NASPA12 Reflections – Thoughts from a Graduate Student
Our 2nd post in the series comes from Katie Smith, 2nd year graduate student and Graduate Assistant for Gwen M. Green Career and Internship Center at University of Rochester.
I don’t believe any word would describe my experience at The Placement Exchange and the 2012 NASPA Annual Conference better than community. A western New York Region 2 graduate student and NASPA member, on March 7th, 2012 I flew across the county arriving at Phoenix, Arizona to attend my first TPE and NASPA Conference. Having never before attended a national conference or traveled to this region of the country, I had been unsure of what to expect.
My time in Phoenix began with The Placement Exchange, an event like nothing I had experienced before. Surrounded by hundreds of other job seekers in the same field, it was easy to make friends, sharing ideas, tips, opportunities and anxieties. The candidate workrooms provided space for candidates to debrief recent interviews, prepare for upcoming interviews or to simply chat. In the candidate workroom I learned about institutions from all across the country while making friends with other graduate students and young professionals from states such as Kansas, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and California.
There are many different approaches to The Placement Exchange and I perhaps choose the path less traveled. Searching in functional areas such as career services and academic advising, employers interviewing for positions in these areas were limited. I scheduled a total of four interviews while many of my housing and residential life-focused peers sweated their way through over 20 interviews over two days. At the end of the TPE, however, our experiences were similar and we all came away with new job prospects and a sense of community among our peers, better prepared for furthering our journeys within student affairs.
The Placement Exchange soon led way to the NASPA Annual Conference, where I served as a volunteer and an enthusiastic participant in many educational sessions. A fortunate recipient of the Golden Key NASPA Scholarship, I was required to volunteer in several capacities, an opportunity that proved valuable in both networking with fellow NASPA members and learning some of the inner workings of the conference.
Monday and Tuesday, the two full days of the conference, were spent alternating hour-long educational sessions with 10 minutes of Phoenix sun when possible. Initially overwhelmed by the number of sessions offered in each time block, I eventually designed a schedule that reflected my various interests within student affairs. Accordingly, I was able to attend sessions based on my interests in career services, personal career development, supporting at-risk students and marketing programs. Each session presented new ideas, becoming forums for discussion on best practices within a variety of areas.
The Tuesday evening candlelight vigil was my culminating NASPA event, as I was scheduled to leave Phoenix Wednesday morning. This event was inspirational, reflective, and emotionally charged. As student affairs professionals, we were reminded that we work with many individuals who struggle to maintain basic human rights while navigating difficult situations for which they can do little about. As a profession, we must continue to serve as advocates for both social justice and equality in human rights. Together, on the streets of Phoenix, we were ignited in leadership to influence change as a community, symbolized powerfully by the lighted candles that we held.
My first-ever NASPA Annual Conference was a fantastic experience and I cannot wait to employ what I have learned while maintaining the valuable connections that I have made within this wonderful community. I could not be more grateful for the scholarship that allowed me to attend the conference and to NASPA for the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally as I continue my journey into the world of student affairs.