by Olivia Miller

Last Wednesday through Saturday I attended my first conference as a professional at NACADA’s national conference in Atlanta. NACADA is the National Association of Academic Advisors and over 3,000 members were in attendance. I was excited, nervous, overwhelmed, and when I woke up on Thursday sick throughout the conference. My goal for this conference was to be a sponge – to soak up as much as I could, information for my students, information for my institution, strategies for myself and to find a place for myself in this professional association. In four days I took away so much and found myself recharged and ready to be back with my students. Here are my top takeaways from NACADA 2016.
  1. Soul Money: Our keynote speaker, Dr. Kathleen Shea Smith, described perfectly why I am in this profession and field. Our work is so much more than financial reward, but focused more on the success of our students. We get paid in soul money, and for me that is those moments when students make a breakthrough, realize their potential and meet their goals. We know we do not go into student affairs for the money, but the soul money and for that I believe we are set for life.
  2. Start small: I was immediately overwhelmed, like the typical introvert that I am, in how many people were in attendance, and felt very small. As grateful as I am for my supervisor and department, a national conference might have been too big of a start. However, it did make me more determined than ever to make a name for myself on my campus and to make an impact locally before moving forward to our region.
  3. New goals: A goal that I had set for myself earlier this year was to present at a conference and eventually get published. I attended a session on academic advisors and how to start writing and producing research and while again overwhelmed, it felt like just the beginning. I now have a research idea (thanks to another session) and hope to work on it throughout my first year as a professional and see if something could be ready by our regional conference.
  4. Diversity: As we all know, diversity is not just a word and not just a special one-time training, but something everyone should strive for and advocate for in higher education. The most powerful session I attended was one about institutional racism and how to support our students of color. Despite being put in one of the smallest rooms at the hotel, the room was full – every chair taken, people sitting on the floor from front to back, and 20-30 people in the hallway. I was disappointed in the lack of judgement for the room placement, but the people in that room will make a difference for our students of color. In the city of Atlanta, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, just shows that we have come a long way, but there is so much more to achieve and we as academic advisors can be that catalyst.
  5. K-State Family: As NACADA is housed at K-State there were people from my alma mater at the conference so it was great to meet up and update them on how I am doing in my first job. During graduate school I definitely took advantage of the fact that NACADA was on my campus, and the connections that are housed at K-State across the country is something I did not fully understand until this conference. I have said it many times before, and I am sure many times again, I am truly blessed and grateful for having attended K-State and everything it has given me.
Now that I am back on campus in Lincoln and trying to get over this cold, I am excited to share what I have learned with my office and across campus. I am even more excited for this week’s 1:1 with my supervisor to discuss and reflect on my experience and make an action plan of putting this information into practice. Professional development is something so often discussed in our profession, but often overlooked due to time and money, however please advocate for yourself to attend at least one conference (at any level) and seek out other means of professional development. We are no longer in the classroom so we do not have a daily outlet for learning and growing anymore, thus learn what makes sense the most for you and go out and seek it.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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