Professional Home

By Ana Devlin Gauthier


Joining a professional association is absolutely one of my top five best decisions in my student affairs life. I joined NASPA as a sophomore in college, as a member of the NUFP program. I had no idea about what NASPA was truly about (when I googled it, I came up the national association of scrabble players), but I was so excited to meet so many other people interested in student affairs.

I was guided through the first parts of my student affairs journey by a phenomenal mentor, Kathy Woughter (shout out!), who explained the importance of professional association to me. The NUFP program is designed to introduce students from underrepresented populations to the field of student affairs. The program has a million and one opportunities for the fellows to learn from some of the best role models in the profession. I attended my first NASPA conference in Philadelphia as part of this program, and it was incredibly reassuring to meet so many other students who were interested in the same things as me. That conference was overwhelming, but coming from a small institution where I thought I was the only one interested in student affairs, it was like coming home.

My involvement with NUFP planted very firm roots for me with NASPA. I had a professional home that had invested in me, and I wanted to give back. What I found, and what I encourage you to seek out, are opportunities to stay involved in your own way. For me, it was working closely with my region of NASPA, and getting involved in the Graduate Associate Program (GAP). I was even able to create an assistantship with NASPA’s Region II, conducting assessment for their regional conference. For you, it could be getting involved in the Knowledge Communities of NASPA, or the Standing Committees of ACPA. It could be in a functional-area specific organization like NODA or NACURH. For me, I look forward to hopefully sometime in the future, mentoring my own NUFP fellow, or taking a student with me to a national conference.

The way we act towards professional associations needs to be akin to the way we tell our students to approach college. You get out of it what you put in. If you seek out ways to be involved, you will find them and be embraced by the associations. If you choose to be member and just attend conferences, that is fine, but be aware that unless you put in the effort, that will not change. Please don’t see this as me bashing those who only choose to attend conferences. That is not my intention. My intention is to say that there are so many ways to get involved in the professional associations, and you will find that as you do so, you will be rewarded with, at the very minimum, renewed interest and faith in your profession.

Many see the national ACPA and NASPA conferences as the highlight of the year, and be on the lookout for a further post about making the most of those experiences, because I agree! Every year, those conferences have recharged me if I was in a slump, and have inspired me. They are an opportunity to connect with colleagues I have not seen, and to advance my own professional learning.

So, check out their websites and join up! But don’t just join and ignore them for the rest of the year. Join in on the discussion boards, read the articles, and yes...go to the conferences.

For more information on ACPA and NASPA please visit: http://www.acpa.nche.edu/ and www.naspa.org

Note: My experiences have been very NASPA heavy, however I encourage you to check out both associations and decide which is more beneficial for you...maybe it’s both of them!

Happy involvement!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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