2019 NASPA Annual Conference

#NASPA18 Day One Wrap Up Blog: Leaning into Inquiry


Two of the principles that guide our association are Inquiry and Inclusion. We are a community of inquiring minds, examining the patterns of the past, and mindful of the importance of ongoing education. The dedication of student affairs professionals to lifelong learning and development is enhanced by the core value of Inclusion, which manifests in our willingness to hear all voices and engage with all perspectives. #NASPA18 attendees embodied these guiding principles during the opening day of the 2018 NASPA Annual Conference.   

The day began with our pre-conference workshops, including the Community Colleges Institute, International Symposium, and Undergraduate Student Conference, programs providing space for an immersive learning experience.

In the evening, attendees of #NASPA18 were welcomed by Almanac, a local performing ensemble, who took us on a journey through a century of music beginning with NASPA’s founding in 1919. Conference Leadership Committee Chair Kevin Bailey and NASPA Board Chair Deb Moriarty then took the stage to share their excitement for the 100th NASPA Annual Conference with over 8,000 attendees.

Special thank you to Denise “Bright Dove” Ashton-Dunkley for your knowledge and blessing as a part of our NASPA IPKC led recognition of the indigenous people whose land our conference is held upon.

In his opening session remarks, NASPA President Kevin Kruger spoke frankly and openly about many of the challenges facing us as both student affairs professionals and citizens of the world. He highlighted the importance of free speech and critical dialogue within higher education but was clear that bigotry and hatred can render that dialogue impossible. He also shared his frustration and anger with the inaction on the part of Congress to extend DACA protections. Finally, Kevin celebrated the many first-generation college students in the room and outlined the ways that both we and the Higher Education Act reauthorization can provide better access and support for low-income students, first-generation students, and students from minority populations.

Next up, opening speaker Jason Dorsey illustrated what his research has revealed about the challenges of working across generations. #NASPA18 attendees were excited and intrigued by Jason’s remarks, as well as challenged by some of the sentiments Dorsey shared. Following his talk, and engaging with the true spirit of Inquiry, Jason was responsive to the critical perspectives offered, including those of our own Nathan Victoria. Here is how Nathan described his experience:

As I was sitting next to another millennial staff member of color last night at the Opening Session, we were buying what Jason Dorsey was selling. Dispelling both commonly held myths and stereotypes of generations, he used information from his Center for Generational Kinetics to help illuminate the experiences of the millennial attendees in the room, which made up about one third of the crowd. But when he got to his perspectives on diversity, it gave me pause.

Jason recounted his wedding to his Latina wife where his mother remarked on the visual diversity of his groomsmen and soon-to-be wife of color, using this story to illuminate his belief that "Millennials don't see diversity until it's absent."

Some of you may see nothing wrong with his comment as it reflects the reality you experience. But it doesn’t reflect the reality that I see in my life. As a queer, Catholic, Filipino-American in a homophobic, heterosexist, misogynistic, and racist world, I struggle against the “traditional” and “normal” world where a where a white husband and wife have 2.5 children and a house with a dog and a white picket fence. As a millennial person of color, I didn't first recognize diversity in its absence because the world wanted me absent from the narrative all together.

Like every good millennial does when they experience something they don’t like, I pulled out my phone and took to Twitter.

I couldn’t NOT tweet something; if we do not call out the implicit norms of whiteness, we cannot work to create spaces that strive for equity and justice for all. But I also needed to appreciate Jason and his willingness to open up dialogue and encourage growth from reaching for greater understanding of each other. Jason responded as follows:

Life is about challenging our perspectives by engaging in dialogue with those who have a perspective different than our own, for it is in this challenge that we distill our truths. We cannot operate in black and white standards when it comes to difficult conversations because the world we live in is painted in grays. So, I encourage each and every one of you to sit within the discomfort and openly enter into dialogue with those who challenge, not just echo, your belief systems.

NASPA members value engagement with all viewpoints and are always willing to lean into respectful dialogue in the support of teachable moments that uncover deeper truth. NASPA does not censor or suppress the content of any of our invited speakers, instead offering attendees the opportunity to engage with what is offered authentically, including—even perhaps most importantly—with a critical lens. We encourage our members to follow thought with the dialogues that are sparked and to keep our values of Inquiry and Inclusion at the center of their navigation. We look forward to continuing this conversation, and to all the critical conversations that will develop across the rest of our time at #NASPA18.

Stay tuned for our Day 2 Wrap-up Blog, coming to you tomorrow, and featuring highlights from featured speaker U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor.

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