Friday, February 25, 2011

Those sought after "soft" skills

I'm new to arts advising.  Prior to starting at West Chester University, I had been an education advisor for almost 6 years, so I knew transitioning to music, art and theatre would be a change for me.  I also knew that I'd need some help.  So I immediately turned to NACADA and was lucky enough to find an article in Academic Advising Today about advising arts majors by Shaun McCracken.  Now, a few months later, I find myself in the wonderful position to learn even more from her experiences advising arts students during her upcoming Region 2 session.  I wonder if Shaun knows I've put her on my office speed dial?

If I tweeted you, “I see you’re doing a session at #nacadaR2. Cool! What’s it about?”, how would you reply via Twitter?
Hey #nacadar2, you’re about to learn how to advise the fine arts student in the STEM world.
Why did you decide to do a presentation on this topic?
There's so much focus on practical fields such as business, pre-health and science these days that we don't often focus on how practical the arts training is.  My degrees are in the arts and I rely on that training each day to work with my students.  For example, in theatre you learn about mirroring behavior and I find that sometimes I can use this training in working with my advisees.  It helps me get into their heads and understand their psychological sphere.
Why do you think this is important for NACADA Region 2?
The Virginia governor has placed a lot of emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) funding and many of the schools in Region 2 have STEM programs that are highly regarded.  However, many of those same schools also have arts programs that are highly regarded.  This gives us an incredible opportunity to combine those together to create STEAM and improve the state of education in our region.
What’s the most important idea you hope attendees leave your session with?
Arts training resonates across disciplines and, as advisors, we are uniquely situated to help students understand the importance of these disciplines in their life connections.
What are you most looking forward to about the conference?
I can't wait to talk to other advisors in my discipline and other disciplines.  That exchange of ideas is what gets the spark going and leads to innovation; you really have to bounce ideas off one another for improvement of those ideas.  The more I talk to other people, the better of an advisor I become.

Session Title: Beyond "Soft" Skills: Arts Advising for the 21st Century
Day & Time: Thursday, April 7 @ 9:45 AM
Abstract: Students often face pressure from parents to find a “practical” degree and are often guided away from their true passion—leading to decreased academic performance. The Arts Advising Program at VCU encourages students to look at the skills they are learning in their Arts classes in new ways, enabling them to transfer their “artistic” skills into the business world and beyond. This presentation will highlight the “soft” skills that students learn in the Visual/Performing Arts employers are looking for. Participants will learn new ways of viewing artistic skills so they may help the student-artist become more forward-thinking in regard to their career skills.

Shaun McCracken is an Academic Advisor in the University College at Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s been an active member of the advising community for 7 years. You can reach her at

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