Conference ReflectionsProfessional Development

Conference Reflection: The Youngest Person At the ACPA16 Table

#StudentsofSAGreat 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 came to Canada, and RyersonSA sent several of its brightest minds—six 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.

Here is Julianna’s conference reflection on her experiences at #ACPA16, the Next Gen conference, and Montreal!

“Woah! You might be the youngest person here.”

During my ACPA Next Generation experience, throughout the March 5-6 weekend, this sentiment was expressed to me several times a day.  At first, being one of the only—if not the only teenagers at the conference of upper years, grad students, and newly working higher-education professionals flattered me. While the Next Gen committee gave their welcome and opening remarks, I scanned the Westin Montreal banquet hall audience and felt dignified to be in such esteemed company, representing Ryerson as an ACPA delegate so early into my university career.

It was during a breakout session, however, where this sense of pride turned to one of guilt. For the first time, at a presentation of trending topics on campuses lead by Willie Banks, I was able to hear from my fellow attendees and learn about their work within their respective SA departments. To understate, I was blown away. As a whole, their knowledge of development theory, level of extracurricular involvement, and complex understanding of post-secondary life dazzled me into insecurity. Though I’m proud of the contributions I’ve made within RyersonSA thus far, I couldn’t help but feel like someone’s baby sister, listening to the big kids talk and hoping, one day, I’d be just like them.

Later on, at a workshop set to explore the future of higher education, I found myself at a round table with such school ambassadors from all over North America—Los Angeles, California; Long Island, New York; Houston, Texas; and (yes, it’s a real place) Farmville, Virginia. When it came my turn to tell them about myself, one of my group members stopped me mid-anecdote to ask, “Are you an INTJ?” He, of course, was referring to the Myers Briggs MBTI personality assessment, assuming I was an introverted, intuitive, thinker, and judger—a test I had never heard of until then. While the students at my table discussed their letter results, I felt embarrassed for not knowing what seemed to be a staple evaluation of an up-and-coming student-affairs professional. I remember thinking—why am I here? I have so much to learn from them, but they have nothing to learn from me.

As the presentation proceeded, however, I was struck by a realization. Yes, I have a lot to learn, but I also have a lot to give. While third year SUNY student Arthur Ramsay of Saratoga Springs, NY could speak on his work in student government, I could speak on leading RU Student Life, Ryerson’s student-run social network—the only of its kind in the country. Though I may not know exactly what message I’m meant to spread, I’m dedicated to figuring it out. Rather than having gotten where I’m going, maybe it’s more important that I’ve set out on my way.

Attending the ACPA Next Generation conference affirmed, for me, that I’m hanging with the right crowd by working in student affairs. In feeling like one of the youngest, most naïve and least experienced in the room, I became one of the most motivated to grow, learn, and improve. I’m not quite sure of what my next steps entail—(if you do, please, let me know. Reach out via Twitter or email!)—but I’m more than ready to embark on that climb.

According to Josie Ahlquist’s keynote, students need more tangible people to look up to on their campuses. I’ve found those figures in my Career Boost supervisors, upper-years in my program, and the five graduating students—Cathy Nguyen, Hannah Van Dyk, Lexie Hinde, Brandon Sookoo, and Zayan Rafeek—I was lucky enough to attend the Next Generation conference with. With their time at Ryerson coming to an end, I feel a responsibility and drive to follow in their footsteps, putting the advice they bestowed upon me to good use and ensuring that their RyersonSA legacy lives on through me and other aspiring student leaders.

ACAP16's Next Gen conference, featuring the RyersonSA table!

In other words, like Josie Ahlquist said, I will strive to “be the kind of educator [fellow] students want to take selfies with.” Though it may be a long while before anyone is recognizing me on Gould Street or requesting my photo, I’m hopeful to be headed in the right direction.

And if you were wondering, yes—I am an INTJ.