“Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve used this phrase without hesitation for years now because it offers a poignant answer to life’s most illogical sequence of events. Looking back at #ACPA17, I can’t believe that its been nine months since I landed in Columbus, Ohio, unsure of what lay before me at my first ACPA convention. I had no idea what to expect because I had only attended one professional conference before and that was NASPA when it was in Chicago, Illinois. All I remember about Chicago was cold wind, lots of walking, and cheesy slices of deep dish pizza.
In terms of the ACPA versus NASPA debate, I’m a proud member of both professional organizations. I’ve been a member of NASPA since graduate school and I joined ACPA in Fall 2016. I will say; however, that part of me wishes I had joined ACPA sooner. I made a lot of valuable connections at #ACPA17 and there’s a small part of my subconscious that wonders what life would have been like had I made those connections earlier. But then again, everything happens for a reason.
The single most life-changing part of #ACPA17 was attending a pre-convention workshop. The Pan African Summit served as my first introduction to the ACPA family. On the surface, the summit was a great networking opportunity where I connected with tenured leaders in the field. However, “networking” is really what I call “village-building.” If there is only one concept that I can share with others, it’s that “it takes a village to raise a graduate (doctoral) student.” There has been nothing more paramount to my success than the support I’ve received from friends, family, and colleagues. The process of building a village is merely laying the foundation for supportive relationships. It’s taken a few trial runs to realize some relationships will take hold immediately, some take a bit longer, while others will never sprout at all. My advice for any graduate student or new professionals attending ACPA is to focus on building meaningful connections rather than just hoarding business cards.
As a conference, ACPA offers attendees numerous outlets for both relationship-building and personal development. Either myself or a colleague attended every session type and I heard nothing but great feedback about the engaging content curated by our field. Unfortunately, there were not enough hours in the day for me to attend each session that piqued my interest. I had to balance my time wisely and pick sessions that spoke to my personal and professional development priorities. In addition to the Pan African Summit, I still reflect the concepts about self-care and transitioning into the world of academia that I learned while at #ACPA17. The sessions I attended felt more like a sit-down with family rather than a classroom lecture. The last important takeaway to those considering attending a future convention is that once you’re a part of the ACPA family, you will always be a part of it.
Photo: Asia R. Randolph (left) is pictured with William & Mary’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Ginger Ambler, Ph.D. at the ACPA17 Most Promising Places to Work Award Ceremony.
Asia R. Randolph is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Higher Education Administration program at William & Mary.