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Today we're talking with MIACADA member Roberta Rea.  Roberta is the Director of Advising for the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University.  She also has an impressive record as a former MIACADA Member at Large and MIACADA President.  At this year's MIACADA Conference Roberta won best in show for her conference presentation "Building Trust While Advising Virtually"

This wasn't your first conference presentation, was it Roberta?  When was your very first conference presentation?

My very first professional presentation ever was right after completing my undergraduate degree at Grand Valley State.  One of my sorority sisters, Ashley, worked as a trainer for Whirlpool corporation.  She was invited back to Grand Valley to present at a leadership conference, and asked me if I wanted to co-present with her.  Our topic was Networking 101; we spoke to undergraduate students about ways to connect with people in their career paths, along with skills to build their professional networks.

So, what was it that gave you that push to decide to present at a conference?

Having somebody else asking me to present really gave me that push to jump in and do it.  The chance to create something with a friend, as well as sharing helpful tips and experience with college students really inspired me to present at the leadership conference.

Trust is an interesting and important concept in advising.  What sparked your interest in the topic?

I was an instructor for a graduate course about academic advising in Oakland’s Higher Education Leadership program this past year.  One of the assignments required graduate students to interview undergraduate students about their experience meeting virtually with academic advisers.  One student explained that they felt really awkward when their adviser attended their virtual session but kept his camera off the entire time. This really made me consider how important trust is in an advising relationship, and how seemingly little behaviors can make a big difference for students' experiences and impressions of advising.

Can you talk about how you developed your conference presentation?  Do you have a method you usually use?

Start with researching the topic.  Some areas I use are Google Scholar, regular Google search, and the NACADA clearinghouse.  Once I get a foundation on the topic, I then focus on brainstorming activities to make it interactive.  I don’t want to just talk at people the entire time. The main theme I consider is: what do I hope people will learn from the conference session?  What will people take away from the conference presentation?  One tip that I've learned along the way is to use personal stories and examples sprinkled in throughout the presentation, it makes the session more authentic and relatable and gives it a personal touch.

What advice would you give somebody who has never presented at a conference before, but really wants to?

Co-presenting is a great way to make it less scary, and a great way to build an even better connection with a colleague.  The most important part, though, is just submitting a proposal and making the leap to present in order to build your confidence.  Nervousness is natural, I still get nervous during all of my presentations, but you learn to cope with it.  If you’re trying to come up with a topic to present on, think about what you would like to learn if you attended a conference.


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