by Charlotte McLoud (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The best advice I ever received from a professor in graduate school was, “Find a space to call home in the profession. The work that we do is not easy; home will keep you grounded”. As my professional journey leads me to and through various opportunities, projects, institutions, and challenges, engaging with like-minded educators have been essential to my success and well-being. ACPA has been that place for me. Here are six reasons why:
1. Pre-Convention Sessions
While pre-convention sessions are not unique to ACPA, they have definitely added significant value to my conference experience. Pre-Convention sessions are typically daylong or half-day workshops dedicated to discussing best policies, guiding philosophies, and campus implications of a particular topic. In past years, I received my Mental Health First Aid program certification, as well as attended a session about Title IX compliance and interpersonal education. If you are looking for a jump-start to your conference experience, check out the pre-convention sessions offered!
2. Summit for Black Student Affairs Professionals
The Summit has always been something I wanted to participate in, but was unable to do so considering the demands of various leadership positions I held in the association. This past convention, I was able to attend and it was literally the best experience I could have asked for. In addition to having the opportunity to network with different professionals that looked like me, the large and small group topics were relevant to various contents of my career development. Some of my favorite conversations included: “The Journey to the Terminal Degree”, “When My Rights and Politics Clash”, and “Lessons Learned and Experiences of a Senior Level Scholar/Practitioner.” I was personally inspired by seeing so many Black Women in leadership positions at their respective institutions.
One of my favorite traditions at ACPA is CultureFest! This event, sponsored by the Coalition for Multicultural Affairs, celebrates traditions, interculturalism, and creative expression through the arts. This year, the special guest was spoken word artist Crystal Leigh Endsley. Recognized by Cosmopolitan Magazine as a “Fun, Fearless Female,” Crystal Leigh is part performer, part professor, and works to serve her community as an internationally acclaimed spoken word artist, activist, and actor. Her current research and expression focuses on intersections of performance and identity with themes such as feminist pedagogy, race, and popular culture, Hip Hop, and cultural production as activism. As someone who had been chair of this event in previous years, I was so excited to see how well it went.
This year, I had the opportunity to serve as a Professional Development Guide with ACPA’s Next Generation Conference, also referred to as NextGen. The conference is a unique opportunity for approximately 125 undergraduate and masters level students from across the world to learn about careers in student affairs and higher education. Being able to connect with and share experiences with my mentees was a wonderful experience. By discussing their careers and providing what I had learned thus far in this field, I was able to critically reflect on why I chose this profession. I saw in them the eagerness I had during my first ACPA in 2012. If you have students that you think might be interested in this opportunity, I would be happy to connect with them.
For the first time in the association’s history, attendees were asked to engage in racial justice and decolonization caucusing. I was so here for this! Each day throughout the Convention, members met in these groups to reflect on and discuss lived experiences, engage in touch conversations in community, and strategize ways to engage in personal and professional racial justice and decolonization action. This component to conference really helped make practical sense of ACPA’s Strategic Imperative on Racial Justice and Decolonization. While there were a few hiccups with the logistics, efforts like this make me proud to be a member of ACPA. I appreciate the association’s willingness to do the hard work around racial justice and decolonization and its relevance to the work that we do.
6. The People
While it may seem cliché, the thing that brings me back year after year is the people. I have found not only a group of mentors and inspiring professionals, but also a family. The Pan African Network helped me define my professional identity in a way that incorporated my social location and passions. This is something that I was told could not happen. My experiences with PAN also allowed me to have various leadership positions including, Community Engagement Co-Cahir, Social chair, and CultureFest Chair, as well as the opportunity to serve on the Convention Program Team. They challenge me to be a better professional, tell me when I am wrong, empower me when I am right, encourage me when I do not feel like I am enough, and love me as I begin to figure out who I am. ACPA brought us all together, and I am beyond grateful for that opportunity. I cannot wait to see what Boston has in store!
Charlotte McLoud is an Area Coordinator, overseeing second, third, and fourth year housing.