From a bird’s eye view, this conference was a beautiful intersection of personal passion, professional growth, academic relationships, and impacting positive change. It is no surprise that at the NASPA (Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education) Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Conference what we found exciting was linked to the drivers of our first year Doctoral student lens: we heard and met speakers from our field who we had written about in our literature reviews and curriculum theorist papers; we met like-minded and different-minded individuals and had opportunities for critical dialogue; we heard the latest work of individuals and organizations that inspire us; we took the risk of guiding our work into the scholarly river to be challenged and understood by the current of our peers; we grew in our working relationships and friendships. After a semester of working on the design of a democratic civic engagement mentorship program, we were nervous to share the outcomes of our work, which were much less developed than we had anticipated when writing the proposal. Still, we had learned much and were eager to get feedback about our plans for a program that both embodies and practices its values, mission, and vision. Audience members gave us compliments and critical feedback and also shared invaluable advise of their own through stories and scholarly references. It was an exciting presentation and sent us away will our imaginations full of new ideas. As if we needed icing on the cake, we also had tons of fun experiencing another city together and enjoying the several days away in which we finalized our work, explored the city through the lens of vegan food, and learned a whole lot about one another. It is great to walk away from this experience feeling inspired and excited about the people we work with every day and the people across the nation who share in our passions doing similar work every day. Thank you to our advisors for your support and facilitation in making this happen!
– Chris Hutchison, Justin Koppelman, and Anat Herzog