Giving Back Through Coaching

December 23, 2022
  • Leadership and Management
  • ascend
  • signature initatives
Instructor teaching a group of adult students.

AACRAO's ASCEND program, focused on developing, growing, and diversifying leadership in enrollment management, welcomes this year's newest ASCEND coaches. ASCEND provides a unique and affordable opportunity for mid-level managers in admissions, advising, financial aid, and records and academic services to grow in their careers.

This year's ASCEND cohort kicked off their program at AACRAO’s 2022 SEM Conference in Toronto, Ontario, and was able to meet with their program coaches in person for the first time. Each ASCEND participant is assigned a coach who provides mentoring, support, and guidance to complete the program requirements and career planning, and professional growth and development.

In preparation for this article, we asked our latest ASCEND coaches why they chose to participate, what their experience with the program has been like, and if they have any advice for those wishing to participate in the future.

When asked why she chose to be an ASCEND coach Kimberly Buster-Williams, Vice President of Enrollment Management at Northeastern Illinois University, wrote:

...I truly believe that “to whom much is given, much is required.” Mentoring others is a way to give back and allows me to follow in the footsteps of a beloved relative and trailblazer in higher education—Alida P. Banks. 

When I applied to graduate school in 1999, I shared in my goal statement that I wanted to be a dean of students. At the time, I was unaware that my great, great-aunt Alida Priscilla Banks was a pioneer in this area serving as the first Dean of Women at West Virginia State College in 1938 and in the same role at Howard University following the death of Lucy Diggs Slowe. 

Alida Banks was my great-grandmother’s sister. She graduated from Hampton Institute in 1909, just 46 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. 

The courage, tenacity, and resilience that women administrators like Alice Palmer, the country’s first Dean of Women at the University of Chicago in 1892 and my Aunt Alida possessed serve as both my inspiration and my North Star as it relates to my administrative identity and practice. When I am presented with opportunities to give back to my profession, I often think of my heroes and say.. “yes, count me in”.

And when discussing her experience with the ASCEND program to date, Ms. Buster-Williams replied:

My experience as an ASCEND mentor has been great. I look forward to many more sessions with my mentee and hope to provide a safe place for candid discussions and reflections on what’s on the horizon in our profession. This program undoubtedly provides the professional development needed to bridge extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. 

...My advice for this ASCEND cohort, or those interested in participating in the future, is to consider the ways that mentoring can serve you as you move up the career ladder. Mentors have certainly been a talisman to my career, and to many others.

Another of our ASCEND coaches, Dr. Alicia Moore, Dean of Student and Enrollment Services for Central Oregon Community College, commented:

Whenever I work with individuals or institutions engaged in SEM work, I always share the following: 

  1. Never hesitate to ask for help/advice from others, especially within the SEM world. I have always found colleagues to be nothing but open, supportive, willing to share their best practice experiences, and willing to help wrestle through challenging situations.

  2. We can all always learn from institutions that are different than us. Even though I work at a community college, some of the best SEM practices I’ve gained were from elite four-year institutions, and the reverse is true as well. There are so many tidbits that can make or break our SEM work, that we absolutely cannot and should not limit ourselves to “those who look like us.” (By learning from other institutions) we will have richer conversations, implement stronger practices and in turn, do our best by our students.

When asked how the ASCEND program promotes professional development and profile building Dr. Tammy Aagard, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at the University of Florida, added:

One of the most valuable pieces of the ASCEND program is the development of professional networks. These networks include the cohort of other ASCEND participants, coaches, and faculty members, as well as AACRAO leadership and caucuses. The ASCEND program also necessitates the investment of the institution in these emerging leaders. It gives ASCEND participants the opportunity to expand their relationships and influence on their home campuses in the completion of a major project like a SEM plan. Completion of the ASCEND program acknowledges a core level of understanding that participants can use when advancing their careers.

Meet all of our ASCEND Coaches

Explore AACRAO's Signature Initiative LEAD and learn how you can get involved.


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