HESA Alumni Celebrate Inaugural Reunion, Take Part in Professional Development

HESA Students present their assessment project posters to conference attendees
HESA Students present their assessment project posters to conference attendees. Photo credit: Cody Lewin, HESA graduate student.

Neag School Higher Education & Student Affairs (HESA) alumni recently reconnected with friends and colleagues and networked at the first-of-its-kind, one-day professional development conference on the UConn campus. HESA is a graduate degree partnership program with UConn’s Student Affairs and the Neag School of Education.

Titled “Celebrate HESA/Change: Are you ready?,” the event brought together 45 HESA alumni, students and faculty members who attended a variety of presentations, including:

  • “Attaining Cultural Competencies for Student Affairs Professionals” presented by Angela Rola, director of UConn’s Asian American Cultural Center
  • “Considering, or Reconsidering Your Career Path, an Exploration of Your Next Step” presented by Beth Settje and Lisa McGuire, senior assistant directors at UConn’s Center for Career Development.

A roundtable for graduating HESA students also took place, entitled “Enhancing Your Search Process and Attracting the Best: Reflections of Current Job Seekers.”

HESA Program Director Sue Saunders addressing the audience
HESA Program Director Sue Saunders addressing the audience. Photo credit: Cody Lewin, HESA graduate student.

“It was not only great to see the alumni coming back, but also to get a chance to listen to subjects that we don’t typically cover in class,” said HESA Program Coordinator Sue Saunders, an extension professor within the Department of Educational Leadership at Neag School of Education.

Two lectures that particularly caught her attention were those related to social media, “Harnessing the Power of Social Media for Positive Change” and “Getting Your Thumbs Dirty: 24 Social Media Tips and Uses in Student Affairs” presented by Ed Cabellon, director of Student Affairs at Bridgewater State University.

“If you work in student affairs, social media is getting more and more important. We really need to be conversant with its practices and how we can use the social media tools to engage our students more in the learning process,” Saunders said.

The HESA Alumni Council was also formed at the reunion, with 2007 graduate Joshua Brandfon named its first president.

“I’m glad to be able to help strengthen the connection between the HESA program and its alumni in any way I can,” said Brandfon, who currently works as director of Student Affairs at the University of Miami. “Our alumni have positions at institutions across the country and can be a great resource to current students.”

“We hope that alumni will be able to share career advice, connect with each other at national conferences, and stay informed about what’s happening in Storrs,” Brandfon continued.

Adam Frank, who graduated from the program in 2009, said he had a wonderful time at the reunion: “Everyone who has gone through the program has an undeniable bond. Even if we weren’t in the program together, we shared this unique and immersive learning experience.”

He is now director of Student Involvement at SUNY Westchester Community College in Valhalla, NY. “The professional development sessions provided some wonderful insights into how I can best leverage my position and experience to advance at my current institution and position myself better to move ahead in the future.”

Featuring classes taught by student affairs practitioner and full-time faculty scholars, the HESA program requires the completion of 44 credit hours.  A cohort of 18-20 students is admitted into the program each year, completing core academic classes over two years of study.

“We are planning to make the reunion an annual or biannual event to provide systematic and continuing involvement for our alumni, current students and the program,” Saunders added.