My final year as an #SAGrad brought about many firsts: my first NASPA Region IV-W conference, my first time presenting at a large-scale conference, my first TPE experience, and my first NASPA annual conference. But the annual conference was different than anything I have ever experienced. I have had the great fortune to be a part of the Graduate Associate Program (GAP) through NASPA this year. One graduate student from every institution is selected through an application process to serve as the GAP rep for their school. As a GAP, we are required to put on 4 programs throughout the year and participate in monthly conference calls where we learn more about NASPA, talk about our programming progress, and discuss issues in higher education. Being a GAP has been a phenomenal experience, but the experience just kept getting better. Late last semester, the GAPs were invited to apply for one of 8 internships at the NASPA annual conference. As you may imagine from the title of this post, I was extremely fortunate to earn one of those internship spots.
Our internship officially began the Friday before the annual conference (yes, while TPE was still happening. Talk about exhausting). We had engaged in a number of conference calls with the other interns as well as the full NASPA staff leading up to our arrival in Indianapolis, but everything felt so real as we attended our first staff meeting. Everything that day felt so over our heads. I realized that while I have made an intentional effort to learn as much as I possibly could about NASPA, there was so much more I didn’t know.
My internship was primarily spent working with senior leadership constituent groups. I had the amazing opportunity to work with the VP Student Affairs institute, the division of small colleges and universities advisory board, and the AVP (or number two) advisory board. I literally spent 4 days with some of the most incredible people in NASPA. I had thought-provoking and insightful conversations with VPSAs from the largest of universities to the smallest of private colleges. Most of my time was spent taking notes at different board meetings and open forums, and I cannot believe how much I learned by sitting back and observing these professionals working together to address the variety of issues each group faces. One component of my internship that I very much enjoyed was working with the VPSA institute. This institute is made up of newly and recently appointed VPSAs and creates a space for them to have an open dialogue about transitioning into their new roles while also giving them the opportunity to hear from some of the greatest minds in the field. By working with this group, I was able to sit in a session about race led by Dr. Shaun Harper and then to hear from former UND higher ed professor Dr. Jeff Sun. I was able to soak up all of the same information as those who are near the peak of their career, but as a graduate student.
The absolute highlight of my internship was taking notes for the James E. Scott Academy Board. I had never even heard of this board before my internship. This board is made up of some of the most prominent VPSAs from institutions across the country. They meet to discuss issues we face in our work and the ways in which NASPA can better support them in these issues. I sat in a room with people I have heard of throughout my program, who I thought I would never have the opportunity to meet. I felt starstruck.
In addition to the amazing opportunities I received working with the various boards, I also was able to assist in other ways. One of my favorite activities was working in the NASPA bookstore. Actually, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this. Love because I had the chance to talk to so many people and learn about all of the publications NASPA puts out, but hate because I spent so so much money. So much. But I can live with that.
Finally, I was able to meet 9 fabulous fellow #SAGrads. I don’t know that I have ever worked with a team that got along better than our intern team. In our short time together, we experienced just about every emotion possible: excitement, sadness, stress, and a whole lot of exhaustion. Although we only spent a few short days together, I am proud to call these people friends and colleagues, and I can’t wait to see where each of us ends up.
I could talk forever about this experience and the profound impact it has had on me as an emerging #SAPro. Interested in having the opportunity for this experience of a lifetime? Check out the NASPA Graduate Associate Program.
Cross-posted from my personal blog.
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