Hey, everyone! John Strickland from Exploratory here to provide some thoughts, reflections, and musings from my experience at the Region IV Conference in Mobile, Alabama last month. I had a great time traveling with our Advising First team, exploring the wonderful city of Mobile, learning from our colleagues at other institutions, and winning the Best Presentation of Region IV.


I had a great time traveling with Dawn, Nina, Erin, and Ashlyn on our way to Mobile. We listened to tasty jams, talked about our lives outside of work, and took naps (Dawn drove, so I don’t think she took a nap. If she did, I didn’t notice). I also got the chance to share some neat trivia about my hometown of Pensacola, FL as we passed it on the way there.

Travel Tip: You can do some great shopping at the outlet mall in Foley, Alabama, which isn’t too far off the direct path to Mobile. I would recommend not eating at the food court, though. It was underwhelming. Luckily, I won the Best Presentation of Region IV, so the poor dining experience didn’t detract much from the overall experience.


I attended several great presentations through the course of the event. One of the most notable presentations I attended was a presentation by Angelia Lomax from Tennessee State University. She discussed the use of appreciative advising within the context of her work at a historically black college/university (HBCU). We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of using a strengths-based advising approach when working with students. The main point I took from the presentation is to take mental inventory of the timing and appropriateness of utilizing holistic, developmental advising. Sometimes, it’s okay to be prescriptive. Sometimes, it’s necessary to do a bit more.

I also really enjoyed a presentation by Dr. John Igwebuike from Alcorn State University. Dr. Igwebuike discussed the importance of effective listening in our advising practice. He shared a really fascinating statistic: only 2 percent of the people you meet have actually received any formal training on listening. We have been taught so many different ways how to read, write, and speak, but what have we learned about listening? As advisors, it is important for us to listen to both verbal and non-verbal responses and synthesize that information into a potential solution. I will definitely be reaching out to him for additional resources about the tool of listening.


This was the first time I presented at a professional conference. It was definitely a nerve-wracking experience, considering my presentation was on a topic (humor) that hasn’t been discussed much in relation to advising. Not only that, but my session was during the final session of the final day, so I literally had the entire conference to worry about it!

I really appreciated the willingness of the conference planning committee to accept and take a chance on my wacky presentation. I felt like I had something to say and contribute to the practice of advising, and luckily, they agreed. I encourage everyone in our profession to present at a conference at least once in their career. I believe everyone has the ability to present information with a unique voice, and sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes to get a fresh perspective of the work we do every day.


John Strickland

About the writer: John Strickland is an Exploratory advisor with Advising First. He’s married to a human female and adopted father to a feline male.

You can see John’s approved proposal for the conference here: Advising is a Joke Proposal Example