What I Learned "Crashing" a Conference

I've recently been feeling in a bit of a rut and disconnected from the greater higher ed community. I knew I needed to do something to feel refreshed.

Knowing NASPA was coming to Philly, I reached out on social media to see who I knew that was going. That has always been the most valuable part of conferences to me; growing and maintaining my professional network. It also is always cool to meet people in person I know purely through digital means.

It would have felt like a missed opportunity to not see folks who would only be a short drive away. I never really felt concerned about "crashing" the conference (not paying to attend but meeting people who did). I didn't try to sneak into any sessions or anything. It just does not make sense to me to have to pay exorbitant fees to end up mostly just hanging out with people anyway and skipping the tired old sessions they offer. 

I've written before about my disdain towards national higher ed conferences like ACPA and NASPA. We're in need of a major change with how we provide professional development with these gatherings, which is (and probably will be) a whole other blog post. The cherry on top to all this was that most of the people I met with spoke with displeasure about the session offerings. This feeling is pervasive and indicative of where things are right now when it comes to professional development in higher ed. It's too expensive, it's not relevant, and it isn't giving many people what they want (or need) to grow professionally.

Regardless, what I ended up learning through this process is that you have to sometimes just do what you know is right and what you need. I learned the value of personal (and professional) relationships and that it's important to cultivate them in person when you can. I learned I have great people in my corner and that it doesn't matter how long it might have been since you saw someone last, they'll still be happy to chat if you reach out. I learned that nothing will ever change until we disrupt the status quo.

I feel like I might continue this renegade trend as much as I can. I'd be happy to welcome others as we subvert these outdated paradigms and blaze our own way making experiences that are more valuable and accessible.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this. Please reach out via the comments or on Twitter (@HigherEd_Geek).