As I head home from one of the most innovative conferences I’ve attended, I’m taking some airport time do some reflection of not just this past ACPA, but of my conference experiences as a whole. I’ve attended some sort of conference every year since my first year of graduate school in 2000 and this year I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend both ACPA and NASPA. While I could probably write an entire post on how different the two experiences were (and maybe I’ll save that for another time), I’m thinking now about the one strong component they have in common for me.
Each of the conferences had sessions and conversations that provided me with resources, connections, and ideas for implementing new approaches for my work. It’s safe to say that my mind has been sufficiently nourished! I have notes I will review and contacts I will reach out to in the next week to continue conversations and ask for additional resources. But at the moment, as I scroll through my pictures, look at the Instagram and Facebook posts, I’m reminded of how conferences also nourish my soul.
I know there are some who criticize the conference experiences, and there is definitely validity in that criticism. There are some who believe conferences are merely institutional sponsored socialization. While I can attest to the fact that what I have learned over the years either directly or indirectly through my professional engagement, I also believe that the social aspect of conferences DO play an important part in our work.
The work we do occupies a significant chunk of time in our overall lives, and it’s invaluable to me to have a network of individuals who nourish my soul by being advocates, challengers, sounding boards, cheerleaders, or just….there. These are the people who know my vernacular and understand the acronyms. They get the frustrations that may seem trivial to the outsider and understand the significance of the triumphs that overcome them. These are the people who feed my ideation and provide me the space to dream.
I promise you, a lot of work happened in between the pictures and laughter. But I won’t shy away from the fact that there was celebrating as well. If we are to call conferences, meetings, trainings, etc “professional development” then why shouldn’t they be holistic? My students, my co-workers, and my institution benefit from having me returned energetic, hopeful, and renewed. I’m grateful for the people who help make that happen. Thank you, my friends, for making me a better professional and for feeding both my mind and soul.