Your First CACUSS Conference

Your first time at the conference …?

Enjoy it! The CACUSS conference is a wonderful opportunity both to meet colleagues in the field from across the country, and to go to interesting and informative sessions. Some tips for first-timers:

  • Follow us on Twitter @cacusstweets and like our Facebook page www.facebook.ca/cacuss to stay up to date with important information.
  • Try to meet and connect with one or two people who are in the same field, working at different institutions. It’s a great way to swap ideas and get excited about your role and projects!
  • Go to the conference’s social events, which are a great opportunity for networking, especially the Newcomers Reception.
  • Ask around about what sessions to attend – the program is very detailed but it always helps to get feedback from others.
  • Before you arrive, go through the program (available online and on other platforms) and create your tentative personalized conference itinerary. You’ll find this very useful during the day when you’re hurrying from one place to another.
  • If you’re attending with several other people from your institution, try to split up the sessions among the group. Then take some time at the end of the day (or when you get back) to share what you’ve learned. All the sessions contain useful information so it’s good to get as broad a coverage as you can.
  • Don’t hesitate to join a group of conference attendees and introduce yourself. Student affairs people are a friendly bunch and welcome newcomers to chat with. Next year you’ll be a veteran and welcoming in a new group of newcomers!
  • It’s completely acceptable to let people know that you’re interested in relevant, open job positions. You may want to bring some copies of your résumé or cards with links to your online résumé.
  • Attend one of the relevant Community of Practice meetings and socials. These are smaller gatherings where it is easy to meet people who share similar professional interests. 

There will be a Newcomers Reception, and many social opportunities for you to meet other CACUSS members (such as the receptions, conference evening activities, Annual General Meeting, etc.).
 

What to bring:

  • Conference wear can generally be described as “office casual”. Most people wear shirts/slacks; a few choose to wear suits/dresses, especially if they are presenting. Dress lightly, but bring along a jacket in case it gets chilly or starts to rain.
  • Some spending money for breakfasts and the evenings out. Most major banks will have ATMs or branches near the Convention Centre.
  • The conference banquet is semi-formal, so bring one snazzy outfit.
  • The usual toiletries and such-like.
  • There are great activities all day and evening, so don’t expect to get a lot of extra work done. You will have Wi-Fi access throughout the conference.
  • Bring extra paper and pens, a tablet PC, or a tape recorder.
  • A re-useable mug and/or water bottle.
  • Business cards if you have them. If you have any special handouts/materials from your institution to show other people, bring those too!
  • If you’re job seeking, bring some up-to-date copies of your résumé.

What is a “new professional” …?

New professionals are self-identified, and are usually people who have been in the field of student affairs and services for five years or less. Many arrive with experience in:

  • Student government
  • Residence life
  • Professional training (e.g. counselling, medicine)
  • Other careers (e.g. non-profit organizations)

It’s impossible to generalize about new professionals. You’ll meet recent graduates with bachelor degrees, Master’s, or doctorates, and people with a very wide range of career experience. New professionals can equally be in their 20s or in their 40s. What we all have in common is that we’re relatively new to CACUSS and to the professional field of student affairs. 
    
CACUSS wants to make sure that new professionals feel welcomed and get all they can from their first few conferences. You’ll find that everyone is friendly and wants to help; your job is to ask questions and to meet people!   

Tell me about CACUSS …?

The Canadian Association of College and University Student Services is a friendly organization, which takes student affairs seriously – and which provides a number of resources to help people working in student affairs and services to develop professionally and network with colleagues. 

Some of the programs under the CACUSS umbrella include:

  • Communiqué. Published three times a year, this magazine includes articles from across the country related to specific issue themes and new programs in general. Writing for Communiqué is a vastly rewarding experience (and doesn’t hurt your résumé). Contact the editorial staff via communique@cacuss.ca
  • The CACUSS website at www.cacuss.ca. This has all the information you need about CACUSS, the conference, available jobs, and the CACUSS member directory. There are also a number of publications available free to members as well 
  • The annual conference. Hosted by a different institution each year, conference programs reflect a growing interest in research and professional development in Canada. The conference is a superlative networking tool and a great opportunity to get re-invigorated about student affairs.
  • Awards, Grants, Bursaries, Webinars, and Regional Professional Development allow members to engage beyond the annual conference in a variety of ways as well as support your professional development.
  • Communities and Networks allow sharing of specific issues, development of promising practices, and networking among professionals with shared interests. To learn more go here. 

Structurally speaking, CACUSS has an Executive Director (Jennifer Hamilton) and a Board of Directors, which oversees the CACUSS operations. The Board includes the CACUSS President, currently Pat Pardo from Mount Royal University, and a variety of Board member portfolios, including Finance Director; Members-at-Large, including Advocacy, Professional Development, Research/Awards, Policy, CACUSS Communities.

For more information on the CACUSS communities, please click here

It’s a great idea to check out your community; you’ll meet people working in the same field and make some excellent connections. Some of the communities have a pre-conference workshop and/or reception, during the conference.