Sunday, September 9, 2012

Connecting With Colleagues - Entry #18

I have been involved with professional associations since my graduate school days in the early 1980’s.  As with most students, my choice was heavily influenced by the faculty at the institution I was attending.  The professors at Teachers College, Columbia University were firmly aligned with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) as opposed to the competing student affairs group, the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).  Therefore, I became a NASPA fledgling by age 22.  The choice proved a wise one as the location of the NASPA National Conference during my graduate studies just happened to be a few subway stops away in mid-town Manhattan.  It afforded me the opportunity to attend a national gathering on a shoestring budget, further enmeshing me within the organization. 

When I began my professional career I started to attend state, regional and national conferences from many different associations, but I also made time to fly out to wherever the NASPA National was being held.  When I moved to Connecticut I contacted the woman who was the NASPA Region I (the New England states and maritime provinces of Canada) Vice President about becoming involved.  Before I knew it I was appointed to the regional executive committee serving as the secretary-treasurer.  I stayed involved with NASPA for many years, serving in a number of capacities at the regional and national level.  Along the way, I befriended many colleagues throughout the country.  Most of the time I would just see them at a regional or national conference or a quarterly board meeting.  It was always good to meet and greet and catch-up with old friends at these assemblages.  At larger gatherings (nowadays, a national conference will attract thousands and thousands of student affairs professionals) it is comforting to know that many colleagues will be in attendance.  While I can be affable and out-going, national conventions can be quite intimidating.  However, knowing that many of my peers would be in attendance made the experience less daunting.  I knew there will be people to chat with, share a cup of coffee in some quiet spot, or arrange dinner companions.

As I have pulled back in my involvement and conference attendance with NASPA, my contact with colleagues has sorely diminished.  The beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year coupled with the seemingly endless stream of conference email announcements (Register Now!  Early Bird Special Until!, Mark Your Calendar!) brought about a melancholy.   I had been very active within the organization, but had now directed my professional efforts elsewhere.  I felt the need to send notecards to many of the student affairs administrators I had worked side-by-side with for so many years.  I didn’t wax poetically, become profound or reflective in my thoughts.  I included a few personal comments, but the missive was more to reestablish contact with individuals within New England and beyond.  The thrust behind each correspondence was simply to say hello.  In fact the constant for each card was the sentence, “I wanted to reach out to NASPA colleagues to say hello.”  Most of the people I wrote to were still entrenched at their institution but, interestingly, as I researched mailing addresses I discovered changes had taken place.  Some of my colleagues had left their longtime school for a better position elsewhere while others had left the field to become consultants. 

I ended each notecard, wistfully, about possibly meeting up one day at a regional or national conference.  Initially, this was just a way to craft a closing paragraph, but as I penned these thoughts I realized I just might need to reconnect.  So, who knows?  You just might see me in Mystic and Orlando these upcoming months.

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