By Scott Peska, Dean for Students, Waubonsee Community College
Today, I took a moment to reflect. Albeit, a brief moment. It was the first day of the fall semester at my campus. Yes, students were wandering with schedules in their hands looking for building signage and friendly faces to help them find their way. It has come to be one of my favorite days, right up there with the first day of summer break when campus becomes eerily quiet again. It is a day we all welcome because of the countless hours and efforts that went into preparing for the students’ arrival. Before the first day of classes there are new student orientations, advising appointments, and preparation for welcome week activities, of which all are designed to make it a smooth start to the academic year for our students.
While I reflected, my thoughts also went to how the same is true for the NASPA Annual Conference. This summer I had the fortune to join the 2017 Annual Conference Leadership Committee, which is one of the groups responsible for crafting your experience in San Antonio this March. This tremendous group of professionals is in the midst of planning and preparing and we want to remind you that there are a couple of things you can do to help make the NASPA Annual Conference outstanding.
This is the ideal time to reach out to new colleagues at your institution and within your region to encourage them to explore all that NASPA has to offer. Forty percent of Annual Conference attendees are first timers, and attending is the most common catalyst to a prolonged engagement with NASPA. Perhaps share with them the opportunity to present, and collaborate on a program submission together. (The deadline is September 2, so don't delay!) Spread the word about NASPA's resources to your friends in the field in the same way that you expose new students to all the resources on your campus to kick off the year.
The heart of NASPA is its members, and we are empowered through the newtorks of NASPA's Knowledge Communities, Regions, and Constituent Groups. The start of the year is a great time to become involved in these volunteer-led communities—you will never have the "time to spare" and prioritizing your own professional development is a critical habit to develop. Choose a group that aligns with your interests and passions, and reach out to leadership to learn how you can support their initiatives at the Annual Conference. Connecting into a sub-community within NASPA that you can then engage with in San Antonio will only serve to personalize and deepen your experience. For example, the Community Colleges Division, which I am engaged with as the Representative for Region IV-East, explores ways to engage more community college members and expand our programmatic offerings. At the Annual Conference, we will seek to gather as many members and other CC SA pros as possible, both to socialize and build community, but also to learn from each other as we share innovations and support eachother in the critical and often trying work of community college administrators. No matter what your functional area in the field, stage of your career, or niche passion within higher ed, there is a KC or Constituient Group already at work within NASPA just waiting for your perspective, and the NASPA Annual Conference is their primary gathering space.
As many of you likely are busy this time of year helping new students adjust academically and socially, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay on top of all that is going on. NASPA has a strong social media presence to keep you aware of all the great things in store for you at #NASPA17. Like NASPA's Facebook page and follow @NASPAtweets on Twitter to receive the most trending information about the Annual Conference as it is announced (e.g. speakers, pre-conferences, housing, and registration). Social channels are also a great way to discover more NASPA members that share common interests and stay connected with those you met in previous years. Don't forget to tag it up with #NASPA17!
The 2017 Annual Conference Leadership Committee is absolutely dedicated to making #NASPA17 one of the greatest in the event's 98 year history. I hope you will consider the ways I have mentioned to deepen your engagement and enrich your conference experience. And don't forget, if presenting is an aspiration for your journey to San Antonio, program submissions are due September 2 at 11:59 p.m. Looking forward to connecting with you at the BIG event!