advisors’ role which he said is to teach students what higher education is. “Academic advisors are not assistants, schedulers, or registrars -- we teach them the importance of the curriculum. We teach students the skills they require to succeed, how to be successful and how to move forward in life”.
He went on to say: “College is not about acquiring a job. It is about becoming an educated citizen of a global community. What we want from this Middle East conference is to leave participants passionate – passionate about students, about education, and about advising. We are advisors and we are proud of what we do”. The conference program included workshops, discussion panels, poster sessions and paper presentations that address the most current trends in academic advising and practices towards students’ motivation, retention, and success such as the First-Year Experience, student welfare, peer mentoring and career planning.