As a frequent contributor to the #sabrews hashtag, it’s absolutely no secret that I can appreciate a good craft beer. “Small batch” brews? Love them. Enjoying a flight of Birmingham-made beers? Fantastic!
Choosing a different beer to try during each of my grocery shopping trips is a highlight of my week, and visiting local breweries and hole-in-the-wall pubs with large taprooms are some of my favorite parts about traveling. While my friends complain about the long, drawn-out tours, I savor observing and learning about each step of the brewing process before tasting the final product.
How does geeking out over beer relate to my work in higher education? For starters, my institution does send students to local breweries to learn more about the brewing process in addition to being immersed in the world of small businesses. Our students love working with Good People Brewing Co., and they get a lot out of the experience. It’s an internship opportunity for a certain type of skill set, and I am fortunate to have some great students to support our community as well as learn a great deal over the course of the term.
But I’d argue that the connection between student affairs and craft beer is far stronger in my own journey as a new professional. Navigating the world of higher education can be daunting, especially for professionals who are just beginning their careers. How do we “break in” to national organizations? In what ways can we network with and learn from professionals and students from our own region? How can we get to know our great colleagues outside of student affairs, beneath the surface level? For me, craft beer has been the answer. A week before I left for New Orleans to attend the NASPA annual meeting this year, I reached out to my colleagues on Twitter to gauge interest in meeting up at a local tavern to try some Louisiana-made beers and swap favorite craft breweries. I never expected any sort of response, but almost immediately colleagues from all over the country jumped at the opportunity for the #sabrews crew to meet up and talk higher education over good beer.
I made good on my tweet, and met up with some fantastic professionals to discuss our work and swap ideas on how to better impact areas such as advising and experiential learning. In one instance, I had the opportunity to finally meet with Sara Ackerson, a good friend from Twitter and fellow advisor. We frequently updated our Untappd accounts – an app dedicated to exploring the world of craft beer and sharing thoughts about different brews with the community. (In fact, I learned about the world of Untappd through a colleague from the #sabrews community!) We tried some great local brews in the Warehouse District while discussing different aspects of academic advising – in particular, triage and productivity. I came away from our time together with a lengthy to-do list of things that would benefit my office, including appointment calendars and referral sheets to make sure that students were aware of other experiential learning offices.
Sara and I had a fantastic meeting, but I learned so much from my colleagues over the course of the conferences. Better yet, I further developed relationships with a network of great people, got to know them as individuals within and outside of the context of their work, and the entire experience made the conference feel more personal. Professional development opportunities like national conferences can be overwhelming, but through exploring a shared love for craft beer, I was able to find a niche within a crowd of over 7,500.
Kimberly White is a 24-year old student affairs professional living in Birmingham, Alabama. She serves as the Internship Coordinator for the rise3 Initiative at Birmingham-Southern College, an experiential learning and critical reflection opportunity for students in the domains of faculty-student research, internships, and service-learning. She is also a BSC Campus Advisor to the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, Alabama Alpha chapter. Kimberly's blog can be found over at Leadership Development and Life in the Yellowhammer State or on Twitter at @whiteoi.