Last Saturday, March 5, the Inspiring Conversations in Education Conference held sessions on opportunities and experiences to help bridge the gap between college and professional life. The conference included live music and food, and was free to attendees. It lasted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Keene State College Senior Olivia Schiaffo who helped organize the event said that, while this conference was mainly geared for education majors, anyone could benefit from going.
“I think it’s really just about getting people to talk to each other,” Schiaffo said, “People don’t really get the opportunity to talk to other professionals besides their professors and I think that this is really about getting people contact so they can network…and reach their potential of success.”
Schiaffo said that for her personally, this experience helped her with conference planning.
“I want to support and help and believe in more people,” Schiaffo said.
Schiaffo said that, of the 23 presentations, her favorite had been Educational Counselor for Upward Bound Kyle Virgin’s.
“He said, ‘It’s okay if you don’t know, you need to trust what’s unknown and just go for it.’ I feel like that’s a lesson for everyone, not just people who want to work with kids,” Schiaffo said.
Virgin also introduced the conference in addition to his presentation. He said it felt amazing to see people walk out of his presentation and talk about it.
“My topic was ‘I don’t know and that’s okay,’” Virgin said, “It was to encourage students to do different things [and] don’t be afraid of failure…you’ve got lots of support from teachers and mentors and people who are behind you one hundred percent.”
He said his favorite experience this year has been reconnecting with friends he graduated with in 2014 and seeing how they’ve been and giving each other advice. “It’s inspiring,” Virgin said.
Virgin said that he got involved when he was Vice President of Kappa Delta Phi in 2014. He said he connected with Associate Professor Dr. Darrell Hucks, who convinced him to become a part of the ICE conference.
“I think this is fitting a very important need. [The ICE conference] bridges that generational gap between current teachers and students who are going to be teachers and this is where that happens,” Virgin said.
Hucks said he helped organize this event from the start, four years ago.
“I wanted a place for students to have a space to talk about practice, a space to share, to hear, to develop the skill sets from the start,” Hucks said.
Hucks said he thinks this conference will help jumpstart students’ careers. “I don’t think their careers start once they graduate; I think their careers start now,” Hucks said.
Hucks said he wants KSC students to be really prepared for the real world. “I want them…to see themselves as contributors in whatever educational setting they decide to work in, to see themselves as leaders and to be able to hit the ground running,” Hucks said.
Hucks said that there aren’t a lot of opportunities for college students to reach out to professionals. “We haven’t had these conversations to identify the things that we are doing well and the areas we need to improve,” Hucks said.
KSC Senior Catherine Tewell said the ICE conference helped her personally realize what she was doing well and what she needed to work on.
“It’s almost like a mini critique [of] yourself and other people are contributing to it that you wouldn’t otherwise hear,” Tewell said.
Tewell said it was motivating to hear people who had gone through the same ordeal she’s currently in and how they got through it. “You have people who went here, who had the same aspirations as an undergrad that you’ve had, and who are now…out to say, we are here to help you because we care about you and we’ve been in your shoes. It really shows a lot about Keene State,” Tewell said.
Tewell said she finds that KSC is really devoted to their students. “I feel like we are really one of [these] schools who are concerned about our undergraduate students – who they are and where they [want to] go,” Tewell said.
Tewell said her favorite presentation had been Dr. Nancy Peck’s.
“She talked a lot about how it’s important to be empathetic and she talked about the difference between sympathy and empathy which is really big for me,” Tewell said, “I’m very empathetic, I’m very emotionally involved so for me it’s hard to take that step back and say, ‘okay you don’t always have to agree with the parents or their choices.’”
Tewell said that Peck was well-prepared and had specific resources that really encouraged her.
Hucks said it’s all about what you offer to young professionals.
“So to give someone access [on] how to be a professional, how to network, how to give a presentation; they will exceed your wildest expectations,” Hucks said, “Success at any level has to do with caring.”
Dorothy England can be contacted at email@example.com