This past March I visited Phoenix for the annual conference of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). While I was there I was able to check out four places on my restaurant list which will show up in later posts. I was also able to catch up with friends and colleagues I had met over the past few years. While I have been to NASPA many times before, this time I was able to experience it through three new lenses which made the experience all the more fun.
Lens #1: As a Sole Presenter
I was one of the lucky submitters to be accepted to present a program at this conference. This meant that I had to be prepared and ready to talk for 40 minutes about training student employees in the most effective and innovative way. My presentation was on the last day of the conference which gave me some time to make sure I was prepared but it also made the anticipation reign until my time slot arrived. Presenting was a lot of fun and the attendees were really open to my ideas and shared a bunch of their own. Some even asked for me to send my training documents to them after the conference. Now, some of the work I did is being used to improve training programs at campuses all across the country including Purdue, Northwestern, and Indiana. Pretty cool for a first time presenting all my own information. It is nice to be receive affirmation from colleagues outside of your home institution because then you know you are doing something right.
Lens #2: As a Board Member
Prior to my arrival in Phoenix, I was appointed to a leadership role on the Region VI (CA, HI, AZ) advisory board. This one act altered my conference experience entirely. In the past I would go to between six and ten conference sessions and spend my time learning about various topics. Not this time! In my position on the advisory board I was presented with the opportunity to begin seeing NASPA from the background. Most of my days were spent in meetings of the regional board and the regional conference committee, trainings of my committee members, and attendance at various meetings of the committees with which I worked. Needless to say I was booked solid from 8am-11pm almost everyday, even the day before the conference began.
The great thing about this lens was that I was able to meet so many different people over a few days. Many of these people being well know and influential “Rock Stars” of the profession. Also, those of you who know me are aware that I am at my best with new people when I have something specific to talk about. This position gave me that pathway to use when meeting people for the first time. At meetings and the knowledge community fair, I went around and met people from dozens of different groups and committees because I could talk about my area of responsibility on the board. For once at a NASPA conference, I was even able to interact with people at the regional reception instead of hanging out by the food and leaving relatively early. Next year, in Orlando, I will have so much more to talk about and it will be that much better!
Lens #3: As an Award Winner
Ok, so now I am going to be a little vain. In November I was recognized as the outstanding new professional for my region and received an award at the regional conference. I thought that it was over then but wow was I wrong. A few weeks before the conference I received word that my registration was covered by a corporate donation and that I would be recognized at the award luncheon during the conference. In addition, I was invited to a reception for all award recipients with NASPA leadership, had my name in the conference book, and received front row seats at the opening speaker, John Legend.
The last thing I received, which was by far the coolest, was a little “Award Winner” ribbon to put on my name tag. This little ribbon changed everything about the conference. Everyone that met me saw that I was one of those cool people and treated me just a little differently. Striking up conversations was all the more easier because everyone wanted to know what I won. For an introvert who struggles in mundane conversation, this made life really easy for me. It felt like I was a minor celebrity if only for a few days. Part of me wanted to save the ribbon and use it every year but alas that probably wouldn’t work. Oh what a little ribbon can do.
This was by far my best NASPA conference. Seeing it for the first time through these three lenses gave me a great new perspective on an awesome professional association. It only made me want to get more involved in the future. Too bad I can’t win awards every year! Oh, and did I mention that my last perk was that I got to meet and take a picture with John Legend! Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.