Making the Most of Your First ACPA Convention

Greetings from your ACPA17 Member Engagement Chair!  I hope this blog finds our first time convention attendees well!  We are just weeks away from a transformational experience unfolding at ACPA17 in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and are elated you are joining us.  I recall my first ACPA Convention in 2001.  I felt nervous as a new convention attendee and was overwhelmed.  Still folks within ACPA welcomed me and made me feel included!  Over the past 16 years ACPA has been my professional home.  It has afforded me with great leadership opportunities, rich scholarship, and some great friends/colleagues.  To that end, listed below are some important tips to help make the most of your first ACPA convention:

  1.  Review our robust curriculum prior to convention and challenge yourself to expand your comfort zone.  ACPA offers a variety of opportunities for you to learn and grow via pre-convention workshops, general convention workshops, extended sessions, competency based sessions, spotlight sessions, constituent programs, research papers, research poster sessions, Genius Labs, and Pecha Kucha.  I encourage attendees to review the aforementioned sessions in advance by reviewing the curriculum section of the convention webpage.  Select topics of interest to you, and those you are not familiar with yet in the profession.  Some of the best ways to advance your career is to attend a session that may have little to do with your current role, but is something you are interested in learning more about!
  2.  Identify learning outcomes for yourself and place emphasis on two or three competencies that govern our practice.  As you attend educational sessions think about the competencies you have selected.  Make sure you leverage myPROfolio, which can be accessed via your ACPA Member Portal, to reflect upon your experience.  The more you are able to track your learning experiences now, the more helpful they can be to you in the future!
  3. Volunteer at Convention.  Volunteering at Convention is one of the best ways to network and get involved in the association.  You can sign up in advance by visiting the convention webpage to volunteer or on site by visiting the Questions and Assistance Desk.
  4. Stop by the Exhibit Hall.  Yes, you may not be in the position to purchase certain apps or products for your institution; however, as a practitioner and/or scholar it is important you are aware of the resources available for our profession.  You can also purchase books at a discounted price in the exhibit hall.  That’s right folks, take advantage and purchase books for next semester if you are still in school or for your own professional development.
  5. Leverage Career Development & Advancement.  Have your resume reviewed, attend a snapshot session, get a photo taken for your LinkedIn account, and interact with potential employers.  Please note the space has been redesigned to welcome all delegates (entry level, mid-level, and seasoned practitioners) and serve as a great resource for your career needs.
  6. Attend open entity meetings and socials.  Get involved by attending an open Coalition, Community of Practice,  or Commission meeting, and visit meetings of your Chapter or International Division.  Attend socials and events at night including the Chapters and International Division’s Trivia Night!  Most schools or regional schools are open to anyone with a connection to them, not just those that currently work there.  Feel free to use this time to find out what is happening at one of your past or neighboring institutions.  This is a great way for you to meet new people!
  7. Be professional at all times.  ACPA17 will offer some great social events during the evening.  To that end, be cognizant of your behavior and your personal brand in elevators, restaurants, and social gatherings.
  8. Share Your Experience on Social Media.  Let the world know how great your #ACPA17 experience is in Columbus, Ohio, USA.  I encourage you to post on platforms you are comfortable using.  This is another way to connect with colleagues you know or make new professional connections, and share all the great learning happening at ACPA17.
  9. What to Wear?  At any given time during the convention people will be dressed in business,  business casual, or casual depending on what activities they are engaging. Be You, be comfortable.
  10. Reflect on your experience post convention.  How are you going to make use of the great knowledge acquired at ACPA17?  Consider sharing the knowledge with colleagues who did not attend convention, or presenting your top learnings to your departmental staff at the next meeting.  You can also leverage the content to help inform best practices on your campus and connect with presenters for more information. Last, maintain those connections you made in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and take advantage of all the rich professional development opportunities afforded to delegates year-round.


manny-croppedManuel Ruiz serves as the Member Engagement Chair for the ACPA17 Convention.  With over 16 years of full-time experience, Manny has worked in various functional areas within Student Affairs.  He is excited about supporting and welcoming all of our delegates at Convention!

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