Settling in, Sustaining, and Keeping that AHEPPP Feeling

It was wonderful meeting so many of you during our time in Orlando. I hope you all had safe and smooth travels home. 

Personally, returning from a conference, particularly an AHEPPP conference, comes with mixed emotions. On one hand, there is travel fatigue, a bit of exhaustion, and the overwhelming feeling of catch-up that has filled my inbox. On the other hand, I am elated with inspiration and excitement; empowered by “my people” and ready to improve and implement all the things. My proverbial cup runneth over from being with colleagues who understand the ins and outs of our work; to the ones who “get” what we do with no need for explanation.

We share our experiences, strategize the challenges, and celebrate the wins. I feel invigorated by the numerous ideas and concepts I get to bring back to my campus, even though the list of ideas is always much longer than the reality, it truly is rejuvenating! 

I hope you’re nodding your head in agreement.

With so many beautiful new faces at this year’s conference, I couldn’t help but find myself reflecting on my first AHEPPP conference. It was held in San Diego, and I acutely remember the feeling I had leaving the conference. Similarly, to Orlando, I remember feeling impressed and energized. I felt I had found my place. I was ready to change the world of Parent Programs in HE but wasn’t quite sure if I really knew how or if I could do so. What I did know was that my notes and everything I learned would be the best first step. Sounds like frenetic energy, right? It was! Admittedly, I was operating in complete overdrive, and to be fully transparent, I struggled to find a balance. I remember feeling overwhelmed and I quickly lost stamina trying to manage the abundance of information I had consumed while also trying to settle back into daily life, personally and professionally. 

Still nodding? 

If yes, not to worry! You are not alone and I’m here to share some of my strategies for prioritizing post-conference tasks, settling back in, and keeping that AHEPPP fuel sustained. 

STEP 1. Allow yourself time to process and unpack, both physically and mentally! Professional conferences are a fire-hydrant of information and sometimes setting the fast flow of content to the side and giving your mind time to process is key. Oftentimes, we feel rushed to react when we have an abundance of information and desire. I encourage you to practice the pause. Take time to unpack your luggage and your thoughts. Practice mindfulness by gifting yourself some me-time before jumping back into work. 

STEP 2. Compartmentalize your projects. Try to avoid tackling integrating new ideas from AHEPPP into your inbox return messages. I find it helpful to check in with my team about anything I need to be briefed on from when I was out, get caught up on my inbox, return voicemails, open physical mail, and set my work priorities before bringing my conference follow-up into the fold.

STEP 3. Conference follow-up. Once you have settled back in and have moved past the feeling of playing catch up on sleep, life, and work, revisit the fuel. Open your notes, and walk through the experiences, sessions, and interactions you had. Make a list of who you want to follow up with, want opportunities and/or resources that piqued your interest, and create a timeline for integrating new concepts and ideas into your program, remember not everything has to be done immediately. 

STEP 4. Take action! Send those follow-up emails to conference colleagues. Set up a time for Zoom calls or even coffee meetups for colleagues nearby. Find those cool swag items. Email your supervisor about the sessions you attended and begin to set up meetings with stakeholders who will be the best partners to help you implement new ideas and concepts. 

Bonus Step! Apply for leadership opportunities with AHEPPP. Staying connected with the organization is the best way to sustain that AHEPPP fuel and will keep you connected with your community until next year’s conference. Be on the lookout for an email from Lindsay McKinney about upcoming opportunities.

Lastly, let me say that I understand everyone has their own way of re-calibrating post-conference. These are merely some suggested strategies I have found to be helpful for those that may be struggling. Regardless, find what works best for you and be sure that it fills your cup and fuels you for the marathon and not the sprint. I hope the conference confirmed for you the community of professionals championing you and your program to success. And for those that may be reading this who were unable to attend the conference, rest assured that this community is here for you, just as well and we hope to see you in Baltimore. 

Take care friends.



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