By Antonio Rodriguez, University of St. Francis
As temperatures outdoors rose this summer, I got to enjoy a break from office life with colleagues new and old at IACAC’s summer institute at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. For both brand new counselors who had yet to set up their offices and for those who were on the road most of the year, it was a reminder of what drew us to the field as well as a sharing of best practices at all levels of the profession.
One aspect of the conference that gave me greater empathy for incoming freshmen was the on campus experience and meeting new people. Though many of us may be extroverts, there was still that nervous buzz of the unknown in the air as we moved into the residence hall and had to talk to total strangers. Kudos to the organizers, because the many great ice breakers helped lighten the mood, as did our outings to bowling and the baseball game! It is truly comforting to know that we will have peers to talk to on the road this season and to bounce ideas off of throughout the season.
Topics presented spanned the full spectrum of skills and interest. I could tell I was not the only audience member fully engaged by a refresher on how to be a great presenter. Learning techniques such as the power of the pause proved worthwhile even for veteran professionals. It was also enlightening to hear about how we can be serve diverse populations, whether dreamers, homeless or LGBTQ, there are a lot of unique students whose needs we need to be willing to address. More than anything, it is important to let the students know that our doors are always open for them and they are welcome! Another engaging activity was a mock college fair. It was great practice and fun to encounter interesting situations ranging from the silent student to the forceful parent!
One of my biggest takeaways was to really think critically about how I could develop my own practice and role, now and in the future. Given the vast geographies that many of us cover, we need to be ready to work with literally any type of student. Having said that, I challenge myself and others to find a niche to develop for the coming year, whether it is specializing in athletes, dreamers, a specific major or another group that you can mentor on campus and in recruiting.
Overall, Summer Institute proved to be an invigorating and worthwhile experience. If anyone is wondering if they should attend, I’ll quote Nike – just do it! With budgets tight, I know it can be challenging to make a case for some counselors to attend. At the same time, what I learned at this conference will significantly enhance my ability to attract and retain students. On the other side of the coin, if you are a veteran, volunteer! We would all love to hear more about any topic you think could help us improve. I am glad I went and looking forward to more great things from IACAC!