I love conferences; they allow me to be a registrar geek, among over 2,000 people, vendors, university representatives, and governmental policy makers. I was lucky to be in Seattle last week, amongst many other registrars, attending conference sessions on curriculum work flow and classroom scheduling at the annual meeting of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. I have been working in the registrar field (if I can call it that) for about seven years now, a few years longer than entry level jobs require. But this was the first conference where I felt I was beyond entry level in the Registrar’s field. I co-presented, not for the first time, but this time I felt confident in my presentation and my speaking voice.
I am learning to be a relentless networker. I enjoy meeting people and talking registrar-speak, so attending the Registrar’s Conference is a once-a-year opportunity to geek out Registrar-style. The first few conferences I attended, I hardly spoke to anyone, and I was amazed at what other schools were showcasing. In a few sessions, I was interested enough in the topic to speak to the presenter afterwards, but in my mid-twenties I hadn’t yet learned how to ask concise questions and hand over my business card while gracefully moving on to the next presentation. But gradually I got up the courage to talk to more and more people, and have now made several mentors, friends, and peers who I reconnect with each year. They are the ones I can go to when I am confronted with a new problem I’ve never seen before, or a new policy I’m not sure how to implement.
Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for mid-career development in small offices. Even in large universities, there are only a few people who do what I do. Thus, it is even more crucial to maintain relationships with peers at other institutions. Each university culture is unique, and each problem faced by Enrollment Managers will have as many solutions as there are institutions. But how to move things forward? How do I translate the momentum from all the new ideas and approaches I’ve seen from other schools into actual/realized changed at my own institution?
I return from the AACRAO conference full of ideas for new processes and new software. Only a fraction of what I’ve seen will actually cross my desk in the years to come, but it is so important to rekindle the passion for what I do, for realizing I do have a place in this profession, and that new ideas can win out over cynicism.
Heather Alderfer is a contributer to the University of Venus, and is an Associate Registrar at Yale Law School.