By: Milvia Rodriguez and Krisinda Doherty
The ACPA19 convention was our first ACPA experience. We’ve worked in higher education in multiple capacities for a collective 20+ years and somewhat shamefully, have never attended the ACPA convention. Having arrived home, we sat down and identified five key reflections for first time convention goers:
1. In this line of work, you should never feel alone. ACPA is a huge convention (~2,700 attendees) filled with thoughtful, passionate student affairs leaders from across the world. We left the convention feeling like our network of colleagues to help us solve our most challenging problems grew at least 10 fold. In addition to attending the convention, we presented a session. In our session, it was amazing to witness attendees meeting for the first time and offering advice to one another and exchanging information. The convention is an opportunity to find peers, meet new colleagues, or even identify a mentor.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel. With over 350 education sessions, there is something for everyone. The diversity of breakout sessions offered at ACPA is amazing. Below is a very small subset of what we attended. In each session, weleft feeling like some of our challenges were others’ challenges and that we were in it together to solve them. Milvia attended sessions like “International Students and Mental Health at US Higher Education Institutions” and “Reflections of Latina Leadership in Higher Education” while Krisinda attended sessions on “Strengthening Student Evaluations Using Design Thinking” and “Leadership for a New Era: Utilizing Equity-Centered Framework for Engaging Students in Leadership Education”.
3. Don’t feel intimidated. It can be easy to let the scale of the event push both introverts and extroverts alike outside of their comfort zones. We recommend using the ACPA app to get organized and help you prioritize how you want to spend your time during breakout sessions. While in a session, introduce yourself to the people you are in close proximity to to break the ice. Lastly, be kind to yourself. If you need to re-charge, take a minute for yourself. Sometimes having one-on-one conversations with someone can be as valuable as attending a session.
4. Self-care is increasingly important for student affairs professionals. More than one speaker at ACPA thanked participants for the important and meaningful work we do. Speakers were also quick to realize the important work we do can make us feel like we can’t take a break; that we can easily fall into the mentality that taking a break could mean compromising student service. We identify with this because as mentioned, this was our first convention. Admittingly, we’ve been focused on our work and not prioritize giving care to our own learning and development. We both have renewed sense to invest in ourselves.
5. Kick back, relax, and have fun! Conference going can be exhausting – it is important to remember to relax and have fun! That might mean spending a night in, going out to dinner with colleagues / new friends, exploring the city, or going to Cabaret!
Milvia Rodriguez (she, her, hers) is Assistant Director of Student Affairs, Academic Advising and Financial Aid, at Harris Public Policy; she came to Harris from the world of academic teaching, music performance, and student affairs. At Harris, Milvia serves as an academic advisor for the Master in Public Policy program, and oversees student financial aid advising and processing. In addition, Milvia provides staff support to a number of student organizations, including Minorities in Public Policy, Latin American Matters, and Black Action for Public Policy.
Krisinda Doherty (she, her, hers) is the Evening Master’s Program Director at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. In this role, she directs and manages all components of the part-time student experience. In the program’s inaugural year, she was nominated and selected as the Outstanding Student Support of the Year.