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NASPA Opens Doors of Opportunity at National Conference: Lee Longhorn

March 30, 2010

The small train car was empty when the doors opened. I pulled my over-filled luggage behind me and situated myself behind a man eating an apple and across from me another individual traveling with luggage too. The train doors closed and I sat back relived that I had finally made it to my destination, Chicago. After several stops and more people trickled onto the train compartment, the outline of the city’s skyline came into view. I knew that all these months of planning and saving I had finally made it to the right place. “Chi-town” was where a mystery would unravel.

These were my first thoughts as I finally made it to the big city. Coming from a small town and a state where the largest city is technically a “district” in some cities; this was quite the adventure I was about to have. I met the other Sodexo scholarship winners and even a few SALT scholarship winners and something clicked in my mind. After meeting these individuals I knew instantly that each one of them had a drive, the motivation, inspiration, and ability to bring change in this world.

I wasn’t wrong on these thoughts as I met the other NUFP Fellows and knew that these students were without a doubt striving to achieve excellence. After meeting several other NUFP Fellows and exchanging business cards and other information, it seemed that I wasn’t alone in what I wanted to do. I knew that from this experience I had gained a network of supporters and they too had gained a supporter in which that unless God himself tried to stop one of us, we would push through to completing our goals.

Reflecting back I could never have imagined what this conference or experience was going to be like for me. It was amazing to meet vice-presidents, Deans of students, coordinators, Directors, etc. who were committed to helping their students. From the most laid back sessions to the more serious ones concerning drug and alcohol or retention, I learned a lot that inspires me to enter the field of Student Affairs.

While at the conference we were required to volunteer and that didn’t seem like a problem to me as I enjoy volunteering. It’s my personal belief that in today’s society, people have a hard time helping others. The people who I helped were grateful in having an extra hand to take a load of work that would otherwise be for them. I take from this experience that in Student Affairs, I should never be afraid to help those who could use assistance.

You know, envy is a funny thing. I was envious at the conference but a mentor told me “to get motivated, not mad or envious.” Seeing all the individuals from their respective institutions made me realize their commitment to serving their students. Coming from an institution that wasn’t very well represented there, it made me realize that to better serve my students, I need outside help. This organization and conference is where it’s at.

Overall, the learning outcomes from the sessions were the same, not that it was a problem; better serving students. I felt empowered at the end of each session to go back and get to work in finding out what students want and need in order to better succeed. I’m ready to take on the world and do whatever I need to help students succeed while they’re in college.

On a final note, thank you NASPA for an exciting conference and adventure in the “Windy City.” I can’t thank my mentors (Yeah I picked up some more along the way), Nathan Victoria, and the University of Oklahoma for assisting me in attending this conference. The networking, the motivation and inspiration, the friends and support that I’ve made from this experience and lastly, the goal to graduate and attend graduate school for Adult and Higher Education. I’ve always said “never be afraid to take that first step forward.” NASPA you’re holding the doors of opportunity and I’m going full speed towards my goal and dreams. Thank you.

[Editor’s Note] Lee Longhorn is a NUFP Fellow at the University of Oklahoma-Norman where he studies Native American Studies and Journalism-Professional Writing. He’s a four-year member of the “Pride of Oklahoma” Marching Band and a two-year section leader. Lee is an American Indian from the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and Absentee Shawnee Tribes of Oklahoma. Lee will apply to graduate school at Oregon State, Syracuse, or Oklahoma State. Lee’s mentor is Heather Shotton. Dr. Shotton chairs the Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community.

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