Our email inboxes are flooded with opportunities for professional development. Webinars, seminars, workshops, institutes, video chats…the list goes on and on. No one can take advantage of every opportunity. There simply isn’t the time and the funds to do so. We must be judicious with our time (personal and professional) and our funds (personal and given common budget issues, professional).
With all the opportunities available to us for professional development, why spend your time and money on a large annual conference? Here are five reasons why I find the NASPA Annual Conference to be such a valuable use of my time and funds.
1. Build Your Network. Spending time with like-minded individuals from all professional levels gives us the chance to meet and forge relationships to help us grow and develop. It’s no secret that student affairs is a small, well connected field. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who went to grad school or worked with someone else. Some of the most valuable conversations happen outside in the hallways of the convention center or over coffee or lunch in a small café. Some more structured programs that offer great opportunity for meaningful connections include WISA’s Candid Conversations, SSAO Institute, NASPA Undergraduate Conference, Knowledge Community receptions, networking, and sponsored sessions, and First Time Attendee programs and activities. Regardless of how the conversations start, the opportunities to meet people, forge new relationships, and spend time with important people in our lives who may not be next door but rather across the country or around the world are invaluable and a hallmark of the NASPA Annual Conference.
2. Hear Directly From Major Speakers and Program Facilitators. Larger annual conferences provide opportunities for attending many different programs on various topics and include the chance to hear from nationally recognized experts in the field and beyond. Some of us belong to specialty organizations based on our primary functional area (NODA for orientation, NACA for Activities, etc.). The benefit to going to such a conference is noteworthy – you can concentrate on strengthening your ties to your particular specialty and learn from those in similar roles. The benefit to attending a large generalist conference is the vast array of programs that span many topic areas. You can stay in your particular sphere or branch out and attend sessions on another topic or interest—perhaps a area you are hoping to move your career towards. With well over 500 individual sessions, there really is something for everyone!
3. Attend Innovative Programs and Sessions. Up for something a bit different? Tired of the same old education sessions? We’ve got you covered. SA Speaks, Innovation Station programming, Virtual Ticket, Scholarly Paper Sessions, Poster Sessions, First Time Attendees programs, Mini-Institutes and Forums, and Featured Speakers—an attendee can plan their entire conference around specialty programs. Don’t forget that NASPA’s 29 Knowledge Communities sponsor sessions, roundtables, and socials open to all members to come and learn, network, and share relevant information around a common focus area.
4. Location, Location, Location! Our blog Ten Things You Need to Know About San Antonio says it all. Located on the historic Riverwalk, the beautiful Henry B. González Convention Center will be our home base for the event. Attending the NASPA Annual Conference in such a vibrant and exciting city as San Antonio affords us the chance to experience a different part of the country and all the cultural nuances of the area. In between all those sessions and programs there are always opportunities to go out and explore the local area, restaurants, nightlife, cultural events, and even a river cruise!. It may be nice to have one of those networking, mentoring, or coffee discussions in any of the beautiful venues that offer river views.
5. Celebrate Achievements. We are a profession which supports growth and celebrates successes. We all have the opportunity through our Regions to nominate regional, state, and national award contenders. The winners of these awards are acknowledged for their contributions in various ways throughout the conference. Pillars of the Profession, the highest honor NASPA can bestow, are celebrated in a ceremony during the conference. The NASPA Awards Luncheon is one of the conference highlights, honoring recipients of NASPA’s Excellence Awards. Retiring professionals are honored, and we remember those we lost over the year. These are special times which add value and heart to our conference experience.
These are my top 5 reasons for attending the NASPA Annual Conference. What are yours? Please feel free to comment so we can share in the conversation. I’d love to hear what brings you to the Annual Conference year-after-year.
During the next few months, we will announce the major speakers, program proposals are due on September 2, 2016, and the housing bureau open on November 4, 2016. We will also send updates through the Annual Conference blog on NASPActs and our social justice programming. Stay tuned! There is much more to come!