February 2017

The Road to a Conference Presentation teaser image
As you may or may not know by now, I am in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) program here at Texas A&M University. This is my second year in the program and thinking about how close graduation is daunts me, but that’s another story.
What do we do in Student Affairs? Well we can play a part in almost any area of an institution where administrators work alongside students. Think of all the things the students do outside of the classroom. That’s us! While this program is non-thesis and most of our experiences are practical, research is 100% still possible and encouraged. Stemming out of our learning in cross-cultural environments class, Norma and Jordan, two wonderful classmates of mine, and I ventured into researching ways in which institutions can better support first generation families.
It was a big project and while our intention was to merely submit this project for our class, get a good grade, and move on with our lives, we went beyond that. After presenting, our professor approached us and told us this was a really good presentation, new research, and how he had never seen a tool like the one we presented. We did not realize how much work and heart we had put in this project. So we left with high spirits and extremely proud of our work.
Really, this whole project started about a year ago when we initiated conversations about our project. Throughout this whole year a lot has happened, we discussed possibly submitting this to a national conference, we thought of letting it go, we thought of using this research in our graduate internships and assistantships, and so on. Summer came by and we really did not discuss it further. Shortly after the semester started, we gave it another shot. We worked long hours separate and together to finally put a proposal together. Our research started shaping differently and really what we had done in class was a great basis for our work, but we had to keep working and really asking ourselves why do we want people to listen to us?
Long story short, we submitted our presentation to NASPA, which is the national organization for Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. Done. Thanksgiving break comes and we receive good news. Our efforts paid off and our presentation was accepted in this national conference. It was such a big moment for us. Usually grads present with supervisors or professors so having three grads presenting was a shocker for some people I shared the news with. Greater news was that the peer reviewers really loved what we were bringing to the table and suggested very minimal changes (which were a big plus for us as we are super busy).
January comes and people at this point have heard about our presentation. Through my job, we got encouraged to submit our proposal to the University Advisors and Counselors (UAC) Symposium at Texas A&M. We submitted it once again, and once again, it got approved. So this past week, we got to present at the UAC symposium and two weeks from now we get to travel to a national conference and present the same material to a different audience. We are extremely excited and proud to keep moving forward and keep encouraging professionals to support the families of first generation students in ways they can better benefit from.
There is just something extremely rewarding of speaking about a topic so close to our hearts and seeing the work we had put for over a year come to real life. Send good wishes our way!

Mara Schaffler | Educational Administration and Human Resources Development

Mara Schaffler is a second year in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) program within the College of Education and Human Development.

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