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What a Golden Opportunity: Rod Kelley

March 25, 2010

Every time I approach a new opportunity, I’m never quite sure what to expect. As best as I try to prepare for a new experience, I open myself to observe, learn, and engage in the freshness of a new experience- looking for the moment or moments that will blow me away. NASPA 2010 had several of those moments.

To properly reflect on the conference, I need to consider the varying hats I wore while I was there.

First-Time Attendee

My first interaction with conference attendees was not in a conference session or listening to a featured speaker; it began with the shuttle ride from O’Hare to various downtown hotels. After a request for a dropoff at the Sheraton was uttered, questions began to fly. Are you here for the conference? What institution are you from? What is your role there? Is this your first NASPA? During the shuttle ride to the Sheraton, I had a chance to connect with two professionals who work in the Southeast region of the United States and chat about their experiences with national conferences. As people began to exit the shuttle, business cards were passed around… and I hadn’t even stepped foot on the conference site!

On Sunday, I took the chance to attend the African American Male Summit. The summit was well-attended by a variety of male professionals from across the country and in a variety of professional roles. From this session, I learned a great deal about the importance of community and the support connecting to such a network would bring. During this session, I was reminded of how institutions tackle retention and how scholarly work reaffirms the connection between retention and developing a sense of belonging for students. A key component of this is developing an identifiable community for students and providing role models that students can relate to and can establish connections. Developing this sense of belonging is not only for our students; it also works to our benefit as we connect to a field that is new, different, and constantly changes. The various messages delivered during the summit were helpful, and through the tireless work of administrators like Dr. Robert Page of the University of Kansas, I am glad to have attended such a session.

Listening to featured speakers like Under Secretary Martha Kanter and former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice provided a political perspective of higher education and the importance of student affairs in the development of our country’s next leaders. The only other featured speaker session I had an opportunity to attend was the one featuring Dr. Joseph White and Dr. Frank Harris, III. The topic centered on the present status of Black men in higher education, and the two speakers addressed questions regarding the social pressures these men face and methods higher education administrators can utilize to support this underrepresented group. The conversation was lively and highly informative and put our field on notice to make better strides in supporting academic success for Black men.

I was able to attend a few sessions while at the conference and returned to my campus with a large amount of information to share. While managing the three conference session locations was a bit difficult and there were sessions of interest that were clearly very popular and had little to no standing room, I did my best to make the best of out those situations. Of all the sessions I attended, I gained the most from the Leadership StrengthsQuest session. The session provided a lot of important information regarding identifying strengths in group and office settings and developing an awareness of how strengths can complement a team. This is information that will be useful in developing professional development opportunities for my office.

Volunteer

Volunteering as a Golden Key Graduate Recipient opened up chances to connect with a wide variety of professionals who were attending the conference. I had great fun as one of the Social Media tech persons during Saturday afternoon’s registration period. Not only did I meet a wide variety of professionals from institutions across the country (and out of the country) but I also had fun working with another of the Golden Key Graduate Recipients.

I also took advantage of the opportunity to volunteer with the opening session reception and as a program session assistant. The first opportunity involved managing traffic flow in train conductor gear. I’m certain there are photos of me in the cool train conductor hat ;-). The second volunteer opportunity involved me serving as a resource for session presenters. I worked alongside the Sheraton’s tech specialist in addressing the few tech issues presenters had, and served as a resource to troubleshoot any other issues for presenters.

Florida State Graduate Student

Several graduate students, professionals, faculty, and alumni from Florida State attended the conference. Their presence at this conference reaffirmed the positive professional development atmosphere at my institution. Dr. Jon Dalton, a faculty member in the Florida State Higher Education program and former Vice President for Student Affairs at Florida State, was recognized as a NASPA Legacy this year. He also co-presented a program session with a faculty member and a doctoral student from the institution at this year’s conference. Dr. Adam Goldstein (administrator) and Tom Fritz (masters student) were at the conference as attendees and as first-time award winners of HazingPrevention.org’s Zeta Tau Alpha Award for Innovation in Hazing Prevention and Education. Various administrators and faculty presented one or multiple program sessions and they were always visible to help me reflect on the conference experience. Meeting alumni from the Higher Education program was a huge bonus at this conference. Their presence reaffirmed the impact of the program on our professional development and reconnecting with them allowed me to compare institutional experiences as well as continue lasting professional connections. A highlight of my conference experience was volunteering at the Florida State grad table during the Grad Fair on Monday night. Our table was fully staffed with current Higher Education students and we all had a great time promoting our program to interested persons. I even had some time to beat a fellow FSU student in Wii Tennis AND Wii Bowling in the Grad Fair room! 🙂

Final Thoughts

I truly value my first NASPA experience, and I have Golden Key to thank for it. My commitment to the field is strengthened because of this conference experience, and in many ways, I am able to grow professionally through the people I met, the experiences I shared, and the information I learned at NASPA. I now have the tools to become a part of the new movement!

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