Posted March 20, 2013 by Joe Gutowski 

Reflections on Relationships and the Annual Conference

It's been a week and, if you're like me and were fortunate enough to attend this year's annual conference in St. Louis, you're probably going through what one might call a "conference hangover"—missing the craziness of a 14-hour today, getting your "learn" on in a number of different areas, and exploring at least some of what a different city has to offer.

But to be honest, the thing that crossed my mind the most as I flew back from St. Louis to New York and drove two hours back to my house were the relationships that I have in the Association. While I will take away a lot of ideas and new perspectives from my time at the annual conference to bring back to my institution, it's the multiple interactions that I get to have with people during those four days that make the experience so wonderful.

I'm one of those people who will print out the delegate list ahead of time and highlight the people I want to see at the conference. And every year, I end up returning to that list following the conference and highlight (in a different color) the people I met during the conference. It's that second set of highlights that makes me truly appreciate the power of relationships in an Association like ours.

For me this year, relationships took on an added level of importance—having switched schools since the regional conference, I also switched regions. Leaving Region 7 to go to Region 2 meant leaving my primary ACUI network. So I got to meet some new people and experience some (but probably not all) of the culture of a different region. I'm already looking forward to experiencing more of that at our last Region 2 conference in November.

As a veteran of many conferences, there is always that core group of people that you aspire to see every year. Whether they are someone who you're just happy to see and exchange hugs with or someone with whom you spend the majority of the conference, that core group of individuals are the people that I've created the most memories with in ACUI, and I always look at them with special fondness and cherish any time I get to have with them.

  • I got to meet several people who I've interacted with on social media for what seems like an eternity, but never actually met in real life. Not surprisingly, these people are just as awesome in person as they are in the Twittersphere.
  • My utilization of social media allowed me to connect (both virtually and in person) with many of the #acui13 delegates, some whom I knew and some who I didn't. My follower count has gone up almost 10% since the official start of the conference; not as much growth as Marsha's count, but that's still impressive. I look forward to continued virtual connections with these people throughout the year.
  • There were multiple chances to talk to people I've never actually met before—between participating in the new professionals panel, the session on volunteering in ACUI, and the informal interactions that took place at various points during the entire conference. It was great to share my experience and my excitement about ACUI and share ideas for getting involved
  • I was affectionately referred to for the first time as someone's "biffle." I don't know that I totally understand it, but I am assured that is a good thing (I'm told it's something along the lines of a best friend). Given the source that identified me as such, I'm okay with that.
  • I've even managed to continue connections post-conference. I was approached by someone during the conference to do some informal career counseling but because of our various schedules, we never connected in St. Louis. Rather than being stymied, we exchanged emails and set up a Skype appointment this past weekend.

ACUI is an association that is built on relationships. We thrive and we grow because of the people that we've met by being involved in this organization. If you were able to be there in St. Louis, I hope you came away enriched by the relationships you have and refreshed by the new relationships you built. If you weren't there, I hope you were able to have some great reflections on the people that ACUI has brought into your life.

How will you maintain the relationships that you grew or developed at #acui13?
How do you sustain relationships with people that aren't in your daily life?

Joe Gutowski

Joe Gutowski is the Director of Student Activities & Strebel Student Center at Utica College.


Great post, Joe! It was nice connecting with you and getting to chat a little more in person this year. I agree that the personal connections are part of what makes ACUI such a fantastic professional organization. I also think the willingness of the membership to embrace technology has helped it feel like a more tight-knit community.
Gavin Telfer
Comment posted 03/21/2013 8:49 AM
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