The experience of travelling to a professional conference is routine and uneventful – you print or download an itinerary, hop on a plane/train/bus and that’s it. You use the journey to catch up on work, entertainment or sleep, with the understanding that the learning will take place once you’ve reached your destination. But who says the journey itself can’t be a learning opportunity?
Six Student Affairs professionals from Ryerson University (myself included) decided to switch things up on journey to the annual Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) conference this year. What began jokingly as a conversation between two friends about taking a road trip – and cutting costs in the process – snowballed into conversation about transition (using the metaphor of the road). And in true Student Affairs fashion, we thought about the multiple scenarios we’d encounter on the road and how we’d tackle them as Student Affairs professionals: roommate agreements, team building activities, reflection exercises etc.
We pitched the burgeoning idea to our Executive Director of Student Affairs, John Austin, who encouraged us to build it out and offset the costs with sponsorship. And before we knew it, #RoadToCACUSS was born – a reflective journey of personal and professional development.
On the heels of the wildly successful #RoadToRyerson campaign, us handful of Student Affairs professionals assembled to share our story leading up to CACUSS:
Kaitlyn Taylor-Asquini – Leadership Development Facilitator
Nick Asquini – Coordinator, Varsity Operations
Jen Gonzales – Director, Student Life
Hamza Khan – Coordinator, Student Affairs Creative
Troy Murray – Student Affairs Sponsorship & Fundraising Officer
Brandon Smith – Coordinator, Residence Life & Education
We work and practice as professionals at Ryerson University, and have been driving approximately 2800 miles from our campus in Toronto, Ontario to Vancouver, British Columbia. Having left on May 17th, we are travelling across two countries, three provinces, and seven states. We will combine pre-departure activities and reflection with our new knowledge, which will result in a 75-minute conference presentation delivered at the CACUSS conference in May 2015 in Vancouver. During the trip, we will be reflecting on how Student Affairs at Ryerson, also known as #RyersonSA, has transformed, shifting from transactional to more transformative initiatives across the portfolio, and how #RyersonSA has enhanced student engagement and increased collaboration across departments. We have also been reflecting on our own personal transitions as Student Affairs practitioners, how our lives at work and at home add to our practice, and how this integrates to the Canadian Student Affairs context and beyond.
On the road, we have met and spent time with their peers in similar positions, and/or a representative to help us learn about what they do, why they’re doing it, and how. We’ve met with a handful of incoming students and personally handed them their acceptance letters. What was supposed to be a casual road trip has turned into a week of learning, reflecting and sharing.
Day-in, and day-out, we help students navigate their personal, professional and academic transitions. But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we, too, are works-in-progress. The #RoadToCACUSS is more than a metaphor. It’s about experiential learning for professional staff. In terms of transitions, the very cycle of learning that we guide our students through is often the very cycle of learning that we need to better understand our own ever-changing lives. Caught up in the day-to-day, we can sometimes go days, months and years without critical introspection. How can we help the whole student if we ourselves aren’t committed to the concept of holistic development in our own lives?
Us six #RoadToCACUSS navigators have reached across departments to form connections with one another both personally and professionally. Our connections will be put to the test as we endure the stress of an over 5,000 mile drive across the country; a microcosm of the 4+ year journey that thousands of Ryerson students will embark upon in September. Learn more about our journey by visiting Roadtocacuss.ca, and if you’re joining us at CACUSS, share your own reflections on your journey using the official hashtag, #RoadToCACUSS.