Posted February 10, 2011 by Keith Kowalka 

Peer Learning Network Opportunities Still Available in Chicago

Michelle M. Lopez, associate director for student development and retention at the LBJ Student Center of Texas State University–San Marcos, is the 2011 Conference Program Team member coordinating the Education Committee. She is excited to see all of our awesome Peer Learning Network programs come to fruition.

The “sayings” of a community, its proverbs, are its characteristic comment upon life; they imply its history, suggest its attitude toward the world and its way of accepting life. Such an idiom makes the finest language any writer can have; and he can never get it with a notebook. He himself must be able to think and feel in that speech—it is a gift from heart to heart.  

– Willa Cather  

We are an association of community builders who help to shape the “sayings” on our home campuses every day, just as the author, Willa Cather, states in her quote. As I ran across these words, they made me think about the various Peer Learning Network activities that will occur at the annual conference. Each of us, as college union and student activities professional staff members as well as student leaders, is an integral part of developing and perpetuating campus community sayings, which support our profession’s attitude of caring for students and each other. We live and breathe in this “speech,” as Cather described, because we truly believe it is a gift from heart to heart. 

In Chicago, those participants who will engage in one of the five Peer Learning Networks will have an opportunity to not only share about the communities from which they come, but also generate a sense of community amongst each other, utilizing the city’s vibrant and diverse institutions as a backdrop. Whether you are a first-time conference delegate or have attended dozens of conferences, there is an opportunity for you to help shape our sayings within ACUI and our profession. What begins as conversations in Chicago can truly shape our profession and the lives of the students we serve.  

While each Peer Learning Network will host its own program, opportunities have been weaved into the schedule so that networks will interact with each other. Most notably is a Monday morning breakfast hosted by all five networks to encourage a spirit of collegiality and mentoring among the various participants. The members of the Conference Program Team 2011 Education Team have chosen to engage conference delegates this year in conversations which will aspire, collaborate, unite, and innovate our association of community builders. 

Peer Learning Network Highlights 

Undergraduate Student Network
Undergraduate student participants will connect theory to practice and learn how to “lead with your strengths.” Both "The Leadership Challenge"and StrengthsQuest™ will be utilized to frame this educational experience. Students will also learn about the power of student leadership and advocacy through the story of how Roosevelt University was established. 

Emerging Professionals Network*
This network’s educational program will focus on ways to develop future professionals within college unions and student activities. Specially crafted education sessions have been designed for graduate students interested in pursuing a career in the college union area of student affairs, featuring past presidents of ACUI and current leaders in the profession: Debra Hammond, Dan Maxwell, and Corbin Smyth.  

New Professionals Network*
Focusing on creativity and innovation, this network experience is designed to help new professionals develop skills, connect with other professionals, gain networking partnerships, and aid in their transition into their new role on campus. Special access to the ACUI Expo and an exclusive network session focusing on the book, "Becoming Socialized in Student Affairs Administration: A Guide to New Professionals and Their Supervisors," are included in this educational program. 

Mid-Level Management Professionals Program*
College union and student activities professionals are constantly challenged to be innovative and “think outside the box.” But what does that really mean and how is it done? This year, the Mid-Level Management Professionals Program is focused on creativity and innovation. Learn what others are doing and bring back the tools to encourage creativity and innovative thinking on your campus. 

Senior Management Peer Professional Program
The Senior Management Professionals Program will focus on two unions in Chicago: University of Illinois–Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Each campus will provide a unique opportunity to discuss its renovation or construction project. Participants will gain insight into these projects and share their thoughts among their colleagues. 

*Participants from the Emerging Professionals Network, New Professionals Network, and Mid-Level Management Professionals Program will combine during the first day of the program to tour Illinois Institute of Technology and hear an innovation keynote by Henry Cheung from the design and consulting firm IDEO. 



Keith Kowalka

Keith Kowalka is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs - Student Life at University of Houston.

Keith Kowalka is the volunteer Chair of the Conference Program Team for the ACUI 2011 conference in Chicago. Among other responsibilities on campus he provides strategic direction and innovative leadership with oversight of the University Center and UC Satellite, Center for Student Involvement, Center for Leadership and Fraternity and Sorority Life, UH Children’s Learning Centers, A. D. Bruce Religion Center and Campus Ministries Association, Cat’s Back Weeks of Welcome and Marketing Communications support for the Division of Student Affairs.


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