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The spring semester is packed with all types of conferences, most notably ACPA and NASPA (see my thoughts on attending NASPA last year here). As you are no doubt aware, the conference registration fees for the national conferences is no small chunk of change. There are benefits to attending these conferences because of the concentration of professionals in one place and the knowledge imparted during the sessions, however the cost is a significant barrier to many persons especially new professionals.

In this spirit, I wanted to create a list of opportunities for professional development that could leave less of a crater in your bank account. I, personally, have benefited from some of these opportunities and that has influenced why I recommend them.

  • Student Affairs Collective
    • Well known for its weekly Twitter discussion #sachat the Student Affairs Collective is a group of student affairs practitioners who write/blog/vlog/podcast about the field. I find that most of what is written is a little too brief for me. Therefore, I recommend this resource with an additional caveat of reaching out to the authors of pieces that strike you and asking questions.
  •  Blogs
    • Yes, the Student Affairs Collective has bloggers, but some of these bloggers have their own websites where they create and curate content for all to see. Find subjects you are interested in and use search engines to find someone who is posting about it. Comment on their posts, ask questions, ask for emails to correspond.
  • Drive-in Conferences
    • These one day conferences can range from a wide variety of subjects to one functional area. No hotel costs, lower registration fees, and you are likely to see persons from within your region for networking purposes. These can occasionally be offered by national, state, or regional associations.
  • State Annual Conferences
    • My first introduction to student affairs was through a state association that offered a Careers in Student Affairs and an annual conference boasting similar presentations found at national conferences. There are great opportunities serving on committees and executive boards for these organizations.
  • Regional Conferences
    • National organizations may have regional conferences as well. These will likely be linked to geographic areas larger than the audience than a Drive-in Conference thus giving you greater opportunity for networking.
  • Mentorships/Learning Partnerships
    • Most of this list has involved connecting with people. Sure, I can learn from simply reading a manual but I am more likely to learn from someone who has had the experience I am seeking. Is there someone that you respect and strive to be like? Ask them if you can talk to them regularly about job/life related things. You can also become a mentor because there is much to be learned from those being mentored. Or work with your colleagues to create a learning partnership where you both want to learn a similar skill/topic and regularly meet to discuss/teach what you have learned on your own.
  • Read
    • Many institutions of higher education enable access to journals electronically. Take some time every now and again to read through some of the articles. There is always interesting research occurring or position papers. Perhaps a book review may help you find a book to add to your library. The best part of reading post-graduate education? You can choose what you read and it is not assigned to you to be read by a certain date.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many additional opportunities for professional development that I have not touched on (or thought about myself). I believe the most important takeaway from this brief post is that there are opportunities out there, probably posted on a listserv in an inbox. Take a deep breath, start small, and consider the possibilities.

Do you have other examples of Development on a Dime? Post in the comments below!