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!...continue reading "Livin’ My Best Life: 6 Things I Love about ACPA"
When I entered student affairs as a professional, I learned about the term “Imposter Syndrome” from a colleague and supervisor in my first professional Residence Director role. Wikipedia defines impostor syndrome as "a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud'." A constant theme that I have experienced in my time as a professional was not feeling like I belonged or that I deserved any type of award for the work that I did. In meetings (and I am still guilty of this), I wouldn't speak up, offer feedback, or engage in dialogue just because I had this internal discourse about “who am I” or “I am at the bottom of the totem pole.” American College Personnel Association (ACPA) was the involvement and change agent I needed to find my worth in student affairs.
I came to know about ACPA in 2013 in a conversation with a current graduate student at Vanderbilt (who is now my colleague and friend Charlotte McLoud), and she told me about this organization that she was involved in and how it had shaped her experience in student affairs thus far, especially within the social justice realm. Charlotte encouraged me to look into the work that ACPA was currently doing in respects to professionals of color, social justice and inclusion, and racial injustice. Fast forward to 2015, a great opportunity arose!...continue reading "Imposter Syndrome and the Importance of Professional Associations"
Four undergraduate students standing alone on stage transformed my experience and helped refocus my career path. This year, the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) chose to end a day of the annual conference with student stories and how the Union impacted them.
There were several thought provoking speakers during the conference, such as Soul Pancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi and NPR host Celeste Headlee. However, none brought so many in the audience on a whirlwind trip of emotion as the “Student Voices Panel.” I admittedly was convinced prior to the session that I knew what I was signing up for - students sharing a bit of their experience - and I was not expecting to be impressed. After all, I had seen student panels before, and while I always found them somewhat interesting, I felt they quickly descend into specific questions about who the students are as individuals or generalizations about the identities the students hold. Instead, this time, when the lights went down, we witnessed a TED-style story told by each of the four students from the stage. ...continue reading "The Impact of a Student Union"
I have been privileged to have amazing professionals invest in me over the years, from assisting me into university as a first generation student, to landing my first student affairs role and moving through each step in my career. Through their support I have been able to observe good practice, have an outside view into my experiences, receive needed challenge and validation, and gain assistance in navigating unknown territory. More so, they did all this not because they had to, but because they genuinely wanted to. As such, these are things that I have worked to emulate in my own practice, remembering to “pay it forward,” as one of my closer mentors reminds those around them to do.
For myself, paying it forward comes through in a variety of ways, and it was most present in my ACPA conference attendance. What was most striking for this year’s conference was that I have reached a clear point in my career where I am spending greater time investing in others then seeking it out for myself. Where my conference calendar had once been filled with coffee and lunch meetings with mentors, colleagues, and connections through my network, I was now taking more time to meet with mentees and new professionals who sought me out, to talk about everything from job searches to current issues in our field. While this meant a change in how I was spending my time in conference, it was just as beneficial to my time, as each interaction somehow gave me fresh perspective and energy.
For the first time in my career, I attended both NASPA and ACPA in the same year. I know there are many perspectives about the two organizations and who belongs where and who each one serves in our field. This is a debate and discussion that will probably go on for years into the future. There is even debate about the value of each organization and I have always wondered about this myself. What I found after attending the two conferences was that both organizations had an equal but very different meaning and value to me. ...continue reading "Two National Conferences – Two Different Experiences"
The annual NASPA conference began for me with an opening session from Justice Sonia Sotomayor who shared the story of her journey. It was compelling to hear her narrative and how she allowed the people along her path to clear the way ahead. There is a humility and steady strength that comes from accepting direction and assistance. My own journey at NASPA this year was about being open to new connections and expanding existing professional relationships. I had the pleasure of spending time with several women in the student affairs profession who have walked the road I am currently traveling and were willing to share their stories.
Statistics show that women are less likely to state their accomplishments boldly. As women we sometimes underestimate the power of our narrative. Several conference sessions were focused on assisting women in boldly owning their work. A panel session entitled “Her Place at the Table” featured female Vice Presidents and offered insights on how to be present and heard in the decision room. There were sessions that taught women how to negotiate salary, how to manage leadership transitions and how to pursue a terminal degree while managing other aspects of life. I saw and experienced the transformative power of our narrative as I engaged in conversations with women from campuses around the nation.
Colette Coleman is the Assistant Dean for Mount Vernon Campus Residential Engagement and Administration. She oversees the student experience for students on the Mount Vernon Campus.
Every year, thousands of new professionals and representatives from hundreds of colleges descend upon a major U.S. city to participate in The Placement Exchange (TPE), the nation’s largest career placement resource in the field of higher education. This year, TPE was held at the Philadelphia Convention Center and was attended by three of CSE’s own: Laura Rouse, Frank Schleimer, and myself.
Long days of interviews, resumes, and thank you notes were certainly worth it as TPE provided us with an incredible opportunity to meet with an enormous variety of institutions and refine our interview skills. The apprehension was high as we prepared for this whirlwind experience. Laura Rouse reflects, “As a bonafide introvert, the thought of attending The Placement Exchange was initially very overwhelming and intimidating for finding my first professional job. Though the nerves were in full force the first day, I can truly say that I have never felt so comfortable speaking and connecting with employers from a variety of institutions. While interviewing can seem like you are just trying to prove yourself over and over again, the employers at TPE are really looking to just get to know you and to mutually see if the school or position is the right fit.” ...continue reading "‘Twas the Night Before TPE"
When I was a new professional, I never expected to have an impact on the whole field of campus activities. Of course I hoped to influence my campus and its students, and I always planned to get involved in a professional association. Although, I didn’t really know what that meant or how to do it; I only knew that my professors, supervisors, and mentors all recommended getting involved professionally.
Fast forward seven years to 2018. I’ve held several volunteer roles with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), and I currently am serving as the Chair for the Education Advisory Group (EAG), a set of 8 professionals from across the country who provide guidance on the educational priorities of the association. That means I work directly with NACA’s Director for Education and Research and other national office staff on the association’s professional development offerings. In my time on the EAG, we’ve advised on a variety of topics, including webinars, podcasts, conferences, and marketing opportunities. We conducted focus groups of members to better understand the professional development needs of the association. I developed a rubric for reviewing submissions for educational sessions to improve the quality and consistency of educational sessions at conferences, and I am currently leading the effort to update the NACA competencies for campus activities professionals....continue reading "Influencing the Field of Campus Activities through Volunteering with NACA"
The first time I went to Wintergreen for the Virginia Student Services Conference (VSSC) was in the fall of 1998. I was a full time staff member in the student union at James Madison University as well as a part-time graduate student and I was given the opportunity to go to the conference as part of my Master’s Program. I attended in ’98 and ’99 and really connected with the feel of the conference and being “On the Mountain” with colleagues from across VA. I remember the fun of staying in that environment and everything I was able to learn from people who had been in the field for a very long time.
Several years ago, I decided to bring a team from GW - or “the invaders from the North” as I called us. I was immediately reminded why I loved VSSC once I got off the main roads and was driving on Route 29 through central Virginia and then once we started up the mountain I knew it was a good idea to return to VSSC. We have brought a good mix of people every year since (aside from one year when we missed the conference).
VSSC gives people a chance to take a break, present to incredibly receptive and supportive colleagues, network with individuals from the area, and find ways to grow outside of our DC bubble. I hope we will continue to be a part of VSSC for years to come and more GW community members can find their home there as well.
Recently staff from GW’s Center for Student Engagement and Mental Health Services presented at the Active Minds Conference in Washington, D.C., about the benefits of integrated services between outdoor adventure programs and university counseling. Below are highlights from the presentation. ...continue reading "Mental Health and the Outdoors"