Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

From Northeast to Northwest: My First NWACUHO Experience

Travis M. Mears, M.S.

University of Puget Sound


I first arrived in Tacoma, Washington on Saturday, June 26, 2009 after spending nearly eight months searching for a new job. After being laid off from my first professional position within seven months of being hired, I felt professionally beaten up. My job search process was long and seemed endless. Thankfully my wounds healed and I landed a great position working as a Resident Director at the University of Puget Sound. Instantly I felt welcomed on campus and by my colleagues. The same welcoming feeling that I first felt after arriving at Puget Sound is the exact feeling I experienced during my first interactions with Northwest ACUHO (NWACUHO) at the annual conference in Yakima, WA.


As a professional with less than three years of experience, I felt nervous about joining a new region of the country. I had never really been connected regionally with a professional organization. When my new supervisor expressed interested in me becoming more involved regionally I did not know what to expect. Not only did he want me to be involved regionally, but with an organization focused primarily on Residence Life and Housing. On February 6, 2010 my colleagues and I packed up our rental car and headed over the snowy Snoqualmie Pass for Yakima. After roughly two hours of driving, we arrived in Yakima and instantly I felt different than I had prior to attending other professional development conferences. As we walked into the lobby of the hotel to check in I was greeted by Jenna Hyatt, Gail Farmer, and Lori Johnson from Central Washington University and members of the Conference Planning Committee. This interaction although brief with a smile, handshake, and introduction was very energetic and positive, and was something I had never experienced before at a conference and set the very positive tone for the remainder of my experience in Yakima.


The NWACUHO Conference felt like a safe space for me as a new professional in the region to ask questions, gain new knowledge, and get involved. The weekend seemed to go by very fast. Beginning with an amazing wine tasting tour through the Yakima wine country and ending with a number of new friends and colleagues, this conference experience far exceeded my expectations. I truly felt heard and valued by my fellow conference attendees. Attending NWACUHO opened my eyes to the importance of getting involved regionally and how much more fun professional development conferences can be when you feel like you belong.


Since the NWACUHO Conference, I have become one of the new Region V Co-Representatives for the New Professional and Graduate Student Knowledge Community for NASPA thanks to networking at NWACUHO. I have also been offered opportunities to join multiple task forces for NWACUHO, and have been given the opportunity to write this reflection. In short, my experience at NWACUHO far exceeded my expectations both personally and professionally. I highly recommend all housing professionals—from new professionals to chief housing officers to get involved. Getting involved with NWACUHO will not only develop your professional strengths, but will enable you to establish numerous relationships, learn a great deal about the field, and provide many opportunities for growth.

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