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Advice: The Good, the Bad, and the Confusing— Navigating NASPA 2011 as a Master's Student

December 2011 Issue

by Virginia Byrne Going into my first national NASPA conference, I thought I was ready. As an obsessive list maker, I had my learning goals, the people I wanted to meet, and my Master's program development objects all listed out. What I did not expect was the significant amount of advice (solicited and not) that I received about how to navigate the conference from veteran attendees. Throughout the conference I kept note of the advice I received and have broken it into three groups: the Good, the Bad, and the Confusing.

In This Issue… Advice: The Good, the


Bad, and the


Confusing—Navigating NASPA 2011 as a

The Good Workshops Before the conference, read the workshop listings and attend many that align with your different direct interests, as well as a few on topics about which you know little and/or with which you rarely work. For example, I am directly interested in leadership, service, civic engagement, and first-generation student development. However, following this advice, I made it a priority to attend two workshops on interfaith dialogue, which is a subject outside of my comfort zone. These two interfaith programs are where I learned the most, and they inspired me to add interfaith and spirituality issues to my professional development plan and reading list. Mentor Programs Take advantage of all mentor programs. NASPA has many wonderful programs, like Meal with a Mentor, that connect master's students with seasoned professionals and new professionals alike. Meeting people through these programs has enabled me to widen my network to include new schools and regions, as well as foreign functional areas.

Master's Student Upcoming Conferences

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December Event

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Jennifer Chavis


Virginia Byrne

Follow-Up E-mails After the conference, send follow-up e-mails to people that you met or saw present. One seasoned NASPA professional gave me some wonderful advice on how to construct follow-up e-mails: (1) Thank the person for the conversation/presentation; (2) specifically mention what you took away from the experience; and (3) ask a simple follow-up question that relates their work to your academic work, graduate assistantship, or general professional development. Social Opportunities Attend all knowledge community, regional, and school socials (and not just for the food!). Being engaged in these smaller communities can lead to more active roles in planning local conferences, sharing resources, and finding mentors in your area. Publications Browse the bookstore and booths to see the hot topics of the conference and the Who's Who among published attendees. A former NASPA president recommended asking everyone you meet one question: If I want to become an expert in your area in the future, what is the one book I should read? Getting book recommendations will help you develop a professional library, as well as a wellrounded understanding of the field. Story continued on page 2 1

“The Good, the Bad and the Confusing� story continued...

The Bad Proper Etiquette When attending a workshop, it was recommended to sit in the back so that you can move between programs if one does not interest you. This strategy resonated with me immediately: Not only is moving between programs rude to the presenter, but it shows the people sitting around you that you are feigning interest in professional development. I was also advised to talk to anyone and everyone, as NASPA is all about connections. I took this advice to heart, inherently knowing never to ask someone a question if you do not truly care about the answer. The Confusing Twitter Before the conference, I created a Twitter account as an experiment. While I still have my account today (and enjoy it), the jury is still out on whether or not Twitter lives up to the hype. Blogging Many people alerted me to the importance of blogging about my personal and professional development in my various student affairs learning experiences. While I have a blog in the works, I am unsure of how to structure my reflections in a way that is interactive and open to constructive feedback among readers. Overall, my NASPA 2011 experience was amazing. I learned so much about myself and how I can grow to fill a need in the field of student affairs. I hope this article is helpful to NASPA newbies and encourages others to continue sharing advice. Please send your thoughts on my advice and reflections as a first-time NASPA attendee via my newly founded Twitter (@VirginiaLByrne) and Blog ( Looking forward to NASPA 2012!

Upcoming Conferences click on titles for more information

December 8-10 NASPA Student Affairs Law & Policy Conference December 8-10 NASPA Multicultural Institute January 8-11 Alice Manicur Symposium January 19-21 NASPA Mental Health Conference January 19-21 NASPA Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Prevention & Intervention Conference February 2-4 Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values February 17-21 31st Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience March 10-14 2012 NASPA Annual Conference March 24-28 ACPA Annual Conference

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December 2011 HESA Calendar Sunday




Click event titles for










more information




7 BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag Professional Development Break-out Sessions 12pm SSB





Internship Papers DUE!




Finals Week End of semester











Winter Break Grades available online





Winter Break


HESA Bulletin - December Issue  

The FSU Higher Education Student Association monthly newsletter.

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