How the NASPA Strategies Conferences changed the course of my life

There are two things that remain at the top of my ‘every day to-do list’:

  1. Create and foster relationships
  2. Learn something new

No matter the day, I will find a way to check these two items off my list.

Creating relationships does not always come easy, especially for introverts like me. The things in life that are most rewarding often take more time, effort, and constantly push us outside of our comfort zone. 

Learning is something that we all do differently. Whether you do it by assessing, reading, listening, discussing, or experiencing, it is important that we make learning a life-long process. 

Why do I believe these two things are so relevant to a NASPA conference as a new professional? How did this experience change the course of my life? It’s simple. 

I had the great privilege of attending and presenting at two NASPA Strategies Conferences in my short time in the student affairs field. The first, and definitely the most life changing, was during my second year of graduate school. My supervisor at the time had encouraged me to team up with he and two colleagues from Ohio State University to submit a proposal – it would be my first professional conference. 

I had no idea what to expect from a NASPA conference or what went in to a NASPA proposal. I had never met or spoken to the colleagues from Ohio State who would soon be our co-presenters. 

What did I do? What any grad student would do – said yes to my boss. I was in. 

It’s been one heck of a ride. 

Fast-forward six months following my first conference and I’m living in Columbus, OH, employed by those colleagues whom I had never met or spoken to from Ohio State. Fast-forward two years, and I have transitioned in to a leadership role within my department, working alongside those colleagues from Ohio State whom I had never met or spoken to. 

Being new to the field, I was nervous, anxious, excited, and uncertain leading up to my first professional conference. I challenged myself to get out my comfort zone and to go for it. I think it’s safe to say that by accepting this challenge, my life changed for the better.

I told myself that I would get everything that I could out of my first conference - I encourage any new professional to do the same. Some attendees will attend as many educational sessions as physically possible, while others arrange informational interviews with other attendees who may be more experienced in the field. 

Regardless of how you choose to develop relationships and learn, it is important that you take advantage of the opportunities that are provided at professional conferences. If you do this, you are guaranteed to take away notebooks that are filled to the brim with information. This information will be invaluable to your career growth and the work that you do on your campus. 

I personally believe that there are few better experiences for a new professional in our field than presenting at a professional conference. If you are nervous about presenting, find a co-presenter - from your institution, or another. If you aren’t sure what to present on, take a look at the conference themes and bounce ideas off of colleagues. Most importantly, don’t spend your time overthinking it.

Go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? 

I never thought I would be where I am today, and it all started with a simple program proposal. Challenge yourself and reward will follow.

Submit a program for the 2016 NASPA Strategies Conferences: Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Mental Health, and Violence Prevention. Held in Orlando, FL Jan. 21-23, the Strategies Conferences give student affairs practitioners the tools to address student mental health, substance abuse, and violence on campus through a variety of integrative approaches. Contribute to the conversation by submitting your program by Sept. 17.

 Blake Marble serves as an assistant director within The Ohio State University Office of Student Life Student Wellness Center. He received both is bachelor and master degrees from Auburn University, and has spent his time working in wellness and health promotion in higher education for the last four years. In his work, Blake has primarily focused on alcohol and other drug education, holistic wellness, peer-to-peer wellness programming, sexual violence prevention, STI/safer sex education and testing, and student leader wellness initiatives.  Blake has enjoyed working at Ohio State since July of 2013.