April 23, 2019
My name is Oscar Duran and I am one of the recipients of the LKC’s Pre-Con Scholarship. I am very humbled and honored to have been selected for this opportunity because it allowed me to attend my first ever pre conference within NASPA. As a new community college professional and first year graduate student, I am aware of the impact that a conference of this magnitude can have on my professional development, networking and personal growth. Previously as a NUFP Fellow in San Diego State University, I had the opportunity to attend a NASPA Western Regional Conference in Hawaii in 2017 and a National Conference in Philadelphia in 2018. However, this is my first conference as a graduate student and new professional, so it was very meaningful to me in that sense. In addition, being able to attend my first ever LKC pre conference really marked a new milestone in my career.
I don’t say this lightly. After having experienced this space, I want to involve and engage myself deeper within this community throughout my career and I will be intentional in doing so. NASPA is a very beneficial conference to our profession and individually in many levels, however, it can also be somewhat daunting to navigate and overwhelming at times. The smaller group and familiar atmosphere that a preconference creates “en comunidad” can be very alleviating in that sense. I found myself being able to connect on a more personal basis with the other attendants and was able to engage in rich discussion throughout the various activities. My favorite part of the pre-conference was running into old friends and mentors from San Diego State and other places such as my former NUFP mentor Dr. Martha Enciso. Dr. Enciso has been a pillar of my formation through this profession and I owe her so much of who I’ve become today. Being able to see her and interact as colleagues within the field was very heartwarming and fulfilling for me.
In addition, I really enjoyed the agenda that the LKC National Co-Chairs, Maria Genao-Homs and Sandra Rodriguez, prepared for us on that day. One of the best parts of the day was the conversation facilitated by Dr. Janett I. Cordoves in which we discussed spirituality and religion. This was very interesting beyond the professional competencies and development aspect of the material being presented, but on a spiritual level was also a cause for self-reflection and introspection. In my opinion, although much talk is done around self-care and avoiding burnout in our profession, this area is often never touched upon and it could be a very important subject in order to accomplish a healthy balance of work and life. It also gave insight into how spirituality could be a way in which we connect with students and this can be done many different ways. Also, that there is a very big difference between this subject and religion and the two must not be confused.
Lastly, but just as important was the opportunities that I was given outside the pre-conference. I attended the Community Colleges Division Latinx/a/o Task Force meeting and was able to finally meet Dr. Edward Martinez in person. Although I had only talked to Dr. Martinez over the phone a few times before the conference, he has served as a great role model for me and has taken time from his busy agenda to have meaningful conversations with me which I appreciate very much. I also met other professionals at the Community Colleges Network Reception that I’m excited to work alongside with in the near future. The Mena/Valdez awards ceremony had to be the best way to end this NASPA. The best part, besides being with my “familia” of scholars, was sharing the recognition stage with my most impactful mentor Dr. Marissa Vasquez. I look up to her so much and she is the type of professional/person I work hard to become one day. She received the well-deserved Outstanding Faculty award. I was right there next to her with a recognition of my own that symbolizes all the hard work, time and effort she and others in this field have invested in me. Thank you.
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