Residence Life Conference – Professional Reflection
Each year the Ontario Association of College & University Housing Officers (OACUHO) provides an extraordinary learning experience for residence life student staff though the Residence Life Conference (RLC). From modest beginnings at the University of Guelph in 1980, this conference has grown to include over 300 student delegates, 44 workshops developed by students, and a separate professional development stream for professional delegates. This year the 34th annual Residence Life Conference was hosted by The University of Toronto, Mississauga.
The first weekend back from winter break I found myself in a lecture theatre filled with cheering, enthusiastic student leaders from across the province drumming their hearts out – not in any way indicating that they have been awake since 6:00AM. In spite of hectic schedules, some freezing rain, and an early morning, the conference quite literally started with a bang – courtesy of a morning drum circle.
This was my third time attending RLC, and my second time attending as a professional delegate. In my role as Residence Life Specialist, I along with my colleague were tasked with supervising 6 student leaders who applied to attend this weekend conference. RLC is an opportunity for residence student’s leaders from across the province to share their ideas, initiatives, and educational programming with a network of paraprofessional contemporaries.
Attending RLC as a student was a formative experience for me as it helped highlight student affairs as a potential career path – a sentiment often echoed by other housing professionals. RLC provided me an opportunity to use the research and presentation skills I was learning in the classroom in combination with my passion for residence life. Academia intersecting with Residence Life was a revelation to my 19 year old self.
As a professional delegate I still find immense value in attending the Residence Life Conference. The professional development, reflection, and networking opportunities provided are a welcome reprieve from the often bustling schedule that comes with working in housing.
In our first professional session “A Competency Based Approach to Your Professional Development Plan”, we were encouraged to develop tangible goals grounded in the competencies for student affair professionals developed by ASPA-NASPA in 2010. As a new professional it was enlightening to be provided with a gauge of my areas development and strengths in the context of peer reviewed standards. In addition to the goal setting activity, we had the opportunity to share our goals with other professionals and receive feedback and help. One of my goals was related to assessment development. When I shared this goal with the group, many other professionals offered resources and ideas to help me reach my goal, a testament to the strong collegial relationships OACHUO has built in the housing profession. If you have not had an opportunity to look into the competencies I would highly recommend using them to inform your own professional development plans.
The remaining professional sessions focused on networking and connecting with other housing professionals. The closing panel was a discussion about the journeys of four student affairs professionals, who all got their start in student housing. As a new professional it was interesting to hear the variety of directions that my career path might take in the years to come. It was reassuring to gain some insight and advice about the first few years in student affairs and what opportunities and exciting challenges they will lead to.
The capstone to the weekend for professionals and student leaders alike was a keynote address delivered by none other than Ryerson’s Tony Conte, Director of the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students. As expected, Tony had all in attendance laughing, thinking intentionally, and energized to start winter term with their students back at their home institutions.
The Residence Life Conference is just a small example of the energy and enthusiasm exists in the world of housing. After attending this year’s RLC, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to learn from and work with such amazing student leaders in our residence buildings.