How I Learned to Be More

In March, I wrote about attending a national conference and questions to ask yourself when attending a conference. Well, since then, I attended the annual national conference for the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) in Baltimore, MD, and had an awesome learning experience. If you are a student in a professional organization, try to take advantage of the lower costs to attend a conference (whether it’s state, regional, or national).

The conference theme for this year was: “Be More.” Simple, right? Each session, talk, and interaction helped me to realize that I need and WANT to be more of a professional and to excel in the field of student affairs.

Here’s how I learned to BE MORE:

  • When attending sessions, challenge yourself to pick topics that you don’t have experience with. The knowledge will broaden your horizons and ultimately help you understand your students even better.
  • Become involved and be intentional with that involvement. Check out committees or other small groups within the larger organization. They may even have a student specific group! ACPA has the Standing Committee for Grad Students & New Professionals & I’m a part of that group (along with the Standing Committee for Women).
  • Twitter can have an amazing power. I met so many people in person that I’ve been connected to online for a while now. It’s amazing to meet someone in person for the first time and to have them give you a hug as if they’ve known you forever. (true story) Plus, it was great to be the presence of great, talented, movitated, and innovative people.
  • When suggesting to meet by “the escalators,” make sure to specify which set of escalators as there can be up to three sets of them on one floor. Oops.
  • Take notes. You never know who you’ll be sharing the information with (co-workers, classmates, future co-workers, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand what’s going on in the session.
  • If you are worried about meeting people, volunteer at the convention and you’ll automatically make connections. I applied to be a part of the ACPA Ambassadors group which directly connected graduate students with higher level professionals involved in the inner workings of the organization.

When I reflected on the conference once it was all over I discovered that I will be more: Involved, Aware, Thoughtful, Reflective, and Present in Life Outside of Work/School.

Have you challenged yourself to BE MORE recently?

It’s Conference Time!

It is conference season in the world of Student Affairs and Higher Education. Luckily, I have the opportunity to attend the ACPA (American College Personnel Association) National Conference in Baltimore, MD, in just a few short weeks. I’ve been a grad student member of the organization for about three years and this is my first opportunity to attend the national conference. However, I have attended conferences on the state level for the past two years. I thought I would share with you my experiences before, during, and after the conference. Before and after will be covered here on the blog and you’ll be able to catch the “during” over on our Twitter account ( when I use my assigned day of tweeting to cover what I’m learning at the conference.

So how does my going to a conference affect you as a student? It’s to prove that becoming involved in a professional association related to your field is important while you are still a student. Plus, the fees are generally quite a bit cheaper as a student!

The student affairs field has several professional organizations to choose from. A few associations are for general student affairs and others are function-specific. Some associations include:

While these associations don’t represent every single association in the student affairs field, it’s a good start. Do research into your own industry. Which associations look interesting to you? Which have opportunities specifically for undergraduates or graduates to become involved? Which associations stretch your thinking about your future industry? Once you’ve found a professional association you want to join – do it! Then find out how to get involved.

Here are some questions to think of prior to attending a conference (no matter what level of the association – i.e. state, regional, or national).

How will I benefit from this conference?

Professional Development, knowledge, exposure to new ideas, networking with professionals already in the field, etc.

Can I further my participation at the conference besides attending sessions?

Participate in Case Study Presentations (put your classes into action!), present research, or volunteer your time to help (I was lucky enough to be selected as an ACPA Ambassador and will be participating in a variety of activities and volunteering my time while in Baltimore)

What is the social media backchannel?

If you’re connected to social media (such as Twitter) you can follow the backchannel (attendees tweeting live!) of the conference whether you’re there or not. The ACPA conference will be rocking the #ACPA11 hashtag on Twitter for all to follow the many experiences, thoughts, and revelations that attendees are having.

What are the different networking opportunities?

Speed networking, receptions, dinners/lunches, socials (organized or informal – such as tweet-ups)

What is the expected etiquette?

Dress, behavior, attendance to programs or evening events

Are you going with anyone, such as a classmate or colleague?

If you are attending with one or more other people, I suggest creating a plan of attack and planning out who is attending which sessions. You’ll be able to acquire more information/knowledge from the conference if different people are attending different sessions.

Share the information you learn with others. Talk about sessions afterwards to give yourself a chance to process what you have learned. Talking through the information together may improve your understanding of the content.

Is there an opportunity to interview for job positions while at the conference?

Higher Education can be somewhat unique in that we have “placement exchanges” in conjunction with conferences so people who are job searching can interview with multiple schools all in one place (TPE & C3). Generally, the next step after this is to have an on-campus interview if you’re in the running for a position. Check to see if your industry/field does events like this.

How can I continue the conversation once the conference is over?

Connect with people you’ve met at the conference through email/Twitter/LinkedIn once you get home from the conference.

Get involved in the organization: committees, write for newsletters, join if you haven’t already, if you attended a national conference – check to see if there is a state or regional chapter you can join.

That’s all I have for pre-conference information. Let us know if you have questions by connecting with us through the comments section, Twitter, or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!

Follow my national conference experience through the @UWWCareer account on Twitter on March 29th.