April 17, 2017
It started with Twitter. About two weeks prior to my departure from Atlanta to NASPA in San Antonio, I was reading through the #NASPA17 hashtag to see what buzz was going on. Scroll after scroll I read through tweets of excitement, promotions of session topics, and general announcements about the conference. One specific announcement caught my attention - the NPGS KC New Professional pre-con symposium scholarship application. I decided to take a chance on the opportunity, and was pleasantly surprised to be selected as one of two members to be awarded the free registration. I was both thrilled and nervous. As a second-year graduate student, would I have a lot to contribute? I'm not technically a new professional yet. Will I fit in? These worries faded once I reached San Antonio and sat down in the symposium. I had nothing to be nervous about! As a graduate student, I gained so much from attending that I'd love to share with you. Here are three things you should know if you are a graduate student contemplating registering for the symposium.
You’re Not Alone
My initial hesitance walking into the symposium revolved around my graduate student status as opposed to being a new professional. To my relief, not only was I among other graduate students, but all of the attendees were incredibly supportive and open about their advice to someone currently navigating the job search. I unknowingly seated myself next to another second-year graduate student, and we immediately connected over the job search and comprehensive assignments for our programs. The initial symposium introductions allowed me to get a holistic look at who was in the room, where they were from, and what functional areas they worked in. Though many people groan at the thought of a whip-around that includes an entire room of people, I believe this icebreaker calmed my nerves and helped set a foundation for some impactful conversations that were about to happen with these folks.
You’ll Have Real Talk
When I spoke with my fellow graduate student friends at my institution, some of them said they had initially considered registering, but then decided against it. They weren’t sure of what they would get out it, and passed up the opportunity. Let me tell you, dear reader, that there is so much to gain from this meeting. Once the initial walls of my nerves came down, I participated in discussions surrounding topics that are pertinent to our field. I gained valuable insight into the supervisory relationships I can expect in my first position, how FLSA has affected my colleagues, how to advocate for myself in the workplace, and so many other themes that helped me better understand how to approach the job search. Hearing first-hand accounts from new professionals ranging from almost finishing their first years to more seasoned pros truly improved my understanding of the student affairs field as a whole. As the symposium continued, our discussions became more and more candid, removing the superficial masks that we all come to conferences wearing. I can honestly say some of my realest, nitty gritty discussions from NASPA17 were had in the symposium, and I’m so glad I was able to have those with my colleagues.
To my fellow graduate students: you #AddValue. The KC Co-Chairs, Sharee and Dustin, are operating on a platform to add value to the knowledge community and NASPA along with the hope to inspire each of us KC members to add value to our daily work in student affairs. Though I was cautious to attend a new professional symposium as a graduate student, my input was valued and asked for during the three hour whirlwind of friend-making and story-sharing. As a member of the knowledge community, know that your participation in the symposium is a two-way improvement process. You will gain new connections, thoughtful insight, and all sorts of advice and tips on the job search and navigating your first position. You will provide to other members of the symposium your own wisdom, thoughtful questions, and #AddValue to the experiences of the others in the room. The New Professional Symposium is an excellent opportunity to dip your toe into the NASPA conference prior to the full-blown extravaganza. You are valuable as a graduate student, and the symposium is a great way to #AddValue to your conference experience.
In reflecting on my NASPA17 experience, I can confidently say that the New Professional Symposium was one of the most impactful things I attended. Thanks to my random Friday afternoon Twitter adventure I was afforded an experience that provided me with new friends, connections, and knowledge that will guide me through the rest of my job search process into wherever I end up in my first position as an #SApro. I look forward to keeping up with those I interacted with this year, and hope to see you next year at NASPA18 in Philly!
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Courtney Campbell is a second-year graduate student at the University of West Georgia, gearing up to finish her M.Ed. in Professional Counseling and College Student Affairs in two short months. She currently serves at the Graduate Assistant for Academic Success Programs in the Center for Academic Success. Courtney enjoys cooking, watching shows on Netflix and HBO Now, and is looking forward to relocating to Portland, Oregon after graduation. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @courtneyekeeler.
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