Yesterday I began a blog post recapping all of the deeply satisfying and incredible experiences over the past week at ACPA. I hadn’t finished it last night before I could no longer stay awake (literally after a week averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer), But this morning, while thinking about finishing the post and getting up on the blog while the feeling was still fresh, I was tagged on Facebook by one of my students who had stopped by my office yesterday as I was trying to dig out and unpack. She linked to this TEDx talk: On Doing Big And Feeling Small and as I watched it I knew I had to abandon my previous post and instead write about mattering in the face of transition.

Transition is the reason I started this blog.

Transitioning out of my previous professional role as the Director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center, moving across the country, and beginning a new life has been rewarding and validating in many different and countless ways for me. There is much to look forward to as I begin my doctoral work in the MSU HALE program this coming fall and as my family and I build a different life in a new state, learn and integrate our sense of self with new jobs, meet new people and connect with a new community. And at the same time, transitions are challenging.

So, I launched this blog to help me work through the feelings that changes in professional identity provoke. I thought I needed a space to process this one major life transition and discuss how I would integrate key learning moments from my time working collectively with other feminists in a WCenter into broader areas of Student Affairs. I also write posts to articulate with authenticity and vulnerability how I make sense of my identity having just left a space where I felt like what I did and who I was deeply mattered. Nancy Schlossberg (1989) described the five aspects of “mattering” as:

  1. Attention– the feeling that one is noticed
  2. Importance-the belief that one is cared about
  3. Ego Extension– the feeling that someone else will be proud of what one does or will sympathize with ones failure.
  4. Dependence– the feeling of feeling needed.
  5. Appreciation– the feeling that ones efforts are appreciated by others.

To describe for a moment how this is relevant on our campuses, mattering is a critical component to feelings of belonging and integration that we, in student affairs, promote. We utilize Scholossberg’s theory in our residence halls and orientation programs as new students transition to our institutions. We think about mattering and marginality when we examine how our systems and processes at the institutional level disproportionately make some populations of students feel marginalized. How effectively we think about equity and inclusion will indicate how likely it is that multiracial students, adult learners, commuter students, students of color, LGBTQ students, and many other individuals and groups connect to a community of support where they feel like they matter and ultimately graduate from our institutions. Whether we work at a small institution or a large one, we know that feelings of connection, engagement, belonging, and mattering are intimately tied to student success.

In the same sense, feelings of mattering within an association like ACPA directly impacts how we chose to connect with, become involved in, and dedicate time to future work on behalf of the association. For me, ACPA has been more than just a professional involvement activity. It’s been my family.

So, the re-entry transition that I’m experiencing today is not only one of gratitude and celebration at a successful convention to which I contributed, but also one of mourning and loss. I and other members of the team are leaving behind a long-term project that resulted in “REINVENT. You. Us. Indy.” Fundamentally, I am changed by the interactions and relationships I’ve developed with other members of the convention planning team. Today, I’m mourning the loss of those ongoing connections as we will never work together in the same way at the same level again. We came together as a team in November, 2012 united around the singular idea to reinvent and innovate the typical into the extraordinary. And then we went to work on a complex and multi-faceted project over the course of 18th months. Seeing that vision come to fruition (no doubt with several hurdles along the way) has been immensely satisfying. Based on the tweets, hallway conversations, emails since I’ve been home, and other informal feedback mechanisms, it appears that we were successful.

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Many of the members of the 2014 Convention Planning Team with closing keynote speaker, Dr. Brene Brown.

So, now what? I’m pondering several questions: How do we as a professional association integrate the feelings of intense community and engagement that we have at conferences into the rest of our experiences as members throughout the year? How do we make authentic and deep connections with all members, regardless of formal role? How can we ensure that everyone’s presence matters? Further, if we are fundamentally changed through these experiences, how do we make sense of that and reengage each other at new and higher levels? Finally, once one has reached the pinnacle of involvement, how do we maintain their connections and contributions (I’m thinking about our many Past-Presidents or former leaders)?

I think about these questions because my new role on the ACPA Governing Board is as the Director of Membership Development. I want to hear from you. If you engaged, felt connected, and want to continue your involvement in ACPA, please connect with me. Here are some things you can do today:

  • Our Involvement Team is ready to match opportunities with interests. Please visit this page, login, and complete the Involvement Interest Form.
  • Tweet using the #InvolveACPA hashtag for year-round engagement via Twitter. This hashtag is moderated and someone will get back to you.
  • Consider submitting a proposal for #ACPA15 in Tampa, FL. The Call for Proposals will be out in June. We have many resources to assist you in developing a proposal on this year’s convention website.
  • Connect now with a Commission, Standing Committee, Task Force, or State/International Division. I got my start as a new professional in 2001 as a newly elected member of the Commission for Commuters Students & Adult Learners Directorate.
  • Connect with me. I’m speaking from only my perspective, but I suspect that many, if not all, of the other leaders in ACPA are receptive to feedback and what to help you find your pathway. Please reach out to us.

You Matter to ACPA. And, you are the reason why I’m committed to this association. I appreciate and honor your attendance and engagement at all levels with the convention. To everyone who tweeted to #ACPA14, presented an educational session, facilitated or discussed a #ACPATrendingNow topic, visited the Exhibit Hall, stopped by a Genius Lab, Celebrated ACPA and CultureFest, presented a PechaKucha talk, presented a poster, delivered a research paper talk, lurked on the backchannel, served on a committee, helped plan or implement an aspect of the convention, volunteered, or came to Indy ready to learn and engage with the association… I THANK YOU.

Now… onto that pile of laundry!


Citation: Schlossberg, N. K. (1989).  Marginality and mattering: key issues in building community.  New Directions for Student Services, 48, 5-15.