June 25, 2007

NACURH Blog, Final Thoughts

One score ago, one of the most monumental experiences of my life culminated. I previously wrote about the closing moments of the evening, in a sort of happy daze. Realize that throughout all of this there was a lot of hard work put into the conference. Monday and a little bit of Tuesday was just that: work. Not bad work. It's weird to be dedicated to a dream for over three years and see it all get packed up, consolidated, stored, and put away in a day or two (also considering that it took three different office spaces, in three weeks to get everything ready to go for three days).

When the dust settled...there was a sigh of relief, and a little bit of withdrawal. Twenty days have passed, and truly, my brain both remembers the sensation and feels as if it was eons ago.

As an aside, and my apologies if this seems a little braggadocios, but I am very honored and grateful for receiving a gold pin. I believe I explained previously that each region gets 8 silver pins, and schools get 8 bronze pins to hand out to whomever every year. For NACURH, the National Chair hands out 8 gold pins as well. I was fortunate enough to receive one of the first bronze pins years ago when our campus started to do it, and thought they were pretty cool. I know that the gold pin is a huge thing for those who know about it. It's one of those odd awards because they are mostly given out to folks whom the chair knows really well, often leaving the audience thinking "what did this person do? who is this guy?"

I mean no disrespect to Mike Marshall for awarding me a gold pin, but I'm sure that a few thousand folks in the room, after my friends read a great blurb about me, were going "ok dude, get off stage, we're hot." So for those who read this, and know that I got one, I'd like to share what it means to me, in addition the kinds words Ben, Allyson, & Jacque shared:

All my life, I've dreamed of attending the academy awards (I still do). The chance to be recognized for creating something: a film, a script, etc. I've been nominated for several awards during my time as a student conference goer, NCC, Advisor, etc. All of those nominations have been near and dear to me. And I've always felt honored to be in the same category as the others who received those awards.

Receiving a gold pin is very much like receiving an Oscar...it's like when Steven Spielberg got his first Oscar...you look back and think "it's not just for this one thing that I did, but many things, many things which I'm proud of, and passionate about." It was an unexpected joy. As was the experience of working with everyone here at Oshkosh on NACURH, and seeing everyone come together, and seeing everyone make it through all obstacles, and knowing that somewhere, out there, some kid was at NACURH 2007 and thought "hey, this looks like fun, I want to see how many of these I can go to."

For me, this journey didn't just started when Kate Saletri and Cullen Rude approached me, it started in the Fall of 1996. I've mentioned it before; sitting at the closing ceremonies of GLACURH '96 thinking and dreaming. Wondering what it would take for me to be a part of this. Throughout 25 conferences I've learned many things which inspired me to write this list poem:

First step in a broken sandal, feet sweating, silent in a roaring crowd.
Second step in a polished shoe, brow sweating, spoke to a glaring gallery.
Third step on a grassy field, back sweating, thrust a pelvis in sync with hundreds.

Fourth step in a dirty cleat, felt cleansed.
Fifth step in the Big City, felt small.
Sixth step in a cowboy boot, felt gambler lucky.

Seventh step as a pirate, band together for the common 'arrrr'!
Eighth step as a dentist, smiled together in as friends held plaques.
Ninth step as a leader, learned from a together group of rookies.

Tenth step returned home, teared among costumed celebrants.
Eleventh step returned home, years of success recognized in one moment.
Twelfth step said goodbye, a mountainous passing of the torch.

Thirteenth step was spirited, as the proudest monkey.
Fourteenth step as the proudest monkey was a sincere applause.
Fifteenth step as the proudest monkey, was a spirited thank you to sun devils.

Sixteenth step as an alumni.
Seventeenth step as an advisor.
Eighteenth step as a guest. Each step closer to a dream.

Nineteenth, stepped on stage in striped socks, stepped off stage consoling a crew of dreamers.
Twentieth, stepped on stage, shared tales of curly haired kids & singing in the shower.
Twenty-first, stepped off stage, welcomed younger dreamers home.

Twenty-second: watched the tech guy step up; watched a team step up in unity and success.
Twenty-third: watched the gray hair step up; reminisced about a decade burned away.
Twenty-fourth: reminisced with a friend; watched the crowd roar by.

Twenty-fifth step, one last one, one small one, just one more, one more tear, one more cheer, one more story, one more smile, one more step, on stage, one more thanks, one more pin, one more tear, one final step off stage, saying good bye.


June 04, 2007

NACURH Blog, Day 7: The Moment

Let me talk about the spirit award for a second. The spirit award for a conference, to me, is really the ultimate recognition. Depending on the conference the criteria can include:

-Unification of delegation: are they dressing the same, or have same costumes, etc. This can also include unified cheering.

-Including other delegations: in things like cheers, or greeting folks.

-Being helpful: helping with volunteer staff or other delegations, the more your delegation gives support the better it is.

-Participation in events: things like roll call, banner, display, etc. where you can show off your creative talents.

-Bidding: submitting a conference bid shows that you're looking to recognize others in your region.

-Philanthropy: there's always some type of project or service opportunity for delegations to be involved in.

-Programming: you can get points for submitting programs and get points if your program reaches the top 10/15/40.

-Random Events: there are some moments where a delegation just does something super unique and cool that it's difficult not to give them credit.

-Refraining from Rudeness: whether it's not swearing or doing an inappropriate cheer.

So, a lot of criteria. And, here's the kicker...regardless of the skill or ability or experience of your delegation, everyone's eligible. It's kinda like, everyone's on fair ground for this award. You don't need to be a fantastic bid writer, or know some cosmic secrets for what gets the best display.

You need to show up, be positive, have fun, work together, and be nice to others.

It's the ultimate teamwork award. It's the ultimate school spirit and pride award. To me it shows the conference staff that you're trying to make the most of all they have to offer.

I've always been impressed (and envious) of the schools that win the award. They're always happy. They're always excited. And they always have a really cool delegation theme that seems to beautifully tie in the conference theme as well as cause everyone to go: "what do I need to trade for that?"

In the 12 conferences I attended at UW Oshkosh as a student, we never won the spirit award. And each time, I swear we got closer. I do remember once I think there was a committee to vote on the award and my friend Scott was on it...the announced that we 'lost' by one and Scott tried to argue it...I think we lost more points.

So then I head to Arizona State. And as the RHA Advisor I bored to death the NCC Justin Davenport. The poor kid. Our meeting was a three hour meeting. I think he stopped taking notes after the first hour.

For my first conference at Arizona State, IACURH at BYU, I talked up the spirit award ridiculously. And shared war stories of previous conference where we were close but not close enough. The delegates really got into it. The apparrel was nuts. We had all these cheers planned. We got striped socks. It was non-stop.

I'm appreciative of what these delegates tried. They didn't do it for me, they did it for themselves. Only 6 of them had ever been to a conference before. But they were excited. And when we arrived, we had one of the best times ever!

I remember thinking, the night before the last day, that even if we didn't win the spirit award, we did something pretty cool. We brought a bunch of inexperienced people together, from a fairly large campus, and learned to respect the rules of the university and the conference, trying to bring out the best in others and ourselves.

There's that moment of contentedness which freezes in time. It's not that you don't want life to continue. It's not that the rest of life is not the best. It's that you're really happy with what's been done. You just want to take it in, soak it in, appreciate it all for just the space and atmosphere.

Tonight was a lot like that. So was Friday and Saturday. You just wanted to take a snapshot of over 2000 students hanging out in your home gym and cheering. You just wanted to listen to the noise. Watch the costumes. The bulk of this conference is over...we're all kind of lingering around in this strange afterglow of 360 days of work compacted into 5 days of craziness.

It's like an Oscars post-party.

I remember sitting at the IACURH 2000 awards ceremony. They decided to present the spirit award first. All of a sudden, ASU won it. They earned it. I cried. The elusive spirit award. Being recognized for being a good team involved with all that you can do with the conference. And it was there for the students who tried so hard.


June 03, 2007

NACURH Blog, Day 6: Full Circle

As a writer of fiction, I really love stories with multiple plot lines, with all the lines being tied up at the end. Today, a long day, with a lot of surprises, but things that made me realize how quirky life works.

The past conference moment ties in perfectly: a couple years back, I was invited to be the keynote for GLACURH 2005 at UW La Crosse. Here's how mysteriously life works:

-I started doing programs at conferences because I loved speaking in front of students, being both entertaining and inspirational.

-Paul Wesselmann came to speak at UW Oshkosh for a mid year training.

-A student from UWM invited me to be a speaker for a motivational night.

-Knowing that Paul was someone I looked up to for speaking, I contacted him for some speaking advice.

-Paul was a keynote at two other conferences. One of which he graciously plugged one of my programs at the conference.

-I left the region but continued to do programs. While that happened, myself, my friends, and other students I went to conferences with all became student affairs professionals.

-When I returned, many of these professionals remembered my programs, asked to see if I could speak at some leadership conferences.

-I contacted Paul, again, for advice.

-This helped me set up the Kick Butt Productions website.

-We got the bid for NACURH 2007.

-I suggested Paul to be our morning speaker and contacted him.

-Paul got on board, rocked the house today with his speech. During his speech I realized something important:

Life is about persistence and has a wacky way of working out. Speaking at GLACURH 05, in my home region, for a conference which helped me grow, was a huge dream come true. I could never imagine that it could happen. I could never imagine that something that unique and rare to me would happen upon my door step. It wasn't about focusing on that big thing, and trying to find a way to get there. It was about focusing on doing programs. By the time I was asked, I had programs and stories ready. I had ideas ready. Because I was always practicing.

Getting the opportunity to host this conference was the same way. I remember we talked about it as students. I remember what the challenges were. As I became an advisor, it wasn't that my dreams changed, it's that other things changed, and an opportunity arose. First Kate and Cullen asked me to help out. Then Ben and Allyson stepped up.

All of this came from two simple goals:
-Attend as many conferences as I can.
-Present programs at as many conferences as I can.

Today Paul achieved something he hadn't before. And the staff took time to recognize him. I feel honored I was there to witness both events.


PS: Today was bit of a blur, again. I'm sure I'll wake up one day and go: yep, I remember that. I want to say thanks though for all the support that colleagues and friends have given me today. I want to say thanks to some advisors: Chris, Paul, Andrea, Nicole, Eric, Jason, Dr. Nick. I want to say thanks to the UW Eau Claire crew who stopped by conference HQ to say hi.

June 02, 2007

NACURH Blog, Day 5: Small Steps

It is difficult to pinpoint a highlight or one significant moment during the time I was a National Communications Coordinator (NCC). There's so many fun, personal, sentimental, and empowering moments. I learned that one conference, one meeting, one delegation does not make an NCC. An NCC (like any position in life) must be comfortable with their style. There's not right or wrong, or better ability over any other. It's a journey, and even a year is enough to help learn a lot about what who you are as a leader.

First NACURH as NCC: UW La Crosse, NACURH 1999
-There was this really weird NCC social where I didn't really know what to do. When I tried to converse with someone I remember them asking me if I had any regional pins to sell (I was unaware that regions typically sold pins as a philanthropy project). I said no. Then she turned to her friend and said "I can't believe he doesn't have pins to sell."
-I didn't pick this delegation, I know that in a business (housing) where we typically inherit staffs this is a common occurrence. But I've been on delegations where the NCC hasn't picked the people and they've been familiar. The delegation was actually really fun to be around despite my initial dread.

First Brining Leaders Together as an NCC: Lions Camp September 99
-I was scared to attend this business meeting. Many folks had built up business meetings to be this very intense, must be alert at all times, kinda moment. I thought I'd be lost or really frustrated. I arrived, met Ryan Madison, and soon realized that just by being yourself, and contributing honestly, business meetings can be fun.
-We did a great activity where we picked up pennies and shared thoughts about the weekend. My friends Collin and Joe were there, and I felt a small sense of inspiration watching some of the older leaders share wisdom while younger leaders shared hope. This was the first moment I realized that our WURHA NCCs would be close.

First GLACURH as NCC: GLACURH 99, UW Oshkosh
-Hosting GLACURH at your own school, while being an NCC, while being on the RBD as an emergency RCC, is pretty overwhelming but really cool. The whole weekend was a blur.
-Many NCCs had come up to me and mentioned they respected some of the things that I did. It was nice to hear because I really enjoyed trying to get some new students involved with conferences (and it's a challenge when there's only a small group because everyone else is volunteering or a committee chair).
-Just like Ryan Madison helped transition me into being comfortable in the board room, so did my friend Ken Patricio transition me into the RBD.

First No Frills as NCC: Brock University, January 2000
-There was this hilarious moment where I was making a statement about a new award that GLACURH wanted to introduce. Halfway through my little spiel, I see Tom Nyman and Ryan Madison wave lighters in the air as if it was a hair band concert.
-Again, it was cool to see Jacque and Shane be on the RBD and see the fruits of Jason and Jim's opening conference information to new perspectives.

First WURHA as NCC: UW Milwaukee, February 2000
-This conference had a lot of surprises. Again little things where folks kinda said "thanks, just for being you, and making us laugh."
-UWO got school of the year that year...to me it was an honor of all the hard work that other leaders had done at Oshkosh previously.

First French Dip as NCC: UW Oshkosh, March 2000
-Truth be told, French Dip was a wacky idea which came about because Heather Krull and I were talking and it sounded like we could use a spring meeting.
-That weekend meant more to me because the NCC group from Wisconsin really grew as a family. It was a nice, non-busy moment to say good bye to each other, and help bring in the new leaders. I was sad from not getting into a grad school I wanted, and the group was there for support.

Last NACURH as NCC and a student: UC Boulder, May 2000
-This was a great 'after party' to graduating and wrapping up a year in USRH at UW Oshkosh. It was great to see my friends (Ryan, Ken, Wisc. NCCs) and share in a few last laughs.
-I walked into an NCC social, and someone had thanked me for the time I spent as an NCC.

I realized today, a mixture of busyness and exciting moments, that planing this NACURH is similar. It has peaks and valleys. It has moments where you worry if you're doing enough. Then you see over 2000 cheering delegates, in front of your friends (old and new), in front of your parents...and you hear the national anthems being sung, and you realize...this is what it's about, you just go day to day, week to week, work on all the things you can, then you watch others enjoy the hard work and time you spent.

Thanks NACURH for selecting us this year.


PS I wanted to give another thanks to all the former leaders and staff who showed up tonight whom I worked with over the years. I'm excited to see you all get a chance to share in the dreams of these fantastic leaders.

PPS And thanks mom and dad for supporting me through 10 years and 25 conferences. Even though trying to learn every acronym can be a pain, you always were there for me.

June 01, 2007

NACURH Blog, Day 4: The Spark

This was a long day, and I definitely appreciated the help folks gave me. Additionally, many friends whom I haven't seen in a while arrived today. But it's late, and I'm getting up soon, so this will be short.

While my first two conferences were definitely building blocks to get me familiar and used to all the facets of conferencing, I believe the 3rd, NACURH 1997, Ball State University, Setting the Pace, was the spark that kept me going.

At this conference I was at a crossroads in my life. I think I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted to do with my next step. Here comes NACURH, my first NACURH, didn't know what to expect, and all of a sudden everything got flipped upside down. In a good way.

Between a campus walk I had the night we arrived, getting to hang out with the UW Madison Delegation, sharing some funny stories (and times) with Jim Droste, listening to Jim Cowee's ridiculous cheers, watching Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) speak, and the great van ride there and back, this conference opened my eyes to what was next.

We always hope for that spark in our lives, but never know when it will come. I'm thankful for that conference and the time we had. Even today, as the dust was starting to settle, I realized that in ten years, the spark is still there, even through the work, even through the different life lens I have now.

Interesting Rando Tidbits:
-During our Roll Call practice, there was a move called the 'pelvic thrust.' Might have been taken from Rocky Horror, not sure, but several delegates (used to protect the innocent) turned it into a very funny cheer. So in a weird way, this is the 10th anniversary of the pelvic thrust cheer.

-Megan Link and I actually talked about hosting a UWO NACURH while at Ball State. It was then we realized the big obstacle we had: finding a space large enough for everyone. Ten years later, we're hosting and trying something new with the regional banquets. I hope it works it out, but strange to to think that we were talking about this at that time.

-The phrase, which I use for most programs and speeches, "There's a lot of love in this room" was first written on a black board by Droste while I was about to do my improv and leadership program. Another 10 year anniversary apparently.

Thanks again all to the support, and massive appreciation for anyone who is reading this blog daily.