Behind the Scenes: Student Success Conference

By Christine Pitts
Twitter handle @cpitts_

As a first year graduate student I am constantly reminded that I still have so much to learn, which is always surprising when I reflect on how much I have learned in these short ten months. This week I had my first taste of running a conference and what a huge learning experience this was! I have attended many conferences in the past, but it is a whole new world when you are behind the scenes. From the preparation, to the ups and the downs of conference day, here is my experience on surviving my first conference as a co-host.

The preparation and implementation of this conference had been on a rollercoaster since day one. It started off when a big snowstorm hit the east coast in a day before the original conference date, which caused us to reschedule the event for a month later. Our Valentines Day theme had to be chucked in the garbage. The keynote speaker, workshop presenters and students all had to be notified. It was the first time I had experienced a crisis at work. However, the faculty and staff pushed through with resilience. Late nights and even weekends in the office are what got us to the big day. Contrary to my naive outlook, the ups and downs don’t stop on conference day.

Conference day was exciting and nerve-racking for me. As an intern I was still wary about my responsibilities. However, the staff is so wonderful and reminded me that I am part of the team. Once I got past the hurdle of questioning my authority I was able to really dive into the experience.

The day was blurry at first. With so much going on around me there wasn’t much time to stop and think about what is really going on. Making last minute discussions happens almost every minute at a conference. New accommodations, attendees arrive late, food issues, over demanding presenters –you name it, it has probably happened. As a person who plans (and likes sticking to that plan) this conference taught me that you need to be on your toes, think fast and be able to make last minute decisions or accommodations. Which is something I am definitely going to have to get use to.

Co-Hosting this conference was out of my comfort zone. It was new and exciting. I was scared and ambitious. All things that are (in my opinion) positive to personal and professional growth. I learned a lot in eight hours. Lastly, I definitely have a new appreciate for those who run conferences. The time, the effort, and the sacrifices all to make it a day that is beneficial and enjoyable to me. So, to all you conference hosts – thank you!


I would love to hear about your first experience of being behind the scenes at a conference. Was it good? Bad? Comment below or tweet me: @cpitts_

Student Affairs - the First Years

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