Free Professional Development

by James Luckman
@JimmyLuckman

Often times in student affairs, young professionals are tasked with the effort to find ways to engage in personal and professional development. This can be a difficult challenge as development can be costly, time consuming, individually driven, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. Although there are multiple barriers, it is important to acknowledge the importance of development ensuring that the sacrifices and challenges are worth it. The emphasis of professional development is ingrained in graduate programs, professional organizations such as NASPA or ACPA, and even within your specific institutions or department. The purpose of professional development is to incorporate it into your own personal branding, passions, and help you achieve your own unique goals.    

As a new professional in student affairs I am also in a similar situation, however I have three free suggestions that might be feasible.

  1. Engage in the campus community! Instead of going to work in a passive manner, make sure to engage in an active approach seeking out different opportunities, trainings, or events that help you expand your visions or perceptions. A prime example is that at NAU I attend Commission of Ethnic Diversity, which is hosted on the first Monday of every month. I also have signed up and attended trainings such as SafeZone 101 and 102. Although I have participated in SafeZone trainings at my previous institution, it is never a bad idea to interact and engage with different professionals within a new campus environment. Seeking our training, commissions, or event on campus is a great way to gain new knowledge or even network with new individuals, within your own institution and finding options that do not cost anything to attend.
  1. Reach out to someone new! Instead of only interacting within your specific department take the time to reach out and email another professional asking them to meet directly with you. Typically meeting with someone is free, however you can to invite someone to coffee and pay for their drink, which would no longer be free. This outreach is critical for professional development because it can expand your knowledge of a different department and you can also use this meeting to gain additional resources and information to development more insight after the conversation is completed. This past week I meet with Dr. Ora Marek-Martinez who is the Executive Director for the Native American Cultural Center and an assistant professor for the Department of Anthropology at NAU. The meeting was amazing as I learned more about NAU being a Native American Serving Institution, resources available for native American students, and even added a couple of books on my reading list. Professionals are not taking the time to interact with one another. Dr. Ora Marek-Martinez told me that since her year of holding this position she had limited faculty and staff members reach out to her to learn more about the Native American Cultural Center. The field of student affairs reference that we are life-long learners, however it is often overlooked that we can learn from one another, if we just reached out.
  1. Take ownership of your journey of being a lifelong learner! One of my all-time favorite quotes is “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future” by Audre Lorde from  Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Instead of relying on an event, training, or finalizing a scheduled meeting, you can engage in educating yourself, what whatever style works best for you. Although the first two suggestions are good options, you cannot rely on others to physically educate you all the time, instead take the time to read and reflect on the work and scholarship of others that are already provided for you to use. Over the summer I seized the opportunity to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Trans* in College by Z. Nicolazzo, and How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi. I understand that reading might not be your thing but you could read a journal, research article, a blog post, newspaper article, or even listen to an online podcast. The information you obtain from this can be implemented into your professional development. This is essentially free professional development if you search the web for online articles, or even reach out to colleagues to see if they have any books they recommend and are willing to let you barrow.
Professional development is a lifelong process however it can be easily overlooked. These are some cost effective and simple ways to engage in professional development. It is important to take the time to process and reflect on where you want your professional development track to take you.
What are some ways to you can engage in free professional development within your own institution?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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