42 Conferences and Pro Dev Opportunities SA Pros Will Love in 2021

This time last year, student affairs professionals were brainstorming and crafting our resolutions for 2020. 

My 2020 resolution was to engage in as much professional development as I could and to stay engaged within the field we all love.

But now, professional development budgets at many institutions are being slashed or thrown out the window altogether. So, I’ve sought to help out by searching for free or inexpensive professional development opportunities. Turns out, there are lots out there!

Read through my megalist of professional development opportunities, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and other opportunities focused on promoting the field of student affairs. Hopefully a few will spark your interest!

Overarching & Ongoing

1. ACPA Commissions
Commissions represent the functional areas or specializations in which ACPA members are employed or have an interest in. Most commissions offer updates, newsletters, opportunities for educational programs, networking, and offer other programs and services to members. 

2. ACPA Coalitions
The coalitions are unique entities in that they represent and act as advocates for the social identities of the ACPA membership. Unlike the ACPA’s commissions, which represent what student affairs professionals do, the coalitions represent who we are

3. NASPA Volunteer Central
You can learn so much through the numerous opportunities for volunteering — such as reviewing a conference proposal, sharing your expertise by helping to plan a regional event, or building community by mentoring a future leader. 

4. NASPA Knowledge Communities
Knowledge Communities (KC) are member-driven networks that empower members to explore key topics, professional functions, and personal identities alongside other professionals. KC members support “community-curated resources, opportunities to leverage expertise into meaningful initiatives, and participation in developing strategies and tactics to advance key higher ed issues.”  

5. Presence’s Happy Hour webinar series
Join Presence and the experts they brought together from across the field to “cheers” to all things student affairs. All webinars, though recorded live, are available to download in full now for free.

6. Will There Be Food? Podcast 

Student affairs professionals spill the details on everything they’re doing to improve students’ lives. Topics include student homelessness, professional ghosting, student activism, food insecurity, and much more.  All episodes are now available to download and listen to.

Academic Advising

7. NACADA Regional Conferences — virtually March and April 2021

Regions of NACADA conduct annual conferences and local drive-ins. They also develop programs which fit the needs of their specific regions. Global members are invited to attend the regional activities that best suit their professional development interests.

8. 18th Annual Assessment Institute — virtually February 9-11, 2021
This working institute will be composed of an intensive two-and-a-half days focused on the components of a successful assessment program, as well as specific strategies and tools for developing and implementing assessment programs on individual campuses.

9. 19th Annual Administrators’ Institute — virtually February 17-19, 2021
The Administrators’ Institute will provide attendees with “strategies to enhance their own leadership and to lead an academic advising program on their campuses.” The institute will utilize learning community groups facilitated by faculty who are experienced advising administrators and leaders in the field. 

10. NACADA Research Institute — May 20-22, 2021 in Rosemont, IL
This interactive institute brings primary-role advisors, faculty advisors, and advising administrators together to explore “new and continuing lines of inquiry within advising.” This institute is for individuals or teams who want to develop the scope of an evidence-based research study or philosophical inquiry. 

11. 34th Annual Summer Institutes — Summer 2021

The is a weeklong program providing individuals and teams the opportunity to develop a custom action plan based on the needs at their institutions. According to the institute’s website, this process is facilitated by Foundation Sessions, a choice of topics and workshops, and daily collaborations with a summer institute faculty member and a small group of participants from similar institutions. 


12. NACAC Annual Advocacy Meeting — March 8-9, 2021 in Washington D.C.
Attendees will learn more about the education policy landscape, develop their advocacy skills, and meet with elected officials to advocate for NACAC’s policy priorities. NACAC’s website states that “anyone is welcome to join, and no prior experience is necessary.”

13. Antiracist Education Institute — Various dates, virtual
Expand your anti-racist and diversity, equity, and inclusion knowledge with this four-part series from NACAC, created specifically for counseling and admission professionals. “Attendees will learn how to implement appropriate practices and strategies within their offices and in their work with students to eliminate bias when advising or considering students for college admission.”

14. 2021 Guiding the Way to Inclusion — July 25-28, 2021 in Chicago, IL

NACAC’s Guiding the Way to Inclusion conference is aimed at college admission professionals committed to championing the needs of students of underrepresented backgrounds within the college admission process.

Activities & Leadership

15. Program Design School — virtually January 12-13, 2021
Attendees will learn how to write participant guides and facilitator guides, identify 40 learning methods, and understand why they can’t write learning objectives until the end of the course.

16. 2021 Assessment Institute – June 22-25, 2021 in Baltimore, MD

The Student Affairs Assessment Institute “provides a balance of instruction and hands-on experience designed to ensure that attendees leave with the assessment skills and knowledge necessary to develop and execute quality assessment plans on their campuses.”

17. High Performance Collaboration: Leadership, Teamwork, and Negotiation — On-demand
Learn the essential skills to develop and expand leadership repertoire, design teams for collaboration, and craft win-win negotiation strategies. Participants will engage in self-assessments to analyze their leadership styles, develop team charters to optimize their groups, and develop gameplans for effective negotiations.

Career Counseling

18. NCDA Training Programs — Ongoing
NCDA provides programs serving a variety of audiences, informing them of best practices for research, development, and delivery of career services.

19. NCDA Webinar Series — Ongoing

NCDA presents at least three webinars each year on topics “of deep significance to members” and those involved in the field of career development. Previously recorded webinars are available for viewing anytime.

20. Utilizing LinkedIn for Career Search — On-demand
In this two-hour MOOC, attendees will learn tips and tricks on how to utilize the latest LinkedIn features towards obtaining a career. This course will show you the tools on LinkedIn for job searches and ways to leverage your profile (or your students’) for a new position.

Conduct & Title IX

21. ACPA Training in Restorative Justice – July 14-16, 2021 in Washington D.C.

This training in restorative justice will give attendees “a thorough understanding of principles and practices, strong facilitation skills, and practical information about program implementation.”

22. Sexual Misconduct Institute — Date and location TBA
This institute “goes beyond basic compliance and towards increasing the capacity of practitioners to develop and improve their campus responses to sexual misconduct.” Through a combination of foundational learning and skill development from leading practitioners, the institute will cover legal requirements and utilizing trauma-informed approaches.

23. NASPA Annual Title IX Certificate Program — Various dates and methods
This certificate program is an individualized, hybrid online and synchronous learning experience consisting of three tracks: Title IX Coordinators, Title IX Decision-Makers and Student Conduct Administrators, and Title IX Investigators.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

24. NASPA Virtual Symposium on Military-Connected Students — virtually February 24-26, 2021
This event is designed for practitioners supporting military-connected students. Attendees will learn from leading researchers in the field and engage with other professionals committed to supporting military-connected students.

25. Racial & Social Justice Lens Institute for Senior Level Campus Leaders — June 13-16, 2021 in Long Beach, CA
Join other senior student affairs leaders to discuss racial justice and decolonization, competency building, and leadership skill development to help you guide your campus, staff, and students through challenging times.

26. Love as a Force for Social Justice — On-demand
This MOOC will explore “the concept of compassion as a force for social justice and action and as the inspiration for service and the application of knowledge towards positive social change,” drawing on the expertise of leaders from a variety of disciplines. 

27. Revolutionary Ideas: Utility, Justice, Equality, Freedom — On-demand
In this course, participants will “explore taking the political institutions and political systems around us not as fixed and unquestionable, but as things to evaluate and, if necessary, to change.” Attendees will consider the ideas and arguments of some of the world’s most celebrated philosophers, including historical thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke.

28. Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History — On-demand
Learners will deepen their understanding and appreciation of ways in which race, ethnicity, and cultural diversity have shaped American institutions, ideology, law, and social relationships from the colonial era to the present. 

Grad Students & New Pros

29. Phyllis L. Mable Emerging Leaders Institute – July 15-17, 2021 in Richmond, VA

ACPA created this institute to support the development of emerging leaders as they serve students each day. 

30. New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community – Ongoing
The New Professionals and Graduate Students Knowledge Community strives to provide support for graduate students and new professionals and provide valuable connections to NASPA.

31. Graduate Associate Program – Applications accepted each fall

The NASPA Graduate Associate Program (GAP) is an initiative to increase leadership opportunities for graduate students within NASPA. GAP students “work collaboratively with other graduate assistants throughout the world to become communication conduits for NASPA events, publications, and programs offerings within a campus community.”

Greek Life

32. College Panhellenic Academy – virtually January 22-23, 2021

This program is designed to equip college Panhellenic officers and advisors with the most up-to-date Panhellenic knowledge to ensure the success of college Panhellenic associations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

33. AFA Mid-Career Professionals’ Institute – 2021 date and location TBA
From managing up and down, overseeing program administration, navigating complexity, and driving results – this program will address “strategies and best practices that will help attendees become more effective mid-career professionals.”

Residence Life

34. ICA 2021 – October 10-13, 2021 in Chicago, IL

According to their website, the 15th annual Institute on the Curricular Approach will “challenge attendees to rethink the practices and grounding philosophies of student learning and student success beyond the classroom.”

35. Creating a Living-Learning Program — On-demand
ACUHO-I’s Creating a Living-Learning Program Online Course is designed to provide campus housing and residence life professionals with a framework to develop, implement, and support new living-learning programs.

36. Developing and Refining a Resident Assistant Training Program – On-demand
This ACUHO-I online course helps professionals create programs that focus on thought-provoking and engaging activities. Attendees will learn to use instructional and curriculum design methodology to improve training for their student staff. 

Senior Level

37. NASPA Virtual Institute for New AVPs — virtually January 4-22, 2021

This is a learning and networking experience designed to support and develop associate vice presidents in their unique and challenging roles on campus. The institute is appropriate for AVPs and other senior-level “number twos” who report to their institution’s highest-ranking student affairs officer. 

38. Inspirational Leadership: Leading with Sense Specialization — On-demand
This MOOC will help attendees “switch from a top-down leadership to an open style of leadership based on trust and good sense.” This  approach encourages relationships between people in spite of their differences.

39. Leading People and Teams Specialization – On-demand
In this MOOC, attendees will learn essential leadership skills, including how to inspire and motivate individuals, manage talent, influence without authority, and lead teams. Attendees will learn directly from world-renowned leaders including Jeff Brodsky (Global Head of HR for Morgan Stanley) and John Beilein (Head Coach of the University of Michigan Men’s Basketball Team). 


40. 2021 NASPA Strategies Conference — virtually January 12-15, 2021

This conference will provide student affairs professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to address collegiate alcohol and drug abuse, mental health services, sexual violence prevention and response, and general well-being through a variety of panels and sessions.

41. Introduction to Climate Change and Health — On-demand

This course is designed to equip health and environmental professionals, as well as other changemakers, with critical and usable knowledge to take positive action.

42. Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty – On-demand

In this MOOC, attendees are exposed to the latest research on resilience. According to the course website, several types of resilience interventions are explored — including cognitive strategies, strategies to manage anxiety, and a critical relationship enhancement skill.

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What other awesome professional development opportunities are you excited about? We’d love to learn about them. Connect with us @HelloPresence.

And for more advice on staying involved in professional associations check out 4 Steps for Getting Involved with Student Affairs Associations Remotely.

Corinna Kraemer

About the author: Corinna Kraemer works in ed tech and loves painting, running, and hanging out with her cat, Mr. K. She hopes her posts will finally help her dad understand what her career in student affairs is all about. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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