I remember my first NASPA Annual Conference. It was in Baltimore, MD in 2014. I was a 2nd year graduate student heading to Baltimore for professional development and to interview at The Placement Exchange. I recall the energy I felt in the conference space, filled with thousands of professionals who understood what I did for a living (which was a welcome change from the “so you’re a teacher” I received from my family), was incredible. Having attended the NASPA Annual Conference every year since 2014, both in New Orleans, LA (2015) and Indianapolis, IN (2016) as a student affairs practitioner, I have learned a few things that might help you as a new professional navigate your conference experience:
As you begin preparing for the conference, make sure to factor in time for yourself. Annual Conference can be tiring at times, so be sure to schedule in breaks for a quick snack, coffee, or a walk around the city. These breaks are a great time to network with people you’ve met at the conference or to reconnect with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. Reach out to these people prior to the conference to set up some times to catch up.
There are a large number of sessions occurring concurrently throughout the conference so you may want to take a look at the schedule prior to arriving and create your ideal schedule. While planning your schedule, be sure to challenge yourself to think outside of your own unique interests and functional area and attend one or two sessions you know nothing about.
After my first NASPA Annual Conference, I was itching to get involved. I quickly joined the leadership team for the Gender and Sexuality Knowledge Community as well as the Technology Knowledge Community, participated in case-study competitions, served as a program reviewer, co-presented a program and contributed to the First Time Attendee planning committee. All of these opportunities provided a depth to my Annual Conference experience that went beyond traditional educational programming. Your experience as a new professional within NASPA is what you make of it and there are countless ways to get involved. You will not only build your professional portfolio, but will also have an opportunity to engage with other SA pros from across the country and the globe, representing all institutional types and functional areas.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest opportunities the NASPA Annual Conference provides is a chance to reconnect with colleagues while also forging new relationships. As a new professional, take the opportunity after the conference ends to follow up with individuals you met and remain connected. Schedule phone conversations, engage through social media or email. Build these connections so that as you continue your involvement with NASPA, your network continues to expand and be nurtured by your experiences.
Overall, the NASPA Annual Conference is one of the things I looked forward to most as a student affairs practitioner. Now, as a NASPA staff member, I look forward to providing each of you an opportunity to engage with the association in meaningful ways, and impactful professional development that pairs with your experience on campus.
Jake Frasier, Assistant Director of Educational Programs, NASPA