Everyday Heroes in Hartford, CT
October 31-November 3 was the annual Northeast Regional Conference of the National Association for Campus Activities. This conference is for students and staff from around the northeast looking to share ideas about how to best serve our campus communities through events and programs. The conference includes educational sessions, a trade-show style marketplace where you can meet performers and agents and showcases where you get to see lectures, comedians, bands and other college focused performers show off their talents. At this year’s conference there were about 1100 attendees.
Over the last 9 years I have served as a volunteer for this conference in a variety of positions from overseeing the selection of the performers to managing the educational offerings and professional development at the conference. This year I was given the opportunity to serve as the Regional Conference Program Chairperson. In this role I oversaw a committee of about 60 volunteers representing over 45 different colleges in our region. This was personally and professionally an amazing experience. The planning process started in July of 2012 and included an on-site meeting, training at the national headquarters of NACA and numerous conference calls.
This experience helped reaffirm many lessons I had learned at BSU, in grad school and in life and provided me the opportunity to put many into practice all in one setting.
Share the journey
I knew that there were several other professional staff members that I was working with who one day wanted to serve as the chair of this conference. Although it was my first time and only time as the chair, I had a responsibility to teach and inform others about the process so that others were prepared to take it on in the years to come. At times this was a challenge since there were so many moving parts, but I made every effort I could to keep them up to date on issues affecting not only their specific areas of responsibility, but also issues that might affect the overall conference. So even though this was my time taking the lead, I remembered that as a leader I had to share the journey so that they could be ready for this position in the future.
I also shared the journey with others around me, running ideas by students and colleagues at BSU to not only get different perspectives, but also to show a little of what went into planning this conference. I work with Program Committee on their 80+ events in a given year, so I took the time to share the conference planning agenda with some of the students to show a sample of how events are managed by a national association and a large convention center.
Appreciate the work of others as much as you can
As I mentioned, I was working with a committee of over 60 volunteers. Committee members were largely staff members from student activities offices in the area, some were grad students and then a handful were students. Each and every one of them was a volunteer who received no compensation for the work they were doing and the time they contributed. I was always impressed with their dedication and their interest in learning more and I did my best to thank them and appreciate them for their work. Looking back, I think I could have done more, but the lesson is one that I plan to make a bigger effort in doing with my work at BSU. So no matter if it is the student volunteers I work with on a daily basis or the colleague I work with on a committee who I saw going above and beyond, I have to remember to thank them for their contributions as much as possible.
Be grateful for your heroes
The theme of the conference was “Everyday Heroes”. It touched on the fantasy side of superheroes while challenging people to recognize the heroes in their communities and in their lives. This theme helped me to remember how grateful I am for the heroes I am surrounded by. I could not have been successful in this position without the support of the staff of Student Involvement and Leadership and the support of the students I work with every day. Big accomplishments can’t be done by you alone, and I know that I could not have done this without the many heroes in my life both at home and at BSU.
I encourage you to read more about the experience of the 12 students who represented BSU at the conference by visiting http://bsuatnaca.wordpress.com.
Matt Miller is the Assistant Director for Programming in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership.