‘tis the season for fall conferencing. With limited budgets for professional development, I believe student affairs professionals are being more strategic and mindful of their professional development opportunities. Some professionals may think they have to go to the large national conferences such as ACPA and NASPA, but I think you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t take advantage of your regional conferences. One great regional conference I recently attended was MACUHO 2010, held at Penn State.
Held over three days, the conference focused on the theme of “Quality is our Keystone”. And truly this conference was quality. The keynote speaker was Tom Segar, the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Shepherd University. His speech focused on finding balance as a professional and finding those mentors that can help you reach your goals. He provided the right tone for the conference. The second element that was “quality” was the consultant-in-residence, Julie Payne Kirchmeier. A scholar- practitioner who focuses on women equity, Dr. JPK inspired several of us to really examine our lives and how gender plays a role in our work (check out her blog The Feminist Lattice). Thanks Tom and Julie for the amazing support and guidance you gave to many attendees, including myself.
The conference was packed with excellent programs, ranging from crisis management to green housing. I have served on the MACUHO programming committee for the past few years and we are always amazed at the innovative and interesting programs that are submitted. But we also wonder about those who didn’t think they could present at MACUHO, therefore never submitted a program. I encourage everyone to submit programs at any conference, small or large, when you think you have something worth sharing. You might surprise yourself and get accepted into the programming slate. This is a great professional development opportunity that will not only boost your resume but help you make connections with other professionals.
There were also lots of fun and social activities at MACUHO. There was a campus tour, bowling, karaoke, the Common Round, and a walk/run. Another fun and interactive component of MACUHO was the Vendor Bingo. After the vendor luncheon in which they are recognized for their support, delegates (that’s us) had a chance to walk around and meet different vendors and fill out a BINGO sheet. Many young professionals may shy from doing this type of activity because they may not have any decision-making influence back at their home school. I know that’s what I thought earlier in my career. But this event is not about solicitation but about making relationships. I see these vendors at different events throughout the year and though currently I may not have the opportunity to influence decisions, in the near future I will be in such a position. Relationships are the foundation of our professions and how we are successful in our work with students. We have great social skills in connecting students together, so simply use those skills during an event like meeting the vendors.
Lastly, the conference provided many mentoring opportunities. The Lisa Pierce Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) program sponsors several undergraduate students to attend the conference. Their youthfulness, excitement, and passion for student life was contagious. Another great mentoring experience was the LINKs program, pairing up seasoned professionals with a new MACUHO attendee. I had two wonderful LINKS that provided some insight in what they were looking for in the conference. But the best case of mentoring were those informal connections you make with other attendees. I met so many wonderful people and one I now call a “mentor” (thanks @JPKirchmeier).
I believe professional development doesn’t only come from attending conferences but participating in other offerings on campus and now the internet. I challenge you to look around your campus for those development opportunities that would expand a skill set, or engage in an online discussion on a topic you are passionate about. No matter how much money you have for professional development, it shouldn’t define the level of growth you can have. Go out and get “devo-ed’.
Licinia “Lulu” Barrueco Kaliher, Ed.D., is a Ray Street Complex Director at the University of Delaware.