By Susan Abelson
My first ASPE conference, indeed my first professional conference ever, proved to be a very enlightening experience for me. As one of the many new attendees, I felt welcomed by the veterans, and was given an opportunity to identify and bond with the other “newbies” on more than one occasion. I felt fortunate to be in an environment where ideas were shared, and knowledge was sought, especially when I heard, repeatedly from the veterans, that they wished they’d had a conference to go to all those years ago when they felt they were inventing the wheel.
I would say that my absolute favorite thing about the conference was that there were many presentations that were about enquiry. The presenters were not simply putting forth information, but were actively wondering about things. These presentations seemed to be over in the blink of an eye, with topics put in a “parking lot” to be addressed if there was any time left, because so much discussion was generated.
It was also interesting to pick up ideas from both the research- and method-based presentations, and the more creative/nurturing approaches to SP education, realizing that both served the same goal, which is to make for better SPs. From the very first presentation until the very end I wrote notes like “make a strategic plan, a SWOT, which defines mission/values/realistic objectives,” and then “ask the SP if they are comfortable with their role, or if they need to decompress before they leave.” “SPs begin to lose focus somewhere between the 6th and 8th encounter” and “sending a thank you email with reminders and announcements enclosed connects the SPs to a sense of appreciation for doing their work.” At no point did I have the sense of an “us -vs-them,” mentality (creative approach “vs” research approach) and with all the ideas I jotted down now in my toolbox, I can and will use them and make them my own.
The overall sense of passion and enthusiasm for SP education at the conference was inspiring. Conversations continued after hours near the pool, and even while people were enjoying themselves in the pool. I probably could have used a few more hours of sleep, and some better note-taking skills in order to remember everything I learned, but the overall sense of support I felt at the conference was invaluable.