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Refreshing reflections of a NASPA first-timer: Kim Kushner

February 16, 2010

To a first-time attendee, the NASPA Annual Conference can seem like an intimidating and challenging experience. However, it can also be one of the most exciting parts of a young professional’s career. I am excited to blog about my anticipation, anxiety, and energy in the months leading up to this conference. Although I often reflect on my personal and professional development for graduate school assignments, this blogging reflection process will be extremely beneficial as I try to sort through the opportunities available for me at this large event. Through this blogging experience, I hope to discover the professional development opportunities afforded to me at NASPA, my goals for attending this conference, and some of the conference sessions I plan to attend. Before I explore these topics any further, let me first introduce myself to this blogging community.

My name is Kim Kushner and I am a second year Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) master’s student at Indiana University. I am originally from Buffalo, NY and graduated from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 2006 with a degree in English and a minor in Spanish. At OSU, I was an active student leader in dance marathon and diversity education programming, and worked as a Resident Advisor for first-year and upperclassmen populations. After graduation, I worked for Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at Princeton University and Indiana University. At Hillel, I was an educator and resource within the two campus communities as I partnered with university offices and community agencies to promote cultural and religious pluralism. As a current HESA student, I work at the IU Student Alumni Association, advising students in large-scale campus events (e.g., Homecoming), career services initiatives, and other leadership development programs. I have also worked at Buffalo State College as the National Orientation Directors Association (NODA) intern, and at StudentVoice as their Graduate Intern.

The aforementioned experiences have shaped who I am as a practitioner, and who I hope to become as a young leader and scholar within the student affairs profession. Through these experiences, I have discovered that my enthusiasm for this profession involves education outside of the classroom and the ability to guide students in achieving their personal, academic, and professional goals. I am passionate about living my life for the betterment of the students with whom I work, helping them develop holistically as they discover their own passions. Although I am not exactly sure what I want to do after graduation in May 2010 (98 days and counting!), I know that I want a position that has me directly interacting with students on a daily basis. These interactions will ultimately help me find joy in my work, providing me with the ability to be an energized and engaged practitioner and reflective learner.

One of my goals for attending NASPA is to actively engage in the various professional development opportunities afforded to me throughout The Placement Exchange, the pre-conference workshops, and the different conference sessions. I plan to achieve this goal through networking with other conference attendees. Although networking is often an elusive term to new professionals, I understand that NASPA will provide me with networking experiences that I may not encounter without the conference’s guidance and support. Thus, through attending conference sessions and having informal conversations between sessions, I hope to meet professionals with diverse knowledge, research interests, and experiences. Although I have concrete research interests (i.e., international education, student leadership programs, minority student identity development), my career path is undefined. Through learning about others’ professional journeys, I will better reflect on my own personal, academic, and professional interests and future ambitions. I also hope to meet people from all across the world, challenging me to think critically about the ways I currently research and practice.

Another professional development goal I have concerns getting more involved in the various NASPA Knowledge Communities (KC). In particular, I hope to get more involved in the Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community (SLP-KC). Throughout the past year, I have been involved in the SLP-KC. Through participating in conference calls and communicating with members, I learned about student leadership trainings and educational opportunities. I am currently co-leading the , collaborating with peers to showcase the KC’s history and mission while interacting with new and active members. Through volunteering to promote the SLP-KC at the national level, I hope to contribute to NASPA by showcasing the services of an active KC with invaluable resources. I hope to also network with individuals who share interests similar to my own, thereby helping me learn about career opportunities in fields such as student activities, orientation/new student programs, and leadership education. Moreover, I also want to get involved in the New Professionals and Graduates Knowledge Community (NPGS-KC) to further benefit from my NASPA attendance and to contribute to the overall conference. I am currently deciding whether or not I want to participate in the NPGS Case Study Competition; by the time of my next blog, I should have more to write about regarding this professional development opportunity.

Lastly, another major goal of attending NASPA is to expose myself to diverse sessions related to topics that interest me. As soon as I registered for the conference in December, I started to build my NASPA itinerary online. Currently, sessions that most interest me include topics related to assessment, evaluation, and learning outcomes. As a young professional, StudentVoice pre-conference workshops on survey making and sessions such as Measuring up: The challenges of assessment and evaluation will allow me to learn the latest assessment trends; these sessions will help me improve my qualitative and quantitative assessment skills and become a better researcher and effective practitioner. In addition, I am also interested in attending sessions dedicated to student activities/leadership development, international issues, and multicultural programming/advocacy. Some sessions that might fulfill these interests include:

–          Toward Diverse Democracy: Students Leading Identity-Based Groups

–          East Meets West: Integration of Student Development Theories

–          “What about us?” : Engaging Second-year Students

–          Assisting Returned Study Abroad Students: Strategies for Success

I have only begun to explore all of the different session opportunities throughout NASPA. I am excited to continue to build my itinerary and attend sessions that will expand my interests and learn about topics to which I have yet to be exposed.

Overall, by attending the NASPA Annual Conference, I hope to enhance my understanding of contemporary issues related to the student affairs field and learn more about student affairs administration, policy, theory, and practice. Although I have had significant professional experiences in different student affairs functional areas, I hope to utilize this conference to further reflect on how theory and practice can strengthen my ability to work with diverse students, alumni, administrators, and other university constituents. Through engaging in a conference environment that challenges and supports my administrative, supervision, advising, research, and assessment skill development, I will better link theory to practice, increasing my potential as a scholar, educator, and leader. I look forward to continuing to share my excitement and anxiety with my peers in the blogging community in the next few months!

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