by Kelly Burne, Graduate Assistant – Office of Student Involvement and Leadership
When I was first sent information about presenting at this fall’s MCPA conference, I assumed someone had mistakenly included me on the email. I mean honestly, the Massachusetts College Personnel Association is a professional organization. As a first semester graduate student, what did I really have to offer student affairs professionals?
Because we each advise clubs and organizations on campus, my director offered to co-present with Joanne Darrigo, my fellow OSIL graduate assistant, and myself in a presentation entitled “Advising Today’s College Students.” Under her guidance, Joanne and I had the extraordinary experience of developing our first professional presentation. Instead of posing as experts in the field, we were encouraged to be honest about our current learning processes as well as our ongoing identity development as advisors. In turn, Cindy would be able to add professional insight and personal experiences from her years in the student affairs field.
On the day of the conference, Joanne and I were warmly welcomed into the professional community. We were given the opportunity to pick the brains of seasoned and accomplished student affairs practitioners and to share our experiences with fellow graduate students. When our presentation rolled around, we were thrilled to see a room packed with participants from a variety of backgrounds. Session attendees included current advisors, potential advisors, college students looking to go into the field, and fellow graduate students. As Cindy had promised, the individuals who attended our presentation session were not only “just ok” with hearing from graduate students, but were enthusiastic and supportive. As one participant stated, “our learning doesn’t end once we receive our diploma,” and thus saw herself as an eternal student herself. The feedback we received from our presentation was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. In fact, there were even requests for an encore performance at next year’s conference.
I can safely say that my first professional presentation was a success and positive experience. It was both encouraging and humbling to offer insight into our current learning experience in hopes of helping others in the consideration their advisory roles. I am grateful to have had the support and assistance of both Cindy and Joanne. While I’m not quite ready to fly solo, I know that with each small step into the professional world I am gaining the skills and knowledge necessary to eventually make important contributions to the student affairs profession.