Fresh Air

ACAAX ConferenceThe life of a student could always use some fresh air. Students are immersed in the real-world experiences of assignment deadlines, employment and the joys and struggles of family life. These experiences can overwhelm any person's view of the bigger picture; the air can become a little stale from the same routine and responsibilities.

Working up the courage to ask for a day off from work, for parents to get someone else to babysit the younger sibling, or taking time away from that big research project are all opportunities to allow some fresh air to enter a student’s life.

Why attempt to get away from the daily routine, on the weekend during an academic semester? What else than to travel—to Chicago! This 10-mile trek away from the Dominican campus must be for a good cause.

The higher education world is all about scholastic gatherings—yes—beloved conferences. I come away from conferences with bundles of knowledge and even fun memories. These gatherings are chances for me to compare my perspective as a Dominican student to fellow students, faculty, and staff of other institutions.

Here at Dominican I have attended seven conferences: three among them are Dominican Preaching in Action (’11), Dominican Higher Education Colloquium (’12), and ImpAct (’14). At Loyola U. Chicago in Rogers Park, I attended the Interfaith Leadership Institute (’13), and at Roosevelt U. in downtown Chicago, I attended the ACAA Leadership Exchange (’13).

Earlier this month of February, at DePaul University I attended another ACAA Leadership Exchange. ACAA is an acronym for Association of Campus Activities Administrators (Can you say Ahcaw?). At this six-hour conference, I met with students from other Chicago area higher education institutions like North Park U., Columbia College Chicago, Devry U., and Concordia U. Chicago. The breakfast amenities blew me away – bacon-topped donuts! The Opening Session was amusing too, because my peers and I got to know one another by participating in improv skits.

On this leadership exchange I learned about strategies to maintain membership in student organizations, with the GRAPE principle (growth, recognition, achievement, participation and enjoyment) in mind. I also spent some time with a small group of students in conversation about the representation of masculinity in U.S. culture and its implications on college campuses. Finally, my peers and I reflected on the topic of spiritual leadership.

During the presentations and session breaks, students from other institutions told me about the success stories and difficulties of executing student events at their respective campuses. I am most grateful to have had the chance to talk about my own experience as a leader in campus ministry, and then compare those experiences with students in sociology clubs, student government associations, and campus activity boards.

During that weekend, for the first time I stepped foot onto the Red Line train system. As someone who grew up in the western suburbs, I had no idea Chicago had a subway. Dominican is truly a doorway to a new experiences.