Greetings, SEAHO grads! My name is Holly Stewart and I am a 3rd year Residence Life Coordinator at LSU. SEAHO is a conference that is near and dear to my heart as this was my first conference as a first year grad AND was held in Mobile back in 2011. I like to think of the annual conference as a family reunion. This is a time for us to reconnect with colleagues from all over the country and if you’re a first-time attendee, meet others from our region and find a way to get involved. I’ve been able to make so many wonderful connections and memories through my involvement in this organization so I’m excited to share some unique opportunities to make the most of your SEAHO experience.
Early Bird Discount
Making the most of your professional development dollars is a skill that will come in handy as you go through your career. One of the easiest ways to stretch your money is to register by the early-bird deadline. Most conferences will offer a discounted rate the earlier you register so make sure to pay attention to what those dates are so you don’t miss out. This year you’ll need to register for by SEAHO by January 13th in order to take advantage of the savings.
Professional Preparation Program (PPP)
Selecting which program sessions to attend can be difficult given that there are so many awesome opportunities. Luckily, the Programming Committee has already identified which sessions will be particularly useful for graduate students and created a Professional Preparation Program track. You’ll see these sessions labeled PPP in the program descriptions and cover a wide-variety of topics. Graduate students who attend a particular number of sessions will receive recognition for completing the track.
Networking is an important piece of conference attendance but sometimes finding a place to start those conversations can be tricky. The Pro/Am program matches Housing professionals with graduate students who are attending SEAHO and share similar interests. This relationship can be short term and last just the conference or can extend beyond our time in Mobile depending on what is best for you and your Pro. Be open and clear about what you would like from the relationship! Also don’t be afraid to reach out to your Pro once you receive their contact information so you can get to the conference and already have that contact established.
We have a tremendous conference planning staff that put together a wonderful week, but they need conference attendees just like you to volunteer with a variety of tasks during the conference. This experience will also help introduce you to new people and help with that networking component. You can help collect tickets during meal times, introduce program presenters, collect session evaluations, take photos for the closing banquet, assist with registration, or help out with technology so the find an option that fits best with your schedule and sign up to volunteer during the registration process.
Vendors are an integral part of many regional and national conferences—SEAHO is no exception. These corporate partners set up displays in a ballroom and include all sorts of companies you’ve probably heard mentioned at some point. Furniture manufacturers, architecture firms, software groups, authors, and marketing companies are just a few groups that will be attending this year. Walking into the ballroom can be a bit intimidating the first time but don’t shy away from this awesome opportunity. Many vendors allow you to drop off a business card in exchange for candy, swag, or raffles to win really cool prizes. While there, take a moment to talk to them and learn what the company is about and what services they offer to start developing these relationships earlier in your career.
You are randomly assigned a partner and given a scenario and set of questions related to the given situation prior to the conference. You and your partner are able to work together to answer these questions and present your information in a timed presentation before a panel of judges. Case study participants are encouraged to use their experience, student development theories, and creativity. A helpful hint—consider bringing your theory book to SEAHO for last minute case study prep.
There are eleven different committees with a variety of tasks and purposes with varying levels of commitment to fit your scheduling needs. Some committees will need members to work on projects throughout the year and others are more concentrated around conference time. A few examples of the different committee types include recognition, conference programs, and placement. The Grad Issues and Involvement committee is also pretty awesome. ;)
Whew. That's a lot of involvement opportunities so don't feel pressured to try and do everything. Trust me, you'll want to leave some time to attend sessions or catch up with friends as well! Instead, challenge yourself to pick one or two ways to get involved in SEAHO and see what makes sense for you, your career, and your professional needs. Also follow us Twitter @SEAHOgrad to start connecting with others before you arrive at the conference. Thanks for listening and I'll look forward to seeing you in Mobile!