Written By: Student Personnel Association
By: Kim Howard, Class of 2014
FYE… three simple letters for such a big event. I first heard about the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience as a senior in college as I started exploring the world of University 101 for my senior thesis. While I did not have the chance to attend that year, I knew it was definitely something I wanted to go to in the future. As I embarked on my journey into the higher ed world, I became even more entranced by the first-year experience. When the opportunity came around during my first semester as a HESA student to submit a proposal for the 32nd Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience, it was a no brainer. I helped my team at Capstone Scholars develop a presentation on our Personal Challenge program and also submitted a poster proposal on my own about my senior thesis on Honors U101.
When both proposal were accepted I was elated and February couldn’t have come fast enough! I had no idea what to expect when I arrived, but when I walked into the opening session on Saturday night, I was fascinated to see how many student affairs professionals were in the room, eager to learn more about first-year students! Jillian Kinzie gave an inspiring talk about how we could instill Disney’s principles of “Dream, Believe, Dare, and Do” in the first-year experience.
The next morning, I attended the primer session for first-time attendees and was blown away when I got to hear John Gardner speak. I was geeking out while he spoke of the history of USC’s U101 course, a topic that I had researched for my thesis. After leaving that session, I attended back to back conference sessions all day long. It was a very long day, but every session was dynamic and I learned so much about everything from first-year career development to extended orientation to peer leadership programs. I also presented with the Capstone team on the Personal Challenge and we had a great turn out and tons of great feedback!
I started the next day off by presenting my poster on Honors U101! Many people came up to talk to me and I gave out a bunch of handouts! I then rushed to get to my next session and had another long day of informative sessions. I ended the day with a USC reception where I was able to network with a number of wonderful USC employees both past and present. After one more session the next morning, my office and I hit the road back to Columbia. I returned exhausted, but inspired, and I look forward to submitting a proposal for the 33rd annual conference in San Diego next year!