Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Professional Development- What is that?

You may have heard the words "professional development" as a way to build your skills and resume for your future career. Attending professional conferences is one form of professional development. Read on to hear about Lauren Foley's experience as an undergraduate student who recently attended her first professional conference.

On October 21st and 22nd I had the privilege of attending the Wisconsin College Personnel Association (WCPA) Conference in the Wisconsin Dells to participate in the Student Affairs 101 portion for undergraduates. This was my first time attending a professional conference, and I was very excited and interested to learn more about the student affairs field and network with other undergraduates, graduates and professionals.

Right from the start I was introduced to undergraduate students from every University of Wisconsin college, where we participated and listened to seasoned professionals in smaller workshops. We were able to attend two of the three workshops on Student Development Theory, Resume Writing, and Introduction to Student Affairs. Working within career services, I opted for the Student Development Theory and Intro to Student Affairs. Paul Shepherd, a professional from UW-River Falls, gave us a glimpse into Student Development Theory, and how it relates to Student Affairs. He introduced us to this topic because it is a core part to curriculums of Student Affairs graduate programs. I really enjoyed his workshop because as a future graduate student, I was able to see a glimpse of what one of the courses would be like.

The Intro to Student Affairs workshop I attended was led by Scott Seyforth, an educator from UW-Whitewater, and PhD student at UW-Madison. Right away he and I connected with our love of the Badgers and all things football, as well as all things Student Affairs. The best element of this workshop was realizing that within a university, Student Affairs covers so many different areas and aspects of a University.

Thinking about my own career path, although I have a general direction I am headed, I realize that I have so many options it’s almost overwhelming! During and after the workshops, we had chances to interact and network with other undergraduates and talk about their student affairs experiences. Most of them were from Residence Life, who really influence freshman and other students living in the residence halls. After hearing more about it, I became really interested in this area, and I was sparked to look into possible residence life opportunities for internships and graduate assistant positions in graduate school.

Later in the conference I was able to meet additional professionals and hear about their background. I loved learning where they earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Each person I met with had a really different path and interesting story for how they stumbled into Student Affairs, and every one of them loves what they do. Everyone I met with at the conference and everyone I continue to meet in Student Affairs has a passion for bettering their university, and influencing student’s lives in a positive way, whether that is in Residence Life programs or where I work, as a Peer Advisor helping students with resumes and career advice. This positive energy surrounding Student Affairs has really encouraged me to continue my journey towards finishing my undergraduate degree and pursuing graduate school in the field.

I intend to take part in any other professional development opportunity available to me, as I suggest any student should. You can learn a lot, and build relationships with others in the field, which can prove very beneficial to me now and in the future.

Lauren Foley is a Junior at UW Wisconsin- Madison studying English with certificates in Educational Policy & Integrated Liberal Studies

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