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Engaging in Professional Development: A Presidential Perspective

SHP Career Services Coordinator, Luke Gorham, serves as the Past-President for the Missouri College Personnel Association, an organization focused on the professional development of college student educators in the state of Missouri. Luke co-wrote this article with current President, Nicolette Yevich, discussing the importance of volunteering and networking as professional development opportunities. While this article largely speaks to involvement in a state/national professional organization, SHP students can apply these skills while working, volunteering, and engaging in student organizations.

Engaging in state, regional, or national organizations related to your profession can provide opportunities to develop as a professional, network with colleagues, and engage in meaningful work for your chosen profession. These opportunities can typically vary in scope and time commitment, giving you a variety of options to choose from. This article will discuss two ways you can benefit from your professional development organizations from the perspective of the current and past President of the Missouri College Personnel Association, both whom are also members of EdD Cohorts #10 and #9, respectively.

In its simplest form, volunteering provides an introduction to the organization and allows you to contribute in a fun and easy way. This may open opportunities to meet appointed and elected members who are serving in leadership positions providing space and time to learn about their stories, commitment to the profession, and journey of serving the association. You may understand what the purpose of the organization is and see tangible results of their efforts, but this access to volunteers allows for an intimate knowledge of the organizational vision and its path to reaching its goals.

As a member and volunteer, we want to be a part of the vision and contribute to moving the organization forward. After many years in student affairs, we understand that we did not develop into the professionals we are on our own. We will give credit where credit is due, the educational sessions, the journals, articles and the large network of colleagues in ACPA inform our work, challenge us to be better, while helping us to understand multiple perspectives and is a sounding board when we are seeking to develop solutions. While we are grateful, we have made the choice to work in tandem with colleagues in Missouri and truly across the entire organization to move towards our shared vision.

In our leadership roles, we serve as the conduit between Missouri members and student affairs colleagues in sharing the direction and initiatives that inform our practice, add value to our profession, and MOST importantly allow us to keep students at the forefront of our work. We cannot do this work alone and have to seek out networking opportunities with colleagues, institutions, and the communities in which we are a part to collaborate, innovate, and create experiences to develop our students and ourselves.

Networking is often ambiguous in form and function and can be described as the ability to gain access to information, resources, jobs, or other materials used to improve the experience of our students, ourselves, or our schools and institutions. Networking can seem scary as it can sometimes be portrayed as a very formal exercise that has to result in something very specific like a career opportunity. That certainly is an outcome of networking, but can also be used to find a mentor, learn more about what others are doing in our profession, collaborate on initiatives, or build connections for students to access when appropriate. Networking is organic in our daily work as we connect with others to gain information that is used to move us or our students forward. Networking does not have to take place in person at a conference. It can take place over the phone, via email, or through a conversation in the hallway.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the cost of participating in these opportunities as a consideration. Professional development dollars provided by our schools and institutions seem to be decreasing with each passing year, which can limit or eliminate opportunities for us to participate in. The association and its leaders understand that professionals and graduate students may be dedicating personal funds to supplement their development and has added ways for members to budget and afford the events that add value to their work. In the new year, ACPA will be sharing a new membership structure with a thoughtfully revised rate structure. We encourage you to explore the many benefits of membership including cost saving access to events, communication on involvement opportunities, and association initiatives.

The Missouri College Personnel Association (MOCPA) is a state chapter of ACPA College Student Educators International. MoCPA offers a number of high quality, low cost networking and professional development opportunities for members and non-members alike. Applications for the 2019-2020 executive council will be available soon. Visit, Facebook, and Twitter for details in the near future.

*This article was originally published in the December 2018 University of Missouri Statewide Cooperative EdD Program Newsletter

Luke Gorham
Career Services Coordinator, University of Missouri School of Health Professions
MU ELPA EdD Cohort #9

Nicolette Yevich
Director of Career Development, Central Methodist University
MU ELPA EdD Cohort #10
Luke Gorham & Nicolette Yevich &