CACUSS 2012 Overview

CACUSS 2012 was a wonderful end to the academic year for the Supporting Student Success research team (although we are working diligently throughout the summer analyzing new data!). We look forward each year to the CACUSS conference as it’s a chance to re-connect with many of our study participants, share our research with our colleagues from across Canada and meet wonderful new people. This year at CACUSS we delivered a presentation titled How Senior Leaders Support Staff Collaboration, which highlighted various forms of communication and leadership styles that support staff and facilitate collaboration and innovation. We were very excited to see many familiar, and many new faces in the room (we had a packed room with over 70 people). Despite the cramped space, it was amazing to see how engaged everyone was during our small group activities in the session.

This year’s CACUSS was special for several members of our team: one attending the conference for the first time, another as a new professional in student affairs, one after a ten-year gap, and finally one of our team member’s who is currently serving as the CACUSS Intern. Each of our experiences were unique, as we experienced the conference sessions and networking opportunities through different lenses and with different purposes. We enjoyed our time together as a team at the conference but also capitalized on the networking opportunities to make connections with colleagues from across Canada. We all felt a warm welcome from the CACUSS community and made new friends and met new colleagues.We enjoyed a variety of sessions at CACUSS and learned a great deal about what colleges and universities across Canada are doing to support student success. Here is a just a brief highlight of some of the sessions we attended:

Choosing Your Own Adventure: Self-Authorship’s Provocative Moment – Tim Tang & Claire HookerQueen’s University 

This was a hands-on presentation by Tim and Claire from Queen’s University provided participants with the opportunity to reflect on a time when they had to make important decisions in their lives (e.g. going back to school after a long period of time, quitting a job, moving to a new country etc.) and think about what the decision-making process entailed—feelings, emotions, fears etc. Situated in Baxter-Magolda and King’s (2004) Learning Partnerships Model (LPM), the presentation highlighted how we can help students make sense and find meaning during crucial crossroads in their lives by utilizing the three principles of the LPM: 1) validating learner’s capacity as knowledge constructors, 2) situating learning I n the learner’s experience, and 3) helping students understand their role in learning. Participants were provided with a wonderful and thought-provoking case study to discuss in small groups, each which provided thoughts on how to apply the principles of LPM in helping the protagonist of the case study. This wonderful presentation reminded us about the importance of validating students’ experiences and the crucial role students play in constructing meaning and learning.

Canada’s Got [writing] Talent: Publishing in Student Affairs – Carney Strange – Bowling Green State University, Tricia Seifert – OISE/University of Toronto, Marty Williams – Editor of Communiqué

This was a wonderful session with three presenters talking about different avenues for CACUSS members to share their work outside of presenting at the annual conference. Carney Strange focused on the wide range of publication opportunities available for those working and researching student affairs and services. He provided an extensive list of venues including Communiqué, The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, University Affairs, The Canadian Journal of Career Development in Canada. He also highlighted U.S publications like the Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, and About Campus. This sample covers a range of publication types from more practitioner based, to peer-reviewed research articles and monographs. All three presenters talked about the importance of looking at these various publications to find a venue that best suits the audience you want to communicate to. Tricia Seifert talked the process of writing and finding a method and style that works for you; but to also view the writing process as a highly iterative one. The drafts you submit for publication is not the final draft, that everyone gets submissions rejected, and to think about the revision processes as a way to clarify and strengthen your work. She suggested that when attempting to revise a paper that sometimes putting it aside for a week and coming back to it later can make the revision process easier. Finally Marty Williams, discussed the different types of submissions that he would like to see in Communiqué these include program descriptions, best practices, research projects, book reviews and even opinion pieces.  This session really opened up my eyes to the importance of making time for writing in my schedule and how many different venues there are to publish beyond research articles.

Student Services? Let Me Google That…

This SASA preconference was presented by Blaine Jensen (or BJ as he is known and loved) and Lisa Endersby together with students attending Brock and due to the wonders of technology, three students from Douglas College in BC. A group of around 40 of us explored student expectations of online student service delivery. We looked at some innovative programs such as York’s YUConnect and Red Zone student bloggers as well as Ryerson’s RUStudent Life run by a “Digital Community Facilitator.” Is there a new brand of student life professional emerging? The student panel portion of the pre-conference workshop was most fascinating. The students broke down some common myths for us (I don’t read blogs, I don’t want you to text me) and painted a picture of what their ideal interaction with the university would be (put it all in one place, send me a reminder on my phone, don’t make me come in person to do anything).

YU Connect—York’s Answer to Digital Student Engagement

The Co-Curricular Record—a new craze in Canada that universities and colleges have either developed, are about to launch, or are in conversation about. This presentation was the start of (what I am sure will be many) conversations about how institutions are formally recognizing student engagement in co-curricular activities. This team from York University talked about their new digital student engagement platform, offering tips about how they implemented it, and the different technology systems that are out there. What was especially great was the audience, which was made up of individuals from a range of institutions who were either interested in or involved in similar projects. The conversations were interesting, and the material presented was informative. Thank you to the presenters for facilitating a great session!

We are very grateful for the wonderful hospitality of Brock University and Niagara College and for the wonderful volunteers, staff, and conference leaders who made CACUSS 2012 a special and memorable experience. We look forward to presenting our findings of phase two at CACUSS 2013 and re-connecting with all of you as well as meeting new colleagues and friends. Keep checking our blog for our summer postings and follow us on Twitter @CdnStdntSuccess and Facebook.

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