I have spent the last two weeks fielding calls at work from parents following the release of freshmen housing assignments. The most challenging part about speaking with a distressed parent unhappy with their child’s assignment: convincing them it isn’t so bad.
I could talk all day about the unique components of the building and how it’s different than anywhere on campus. I could also talk about its proximity to the cafeteria or the athletic facilities, but that’s not going to do it either. It’s not what they wanted for their child.
So what other option do we have to win them over? For us housing professionals, that’s an easy question: Describe the community that exists in that building. I could go on for days about how the community bath hall has a strong community; how the students love it there. How last year I met with three separate students involved in roommate conflicts who wanted nothing more than to move, but said “I’ll go anywhere in [previously undesirable hall] but I don’t want to leave!” Because at the end of the day, we know it isn’t the walls of the buildings that make the student’s experience… it’s what happens within the walls every single day that matters.
Building community is what it’s all about in housing. Sure, we need a safe, nurturing environment for our students, but we hang our hat on the community development within the walls of the buildings.
Not unlike our buildings, within the large border of the ten states that encompass the SEAHO region, there is a community unlike anywhere in the nation. It’s the community that sets SEAHO apart! In my time as a professional in housing, I have found that having a community of other professionals is often what saves me. If you haven’t realized already, sometimes talking with your friends and family does not give you the reassurance that you expected after a long day at work (mine sometimes reminds me that I could be doing something with my biology degree). I have found that having a community of other professions to share ideas, best practices, experience, support, and sometimes even war stories is what keeps me going.
But SEAHO is a special community. At a conference a few weeks ago, I was speaking with a colleague in the SEAHO region and another professional snidely commented “Oh here they go again talking about how great SEAHO is.” The comment surprised me slightly but it made more sense when later I overheard the same professional remark, “Apparently I have to be in SEAHO to know anyone in this field.” While I would not say that is the case, the SEAHO region is certainly large and proud and we want you, the graduate students in our region, to feel invited to join us, grow with us, learn with us, but most importantly, interact with our community!
I’ve been rambling about this amazing thing called SEAHO. Let me slow down a second. SEAHO or the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers is one of the nine regional associations supported by ACUHO-I (the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International). There are ten states in the SEAHO Region including: Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Each institution within these ten states are invited to participate in any SEAHO event throughout the year.
The SEAHO Annual Conference is the meeting of the minds from the Southeast region each spring. The last few years have been connecting over 600 people! It is a terrific opportunity for graduate students to attend sessions geared toward what they do every day or maybe what they’d like to be doing next. Each year there are a wealth of sessions including, but not limited to: community building and programing, supervision and staff development, networking, diversity initiatives, assessment, and even building construction and renovation. Believe it or not it’s about that time to be requesting conferences or professional development support for the year. When reviewing the list of the national big-time conferences do not discount the reasonably priced, yet incredibly informative, SEAHO Regional Annual Conference February 25-27 2015! This year we’ll be traveling to Mobile, Alabama. I hope to see you there!
I attended my first SEAHO in 2010 in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was daunted by the size of the conference and the number of unfamiliar faces. My supervisor encouraged me to participate in the Pro/Am program in which I was paired with Angela Ward. We spoke about my goals and interests and she recommended I attend one of the committee meetings at the conference. I selected the Graduate Issues and Involvement Committee as I had just graduated and felt fairly connected to that population. I assisted with a few tasks before the next conference, and I found that I recognized some names by the next conference. Each year, the number of names and faces I recognize has grown as had my responsibility in the committee. I have been met with new challenges through my involvement, but I have continued to grow through my involvement in SEAHO unlike I can from my position at times.
Choosing a SEAHO committee was the best decision I made. I was able to choose my level of involvement based on my schedule, and I have had the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing people! You may sign up to be involved in a committee at any level in your professional career, even if you are just entering your first year of graduate school (provided you have spoken with your supervisor about it first.) If you are interested in getting involved, go to seaho.org and fill out the SEAHO involvement form on the main page. There are twelve committees of various interests to choose from. I recommend you to stretch yourself a little and choose something you wouldn’t normally.
I believe it’s my role as administrator to give back to the graduate students rising up within our field. I feel it’s my duty in a sense to prepare the future housing leaders in the region. And the best part is in SEAHO, I am not alone. Professionals of various different levels feel the same way as I do. One of the most impactful experiences I had in SEAHO, that I alluded to before, was participating in the Pro/Am program at a SEAHO conference. Graduate students are paired with a professional with the hope of connecting with a more seasoned professional and maybe developing into a long term mentoring relationship. Last year we made over 110 pairings and the number continues to be on the rise! The committee is also exploring options for yearlong pairings. That way the graduate students not attending the annual conference or those that are interested in a semi-structured mentoring relationship can participate beyond the annual conference.
There are other great learning opportunities for graduate students in SEAHO. The Educational Programs committee sponsors a case study competition for graduate students and professionals. This case study competition occurs at the annual conference and awards are given to the winners. The committee is also working to create a case study to occur during the year. The Placement Committee also does great work for the graduate students in our region. For graduate students who are job searching, there is a placement at the annual conference. For graduate students not job searching but interested in learning about placement, there are also volunteer opportunities at the annual conference. The committee also facilitates a resume review and mock interviews outside of the conference of which graduate students can take advantage.
Those are only some of the terrific opportunities for graduate students to learn within SEAHO. To find out about more, we encourage you to connect with us. Follow @SEAHOgrad on twitter and check out our SEAHO Graduate Students Facebook page. We’ll be sharing information on upcoming programs for the benefit of graduate students and general resources from our committee. Additionally, these social media connections will be used to recognize the great work of the graduate students in our region (#SEAHOgradsrock). The SEAHOGrad blog, updated weekly, will be a great way to hear from professionals and graduate students in the region. If you are interested in writing an article for the blog, we are looking for contributors. Please email us at SEAHOGrad@gmail.com. And lastly, don’t forget to register with the SEAHO site (seaho.org) and begin connecting with professionals around the region.
So there you go: join us (consider attending the SEAHO Annual Conference), grow with us (join a SEAHO committee), learn with us (take advantage of all of the opportunities offered to graduate students), and interact with our community (connect with your peers at the conference and throughout the year). I assure you it will make all the difference in your professional experience!
For me, SEAHO has become another family and professional home base. While I may not stay at my current institution forever, like the students I mentioned above, I will try my hardest to move only within the SEAHO region. I love what happens within the SEAHO borders and I hope that you find the same!