#STUDENTSofSAConference ReflectionsProfessional Development

#StudentsOfSA Spotlight: ACPA16 Student-Staff Attendees

Great ideas happen when we work with students. They’re not just our business—they’re our colleagues, our allies; they’re the people that experience the needs that we assist. As we build community in Student Affairs at Ryerson University, we know it’s important to not only remember, but work with, the people that mean everything to what we do. Nothing about them, without them.

This year, as the annual ACPA conference comes to Canada, RyersonSA is sending some of its brightest minds—several student-staff that embody the passion, drive, and intelligence of student affairs; students that, through their contributions, have helped shaped the face of student affairs at Ryerson University.


Hannah Van Dyk

Hannah Van Dyk

5th year, Arts & Contemporary Studies, Minor in Non-Profit Management
Programming Link, Housing & Residence Life

My job in a tweet: I get to help plan really cool experiences & events for students living in #RyeRes

How does it feel to be selected as a student to attend a large, professional student affairs conference?

I can only imagine it is the same feeling experienced by a Ryerson Rams basketball player, who goes to shoot a three-point shot, while the ref holds up three fingers in anticipation, and subsequently sinks it with nothing but net. As I am not a Ryerson Rams player, I have to imagine that feeling would encompass the follow emotions: exciting & nerve wracking & terrifying & exhilarating & WOO & AHH & what have I’ve gotten myself into?!?! In short: it feels pretty incredible.

What do you plan to take away from your experience attending the ACPA 2016 conference?

I’m planning on taking away a lot of learnings from the other #NextGen participants—I’m excited to meet student staff from across North America & learn about their different institutions and their institutional culture. I’m also excited to learn more about student affairs across North America: my experience is very grounded in Ryerson, which is a unique school, so I’m excited to learn from others! & I may take a shampoo bottle from the hotel, if we’re being honest.

How would you say your time in student affairs has affected your personal and professional development?

I think my time & involvement in student affairs empowered me to be brave enough to do all of things I’ve had the opportunity to do while in university. Conversations with inspiring mentors, like Jen Gonzales & Ian Crookshank, gave me courage to embrace new, different paths. Cool new opportunities, like working as a leadership advisor or helping with orientation, made me realize new passions. helped me learn a lot about myself, & led to the pursuit of new passions within the university. It gave me a community that continually makes me feel totally at home with who I am. #RyersonSA gave me a home away from home.

Cathy Nguyen

Cathy Nguyen

4th year, Fashion Communication
Special Projects Assistant with RU Leadership/Sponsorship, Student Life

My job in a tweet: I maximize the impact of student leadership initiatives through design/marketing & I help get students awesome stuff from sponsors!

How does it feel to be selected as a student to attend a large, professional student affairs conference?

As a graduating student, it feels like an excellent way to “top off” my student experience to learn more about all the work that is going into bettering the higher education experience for students. I feel 10% nervous, 80% excited, 10% excited to eat Montreal cheese.

What do you plan to take away from your experience attending the ACPA 2016 conference?

I am very interested in education systems. I’m imagining the conference will be quite comprehensive since ACPA is the leading student affairs organization in America. Also, there are approximately 20.2 million undergraduate students in America, whereas Canada has only 1.7 million. I’m mostly curious to learn more about how our neighbours differ in their approach to student affairs.

How would you say your time in student affairs has affected your personal and professional development?

I’ve been “workstudying” in student affairs since I first started post-secondary 6 years ago. I will say that people who work in student affairs are the nicest and most wonderful people in the world. Like, it’s almost unfair to other industries that they don’t get to witness the friendliness of SA professionals. The people I’ve met in student affairs have had the most profound effect on my personal development.

Professionally, the impact has been more introspective. Student affairs isn’t a self serving department. We have to ensure that we’re keeping up with the ever changing and diverse student body so that our services are relevant and useful. We have to be aware of what students are experiencing, what issues they care about, how they interact with their education. We also spend a lot of time being empathetic. It’s a very open and accepting environment to work in because we must be approachable to students. With these two things in mind, I find that I spend more time scrutinizing my actions and my work, even what I say and how I say it. Is the work I am doing relevant to what students care about? Is my attitude inclusive? Does this traditional method still work? Professionally, my takeaway from student affairs is to keep digging deeper.

Lexie Hinde

Lexie Hinde

4th-year, Journalism 
Social Media Community Manager & Digital Marketing Assistant, RU Student Life (SA Creative)
My job in a tweet: I get to hang out and talk to people online through posts that make people laugh, & posts that help people learn. By students, for students.

How does it feel to be selected as a student to attend a large, professional student affairs conference?

Incredibly honoured. It’s amazing that I’ve been given such an awesome opportunity to mingle and listen to SA professionals from all over Canada and the US. There are so many opportunities to learn, and I’m looking forward to seeing these people in action, advocating for change in a way that is aiming to change students’ lives for the better. To be a part of this conference makes me feel like I’m contributing to that discussion, and that’s huge, especially since I’m still a student myself. I’m so grateful to be included in this way.

What do you plan to take away from your experience attending the ACPA 2016 conference?

I’m hoping to come away feeling confident that we are going to make a real difference going forward. I want to learn as much as I can from the SA pros attending, and spend time learning new skills that will help me grow. I’m looking forward to leaving with some insight into the change that is coming for post-secondary students like me.

How would you say your time in student affairs has affected your personal and professional development?

My time in student affairs has been incredible. To me it’s not just a job, it’s an ongoing goal that makes you want to work harder every day. It’s a place where you’re not told to leave your problems or personal business at the door. It’s a place of support run by people who truly care. Personal check-in’s are an important part of the job, and it’s something that I’ve never experienced with any other place of employment. I’ve gained confidence as a person and employee because I’m given the trust and space to learn.

Julianna Garofalo

Julianna Garofalo

2nd Year, Journalism
Social Media Community Manager, RU Student Life (SA Creative)
My job in a tweet: “I post on all the social media platforms Ryerson students scroll through during class when they should be paying attention. #YoureWelcome

How does it feel to be selected as a student to attend a large, professional student affairs conference?

It feels like a great honour. In the short time I’ve worked in student affairs at Ryerson, I’ve encountered so many powerful thinkers and mentors that have impacted me academically, professionally and personally. To be identified as a leader in a community that has done so much in shaping my university experience is very exciting. The opportunity to engage with SA professionals at an international level is slightly intimidating, but mostly thrilling! 

What do you plan to take away from your experience attending the ACPA 2016 conference?

I hope to leave with an upgraded skill and mindset to take back to Ryerson SA. I’ve never been to a conference of this sort before, so I genuinely do not know what to expect. I’m eager to find out, and I hope to take away fond memories of the experience. I’m also super stoked to bond with the other attending students. I sincerely admire/look up to each of them a lot.

How would you say your time in student affairs has affected your personal and professional development?

Truthfully, getting involved in student affairs has changed my life. I left high school feeling lost, and I feel like I was able to find my way through RU Student Life. I applied for the position I currently hold in the summer before entering university—I wasn’t even technically a student here yet when I went in for my interview. I don’t know university life without RU Student Life and student affairs creative—and I wouldn’t want to!

Zayan Rafeek

Zayan Rafeek

5th year, Business Technology Management
Senior First Generation Lead Ambassador, Tri-Mentoring Program (Student Life)

My job in a tweet: As a FG Ambassador I support students on campus through events & inform secondary students of their post-sec & financial options.

How does it feel to be selected as a student to attend a large, professional student affairs conference?

Truly honored! I’m proud to be recognized as a student and have the opportunity to participate at such an event. I also appreciate knowing that my efforts in Student Life have not gone unnoticed. I would not have been able to reach this point in my personal and professional growth without the support of my peers and Student Affairs staff. I never imagined that I would be invited to speak for a leadership conference, be a part of the orientation team or be seen as a mentor for First Generation students. Knowing the caliber of student who have been selected, I am also proud of my journey and hope to take this experience with me in the future.

What do you plan to take away from your experience attending the ACPA 2016 conference?

As I get closer to graduating I’m exploring employment opportunities in Student Affairs. From this conference, and previous work opportunities, I have learned how much I enjoy working with students from secondary and postsecondary institutions. I look forward to learning how I can better position myself and utilize the skills I have acquired over the past years towards working with students and improving my community.

How would you say your time in student affairs has affected your personal and professional development?

My involvement with Student Life has allowed me to grow in areas I did not think was previously possible. I have gained so many tools and skills that I can use and transfer with me wherever I go. The number of opportunities Student Affairs has provided me with are countless. I am now more confident and aware of my skills. All have allowed me to mature and foster the personal development of myself and others along the way. I hope to put these to good use in the future as I continue to support the community and student peers like myself.