by Hollie Daniels

I took advantage of the opportunity to attend NODA’s 67th Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida last week. Though my Graduate Assistantship isn’t in Orientation, Transition, or Retention (OTR), I completed a NODA Internship this summer at the University of Alabama and fell in love with the functional area. The conference was quite expensive and the hotel was a pretty penny, but I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t bite the bullet and go to the conference, especially since it was only 2 hours away from Gainesville.

Two of my cohortmates also attended the conference with me and we got to share a hotel room with a colleague of mine from the University of Alabama. It was great to reconnect with my summer colleague and connect her to my cohortmates. My summer colleague is a new professional, as she recently graduated from Appalachian State in May of this year. It’s great to have someone who’s experienced the stress of the last year of graduate school, the job hunt, etc. so recently. I also got to reconnect with the staff that I worked alongside this summer including my supervisor that I miss dearly.

On the day before the conference started I attended a Graduate Student Symposium. This symposium was organized and facilitated by professionals from across the country who have an interest in supporting graduate students ( The symposium consisted of topics like ethics in the workplace, the job search process, resumes, cover letters, etc. All students were in the morning sessions together, then there was a track for first year graduate students and a track for second year graduate students in the afternoon which was really beneficial. There was also a panel at the end of the symposium which was possibly my favorite part. I love hearing the paths of professionals, getting their opinions, and learning from their experiences.

After the symposium the conference officially started with an opening banquet and a delicious dinner and desert reception. The next morning is when the educational sessions began and I was pleasantly surprised with the plethora of topics to choose from. Thanks to the Guidebook app that I downloaded on my phone and tablet, I was able to see all of the sessions, presenters, and summaries from one place.

Also on the first day were the regional meetings. I was excited for this meeting, as I’m interested in staying within region VI after graduation. I was familiar with region VI because I able to attend the regional conference, SROW (Southeast Regional Orientation Workshop), with the University of Alabama in March. I had no clue what I was getting myself into before SROW, but I absolutely loved it. The regional VI meeting at NODAC consisted of updates, introductions, and allowed all institutions with current job openings or anticipated openings to announce them (needless to say, I was scribbling down all of the info that I could in anticipation of following up afterwards). All second year graduate students also got to introduce themselves, which was a great opportunity since we’re all trying to get jobs.

On the second day of the conference I continued to attend educational sessions, but I also competed in the Graduate Student Case Study with a friend from the University of Alabama who’s in their Higher Education program. This was a great opportunity for us and even though we didn’t place, I learned from the experience and learned more about my friend. I’m looking forward to seeing the feedback forms from the judges to see what we could have done better.

As the conference wrapped up and we attended the last sessions and the closing brunch (which was DELICIOUS!), I was so happy that I chose to attend. I met many people, both graduate students and professionals, and learned about great programs and practices across the nation. I handed out many business cards, shook many hands, and have sent quite a few follow up emails.

The conference affirmed that OTR is my preferred choice and I left feeling excited instead of nervous for the job hunt. The conference is in Denver next year, and should everything pan out and I end up in OTR, I will undoubtedly be there!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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