(Re)Discovering New Perspectives in St. Louis: A Social Media Re-Hash

In the world of Student Affairs, we know the time period of February – March to be “conference season”. This past week, I attended the ACUI Annual Conference: “Discovering New Perspectives” which was held in St. Louis. For those of you who don’t know, ACUI is the Association of College Unions International, and is an association for Student Affairs professionals working within the world of Student Activities and Student Unions who believe in the idea of building community through the role of the college union.

That being said, I’ve slowly come to realize that one of the only places it has become socially acceptable and even encouraged to use social media during presentations, is at ACUI. You won’t be called out for furiously tweeting and updating statuses while you’re at an Ed Session, and no one will judge you for having your cell phone out because you’re most likely doing what I stated above.

I decided that in order to make things 1. More entertaining, 2. Representative of today’s social media world, and 3. Educational, I would help share what I’ve learned at ACUI through the re-imaging of various tweets and statuses posted throughout the conference.

This is my shameless plug for my ever-growing and undying love for ACUI. As new professionals, we will all eventually find our niche or organization that we associate with the most. I encourage that you take the opportunity to explore what is out there because for me my involvement with ACUI started early, but has definitely supplied me plenty of opportunities for growth, education, and networking. I’ve been involved with ACUI at this point for 5 years since I was an undergrad, and it was one of the main reasons I really got engaged with my path into Student Affairs. Going to the annual conference allows me the chance to see people I don’t usually get to see normally. No matter where I am in my journey, ACUI has always been the one constant that encourages and reminds me of why I’m working in this field today.


Part of the conference consisted of various keynotes, and this year they instituted “ACUI Talks” which was presented in the similar fashion as “Ted Talks”. As part of three 30-minute talks, one of the presenters spoke to us about Risk Management. Once your in Student Affairs, especially when working in Student Activities or Residence Life, our minds are almost conditionally trained to think of all the liability and risks of the events we present or even in the physical building that our students spend time in. To us it may be second nature, but to our students it’s something that we definitely need to start instilling into their minds. We must be intentional with our explanations into why their “brilliant” ideas may need some modifying. I find that the more transparent you can be on educating the student through “why” will help bridge the gap of awareness and understanding.

Hannah Brencher is the founder of More Love Letters; she did a wonderful “ACUI Talk” on the generation we live in, and the impact of the Digital Footprint on the students that we are working with. This quote stood out to me so strongly, and really made me think about how today’s generation is nostalgic for something that is slowly getting lost in today’s digital world. That is simply stated as the want for human connection, a connection that is easily hidden behind the mumble jumble and impersonal connections that are made through social media.


During an Ed Session that I went to, we got the chance to do a Q&A with Directors from various institutions. Julie Payne-Kirchmeier is the Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services at Northwestern University, and shared her mantra with us. I thought this was awesome, and a great way to work toward something that is more attainable! Wanted to share this with everyone else because sometimes we spend too much time around the idea of being “perfect”. We should work toward being the best we can be!
Let me start off with saying that personally, I never saw myself getting my Master’s degree during my early years in undergrad and before. Funny enough, here I am with my Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and while I was in grad school I never really thought that I would aspire to get my doctorate. After hearing the opinion of professionals within the field, I’m slowly starting to toy with the idea of pursuing my doctorate in years to come. They made a great point in stating that you want to make sure that you have the experience to back your doctorate. Without the basic experiences you need to get into a director role or higher, a doctorate will not hold nearly as much credibility.


I had the honor of hearing Jose Antonio Vargas do a talk about undocumented people in the United States. Journalist and writer for various nationally known publications, he shared his perspective on undocumented people and how do we “define American”. He was an amazing speaker, and allowed me to really gain my own position on where I stand on the issue of undocumented people. Working in higher ed. I think this is definitely a prevalent issue to think about when working with your students.


Kevin Carroll Katalyst, author of the “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball”, speaker, and agent for social change, shared his story and philosophy with us. He started his keynote off with saying how we are the energy givers of our campus. That statement is so true! As student affairs professionals, students come to us to find the energy they need to produce the work that they do outside of the classroom. At times we may feel like it’s not reciprocated back to us, but Kevin talked about how we need to take care of ourselves for that reason. The importance of our own well-being is key in the work that we do!

Kevin told us his mantra that we should always keep in mind when starting new endeavors. I loved his acronym for it, and will definitely be keeping this in mind for the future.


Another point that Kevin mentioned was the idea of having CEOs in our lives. We need that one person who will help encourage us to keep moving forward towards our goals. This role can really be filled by anyone in your life, but we need those people who will be our own personal cheerleader as we take on the challenges of our future.


There was one last thing that I feel seemed to be consistently said throughout the conference. This is my one last take-a-way:


As I would like to say, “Do You”. This message was one of the most consistent messages mentioned throughout all of the Ed Sessions and Keynote speakers. This is the importance of knowing yourself, and realizing your own styles, personality, values, beliefs, and being able to stand by that. Getting to know oneself is a never-ending journey, but the importance of being okay and accepting who you are for what it is and living it to the max through your work and personal life is so important. The more comfortable you are within your own skin the more likely you will be able to really blossom in the work that you do.

Happy Friday, and DO YOU,

Kim Pho

Student Affairs - the First Years

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