Reflections on the National SERVE experience

David Adams, NASPA IV-W Foundation Ambassador

March 23, 2018

On August 29th of 2016, I received a Congratulations email indicating my acceptance into the first national SERVE (Supporting, Expanding, and Recruiting Volunteer Excellence) cohort.  It was a Monday and within the first few weeks of the semester at Tulsa Community College.  In addition to telling my partner and family, I told one colleague and within about one week, my boss.  Everyone was very happy for me, as I have been engaged with NASPA since 2006 through different Regions, Knowledge Communities, National/International events and the NASPA Foundation.

SERVE’s first agenda item had NASPA sending all 15 SERVE members from across the nation (including Hawaii) to Washington D.C. to learn more about NASPA, meet each other and begin to develop a cohort project to be completed in roughly one year. I was very excited to visit Washington D.C. to meet my SERVE colleagues, tour NASPA headquarters and learn more about all things NASPA.  It was an incredible three days filled with deep networking and laying the foundation for our cohort project. 

Based on our conversations in Washington D.C., we came to find common ground in our stories about how we became involved with NASPA.  Over the course of the next year and three months, we held multiple conference calls, performed quantitative and qualitative research, met at the annual conference, broke into teams, held more conference calls with the intent on presenting to the NASPA Board of Directors. 

One of the other benefits of SERVE was receiving a NASPA mentor.  My mentor was Greg Boardman, the past Vice Provost of Student Affairs at Stanford University.  Turns out, I already knew Greg from my time engaged with NASPA in California.  In addition to all of the chats I had with Greg, he helped me develop a Student Services Professional Development Grant for Tulsa Community College, based on a similar program he had at Stanford.  My Senior Student Affairs Officer at Tulsa Community College allowed me the opportunity to announce the Student Services Grant to every staff member in Student Affairs during a professional development meeting.  I’m always excited to chat with people about their professional development interests and now Tulsa Community College has a Grant to offer support when budgets are being tightened.

Fast forward to March of 2018, the week before our presentation to the Board of Directors, we decided who will speak on certain sections of the presentation.  Everything was planned out and then the blizzard came which altered almost everyone’s travel to Philly.  I was thrilled my plane arrived in Philly on-time, but not so thrilled about the last 45 minutes of ample turbulence.  As a result of travel challenges for others in my cohort and our presentation time moving up, not everyone was able to present.  Roughly one hour before our presentation, we switched who was presenting on certain areas based on who was present.  I began studying my section very carefully and then I remembered, I had been working on this project for the past year and already knew my section.  As we made our way into the Board of Directors meeting, I was so excited to see Shana Warkentine Meyer and Jerrid Freeman from the Region and Stephanie Gordon from the NASPA staff.  Finding familiar faces at the table helped ease my presentation anxiety and helped me know “I got this.”  My SERVE Academy colleagues and I made the following recommendations:

  1. Create a “Volunteer” or “Member Engagement” tab on the top page of the NASPA website.
  2. Make Volunteer Central and videos about involvement/leadership easier to find.
  3. Create a “Volunteer Profile” quiz that would generate specific volunteer opportunities tailored to member responses.
  4. Create an infographic to highlight pathways to volunteer and leadership positions.
  5. Create a process for timely responses from NASPA. 

We all received positive feedback from the Board of Directors.  Since these were only recommendations, NASPA leadership will decide if and/or how they might be used.  With the exception of the SERVE meeting on the following day, this was the culmination of my SERVE experience.  My SERVE experience will “serve” as one of my top NASPA learning experiences.  I’m very grateful to Lori White and all the others who developed SERVE and made this experience possible.  I’m also happy to see Shana initiating a SERVE experience for Region IV-W and I have the pleasure of serving as the mentor for Jesús Meléndez, one of the Region IV-W SERVE members. 

NASPA has an assortment of volunteer opportunities listed on Volunteer Central.  I encourage all NASPA members to find “You’re NASPA” and get involved!

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