Emily Rasch, GA for Research, Assessment, and Strategic Initiatives, reflects back on her experience as a Convention Intern for ACPA 2022 in St. Louis.
One of the highlights of my graduate school tenure has been my involvement with the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to serve as an Intern for ACPA at our first in person Convention since the pandemic.
I started graduate school amidst a global pandemic, which came with a good bit of uncertainty. I wondered if it was possible to connect with others in higher education outside my program. The ACPA Ambassador Program was the answer to that dilemma. I was first involved with ACPA as part of the Ambassador program, where I learned the history, mission, and values of our organization. After my Ambassador year, I served as the Coordinator of Socials on the Grad Student and New Professional Community of Practice Directorate. When the opportunity arose to serve as a Convention Intern, I jumped at it, as I knew that this experience was a way for me to give back to an organization that had already given me so much. On March 2nd, I began the nearly ten hour trek to St. Louis, MO. While I did not necessarily know what to expect, I was excited to see what the experience would hold.
The first few days in St. Louis were a bit of a whirlwind as we set up the conference center, explored the city, and learned the ins and outs of everything ACPA. Once Convention started, it was all hands on deck for everyone involved. As interns, we got to assist with registration and help with some of the sessions. I was on my feet for much of the convention and remained energized and excited to help people and make connections. Through those long hours, we bonded as an intern team and brought our different strengths to the table.
One of the most empowering aspects of the intern experience came from realizing that there are people with similar goals, research interests, and identities to mine. Going forward, I know that I have a sense of community beyond SMU’s campus and in the larger higher education sphere. Also, the opportunity to meet folx in person who I had only seen on a computer screen over the last two years showed me the value of authentic, in-person conversations that were not feasible in a virtual format. While Zoom was an amazing tool to connect us through the pandemic, there isn’t anything quite like an in-person conversation and fellowship. I am so happy that this convention was the first foray into in-person socialization since the pandemic began in 2020.
The theme of this year’s convention was “right where we’re supposed to be.” I know that I have found my professional home in ACPA. Next year, my professional home heads down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. I cannot wait for my professional home to come to my personal one, and I look forward to showing my colleagues my home. I am so grateful for my fellow interns, colleagues, and SMU support system who made this experience what it was. Over the last few months, I have pondered what life beyond SMU may look like after graduation. Because of my involvement in ACPA, I have connections wherever I end up, which excites me for my future beyond the Hilltop.