My first time attending the NASPA Annual Conference was in 2010 in Chicago, IL. To be in the presence of so many student affairs professionals was an overwhelming yet rewarding experience. I was determined to find my niche and take advantage of this opportunity as a part of my professional journey. I wanted to be involved in every program, volunteer for every spot available, hear every speaker and connect with as many professionals as possible. Luckily, I realized that I would not be able to do it all before I arrived at the conference and focused my attention on programs and opportunities that specifically met my needs as a professional. One of those programs was Panel of Listeners, a one-on-one mentoring program for those who identify as women at all professional levels that takes place each year during the Annual Conference.
At the time, I was a new professional working to obtain my master’s degree and was looking for guidance on what my next steps should be. Fortunately, I had a few mentors in my life who had offered tips and advice on what options I could explore. However, all of my mentors were white women. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from these women but despite all of the conversations we had I always felt like something was missing. I felt like our conversations only centered on my identities as a woman or mother. I felt like I needed to talk to someone who could relate to my unique experiences as a woman of color working in the field of higher education. Therefore, Panel of Listeners seemed like a great program where I could receive some coaching and learn from other women who looked like me. The program allowed me to request a mentor that met my specific needs or shared my similar identities. I specifically requested to be matched with a woman of color who was in a mid-level position or higher. Participating in Panel of Listeners, now known as Candid Conversations, afforded me the opportunity to connect with a woman of color who offered insight into her experiences and how to navigate the complexity of our intersecting identities while working in higher education. Over the years, I’ve engaged in candid conversations with a number of distinguished women in our field such as Dr. Gail Cole-Avent, Dr. Shauna T. Porter and Lorraine D. Acker. Serving as a mentee has been just as rewarding as serving as a mentor. Through Candid Conversations, I’ve mentored graduate students, new professionals and other women hoping to make a connection with someone in a similar professional role.
Candid Conversations has allowed me to share with other women who had similar interests, lifestyles, career trajectories and backgrounds and has provided me with small moments of mentorship to help me keep moving forward in the field. Whether you are a woman of color, a LGBQTIA professional, a mid-level professional, a mom, and/or a prospective Ph.D. student, there is a mentor for every woman in this program.
Oprah Winfrey once said that, “a mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” Many times we find hope in what others, such as mentors, offer up as advice, guidance or insight. Every mentor and mentee that I have encountered through Candid Conversations over the last 7 years has allowed me to see the hope inside myself and the hope for my future in this field. If you are planning to attend the 2017 NASPA Annual Conference in San Antonio, register to participate in Candid Conversations and do what you can to add a little hope to the life of another woman in student affairs.
Brandy S. Propst, M.Ed.
Candid Conversations Chair
Center for Women Board member