REFLECTIONS OF A LATINA AT NASPA
I recently returned from New Orleans, LA where the annual NASPA Conference was being held. First let me say that there are no bad meals in New Orleans. I did my research!
With that said, I believe that this was probably the best NASPA conference I have attended, and I have attended many. Perhaps it was the location? Perhaps after all of these years, I am just getting better at picking good sessions that are relevant to my interests. Perhaps the sessions were just better overall. Either way, I was on a mission. If it wasn’t related to my professional development, assessment or Latin@s in the academy, it wasn’t for me. If it was about Latin@s and assessment or Latin@s and development, jackpot.
The featured speakers were excellent. Dr. Jennifer Arnold took a common concept like Think Big and made us think big. Melissa Harris-Perry was a truth-teller, reminding us that our respectability will not save us (think the arrest of Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 2009). And Dr. Renu Khator, Chancellor of the University of Houston system brought us full circle, embodying resilience and persistence.
Women’s participation did not end there. I attended a fantastic session featuring a panel of 7 VPSAs from all over the country telling their truths and secrets. It was a packed house – of women – and further solidified that indeed we equally belong at the helm of higher education. The sound bites were memorable:
A wall is not an excuse to not get something done. (Ellen Neufeldt)
Negotiate for what you are worth and don’t take the first offer you get. (Lori White)
Don’t reach the bar. Set the bar. (Ellen Neufeldt)
I’m on a mission to teach young women on my campus to be assertive. (Deb Moriarity)
If there was a panel of male VPs telling truths and secrets, I’d be in the front row. Why are there no men here? (Almeda Jacks)
Finally, the pre-conferences…great ways to get a crash course on a subject. But they also provide a great source of community and networking. For Latin@s this is critical. I am fortunate. I work for a very diverse college both in terms of faculty/ staff AND the student body. However, most of my Latin@ colleagues work in less diverse environments. And the Latin@ pre-conference allows the community of Latin@ higher ed professionals from all around the country to empower, enlighten and embolden one another. There were about 100 attendees – all highly educated and passionate about the work they do. To be among this community rejuvenates my own passions and inspires me to do more for all of our students. We are a community dedicated to insuring our students graduate successfully and are treated equitably – non-negotiable. It was evident by the conversations at the pre-con and by the thoughtful sessions that my Latin@ colleagues ran.
The work of the Latino/a Knowledge Community (LKC) continued with office hours, where Latin@ Ph.Ds held one on one sessions with those of us trying to figure out our next steps…the doctorate! Latin@ faculty took time out of their schedules at NASPA to spend time with those of us who needed advisement.
But that is what this and other conferences are all about right? A place to validate what we do and reignite our passions. A place to connect with like-minded members of our community while simultaneously being challenged to have the courage to reconsider our practices by creating new ones or eliminating old ones. No doubt that there is still work to be done. But we are headed in the right direction. Thanks for the memories NASPA. Oh and did I mention there is no bad food in New Orleans?