My First Official Student Affairs Conference

by James Luckman

I have been to my fair share of conferences throughout my undergraduate experience, however I felt extremely nervous going to my first NASPA Drive-In conference at Arizona State University. I am nerd in the sense that I really enjoy going to conferences, because of the opportunity to gain more knowledge and transferable skills. Although I really enjoy conferences this particular, Drive-In felt different knowing that I was starting my NASPA involvement as well as my professional journey within student affairs.

Prior to attending the conference, I had formulated a game plan:
  1. I wanted to attend sessions that where outside of my experiences and comfort zone. This would allow me to explore different theories and look into diverse experiences that I would never have envisioned without having attended the conference. 
  2. I selected themes that I knew I could incorporate within my graduate assistantship in housing as well as class discussions. I essentially created learning outcomes for the conference (evidence of my nerd abilities).
  3. I selected sessions that were difference than the people I came with, in order to gain even more knowledge. Since the ride from NAU to ASU is about two and a half hours, I knew that our car ride home was more than enough time to debrief what we learned about each session. 
  4. I wanted to learn more strategies on how to get involved within the NASPA community. I want to be involved within professional communities to expand my network so that after graduation I have multiple options and connections, that might potentially help me find and secure a job. 

I think the biggest fear going into this conference was the idea of networking. Although I was fully prepared knowing my “evaluator speech” and even brining my business cards I felt nervous engaging in conversation. It might have to do with my introverted tendencies; however, I also believed that being a young emerging professional also played a major factor. I have to gain more confidence within myself in order to network at conferences. I think once I gain more conference experience I will develop my confidence; however, this experience was a wakeup call that I have to improve my networking skills. What ways do you embrace confidence within your own networking style?

Conferences are a great way to gain professional development but it is also a great way to connect with others and dream big. Although I did not give out any of my business cards, I was able to interact with other professionals throughout Arizona. I was also able to hear other individual’s journey through student affairs, which motivated me. I was actively listening to their perspectives taking in their advice, while simultaneously engaging in reflective-listening by mapping where I might want my involvement and career path to be directed, knowing that the future is wide open for me at the current moment. Despite the fact that I am only in my first semester of the first year of my graduate program I am constantly envisioning and planning professional development opportunities to help me reach my professional and personal goals within the future.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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