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KC Wednesday: So, What is a Knowledge Community?

by on January 2, 2013

This week’s KC Wednesday post comes to us from Will Simpkins, Region 2 Knowledge Community Co-Coordinator and the Director of the Center for Career & Professional Development at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

As the new year begins, many of us will make resolutions. On social media over the last three days, I’ve seen friends promise to be more healthy, to spend more time with their families, to read more novels. I’ve also seen so many resolving to further their professional involvement. This one is a no-brainer: to kick-start your professional development this year, get involved with NASPA’s Knowledge Communities. Knowledge Communities are the “Gateway to the Profession.” But what does that mean?

Simply put, NASPA’s Knowledge Communities are 26 (and counting!) special groups within the association to ensure that certain interest areas receive the scholarly and professional attention required to keep all NASPA members on the cutting edge of our work with students. They are the gateway to the profession because many of us enter Student Affairs with an interest in a certain topic – Greek Life, Multicultural Affairs, Academic Advising, etc – and move from that expertise to become generalists in the field.

NASPA has been my professional “home” since interning at the national office in Washington D.C. in 2000 while studying at the University of Maryland. I worked in the office as what were formerly known as “Networks” became Knowledge Communities, representing NASPA’s commitment to the use of scholarship to inform practice. Each Knowledge Community is charged not only with building a professional network of members within the association, but they are also charged with the creation and dissemination of scholarship throughout the association. The link to our Regions – each KC has a representative from each region – ensures that the work of these national sub-groups is representative of the diverse needs throughout our membership.

After my intern experience, I went on to serve as the Region 2 GLBT Issues Knowledge Community Representative, National Co-Chair of the GLBT Issues KC, and currently serve as the Region 2 Co-Coordinator of Knowledge Communities. What I’ve gained from over 10 years of work with the KC program are tremendous mentors in our field – people who are so focused on building NASPA’s next generation of leadership. I’ve also gained colleagues across the country to whom I can look for knowledge and expertise. I’ve also gained the self-confidence to know that there are small ways each day that I can make a difference in our profession and our association.

But don’t take it just from me. I asked a few KC leaders from Region 2 for their thoughts on what the NASPA Knowledge Community program has given them:

“My involvement with the KCs started as new professional in the [Women in Student Affairs] KC. Attending one of my first national conferences I signed up for the panel of listeners and was immediately introduced to the KC. I’m a person who looks for smaller spaces to make connections and was able to find that in the WISA community.” –Michele Grab, Region 2 Knowledge Community Co-Coordinator & Director, Advancing Women in Engineering Program at the University of Pennsylvania

“My involvement with the Men & Masculinities Knowledge Community has given me the opportunity to explore a subject that I am passionate about and share knowledge with others who share my passion.” — Jude C. Butch, Region 2 Men & Masculinities Knowledge Community Representative & Leadership Programming Coordinator at the University at Buffalo

“Working in Higher Education I value the lifelong learning component of the work we do. Joining the [Fraternity & Sorority Life Knowledge Community] was a natural move as a professional to stay keyed in to current trends as well as to continue to build the network of professionals that serve as mentors/mentees as well as sounding boards for the work I am doing. A surprising outcome of my work on the KC has been that it has allowed me to focus on the fraternity and sorority research and resource development side of the work that I do. It has allowed me to set specific time aside to focus on the KC work and to collaborate with colleagues in the field in furthering the fraternal movement and the mission of the work that we do.” — Curtis P. Burrill II, Region 2 Fraternity & Sorority Life Knowledge Community Representative & Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at American University

“I believe what I have received from the [Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community] is a strong foundation of personal and professional development. As a young professional with only 2.5 years in the field, the SLPKC has has allowed me to continue to given back to the profession and the association that gave me my undergrad start seven years ago. As a leader of the largest KC in NASPA, I am proud of the impact our KC has had upon the profession through conferences, institutes, webinars, scholarly research, and networking just to name a few. I look forward to connecting any interested colleagues with our KC and the many resources and opportunities we have.” — Michael Baumhardt, National Co-Chair of the Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community & Assistant Director of the Center for Student Engagement at The University of Scranton

So, if there is one thing you do today to further your professional development, log-on to your NASPA online profile and join any and all Knowledge Communities in which you have an interest. Then, check in with your region’s representative or the national chair and find out how you can get involved.

NASPA is our association. Come join us as we create a vision for the future of Student Affairs!

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