Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

Maximizing the Conference Experience

By Alex Matiash

The number of conferences and other professional development opportunities available to us seems to grow and grow every year.  Deciding which ones to attend can be a difficult process weighing the pros and cons of each experience.  With the NWACUHO 2017 Conference in Spokane getting closer and closer, we wanted to provide some guidelines on how to maximize your conference experience and highlight some of the opportunities that may pertain specifically to you.  Depending on where you are in your career, you will likely have different needs.  The Spokane conference will be featuring various sessions and learning opportunities for housing professionals at all career levels.

Graduate Students and New Professionals

This might be your first professional conference and that might be overwhelming.  The biggest thing to remember is that NWACUHO is a region where anyone is approachable and willing to help you learn more about how to connect with NWACUHO.  It is normal for a graduate student and a CHO to have in depth conversations about the state of the housing profession.  Embrace these opportunities, no matter how intimidating they may seem.  Another tip might be to not feel the pressure to attend every session.  You might find yourself in an excellent conversation with a colleague from another university that is equally as insightful or helpful as a session you might attend.  Don’t feel like you need to shut down the conversation just to get to your next session.  There’s no pressure as long as you’re learning.

There are a few events that are particularly designed to help graduate students and new professionals succeed.  We encourage our Graduate Students and New Professionals to take advantage of these opportunities as they are the starting point for ways to get involved in the region.

New to the Northwest – This is an opportunity for those new to the region (typically, but not always, new professionals and graduate students) to get acquainted with a more seasoned northwest housing professional.  This is a great networking opportunity and a great introduction to NWACUHO.

Case Study – Take this opportunity to apply all those skills and theories you’ve been learning about on a case study scenario.  You will be placed in a group of other graduate students or new professionals and given a case study that could easily occur in a housing program.  Utilizing the various theories and experiences the group can provide, you’ll craft a response to this scenario.

Mid-Level Professionals

NWACUHO provides mid-level professionals with some exceptional learning opportunities as well.  The variety of sessions presented at the conference are intentionally selected so mid-level professionals have options that will help them advance in their career.  This year, NWACUHO is providing a new opportunity for mid-level professionals that is designed to help mid-level professionals think more like a Senior Housing Officer.

This new opportunity is designed to simulate the decisions a Senior Housing Officer at an institution needs to make.  In order to do this, participants will need to interact with our corporate partners in a more intentional way than we have seen in the past.  More information on this experience will be forthcoming with a future blog.

Senior Housing Officers

Typically, our Senior Housing Officers are the most knowledgeable people in the room.  Having the opportunity to share that knowledge is a way to provide leadership to the many younger professionals in the region.  In addition to sharing your wisdom with newer professionals, Senior Housing Officers may benefit from some intentional opportunities for them to gather and discuss issues that are impacting the region.

In a pre-conference session this year, NWACUHO is presenting the Senior Housing Officer Summit.  Created in response to feedback for a need for more opportunities for professional development for SHOs, this is an exclusive session to gather and discuss the issues facing our region.  Since this is a roundtable based session, SHOs will also be able to direct the conversation in a direction that is most helpful for those in attendance.  It is not common that SHOs have the opportunity to meet with one another in a setting specifically designed for this purpose.


As always, NWACUHO is a networking opportunity for a region that is geographically large, but small in numbers.  Take the opportunity to reconnect with others across the region in a city that provides so much in arts, culture, food and entertainment.  We are looking forward to hosting our housing colleagues across the northwest here in Spokane and hope that you will join us in February.

Alex Matiash is a Residence Life Coordinator at Eastern Washington University and can be reached at amatiash@ewu.edu. He also serves on the Local Arrangements and Professional Development committees within NWACUHO.

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