Attending the conference vs. helping to PLAN the conference – two entirely different things. Serving on the SEAHO host committee has shown me an entirely different side of the conference, and the organization for that matter, than I had ever known before (2014: Registration, 2016: Social Media and Guidebook, and now 2017: Budget). Did you know that every host committee spends 18 months planning for each conference? EIGHT-TEEN-MONTHS! There are countless conference calls, numerous to-do list items between those calls, a plethora of meetings with contractors and vendors, and multiple site visits at the conference location, even if you aren’t in close proximity. It is an incredible amount of work, and every one of these committee members does this completely as a volunteer; we such amazing colleagues across our region!
Serving on these three host committees truly has opened my eyes to a different viewpoint of the conference. I always knew I loved SEAHO: the people, the sessions, the familial atmosphere, the networking, the professional development opportunities, etc., etc., etc. But I never really gave much thought as to what happens behind the scenes while the conference takes place, or better yet, before the conference takes place. I had always just shown up, picked up my goodie bag at registration, attended sessions, and ate the food. In some ways, it had always seemed like there wouldn’t be THAT much work to put together this conference, right? WRONG. When Dr. Tom Hardy reached out to me about 18 months prior to the 2014 SEAHO conference in Louisville, I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. But since then, when Dr. Donna McGalliard and Gavin Roark contacted me asking if I was interested in helping on their committees, they could barely finish asking before I quickly said YES! Despite the countless hours of unpaid work on top of our already very busy schedules working in Campus Housing and/or Residence Life, taking part in these experiences has helped me in invaluable ways.
Specially, my experience in Raleigh for SEAHO 2016 was very different than that of the 2014 Louisville conference. Since I work at the University of Louisville, serving on the 2014 committee was quite a bit easier than serving on a host committee for a conference taking place 550 miles away from my home campus. Thankfully, I have several very supportive supervisors who have always pushed me to continue to be involved at a high level, knowing how important this has been to me personally and professionally.
Our 2016 host committee crew – our team – was closer than ever. We celebrated our many mini victories together (often times with ice cream on campus in Raleigh!) and supported each other when things “fell through” along the way. We got to know each other through our Friday conference calls and our random Facebook pictures, always finding new ways of being goofy. And although it was relieving to have the Raleigh conference arrive and watch our months and months of hard work come to fruition, the entire group reflected on how much we were going to miss our interaction with each other, going as far as jokingly (sort of) requesting to continue our Friday conference calls.
Serving on the SEAHO host committee changes you; you become addicted to it (or is that just me?). It helps to develop you in ways no other professional development opportunity can. You build a network of colleagues you’ll forever call your teammates, and your friends. If I could ever give advice to professionals in the field, whether young or seasoned, it would be to get involved with your regional conference planning team. You’ll have the experience of a lifetime, one that you will forever call one of your greatest ever.
Submitted by Bryan Shelangoski, University of Louisville