2019 NASPA Community Colleges Institute: A Graduate Student’s Perspective

naspa community college division

Betzabel Martinez

July 2, 2019

As a graduate student in a higher education program, I have had the unique opportunity, like many of my peers, to intern in different spaces in hopes of finding a space that feels like home. For me, that space is the community college. Community colleges play a huge role in our education system and I am glad to know that we, community college professionals, have a space to connect and learn with and from one another through the NASPA Community Colleges Division. Specifically, the CCD provides professional development opportunities for its members such as hosting the annual Community Colleges Institute at NASPA Annual Conference.

This past conference was the first time I attended the CCI and it was an amazing experience. It was amazing because of three main reasons: the tone that was set for the institute, the learning that took place, and of course, the people.

The tone

President Kruger opened the institute by laying out the facts: our community colleges students are being impacted by many different issues. We love our students. I can almost guarantee every community college professional will express this feeling, and because of this love for our students, it's important to name the issues and concerns they have, so that as colleagues we can collaborate on creating solutions. Our students are facing homelessness, food insecurity, domestic abuse, unemployment, child care issues and much more. It would be unfair to hide behind these concerns because only by acknowledging these issues can we begin to make change. Dr. Mike Flores, our keynote speaker, re-emphasized some of these during our second day opening session while also providing the solutions his institution has implemented. Being aware of the realities within higher education keeps me focused and grounded in the work I do, while still allowing myself to enjoy the time I spend with colleagues in spaces like these.

The learning

As a new professional, oftentimes (really, I mean every time) when I attend a conference, I question: Why am I here? I’m not an administrator nor do I hold a mid-level manager position, so why did I come? Will there be things I learn that I can apply directly?

The CCI did a great job at making the entire institute seem less daunting by allowing attendees to pick one of three tracks to follow throughout the institute. I was able to follow the Outcomes Assessment which took a look at how to plan student-centered programs and initiatives, but moreover how to assess their effectiveness. I took pieces of knowledge from every presentation and got to meet other new professionals in the room, many who have recently made the switch to working within the community college. We were placed in groups that worked together on creating our Action Plans and I felt super welcomed and like I really had a voice within the institute. I belonged, and that was the best part.

The people

Yes, a lot of us head out to NASPA annually to catch up with colleagues, friends, and mentors, so do I, but how awesome is it to do all that AND be with one another in a learning environment?! The people really do many institutes like this a great place to be in. I was lucky enough to have my NUFP mentor at the CCI and that she introduced me to her amazing colleagues. I got to meet many individuals through the different activities and learn not only about their professional endeavors, but about who they are and what the community college means to them. There were many CC professionals of color that attended the institute that made me feel like I do have a place here now, as a new professional, and later as an administrator.

For the future

I had a great experience at the CCI 2019. I am looking forward to attending many more in the future, especially as I make professional transitions. I hope to see more Latinx professionals like myself attend the CCI and CCD sponsored presentations. I hope more graduate students consider attending the CCI in order to get a closer look at the CC profession.

See you all in Austin!

About the author:
Betzabel Z. Martinez
Project/Program Specialist, Student Equity
Mt. San Antonio College
Graduate student, University of Southern California
bzmartin@usc.edu Twitter: @higheredwithbtz

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