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Janna Bernstein

April 26, 2018

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love! My, what an adventure I experienced at this year’s NASPA! I had wanted to return to Philly ever since my first NASPA Annual conference in 2011. Seven years ago, I was a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow (NUFP) attending NASPA for the first time. I was the lone undergraduate student traveling with the graduate students from my alma mater. I was so excited to begin my journey as a Student Affairs professional and knew attending this conference was the next step in this dream. Today, I am a mid-level professional (Assistant Director for Leadership and Scholar Development at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas) with a Masters in Higher Education, working towards my Doctorate. I have served as a mentor to three UNLV NUFPS and unofficially mentored three others as an advocate of the program. It even turned out that the hotel I stayed in this year was the same one the graduate students stayed in 7 years prior! It is amazing how life comes full circle.

Getting to attend the conference in Philly was no small feat, but I was determined! We arrived at the airport ready to board our plane, but I heard over the telecom that other airlines were cancelling their flights to Philadelphia due to the impending weather conditions. However, our airline was ready for take off! They had doubled the amount of fuel needed in case there were any issues, so what could go wrong?! Well, we arrive near Philadelphia and the Nor’easter has hit! We circled over the airport for over 2 hours, until the airline decided it was too dangerous and we were diverted to the next closest, Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Fortunately, we land safely at BWI, but learn that there are no flights to Philly until the following Tuesday! Why the airline didn’t check this, I will never know! Well, with no flights out, we had to determine a Plan B! We (myself, another UNLV colleague, and one of our UNLV NUFPs) were exhausted from traveling all day and decided to find a hotel and search for a train to Philly. Of course, we were not the only ones to be effected by the Nor’Easter, so there were no trains leaving until the next day at 3 pm. Fortunately, we were able to find three seats on the Amtrak and decided to make the most of the experience in B-More. We had time to explore after all! So, what do Student Affairs professionals do on a layover? Visit a college, of course! We took an Uber to explore Johns Hopkins University and visited the beautiful (and free!) Museum of Art that is located on campus. What’s the saying? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right? Well, we did, and it was DELICIOUS!

When we finally arrived in Philly, we had already missed many of our conference commitments, but decided that since we made it, it was going to be worth it! As someone that has recently shifted my functional area from Residential Life to Leadership Education, this conference was the perfect opportunity to delve into leadership fully and embrace all the knowledge! Due to the craziness of arriving, I adjusted my plan of sessions to attend and was very intentional. I had asked my staff the learning concepts they wanted me to explore and made sure to attend these presentations. One of the sessions that stands out is “The LID Model: Applications for Intentionally Developing and Assessing Student Leaders.” My office has been toying with the idea of how to better assess our student leaders, so this program was the perfect opportunity to learn what other campuses are doing! The session did not disappoint and we are currently in the planning stages of determining the best way to incorporate this model into our programming. I was also able to network with a fellow Leadership Educator that used to be in my current role. I gained SO much history about my office and ideas for future initiatives from our conversation. Without my attendance at NASPA, I do not think this crucial meeting would have happened; I am so grateful. These moments are what makes it all worth it and why conference attendance is crucial to professional development! One of my favorite things about attending NASPA and my involvement in the Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community is the connections you make, the stories you share, and the knowledge you gain! My conference experience may have been unusual in the way it began, but in the end, it was all worth it! I have always considered NASPA my home and am so grateful for everything this organization and the SLPKC has provided me over the years!

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