A Space for Growth, Teaching and Engagement - the 2018 NASPA Strategies Conferences

The early-bird deadline for the 2018 NASPA Strategies Conferences is November 1, 2018.

I attended a NASPA Strategies Conference for the first time in 2017, specifically the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Conference. I had briefly heard about this series from colleagues who had attended previously; however, it somehow never clicked as being an opportunity that I should look into further. I had been lucky enough as a new professional to attend the national conference twice already and had even co-presented a pre-conference session there in 2016. While I had amazing experiences both years, this time I was looking for a professional development opportunity that offered a smaller setting and an increased focus on my interests and skill sets.

At the last moment, prior to registration, my dean of students at the time pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in attending. He was willing to help find a way to fund my travel and I would have the opportunity to go with another colleague who worked in alcohol and other drug prevention in our office. I was intrigued by the mix of opportunities that the conference would provide, from sexual assault prevention to AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) work to mental health and wellness. I decided to say “yes,” and could not be happier that I did!

The NASPA Strategies Conferences are incredible opportunities for individuals in many specialty areas to network and to learn the trends in their respective fields. They also afford chances for student affair professionals to step outside of their comfort zones and attend sessions that may not align directly with their specific job duties, but that are relevant to other growing responsibilities in the field. As a higher education case manager, I have found that the expectations placed upon those in our field continue to grow, frequently incorporating new duties or functional areas that were not part of the original framework of the job. Many of my colleagues in the field have taken on duties in victim advocacy, while others provide AOD assessment or respondent support services for their universities.

Student affairs is a robust field and, while many of us joke about “other duties as assigned,” we are skilled in so many ways that it only makes sense that we must learn to adapt to the growing needs of our students. By offering four smaller focus areas within one conference, attendees can get the best of all worlds and attend the sessions that most relate to their work but also those that will enhance the breadth of their knowledge in our ever-expanding field.

Besides the perk of being able to get so much out of a single conference that still feels comfortable in size, there are far more important reasons to attend this year’s strategies conferences. The current political climate poses a threat to both the students for whom we advocate and the work that we do every day, from the recent recension of the Obama-era guidance on Title IX for colleges and universities, to the uncertain future for students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Now more than ever, it is essential that we come together to engage with one another to find solutions for supporting our students, educating our administrations, and challenging the systems that are a barrier to our students’ success.

I encourage anyone considering attending one of this year’s NASPA Strategies Conferences to join us in Portland, OR, this year if at all possible. There is space for growth, teaching, and engaging with others who truly understand the work you are doing. I look forward to seeing you all come January!

Jennifer E. Henkle (she/her/hers) works for the University of Kentucky as the Assistant Director for the Community of Concern. Jennifer earned her B.S. in Youth, Adult, and Family Services from Purdue University in 2010 and her Masters in Social Work with a focus on Interpersonal Practice in mental health from the University of Michigan in 2013; she is currently licensed as a Certified Social Worker (CSW) in the state of Kentucky. Jennifer's experience includes residence life; community-based victim advocacy; providing support to students facing both personal and academic challenges; offering education, consultation, and outreach to students, faculty, and staff regarding working with students of concern; developing programming and educational modules and materials related to sexual misconduct, relationship violence, and stalking; and serving on multiple behavioral intervention and sexual assault response teams at the university level. She is a part of the Higher Education Case Managers Association leadership team, a member of the National Association of Social Workers, a volunteer for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, and a member of various NASPA knowledge and planning committees.

Connect with her on Twitter: @jennifa1987 When she's not there, find her on her on Facebook or connect via LinkedIn.