For the first time since 2005, Walla Walla University hosted the annual Adventist Student Personnel Association convention in March.
Every year, student personnel professionals from Seventh-day Adventist colleges, universities, and academies around the world come together to discuss student trends and learn new skills. At the 2018 ASPA convention, representatives from 23 schools gathered, some traveling from as far as Nigeria to attend.
Kristen Taylor, director of residential life and housing at WWU, and Annette Riebe, dean of residents and student life at the WWU Portland campus, have been heavily involved with the association in the past. This year, they served as ASPA co-presidents.
Despite the professional nature of the convention, Taylor and Riebe worked hard to make it feel like a retreat. Rather than hosting the event in College Place, they set up camp at Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory for the week. They decided on the theme “When Oceans Rise: Through Low Tide and High Tide” to match the surrounding scenery.
The format of the convention changes from season to season, depending on the cabinet’s vision. “Our main focus was bringing in certificate programs,” Taylor said. “We really wanted to make sure that student life personnel walked away with something in their hand.” Attendees could choose between four certificates: mental health first aid, Title IX, conflict resolution, and community emergency response.
Aside from the certificate programs, people could attend various breakout sessions that emphasized a range of topics, including emotional support animals, worship planning, and behavioral intervention. They also had opportunities to meet with similar personnel from sister schools to exchange ideas and discuss challenges that arise in their roles.
The ASPA convention is a longstanding tradition among Seventh-day Adventist institutions—one that spans beyond policy. “It’s a time to create community together, to support each other, all under this umbrella of professional development,” Taylor said.
Taylor and Riebe are now considered “past co-presidents,” and WWU won’t host ASPA again for several years, but the impact of the 2018 convention will carry on in the form of new connections and professional tools.
Posted June 5, 2018