Scott Amundsen, NACADA Mentor
Les Ridingin, NACADA Emerging Leader
As academic advisors, the opportunity to travel to various conferences, institutes, and seminars is not only a worthwhile benefit, but a necessary 'perk' for a variety of reasons. First, it keeps us refreshed and up-to-date on current practices within the field. Second, it affords us the chance to network with colleagues from other institutions. Therefore, although we know that in the current economy travel opportunities might be few and far between, we want to encourage our advising colleagues to not give up on pursuing these benefits! Here we share some 'tried and true' tips for increasing the chances of attending off-campus professional development opportunities on the institution's dime.
- Priority Registration.Timing and preparation are crucial. Plan ahead and prepare a budget; these steps increase the likelihood that supervisors will listen to a travel request. Most conferences have a priority registration discount, which can save $50-100 depending on the event, so it is a good idea to seek buy-in as quickly as possible. Be alert for any other registration discounts offered. Prime examples include graduate student discounts or multiple participants from the same institution. Paying ahead for an event also decreases the likelihood that the institution will 'pull the plug' during tight times, so pay attention to registration deadlines.
- Be a Presenter. When a presentation proposal is accepted by the conference committee it increases the likelihood of being allowed to attend the event. However, taking a supervisor by surprise with news of an accepted presentation is not wise. We suggest being upfront with supervisors; let the administrator know that you plan to submit a proposal. Perhaps the supervisor will even be interested in co-presenting! Creative planning may be required. Les notes: 'When I first approached a supervisor about submitting a conference presentation proposal I was told that my scope was too limited. I took this as an indicator that I had not communicated enough with my supervisor regarding my interests. I followed Scott's advice and spoke with a colleague who agreed to be a co-presenter. Our proposal was accepted, we attended the conference, and our unit was proud when we won an award for the presentation!'
- Be a Leader. Administrators are more likely to support travel for those who are leaders in their professional organizations. Additionally, some reimbursement may be offered by the organization for those who serve in a leadership capacity. TheNACADA Emerging Leaders Program, for example, provides Emerging Leaders with $1500 to take advantage of NACADA professional development opportunities. Our work as an Emerging Leader / Mentor team has boosted our institutions' support of our relevant travels and covered Les' costs for travel to the NACADA Annual Conference. Look for these opportunities and apply! Just be sure that all commitment requirements are well understood upfront. Les recalls: 'When I was accepted into the NACADA Emerging Leaders Program, it reflected well on my department dean and his negotiating position for requesting travel monies for me was strengthened. As a result, I was allowed to attend the NACADA Spring 2009 Regional Conference as well as the fall Annual Conference.'
- Transportation. For conferences within a day's drive, carpooling is a great budget-stretcher. Reach across campus - or even to a nearby institution - to find travel companions who can share expenses. If carpooling is not a viable option, before jumping to the airlines, consider other mass transit possibilities. Many larger conference cities can be reached by rail or other mass transit options. When airline travel is the best option, be sure to check all possible savings opportunities. Might frequent flyer miles accumulated on campus be utilized? Use travel search engines, such as www.kayak.com, www.priceline.com, www.hotwire.com, and www.travelzoo.com, and check price listings daily. Many sites post new deals at noon each Wednesday. Consider all alternate route possibilities for the best pricing.
- Hotels. Book early, particularly for the conference host hotel, since rooms at conference rates often fill early. Consider sharing a room. Conferences often provide links to other attendees seeking to share a room. While this option is not for everyone, it can cut expenses so significantly that it can mean the difference between going and staying home! Another option to consider is staying at a nearby property rather than the host hotel. Sometimes the willingness to walk a few blocks each morning and evening can result in significantly lower rates. Use online sites such as www.priceline.com. www.tripadvisor.com, and www.biddingfortravel.com to seek the best deals. If the event is in a resort area, such as Orlando, San Antonio, Miami, or San Diego, consider renting a timeshare property.
- Meals. Avoid room service, which is often very costly. Explore the local cuisine; the hotel concierge desk is an excellent source of information. Ask for available literature that may contain coupons, and check out www.restaurant.com for local restaurant discounts or find local grocery store delis. Scott notes: "I always splurge with one nice meal when I travel; it is worth it to enjoy the local cuisine or a celebrity chef. Following Les' suggestion to try The Bongo Room during the 2008 NACADA Annual Conference in Chicago gave me the opportunity to taste Smore Banana Flapjacks that are 'to die for'! I make up for my splurge by locating the local sub-shop and grocery store for other low-cost meals."
Even in tight times - perhaps especially in tight times - we must take care of ourselves. Professional development events pay long-term dividends; our careers will ultimately suffer if we miss out on these opportunities. While we hope the tips we have shared will help our colleagues save money and will open funding doors that might have seemed closed, we also know that, realistically, in these very tight times occasionally we may have to just 'bite the bullet' and pay our own way! While it may sound radical, offering to pay for professional development opportunities shows great initiative and dedication that may be remembered by our administrators. Actions such as this may have a future pay-off that we can not anticipate today.
We hope to see you at a NACADA professional development event very soon!
University of North Carolina Wilmington
University of Texas at Arlington
Cite this article using APA style as: Amundsen, S. & Ridingin, L. (2009, June). Professional development on a budget. Academic Advising Today, 32(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]