Every year I look forward to the NASPA Annual Conference because it is a time to for me to reconnect with colleagues, learn some new things, re-energize and go back to my job for another year, and remember why I love working in student affairs. Over the last two conferences, I have begun to be involved with the API KC. In my first year beginning my involvement with our KC, I attended APPEX and went to the social. APPEX changed my life. How often are you in a dedicated space for an entire day where you get to talk about API students and professionals? How often do we really get to affirm the experiences we and our students are having? That is when I realized that I needed to get more involved in the API KC and that it was going to be my new home and family in NASPA and Student Affairs.
This year I came to Orlando knowing that APPEX was probably going to be one of, if not the most meaningful learning opportunity for me during NASPA. This year I was a part of the Annual Conference planning committee, so I knew I would not be able to attend that many educational sessions during the conference. APPEX was the time for me to be me and be with others like me. During the busyness of the academic year, especially working at a quarter-based school where every process happens three times during the year, having the chance to just think about where I am not and where I want to go was wonderful. It was such a special opportunity to be in a room with some professionals who have lead the way for API student affairs educators. To know that those people are rock stars who are already doing and have accomplished amazing things and yet still are taking the time to invest in future API professionals is encouraging and really helps to feel like we are a larger API family.
My conference this year consisted of API KC related meetings/sessions and conference planning committee responsibilities. I had the opportunity to attend the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) Board Meeting representing the API KC and the NASPA Leadership Dinner as a member of the conference planning committee. During the NUFP Board Meeting, along with the other KC representatives, we realized that we need to better connect to NUFP who identify as API so once they have graduated from their undergraduate institutions, they already know a way to continue their involvement in NASPA. I believe this also applies for graduate students and new professionals who might be new to NASPA. NASPA is a complicated organization with so many different levels, sub-organizations, and ways to be involved. In the same way we do significant out-reach to first-year students at our home institutions, we need to be doing this to anyone new to NASPA.
During the NASPA Leadership Dinner, I realized as a KC we need to find ways to be in further NASPA leadership roles. When I looked around the room of this fancy dinner, there were really only a handful of professionals who identify as API. We know as a KC that we are strong, have amazing relationships with each other, and are a fun family (e.g., we were by far the most exciting table at the communities fair). However, do others in NASPA know just how strong and impactful the API KC is and API professionals in NASPA are? Much as within higher education and our larger society, we are still trying to show that we as API professionals and students have a voice that needs to be heard, this might be the case even in within the larger NASPA organization.
While I do not think we have anything to prove to others, I think we should not be afraid to talk about the great things we are doing and continue showing our strong voice. To me this is what Daniel and Greg told the API Leadership Team during our training at the conference: we have the strong connections, but we also need to be creating knowledge. I was unable to attend most of the educational sessions this year. However, when I looked through the program listings, why were there only a handful of ones related to API students and professionals? API students are growing in number in our country. API student affairs professionals are also hopefully growing. We need to match this growth and make sure our colleagues across student affairs are knowledgeable enough about what our stories entail that we are not the only ones sharing them. It is our responsibility to be telling our stories. But it is also our responsibility to make sure we form coalitions so we’re not the only ones who know our stories.
I left the conference this year with a few takeaways. Mentors are crucial to moving us forward as a group. Many of us are one of few API professionals on a given campus or in a given region. We need those people who understand our experiences and know us well enough to help us find the right opportunities. The number of API student affairs professionals while still relatively small is strong. Since we are family, we need to continue looking out for each other and bringing in those new to the profession into our open arms. We also need to continue being actively learning and creating knowledge about ourselves and our students. We need to embrace the legacy of our hardworking gene and make sure we are doing good work in our jobs but also finding ways to further the knowledge about us. If we don’t, who is going to? We need to involve API faculty in NASPA. NASPA as an organization is trying to find ways to better involve faculty members. We should do the same. Learning can and should happen throughout the year, not just in March for four or five days at NASPA.
I hope everyone left Orlando excited for the next year in their undergrads, grad programs, and jobs. The API KC truly is my home in NASPA now. I grew up in NUFP, but expect to really develop as a professional in the API KC family. I am so happy I had the chance to be home with my family for some time in sunny Orlando. I can’t wait for our next reunion in Baltimore!
Written by by Sue Ann Huang, Resident Director, McCarty Hall, Housing & Food Services, University of Washington (firstname.lastname@example.org). Sue Ann is also one of the 2013-2015 NASPA API KC NPGS Liaisons.