National Conference Creates Lasting Connection

Like many, I fell into my career in higher education. I started straight out of my undergrad in the world of admissions. I took to the open road of the travel season, hustling to recruit applicants and convert admits into deposits. It was fun, but it felt forced. I wasn't as comfortable as other counselors. Small talk isn’t my forte and quiet was how I recharged. I am one of the few that would retreat to my hotel room after college fairs and a day of forced interactions rather than meeting up and debriefing high school visits and travel routes. For years this didn’t change, regional meetings, team outings and professional conferences were all the same--until I met AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education.

I am, by nature, an introvert. One who has learned how to balance and thrive as an ambivert but on certain occasions, when I am surrounded by the individuals capable of providing me the recharge and rejuvenation I need both personally and professionally (aka the AHEPPP National Conference) I am without reservation an extrovert.

This is the power of the AHEPPP community.

When I attended my first national conference I was stunned to find a membership that felt more like a large family. Rather than retreating after a day of sessions I found myself talking, connecting and naturally building a network that felt made for me. I left that conference in San Diego wanting to dig in and do more. I felt compelled to in a way that didn’t feel forced but rather helped me reevaluate the ways I could grow as a professional. I decided to get involved. At the time, I was still somewhat green to my new parent and family role  but I was excited and wanted to seize the opportunity to learn and saw no better way than to go all in. My AHEPPP colleagues not only welcomed me with open arms but they helped guide me along the way, because that’s what they do.

Admittedly, even with my enthusiasm at an all time high, I was/am still an introvert. There were moments where I would catch myself and ask what am I doing? Am I ready for this? But my mentors only within this great organization helped to provide me the reassurance and support I needed, ultimately landing within the Conference Committee which was just the right fit for me.

As a smaller planning team within the organization, the conference committee consists of highly-driven, task-oriented individuals who have come together with one common goal in mind- to plan and execute the best AHEPPP conference to date; and then, without fail, they do. It is pretty much the best group project a professional could ask for! And as a life-time learner, six conferences later I can say that (in my opinion) we aced it each and every time. Not because of me -- absolutely not -- but because of the team, because of the network, because the individuals in this organization are among the best and when you get great people together with a shared vision and deep sense of care for their community the goal will undoubtedly be good.

This is the power of the AHEPPP network and why I am personally inviting you, and hopefully enticing you, to become an active member within it.

The Conference Committee was my experience. A path that I chose to walk within this community and while I highly recommend it as an engagement opportunity, there are certainly others. Perhaps you aren’t quite ready yet and that’s okay, baby steps. I challenge you to start today by joining a different committee better suited for you, perhaps become a mentor or  if you’re not ready to take on a mentee then become one. Let an AHEPPP leader help guide you to finding your footprint as a member. I assure you there are many of us up for the task and more than willing to do so.

Whatever it is, I encourage you to “grab a spoon” (apologies for the FRIENDS reference but I couldn’t resist)... take-hold of the community that has welcomed you with open-arms and make the most of this small but mighty organization. We are individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences who care deeply about the work we do, the world around us and the people we share it with and we invite you to have an active role in the difference we make!

That’s the AHEPPP way.

Until next time,

Kerri Fowler is the Director of Parents & Families Services at North Carolina State University. She is also a member of the AHEPPP Board of Directors. Applications for the 2022 Conference Committee are now open!

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