Ignite Leadership. Influence Change. NASPA 2012.

Hello from Phoenix, Arizona!

I’ve been in this city since early Friday morning (which necessitated a 2AM shuttle pick-up that morning). It’s been a fantastic experience, partially because of the weather, partially because I’m not sick this year, and mostly because being surrounded by so many other student affairs professionals and interested students is incredibly re-energizing.

I spent the weekend attending and helping out at the annual International Symposium, which is a pre-conference event bringing together practitioners from around the world to discuss current issues in global education. I had the chance to speak with several other graduate students in the field, as well as professionals from around the US, England, Pakistan, Germany, and Australia (to name a few). One of the keynote speakers talked about the journey he is currently on, which is–quite simply put–establishing a brand-new university in Pakistan. (More to come in future posts about that.) Being around a pathway like this is so eye-opening to a graduate student and new professional. It again gives me something to which I can say, “I never even knew that was a possibility.”

Digressing a bit, I have to also say that sharing these unknown possibilities with students is going to be a primary thread in how I approach my work. Whether it is transitioning into college or into a new institution (transfer students), or urging students to contribute to literature on Asian-American and Pacific Islanders in higher education, or even exploring new career paths, I want to be able to present new opportunities to my students.

I have seen how theory influences practice through various presentations at this conference, how change can be difficult and slow yet so critical to student success. I have begun to identify areas where I believe I can make contributions: international education, transfer student services, commuter student services, AAPI issues, and how all of these issues translate to the two-year, community college world. I am swimming in ideas–yet I am also aware, by the presence of NUFPs (NASPA Undergraduate Fellows) and other graduate students and professionals, that there are colleagues who yearn to collaborate and contribute.

I have much more to share with you all in the next month or so before my Master’s defense. I hope to have even more to share afterwards.

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A Grad Student’s Reflection on NASPA ’11

“Educating for Lives of Purpose.”

This was the theme of the national NASPA (Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education) conference, held in Philadelphia, PA. I flew out on Friday, March 11th from Portland, OR, and proceeded to spend the next five days not only learning more about my field, but reaffirming my own personal purpose and motivation for going into student affairs.

My reasons for attending NASPA this year may be a bit different than the typical grad student. Due to finances and my need to save what I can for a potential international internship, I had resigned myself to not attending the conference this year. I rethought this plan of action when my father passed away at the beginning of February.

Dad was a former educational administrator, serving as a guidance counselor and principal, among other things. This past summer, he told me, “You are the type of person who can make a difference.” When he passed, I thought to myself, “Is missing out on this conference because I think it may be too expensive really a good reason?” With the conference theme resonating, and my new leadership position with the NASPA International Education Knowledge Community, I decided that the conference may be just what I needed.

I confirmed my registration and flight the day after Dad passed away.

After spending five days with other student affairs grads and professionals, I knew my decision was for the best. I began my time at NASPA with the International Symposium, leading a thank-you dinner for the planning committee which ended up going quite well. Throughout the International Symposium, I connected with professionals working all over the world–Lithuania, Spain, Germany, Qatar–and learned first-hand what it’s like to work in the different systems. I was particularly inspired by the colegios mayores model found in Spanish universities, which function kind of like living-learning residencies or Greek houses with a central faculty member. What the faculty members do in their roles can be translated to what I do as a grad student: build relationships, inspire directed and in-depth learning, and provide a solid foundation within a much larger institution. This transferability will be helpful when considering how to craft effective programs and strategies.

Speaking of how to craft effective programs, what I took away from the rest of my sessions–not to glaze over them–was that I need to be innovative and collaborative, and that my goal of educating global citizens is in-line with educating for lives of purpose. I want the students with whom I come in contact to think about why they do what they do, and to challenge themselves to create good by being good. I want them to find out what really drives them, beyond money, beyond nice cars, beyond individual status; I want them to consider what they bring to the global table.

I learned not only about new ideas on leadership, but saw how the spiritual side of life seeps into everything else: wellness, academic success, purpose, and so forth and so on. I reaffirmed my inklings that community is what I want to build, and that community is what keeps me happy and sane.

Overall, NASPA gave me that hard reset I had been yearning for all quarter. I connected with people from all over the country–and all over the globe–and took away new ideas and new approaches that I will need to deliberately put to good use.

But most importantly, the conference showed me that I am where I am for a purpose–to be great through being good, and being myself, and not losing sight of that idea of making a difference.

Infinite, and Beyond

Crazy week here at Trains and Sunsets.

* Registered www.ardithlaverne.com
* Helped out my colleague and friend for a brand-new HigherEdLive.com webcast
* Polishing the last few assignments of the term
* Jetting off to Philadelphia for the national NASPA conference
* Been fighting off some virus that is causing me a deathly sore throat and not going away–not strep, says the health center, but either way, not cool.

Life is going fairly well right now, and I’m glad to be on the other side of an emotional valley. Yes, I am resilient; sometimes, it just takes time to get through. Things are not 100% normal, and that’s fine. I’m still adjusting to the fact that my dad is gone. This redefines many things, but this is also a new beginning for myself.

I am learning to be happy being an individual, being single, being myself. I’ve known that I am awesome for quite sometime, and now it’s really time to think about what I want out of life. For one, I’m considering exploring the Midwest for job opportunities after graduating, and in addition to that–who am I kidding–SoCal is back in the running. I never thought I’d say that, but it is. I’m really excited about those particular areas coming into play. I’m excited about being in a position to be thinking about packing up when I’m done at OSU and going wherever the wind takes me.

Beauty through strength. Adventure awaits.

I’ll get back on a normal schedule when NASPA conference is over, hopefully.

‘Til then, love love love…