NACEP National Annual Conference “A Breath of Fresh Air”

November 9, 2021

As one participant said, “The conference as a whole was a breath of fresh air! It felt SO good to feel somewhat back to normal.”

By Jaclyn Dumond, President-Elect, NACEP Board of Directors

With a few days’ time to reflect on the NACEP National Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, it’s safe to say that the whole event was blissfully…normal. Yes, we masked and spread out and did as much as we could outside in the beautiful Florida sunshine (minus tropical storm-level rain showers Sunday evening). But as one participant said, “The conference as a whole was a breath of fresh air! It felt SO good to feel somewhat back to normal.” Conversations with colleagues during the event echoed my own thoughts: we were buoyed by being together, talking shop, hearing new ideas, refining old ones, and reminding ourselves why what we do matters.

We’ve all had unique work experiences since the start of the pandemic, with some of us still working remotely, some back in the office, and others living a hybrid life. For those who are new to this field or who have newly discovered NACEP, the conference proved a fruitful way to foster face-to-face interactions with individuals who were previously only known through a screen. One participant commented: “It was so great to finally be in person. I have been working remotely with so many different people over the last couple of years. It was great to finally meet each of them in person and to meet so many new people and exchange ideas.” Attendees had positive comments about the virtual conference as well and shared appreciation for the timeliness of content and the ability to go back and re-watch sessions. One virtual attendee said, “I attended a virtual session done by an institution in my home state. Seeing the work they are doing being shared on a national level really emphasized to me the importance of the regional- and local-level work that happens.” Regardless of modality, we gleaned new ideas and returned to our desks (or our kitchen tables) with some pep in our step.

Those of us who were there in person know how fortunate we are, and we keenly felt the absence of so many colleagues, friends, and first-time attendees. I would like to pose a challenge: if you are a veteran NACEP member, reach out to a colleague you haven’t spoken to or seen in the past 18 months, or to a colleague you know is new to the field, and take time to check-in. If this was your first conference, whether in person or virtual, take five minutes to pull that business card out of your bag or re-open that draft email and send a note to a presenter or another attendee with whom you had a meaningful conversation. NACEP is all about connections, and together is the only way we all move forward.

In closing, I would be remiss not to shine the spotlight on the NACEP team: Dianne Lassai Barker; Jameka Eubanks; Eric Hoover; Freda Richmond; Miranda Rodriguez; and Amy Williams, who are to be commended for providing two top-notch events, in two modalities, at the same time, in the midst of a global pandemic. Pat yourselves on the backs and know that your efforts were and are appreciated. NACEP members, while you’re connecting with colleagues new and old, take a moment to send a note of thanks to the staff as well. We hope to see all of you safely and in-person in Minneapolis in 2022!

Thank you to the following for contributing:

  • Mallory Stevens- Pathways Support Consultant., Bay Area Community Colleges Consortium
  • Karina Smith- Assistant Director, Boise State University
  • Aimee Arreygue- Associate Director, Education Partnerships, California State University, Long Beach