Reflections from Seattle: NASPA Annual Conference 2024

Recently, U-Thrive Educational Services exhibited at the 2024 NASPA Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington. This year, the annual conference for higher education offered gathering spaces, opportunities for deep listening, and learning from the experiences of others.

This year’s NASPA conference focused on three core content areas:

  • Navigating the Opportunities of Uncertainty: ensuring that all career levels can take the current uncertainty and turn it into innovation and opportunity.
  • Care in Chaos: creating the conditions for care in these turbulent times for ourselves, our colleagues, our students, and our communities, and ultimately, our profession.
  • Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging: honoring our narratives to demonstrate how student affairs is integral and fundamental to engaging differences, open expression and belonging.

The 4-day conference was complete with engaging and inspiring educational sessions, wellness activities, workshops, posters, and keynote speakers. Here is a snapshot of just a few titles:

  • First-Gen Student Mental Health & Well-Being: Successes and Opportunities
  • Reimagining Student Involvement in Post-Pandemic Environment: Navigating Access, Motivating Participation, and Building Community
  • Using Co-Curricular Data to Predict and Enhance Student Success Metrics
  • Poster: Exploring Contributing Factors to Undergraduate and Graduate Student Sense of Belonging

Some key themes we noticed were as follows:

Institutions have more data than ever. How do they analyze and use the data to tell meaningful stories that support and help inform the needs of their students and the institution as a whole? From demographics, to retention rates, to student feedback, attendance and conduct records, collectively this tells a story around the student experience. Offering multiple ways for universities and colleges to gather data will continue to be key as we partner in 2024 and beyond.

Incorporating proactive strategies to enhance student support. How can we introduce coaching alongside Student Advisors to further bolster success? Student Advisors are esteemed members of our campus community who assist students in achieving academic goals and addressing their specific needs. However, effective coaching extends beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Serving as a student’s thinking partner, coaching assists them in overcoming obstacles and developing habits that contribute to their personal and professional growth, as well as their mental and emotional well-being. Both coaches and advisors possess the remarkable opportunity to provide real-time solutions like U-Thrive ® and help students acquire skills to efficiently navigate everyday challenges.

Identity, student engagement, and a sense of belonging.  A student’s sense of belonging is a fundamental human need and in times of transition and uncertainty, students are eager to find their place within their school community. Students are looking for more active learning opportunities, creative ways to engage with one another, and to be accepted as they are, honoring both their social and cultural identities.

Fostering and developing future leaders. Through the use of peer mentorship, campuses are driving more students towards key on-campus resources and programs.  Other campuses are developing their peer leaders to facilitate meaningful discussions, activities, and workshops to open the dialogue around important topics such as well-being, belonging, and self-compassion. By unlocking their leadership potential and passion, many of the emerging leaders are shaping skills while supporting their peers which is a win-win for all.

“I was truly inspired by the commitment of Student Affairs professionals in proactively addressing student mental health, well-being, and belonging. Engaging in meaningful conversations with these incredible individuals has undoubtedly enriched my experience. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate and continue this vital work together!”

– Simone Figueroa, Co-Founder and President, U-Thrive Educational Services
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