Friday, April 06, 2007

Ripples and networks

The ACPA/NASPA Convention in Orlando was pretty amazing - 9,500 people from throughout the U.S.A. and with significant international representation as well. The convention was a combination of keynote speakers, workshops, presentations, meetings, and lots of opportunity to meet and network with colleagues. The deepest satisfaction at this point in my life is renewing contact with valued colleagues. I started the conference with treasured doctoral colleagues from my Maryland days - Linda and Ron. Then I moved to colleagues in the Senior Scholars group of ACPA - faculty and senior administrators attempting to push the boundaries of knowledge in student learning. I checked in with younger colleagues who are either moving through doctoral study (Chad) or are moving into the formative years of their careers (Tracy). And, I spent time with more recent Miami grads such as Erin, Laura, Dave, Julie, and Matt. All of these encounters reinforced the critical importance of building and renewing relationships over time and space. When it all comes down to the core and most important things in life, it's about the ripples of our lives and the networks that sustain us.

I was particularly touched during this convention by a couple of former Miami students. These students, one in particular, approached me to remind me who she was. In a hallway on my way to another destination, she looked at me and I at her. After realizing that I visually recognized her, she started, "Do you remember who I am?" Then she said, "I'm Felicia, a former Miami student." She went on to describe her work and how much she loved student affairs. She closed by saying that she wanted me to know that, while she was an undergraduate, she was watching - watching to see who loved their work and seemed to be making a difference. It was this observation that drew her to student affairs and a very fulfilling place in life. Who would have thought that encounters of chance could shape another person's life like this.

Beyond renewing relationships, the programs were also very informative. Former Vice President Al Gore provided a live "Inconvenient Truth" lecture. Dr. Benjamin Carson spoke on aspiration, accountability to ourselves and others, and seeking to do all that we can with the opportunities that come our way. I had the chance to present on Deeper Learning in Leadership to a group of over 200. This was particularly fun because we started by generating ideas about what we've accomplished in 30 years of leadership learning and the gaps that now need to be filled. After I presented, two reactors provided comments that deepened the concepts I presented while also addressing the gaps that were identified by others. The most rewarding feedback came from those who recognized the critical importance of going deeper in our advocacy for leadership and who saw the possibility of doing this through combining presence, flow, and oscillation in putting their conviction into action.

The key is creating ripples through our many relationships, especially in those where we have no clue we are having an impact. Note to self - who is watching and modeling the actions that I assume have little impact at all?

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