My Reinvention at ACPA

by Ed Cabellon on April 6, 2014 · 4 comments

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I never saw it coming, I suppose I should have… but I really didn’t. While our #ACPA14 Convention Planning Team had set the theme over a year ago, I had no idea the foreshadowing it had for me personally and professionally. After three days of refection after the experience ended in Indy, I wanted to quickly share some thoughts on the ACPA 2014 Convention:

  • ACPA Changed The Student Affairs Conference Experience: Everything changed in Indy. Those who were present, read about it on Twitter, or even got a glimpse at Brene Brown’s amazing closing speech witnessed what happens when a group of talented, dedicated volunteers move vision into action. It took everyone on the planning team, along with the support of the governing board and International Office to see it through; and even though it wasn’t easy, the end product was absolutely worth it. I remember looking around at the closing, overwhelmed with joy (and extreme tiredness), thinking… we did it.
  • Intentionality Matters: Talking about innovation isn’t enough anymore; and our team recognized that. In order for our efforts to have meaning for our delegates, we had to make sure that our intentionality matched our design with the right mix of expertise. It was no accident that our new Genius Labs and Social Media Command Center were positioned in a high traffic area (by registration, meeting rooms, and the entrance to where our main speakers were); that our limited giveaways (to build buzz) were simple, portable, mobile device chargers; and that our presenters, speakers and volunteers for the Social Media Command Center, Genius Labs, and PechaKucha talks were all invited to be part of the experience. They all took the risk with us, and were rewarded with witnessing it all first hand and in some cases, from the front rows. It paid off in all of the online conversations that shared our ACPA stories BIG TIME.ACPA SM Command Center
  • Big Stages Offer Big Opportunities: When Bernie and Krystyne Savarese asked me if I would serve as opening emcee, I said yes without even blinking.  What an honor it was to serve an association that had given me so many opportunities to share my talents and passions with a group of fantastic professionals. Leading up to the convention, I realized that I had never spoken on that kind of a stage before. Sure, I’ve spoken and delivered keynote addresses to large groups, maybe 1,000 at most… but to serve as emcee, at the start of our newly designed, “Reinvented” convention experience, there was a lot of pressure on me (from me) to do a great job. I was nervously excited when the lights went on and Kathleen Kerr took the stage. From the time I walked onto the stage to the time I walked off, it was a huge blur. I remember parts of it of course, but what I took away from the experience (along with my PechaKucha talk) was that I had changed, and didn’t even realize it. More on this later.
  • ACPA is My Professional Home: I shared Brene Brown’s sentiment on stage, as many of us did, when she looked out at us and said, “You are my people!” While ACUI will always be my first professional home, ACPA has given me a place to develop professionally, grow my network, and engage in the ways and with the people I want to connect with. Working closely with folks like Tony Doody, Heather Shea Gasser, Marlena Love, Gavin Henning, Josie Ahlquist, Sue Caulfield, and our convention chair Gretchen Metzelaars was an honor, and folks I would go to work with again in a heartbeat.
  • Convention Planning Should Be On Your Professional Development Bucket List: Since December of 2010, this was my third national convention planning team I have served on in a row (ACUI 2012, Boston; ACPA 2013, Las Vegas; ACPA 2014, Indy) where I was in leadership as a Host Chair and/or focused on Technology and Social Media. Of course, when you couple this with my first national convention planning team with ACUI in 2005 in Reno, I have learned A LOT about how to conceptualize, plan, and execute national conventions, while simultaneously creating my own through the SA Tech Unconferences. What’s clear is that the work you do on these teams test your skills, build your networks, and grow your knowledge in ways you may not be able to do on your campuses. If I can help connect you to folks in  your home organizations, please let me know!

How did the experience “reinvent” me? As fate/serendipity/stars aligning would have it, I’ve been going through the internal and external process of reinventing who I am as I begin a new chapter in my professional career at BSU. Being a part of our division’s leadership means that the things I did in the past have prepared me for this change, and that I must turn the page. This means exploring who I want to be as a senior leader in higher education and how I will use my talents, energy and skill to affect change. My doctoral work couldn’t have come at a better time as I use the coursework to my advantage, leveraging the content to help me navigate my new roles. The “big stage” at ACPA may have been a real structure that I stood on and opened the Convention from, but I realized afterwards that I was ready and strong enough for all the “big stages” that are in front of me, regardless of how they take shape.

No words can fully describe what I experienced in Indy, all I can safely say is that it couldn’t have come at a better time. From the wonderful speakers, educational sessions, and networking events, to the numerous one one one and group conversations I had, the ACPA 2014 convention helped me frame my “reinvention” in ways that I will be forever grateful.

What were your impressions of the 2014 ACPA Convention? Did you “reinvent” yourself? If so, how?

* One more thing: As I write this post and publish it from the ACUI 100th Anniversary Conference, it is bitter-sweet and poetic that I’m making this transition at a place where I made my last big professional transitions (from grad school to professional; from associate director to director). I’m thrilled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of an association that I care so deeply about and I know will help me continue my reinvention.

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