This past year, I had the honor of serving on the 2016 Conference planning team. My focus was on our mid-level professional programming. When looking at the conference schedule, it may seem overwhelming and it can be difficult to navigate which workshops might be the most relevant to your work. Mid-level administrators make up the largest percentage of conference attendees and NASPA strives to provide a proportional amount of relevant programming for them. Here are a few suggestions that might help you navigate to make the best out of your NASPA experience:
· Participate in the opportunities to connect with professionals with similar interests through the Knowledge Communities. The Knowledge Communities are a great way to get connected with colleagues interested in the different topic areas. Don’t be afraid to join more than one! Look out for their sponsored sessions and open meetings to connect with them. There two new ones that just start this past year focused on Student Career Development and Undocumented Immigrants and Allies Knowledge Community.
· Look at the sessions ahead of time and try to choose a focus or two for your conference. You may want to choose sessions that focus on your office’s function but also take advantage of the sessions that are focused on your own professional development. When I was thinking about a doctoral program, I attended some session related to doctoral programs and it helped me to navigate my doctoral selection process. Select workshops that address both your office development and those that are more for your own personal growth.
· Take a look at the level that is listed in the program booklet for the workshop. There are tags for the workshops that focus on the intended audience. This can be helpful in narrowing down what workshops might pertain best for you. Choose at least two workshops per session so that you have some options in case the first workshop you go to is full or is not meeting your interests.
· If you are considering a doctoral program or research, go to the Scholarly Research sessions. It’s a great way to see what research is being done in our field. It’s also an interesting way to see how others have conducted their research and may spur some ideas for your own research.
· Connect with your region! Each region has a reception and it’s a great way to connect with different individuals from schools in your area. This is also an easy way to get involved with NASPA as the regions usually have opportunities to get involved in committees.
· Schedule lunches and coffees (or tea)! The conference is also a great time to network in connect with colleagues you may not see very often in person. Those conversations are often helpful, if not more, than workshop sessions. Email individuals that you are interested in chatting with beforehand. I met one of my favorite people and now mentor Mamta Accapadi, after an email conversation after find out that she did research similar to mine. We met up at NASPA to talk about my possible research and she has now become one of my mentors. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect with those who you may have “met” on social media. If they are attending the conference, most folks are eager to talk and meet up.
· Lastly, take time for yourself. It is important to take time to re-charge and get some rest. The conference can take a toll on mentally and it’s important to eat well, take care of yourself and get some sleep!
See you in San Antonio ~ Have a great conference!
Avani Rana, Ed.D. Director of Leadership at The College of New Jersey