NASPA12 Reflections – Thoughts from a Mid-Level Manager
This NASPA Annual Conference was my tenth since 2001 (Sorry, Chicago!) and the first where I truly felt the intersections of my multiple roles as a professional. Whether it was as the Director of the Center for Career & Professional Development at John Jay College, or as the NASPA Region 2 Knowledge Community Co-Coordinator, Past-Co-Chair of the GLBT Issues Knowledge Community, or former graduate student at the University of Maryland, I was distinctly aware of the power of networking and how mid-level managers must be adept at connecting with others for our personal benefit as well as to further the goals of our departments and campuses.
One of the most powerful moments for me was “Purposeful Sharing.” Twelve professionals shared powerful stories and ruminations on why our work is important and where we go next as a profession. A call for conversations about sexual health on the campuses of faith-based institutions. A lesson in leading from love. A summation of where our profession has been. A call to listen – really listen – to our students. Vacillating between tears and emphatic nodding, I left this session re-empowered to create change on my campus and to be a more authentic leader in my department.
The high point of my time at each NASPA Annual Conference is the chance to connect with my own mentors in the field – people like Susan Komives and Marsha Guenzler-Stevens from the University of Maryland, Laura Wankel at Northeastern University (we still claim her!), and Laura Osteen at Florida State (I met her in Maryland, so she still counts!). What I most appreciate about these folks is their willingness to carve out 10, 15, 45 minutes from their busy conference schedules to talk with me, one-on-one, about where my life is headed. The advice, support, guidance, probing questions, and feedback from these folks encourages me to be a better professional.
And here’s where it got strange. For the first time, I felt like I was one of them. Whether it was talking with a graduate student at the Region 2 New Professionals and Graduate Students Mixer about her interest in career services, or chatting with two of my own colleagues from John Jay about how they could get more involved in the association, I began to understand that it was my time to step-up and mentor younger professionals.
And so, finally, as I’ve returned to my own campus, I’ve made three commitments to myself as a direct result of my time in Phoenix. If you see me out and about, feel free to ask how I’m doing!
- I’m going to re-read “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and think critically about the issues faced by my students who return to their home communities, bachelors degree in hand. How do they connect with their childhood friends? How do they create authentic change?
- I am going to challenge my staff to embrace the notion of a socially just mission statement for our career center. How do we live our values on a daily basis and upend the “norms” of our work?
- I will not only strive to be a good supervisor, I will strive to marry this with good mentorship. I owe it to my staff and other young professionals to give them the opportunity to successfully shine.