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Community Blog: Beam Me Up NODA!
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Beam Me Up NODA!
Navigating the Final Frontier of the NODA Annual Conference
By: Bart Stucker

 

I walk into one of the large exhibition rooms that house one of the many educational sessions taking place during the time block, balancing my padfolio in one hand, phone in the other as I scroll through social media, all the while re-adjusting my nametag that is attempting to strangle me. I plop down in an aisle seat to ensure a quick exit after the session is over. As I think I have gotten off scot free, another enthusiastic NODA attendee asks if the seat next to me is taken. I say, “No. Please have a seat,” as I think to myself… “Crap now I have to socialize with someone.”

We exchange pleasantries as I extend an outstretched, unnecessarily sweaty palm asking their name and institution. As we begin to chat more before the session begins I begin to stop listening to this new colleague and can only think about, what did they say their name was? Where do they work? This is just ONE of the MANY mistakes I made and lessons learned during attending my first annual NODA conference as a Graduate Assistant in 2015.

As I have grown I have recognized the importance of “putting yourself out there.” Whether you are a first time attendee of the NODA Annual Conference or a seasoned veteran I hope these N.O.D.A. tips and tricks are of value to you.

Sit Next To Someone That You Don't Know

Picture this. You are going to a committee meeting or attending a welcome back luncheon for your institution and the first thing you do is quickly find a table in the back of the room with other members of your team or friends. Sound familiar? 

Annual conferences can be scary so if you do find a familiar face at the conference be intentional and have them introduce you to their colleagues. There is strengths in numbers. 


SOcialize

With five days of intensive programming, if you count the Orientation Professionals Institute, you may be racking your brain as to how you can fit everything in AND find time to sneak away to the Fitness Center to get an early workout in. If you’re introverted and attending one of the many social opportunities available isn’t your thing, think about talking to the person in front of you or behind you in line for coffee.


Discuss Best Practices

We are all different but many of us have the same goals; to provide an enriching orientation experience for our incoming students and their guests. Sure, one size doesn’t fit all but if we all just shared 1-2 “best practices” from each of our institutions just imagine the wealth of knowledge we could bring back to share! A great way to use this technique is if you hear two people in line for coffee talking about developing a new online orientation program you can politely interject and say something like, “I had this same issue when I first started, here are some things we did and we have found it to be very successful.” This could lead to a brainstorming session over lunch!


Ask Questions

Many times we do not want to ask questions in front of a crowd of six, in fear of sounding stupid. Believe me, at such a large conference like NODA where there will be a crowd of thousands, you are not the only one with questions so don’t be afraid to ask!



 

Bart Stucker
Coordinator of Orientation & Recreation Programs, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

Bart attributes his desire to enter the field of higher education primarily due to being a first-generation college student and attending his two-day orientation program at Indiana State University. As soon as he arrived on campus, strange faces that would quickly become great friends and mentors during his six years at Indiana State opened his eyes to the field of higher education and said he had the skills and experiences to be a great professional. After packing up everything and moving to Sarasota, FL to serve as the Coordinator of Orientation and Recreation Programs for the University of South Florida Sarasota - Manatee, Bart is constantly looking for ways to give back. In his spare time, he enjoys going to coffee shops, reading, kayaking, and taking naps.

 

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