by Conor McLaughlin
There will be so much to look forward to when we all come together in Boston for ACPA19. Many aspects of the convention experience will be familiar, but ACPA continues to look forward. In that vein, some of the program session types have been reorganized. One new category is the experiential program.
Experiential programs provide an intentional, interactive, skill-building opportunity for program participants. As an outcome of attending these programs, participants will understand the skill presented and the knowledge to practice or execute the skill. At previous conventions, while not labeled as such at the time, programs that instructed participants on the use of social media, facilitated the execution of individual professionals’ career development resources, or coached participants to develop supervision skills could be considered to fit the definition of experiential programs.
Experiential programs will be integrated across the convention curriculum and throughout all types of programs offered. Participants at all professional levels should be able to find an experiential program that will assist them in developing relevant skills. Experiential programs are a unique program type and will compliment other convention opportunities such as programs that offer continuing education credits or other types of formalized acknowledgements of completion.
Program outcomes, clearly stating the knowledge or skill that participants will develop as a result of attending the program, set experiential programs apart from the rest. While many convention presenters use various interactive methods to engage learners and promote active participation, experiential programs intend the interaction and participation as an outcome, rather than as a method to achieve those outcomes. While reading program summaries, look for active words in the description, such as instruct or coach, that indicate participants can expect interactive skill-building.
Experiential programs develop participants’ professional competencies and so align closely with the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Area for Student Affairs Educators. The ten competency areas list many skills that professionals should develop and achieve at each level of their career. Professionals can use the competencies to navigate the experiential programs offered at ACPA19 and take advantage of the many opportunities to learn new skill sets that align with their targeted core competencies and professional development goals. In addition, through their use of the competencies, and participation in experiential programs, participants will have evidence of the value of attending ACPA19 both through the tangible benefit to their institution as a skilled professional and through their own personal development.