I remember my first student conference very well. It was in 2011. I was involved in the general council of the Residence Hall Association (RHA) of my university. I was selected to go to the Intermountain Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (IACURH) Regional Conference, which the University of Wyoming hosted that year. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I experienced changed my entire life. Immediately after leaving IACURH, I began a total makeover of my student involvement. I became more involved in RHA, and I began seriously considering student affairs as a career field.
Six years, 10 + conferences, and one master’s degree in higher education later, I am now the RHA advisor for my institution. With my four delegates, I hopped on a plane and headed to Purdue for the NACURH 2017 conference. After a marathon three days, I just finished my first national conference as an advisor. My experience was extremely different from the 2011 conference, so I wanted to share some surprises and highlights:
1. Being an advisor is scary.
You are responsible for the travel, the meals, making sure your delegation is still alive, etc. As a delegate, I didn’t ever think about those moving parts; I was just happy an adult was handling all that nonsense. Now I’m the adult, and it is STRESSFUL. Flying out-of-state is stressful enough, but when you are also responsible for other folks, it is even more so. However, I’m thankful that my supervisor set me up for success, and my delegation was easy to manage, which made the trip a breeze.
2. Your breakout sessions aren’t so team-builder-ish.
I finished my ART Level 1 training (yay!) during this conference, and it was definitely different from the types of breakout sessions the delegates attended. When I was a delegate, it was all about programming, retention for your RHA, and boardroom. Now, it’s all about setting a budget, guiding others, and handling sticky issues within your organization. As a first-time RHA advisor, it definitely helped me re-focus on what I needed to do in my new role. It also gave me some great connections in the region after I heard from other advisors and how they were running their organizations.
3. It’s amazing to see your students excited about their organization.
I remember coming back from my first IACURH conference with a rush of adrenaline and about 100 new ideas for how we should run our RHA. Seeing my students have those same thoughts and listening to them gush about all the changes and programs they want warms my heart. It gives me the adrenaline rush I used to get as a delegate. This time, I get to be on the other side. I get to assist them in carrying out their goals in the best way possible.
4. Nothing beats coming “home”.
Though NACURH is a national conference, being around my IACURH folks made me feel like I was home after a long journey. As an extra treat, I also got to see two of my really good friends, who were there with their own RHA delegations. I think my favorite moment, though, was seeing the outgoing NACURH Chairperson. When I was on my RHA’s executive board, this person was a freshman. I remember when she attended her first RHA meeting. Now, she is heading out of her NACURH role and into the professional world of student affairs.
I was also able to see two other students (one of whom was my Hall Council president and is now the AD-NRHH for the IACURH exec team) as they transitioned out of their roles. Seeing this reminds me of the work we do every day and the impact we have on students. I remember seeing them take their first steps in their leadership journey, and now they are here, welcoming other students to do the same.
5. Keep challenging yourself.
One of my role models from my alma mater ended up receiving the 2017 NACURH Advisor of the Year award. Even though he wasn’t there to personally receive it, I received a text from him about 20 minutes later, challenging me to take the award from him next year. Having someone believe in you and pushing you forward helps you remain active and engaged in your role. While I don’t think I’m anywhere close to as great as he is, I am honored that he feels I can be great in my new role.
6. Don’t forget your roots.
Though I’m exhausted (and I have to wake up in less than 6 hours to spend 8 hours traveling home), I am thankful for this year’s NACURH. I’m thankful that my supervisor entrusted me with the RHA advisor role. I am thankful that my delegation trusts me to help them achieve their goals. I’m thankful for my friends, both inside and outside of my region. But most of all, I’m thankful for the student leaders that I got to see grow up in front of me. Being a delegate was my first step into leadership—being an advisor is the next big leap.
Thank you, NACURH.
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