Communication Invigoration

Finding silver linings has become a way of life during the global pandemic. For faculty and staff in higher education, the necessary proliferation of web events has provided new and increased access to seminars, retreats and conferences.

For a dynamic trio of Mizzou leaders dedicated to student success, the opportunity to present at the webinar “Building Relationships with Today’s Students through Effective Communication Strategies” — from NACADA: The Global Association for Academic Advising — was an honor and a privilege.

Tina Balser

MU Director of Student Success Initiatives Tina Balser

“Professional development is critical,” says Tina Balser, MU director of Student Success Initiatives. “Overall advising has evolved beyond the transactional elements that we are traditionally familiar with, and because of that, there are different frameworks, literature and research. NACADA is a key stakeholder in supporting those innovations and adding practicality to the work we do.

“At webinars like these, being able to take an hour out of our day and apply the things we learn right away is invaluable.”

Balser, along with Megan McCauley, student service coordinator in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; and Jordan Parshall, academic advisor in the Division of Biological Sciences; teamed with a group from the University of Vermont to share their unique perspectives at the national event. The hour-long presentation focused on effective strategies to improve advisor-advisee relationships through timely, relevant and descriptive communications.

Jordan Parshall, academic advisor in MU’s Division of Biological Sciences

“Whether we’re communicating with one student or 35,000, our written messages can be the beginning or end of relationship building,” Parshall says. “Our messages can make students feel like we care about them and that they’re important members of our community, or like they’re just a number on a really long list of numbers. I work to improve my communication skills every day because I know that students are more likely to be successful at MU if they feel like we care about them as individuals.”

A recording of the webinar is available online.

Portrait of Megan McCauley

Megan McCauley, student service coordinator in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

“Over those years, [Tina, Jordan and I] have traveled to conferences, collaborated on campus committees, and each added a child to our families,” says McCauley. “Tina and Jordan both care deeply about our undergraduate students’ experiences and demonstrate that care through their work. I am grateful that our relationship and discussions over the years have survived the pandemic and brought a sense of normalcy to my world.”

Cecilia Olivares — director of the MU Transfer Center, interim director of the MU Discovery Center and NACADA board president — helped promote her colleagues’ presentation.

Cecilia Olivares portrait

Cecilia Olivares, director of the MU Transfer Center, interim director of the Discovery Center, and board president of NACADA

“Our virtual NACADA annual conference was phenomenal,” says Olivares of the association’s annual event in October 2020 which was originally slated to take place in Puerto Rico. “The quality of the presentations and the level of engagement — we had 2,500 attendees — was amazing.”