Each year, hundreds of student affairs professionals focused in the areas of sexual violence prevention, education, and response; mental health; well-being and health promotion leadership; and alcohol and other drug and violence prevention gather together at the NASPA Strategies Conferences to educate, learn, and connect with and from one another across the fields.
This past January, multiple institutions represented within the Culture of Respect Collective used the opportunity to connect at both a networking lunch and a reception with members of each cohort of the program. Culture of Respect Collective institutions are those that choose to take part in an ambitious two-year program that focuses on ending campus sexual violence via a rigorous process of self-assessment and targeted organizational change.
One key component of the program is the commitment of members to being a part of the Collective community – as members of a local and campus community, as members of administrative teams, and as colleagues across institutions engaging in this process together. These connections result in collaborations across broad groups of people that contribute to a sense of belonging and the space to brainstorm new ideas.
Collaboration is vital to student affairs work, particularly that which requires dismantling systems or solving problems that communities have faced for years. The work being done in sexual violence prevention, education, and response as well as is equity and inclusion can sometimes feel like it is all in vain to address an issue that is so deeply rooted within the many social-ecological levels of our society. While it can feel this way in approaching some of our work, the inherent nature of collaboration and connection is the tendency to share ideas and build upon them, often leading to exciting institutional endeavors and initiatives. Collaboration and connection can help student affairs professionals to process and debrief challenges, to know they are not alone in this struggle.
So, how do student affairs professionals find communities with which to engage? There are myriad organizations that offer student affairs professionals the opportunity to connect, including individual listservs dedicated to particular topics of interest and membership organizations designed specifically for individual functional areas within student affairs. If you prefer to connect less formally, there is a very active community of professionals using the Twitter hashtags #SAchat and #SApro to have very similar conversations.
For members of the Culture of Respect Collective, we have made a concerted effort to ensure opportunities for ongoing engagement such as providing a listserv and hosting regular virtual roundtable discussions. For professionals who are NASPA members, there are active knowledge communities that offer the opportunity to explore a variety of topics, professional functions, and personal identities.
No matter what you choose to do, remember that you are not alone in this work. Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, it can be helpful to connect with professionals doing similar work; we are all in this together so find a way to connect however suits you best.