Professional Engagement and Finding Your Fit

It was during senior year of my undergraduate career that I became exposed to NASPA and its work. With NASPA being an organization that offers so many outlets for engagement within the profession, finding my place would mean making connections in different areas to find the best fit. I was a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow (NUFP) at the University of Vermont, and through this program, attended both the Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow (SALT) Conference and the Dungy Leadership Institute (DLI) at Pacific Lutheran University. These programs not only exposed me to many different functional areas of higher education, but the diverse ways I could have a make a positive impact on students. These experiences opened doors for me as an emerging graduate student in the field by providing me with a new support system and new knowledge surrounding higher education. Toward the end of my senior year, I was looking for ways to stay engaged with NASPA - both to contribute to the association that gave me so much and to continue to learn and grow from those who make it up.

In an effort to look for opportunities, I turned to NASPA’s Volunteer Central portal and found a list of Knowledge Communities (KCs). The New Professionals and Graduate Students (NPGS) KC instantly stood out to me - a community of individuals who, come fall, would share my identity and place in the field. The position available was the Partnerships Coordinator - the role I currently hold. In this role, I serve on the Leadership Team for the KC and am responsible for enhancing the relationships between NPGS and programs like NUFP and the Graduate Associate Program (GAP).

At around the same time I was looking for volunteer opportunities, I was also accepted to the Graduate Associate Program (GAP), a leadership program that elevates the involvement of graduate students within NASPA and the field at large. The major highlights about this program that stood out to me were that it would connect me to other graduate students in the field at different institutions around the country and it would provide me with a mentor who facilitated the program and could answer my questions, expose me to new opportunities, and more. This program is an incredible opportunity to learn more about the field and share it with others. 

I see many connections between the NPGS Knowledge Community and the GAP program. NPGS is the perfect place to start for those who are interested in broadening their knowledge of the field and making new connections. Through being a member of the KC, I attended a symposium at the 2018 Annual Conference focusing on Millennial Culture, participated in webinars on topics relevant to my work, and found a community to both contribute to and depend on through professional development. In my role as Partnerships Coordinator, I work to ensure that NPGS is doing all we can be to enhance the experience of graduate students, which involves close collaboration with GAP. 

As I look ahead to my second year of graduate school and the beginning of my time as a new professional, I owe a lot of my growth and learning experiences to NASPA. The major tips I have to offer to emerging graduate students and new professionals are the following:

  1. Look for volunteer opportunities through Volunteer Central - these will connect you with NASPA members ranging from other graduate students to mid- and senior-level professionals! My involvement with the association not only paved the way for me to immerse myself into the profession, but allowed me to build a close-knit community of others who could offer wisdom as I navigated graduate school and beyond.
  2. Is there a functional area you are passionate about or want to learn more about? Get involved with a Knowledge Community! They are at the heart of the field and offer so much to our members. NASPA’s KCs (currently 35!) can provide you with the space to learn and connect with others who have similar passions as you in the field.
  3. Apply to be a GAP - having a cohort of other graduate students going through the program with me allowed me to feel so much more connected to the field and so much more supported knowing I had others going through similar experiences. I also felt more connected to my own graduate program, as GAP allowed me to pass on knowledge at my home campus.

Caroline Dababneh (she/her/hers) is a second-year graduate student in the University of Maine’s Student Development in Higher Education program. She holds a graduate assistantship for Higher Education Programs and is an intern in the Office of Community Standards, Rights, and Responsibilities. Caroline is the Partnerships Coordinator for the NPGS KC, the Graduate Intern for the NASPA Region I Board, and the Liaison to Graduate Students for the NASPA Maine State Board. This summer, Caroline is working as a House Director through ACUHO-I for Stanford Summer Session in Palo Alto, CA. Caroline earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in 2017, where 1she studied Theatre, English, and Philosophy. She is passionate about access and equity within higher education and is hoping to work with first-year, first-generation students after graduation in some capacity. Outside of higher education, Caroline loves writing poetry, music, and is a believer in the arts.


The NASPA Graduate Associate Program

The NASPA Graduate Associate (GA) provides leadership and outreach to their institution regarding all things NASPA. Primarily, the associate increases awareness and involvement within NASPA by providing updated information about programs, events, and resources to their fellow graduate students and other individuals interested in learning more about NASPA. GAs serve as an unofficial graduate student council, providing another perspective for NASPA student membership. GAs will also have the opportunity to apply to be an intern for the 2019 NASPA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA. 

Applications for the 2018-2019 class have been extended to September 3, 2018.

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