Beyond the Workbook: Rethinking Professional Development

June 18, 2012

By Chelsea Kindred

Chelsea KindredIn 2010, Chelsea Kindred joined the NAFSA Academy for International Education as a study abroad professional, still passionate about her own experience studying abroad in 2006 as an undergraduate. The following is a glimpse into her journey of becoming a lifelong global educator.

I opened the conference program book, certain the answers to all my questions could be found within its pages. I meticulously wrote down session titles, room numbers, and scheduled start times. I made difficult decisions (Tools for successful cultural adaptation on-site, or visa updates from France?), and developed a ranking system: four stars denoting a session I would most likely attend, and one star indicating a session I might consider, but for which I could always download the materials later.

My pen lingered over a session on professional development, and I mulled over the words. Professional. Development. What did that mean in the context of my daily job functions? As a newcomer to both full-time employment and full-time adulthood, I had no clue.

I'd begun working for my organization directly after college, and considered each day part of my development as an education abroad professional. I wasn't sure what it would mean to attend a session dedicated to exploring the professional development opportunities offered by NAFSA. Still, I circled the session description in my brochure.

Challenging Expectations
Shuffling papers and nervously tapping my foot, I waited for the session to begin. It wasn't until after the session, when every available inch of my note paper was filled with resources, e-mail addresses, and starred ideas, that I realized professional development wasn't an introduction to the mastery of a given task, but rather an exploration of your strengths and their application within the realm of your professional career.

This is what my participation in the NAFSA Academy taught me. Professional development isn't a report to be written, graded, and returned, but an ongoing process of growth and change. It is an investment in your professional trajectory, something more meaningful than a series of workbooks, introductions, and hotel conference rooms. It is the ability to fill this blank with a myriad of sentiments:

I am a __________ professional because of the NAFSA Academy. I am an evolving professional. I am a more enthusiastic professional. I am a more educated professional. I am a supported professional. I am a more dedicated professional. I am a connected professional. I am a developing professional. And I am a grateful-for-the-NAFSA-Academy professional.

Did you participate in the Academy or serve as an Academy coach? What was your experience like?

New to the field of international education or changing roles within it?  If you or someone you know would like more information or would like to get involved in the NAFSA Academy, please visit www.nafsa.org/academy.


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