Annual conference take-aways: Day Three

“Because I knew you, I have been changed…for good.” The NACADA choir sang the “Wicked” favorite to start the morning. They set a nice tone for the day. Incoming NACADA president Jayne Drake of Temple University re-enforced that notion when she introduced this year’s theme, “Reaching and retaining students.” Advisers, she reminded us, play a powerful role in student retention. We teach. We teach students to navigate the academic maze. (Insert collective group hug and pat-on-the-back.)

If you haven’t been to a conference like this, you may not have this sense yet: There are other people on other campuses who do what you do. They face the challenges you face. They are demanded to do more with less like you are. If one takes nothing else away from the conference, he/she should at least take that. As we face our day-to-day challenges, it good to remember, “I belong to an association that is made up of people who do what I do, with people who understand my student/faculty/staff/colleague/dean/provost/vice-president/boss/supervisor/employee challenges, with people who experience the same thrill you experience when a student looks you in the eye and says, “Thank you. You’ve really helped me today.” You may be one in your office or one of few on your campus but you are part of a community that shares your commitment to student success. And we get your degree audit jokes.

Keynote speaker Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, is new to NACADA but she immediately embraced us as an ally. While she appreciated all we do, she challenged us to join her in the efforts “to do much more and do it faster.” Her organization works with Latino education initiatives but her message rang true for all students on our campus: fight the stereotypes and provide the services when and where the student need it. Latino students don’t always take the traditional path toward a college degree, she said. Understand that. Adapt to that. And don’t judge that. If it takes someone 12 years to complete a bachelor’s degree, focus on the fact that they earned the degree, not the fact that it took so long.

We’ve already made the point that there are so many concurrent sessions to choose from. Today was no exception. It was another full day of the attendee shuffle. A modest proposal for the next NACADA conference: Instead of free water bottles and pens, see if you can get Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic to provide Hermione Granger’s “time turner” device to each attendee. That seems to be the only way to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

One last day tomorrow. A half day. Most everyone will leave sometime tomorrow. Thank you San Antonio. You are and have been a gracious host.

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