Graduate School + Annual Leadership Conference

Graduate School + Annual Leadership Conference

By Graduate Student, Amanda Loeffler

My time in graduate school has been full of opportunities, challenges, and new learning experiences. All of which I am grateful for and will never forget. As I pursue my Master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I have the pleasure of working at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg where I serve as the Graduate Assistant for Orientation, Student Activities, and Leadership. This is just a fancy way of saying I help students transition to college, advise fun events for students to enjoy, and educate students on leadership development (plus a lot more). As you can imagine, I am extremely busy with work and school, but I love what I do so it keeps me motivated!

One of my key responsibilities as the Graduate Assistant is to coordinate a regional leadership conference and invite students from neighboring institutions to attend on Pitt-Greensburg’s campus. This conference is a one-day affair that includes a keynote speaker for all the attendees, as well as breakout sessions that allow students to engage in a variety of topics. My supervisor, Al Thiel, and I work diligently to find a high-quality keynote speaker that students will not only learn from, but relate with as well. As a coordinator of the conference I was able to invite Tom Krieglstein and Matt Glowacki to be the keynote speakers for the past two years, respectively. Tom Krieglstein brought a fresh perspective about student engagement (Dance Floor Theory) to show how students can connect with each other and build relationships more effectively. Matt Glowacki shared his thoughts on diversity on campus using personal experiences, along with references from popular TV shows such as South Park and Family Guy. Both speakers were well-received by the students and left them feeling empowered to make a difference on campus. I highly recommend!

The breakout sessions were led by volunteers comprised of graduate students and student affairs professionals from a wide variety of institutions. These breakout sessions covered topics ranging from the use of social media in event coordinating to overcoming adversities as a student leader. A special addition to this past year’s conference was Michael Dean Ester, a comedian represented by Neon Entertainment, who facilitated sessions about maintaining a sense of humor as a leader. (Fun fact: He has performed his comedy show during Pitt-Greensburg’s summer orientation for the past 12 years; students love him!) Following the breakout sessions, students and presenters are invited to a complimentary dinner provided by Pitt-Greensburg’s dining services. This time is used to reflect on what students learned throughout the day and attendees/presenters are asked to fill out brief evaluation forms. The responses we receive on the evaluation forms are used to make improvements for conferences in the future. Overall, it is a positive experience for each person in attendance and it is honor to be a part of such a great event.

This conference has given me many opportunities to network and has enhanced my event-management skills. Serving as a Graduate Assistant at Pitt-Greensburg has provided me with valuable learning experiences and continues to prepare me as a student affairs professional. I graduate in May (a little over a hundred days to go, but who’s counting?) and feel excited and confident to take on the professional world. I could not do what I do without the love and support I receive from my family, friends, students and colleagues!