The Value of Professional Development

May 2, 2022
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
  • AACRAO LEAD
  • ascend
Two professionals studying a tablet.

Continuing our ongoing series highlighting AACRAO's ASCEND program participants, we met with AACRAO Member Malia Jones, Assistant Registrar for Operations at Elon University. We discussed her background, participation in the ASCEND program, and the importance of her mentor/mentee relationship throughout the conversation. 

Ms. Jones has been working in the Registrar’s Office since 2012 and recently accepted the position of Assistant Registrar for Operations at Elon University. The team is a little smaller, but in her words, “very well organized” and one she enjoys working with. 

Ms. Jones came to AACRAO’s ASCEND program by recommendation from her University Registrar and fellow AACRAO member Dr. Rodney Parks, a frequent contributor to various AACRAO publications. 

Having just finished up the Environmental Scanning portion of the ASCEND program, I was curious to hear her experience and thoughts on the subject matter. Ms. Jones responded:

It's definitely been interesting for me. This is my first time working on a project like this with enrollment management. I'm familiar with the area of enrollment management, even though I've just been in a registrar's office. So it is it's kind of new for me as far as seeing the data in these areas. I’ve seen this data in the past, but it's new to me to really analyze it and report on it.

I find it interesting all of the key areas necessary for an enrollment plan like this. For me, it's helping me be more acclimated to e-learning because I have to look into the data in different areas here. And it's also helped me realize how important data is and how important clean data is and how much a university relies on that.

Going from there, we discussed the issues some institutions face regarding data silos and information sharing. Ms. Jones highlighted that Elon University is generally very good at maintaining transparency. She has been able to access data & analytics from a variety of sources across the institution.

Meeting the Coach

ASCEND participants are paired with individual coaches early in the program to help them navigate the personal and professional stumbling blocks they might encounter throughout the program. For many in the ASCEND program, this relationship is one of the most valuable components of the program. When asked about her own experience with her mentor Ms. Jones replied:

My mentor is Michelle Sandlin, and she's been very helpful. She's very knowledgeable because she's been in higher ed for years. So it's really good to have her.

At first, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was happy to know that we’d be working with a mentor. That's been really helpful for me. I haven't had that—that kind of direct one-on-one mentorship. I've always had good relationships with my registrars, but it's hard sometimes to get that one-on-one interaction.

It's been great working with her. It was a little overwhelming when we first attended the conference back in November, the SEM conference, and they kind of went over what to expect as far as making the plan and everything, but the fact that we can break it down month by month, means it's not too overwhelming.

Ms. Jones praised the conversations with her coach from a professional development or training perspective and as an interactive discussion. Getting feedback, collaborating on ideas, and asking questions has been a valued part of her experience with ASCEND.

When asked if she would recommend the ASCEND program to others, she responded:

Yes, it's the best, especially if you're interested in growing and developing professionally in higher-ed. It gives us a chance to learn more and branch outside of your office and learn how other offices work and how everything works together. So if someone's looking to advance, I would definitely recommend it.

AACRAO members interested in learning more about AACRAO’s ASCEND program, want to get involved, or are curious about the process should visit our Signature Initiative page and join the list to stay updated on news about the program.

About the ASCEND Program

The ASCEND Program prepares mid-level professionals in the competencies required to take the next step in enrollment management leadership. The year-long intensive program seeks to:

  • advance the careers of program participants and provide them with important professional development;

  • help AACRAO and regional associations develop a “deep bench” of talented, motivated leaders from diverse backgrounds; and

  • provide individuals from identified under-represented groups in the association community (i.e., people of color, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people, people with disabilities) with support, access, and leadership opportunities.

The curriculum design incorporates AACRAO Professional Competencies and Proficiencies and leverages AACRAO's existing professional development opportunities.