From Spam Email to Award Finalist: My Unforgettable MIDWest Journey

On the morning of May 14, 2024, I was a little preoccupied with my 28th birthday coming at me quickly. Reviewing my work inbox, I read a subject “Re: Iowa ACAC – Congrats!”. My IT department has put me through lots of training on what to do with spam. So, my first thought was to do some research on what this ‘ACAC’ acronym is. My research concluded that the Iowa ACAC was pretty legit and the conference seemed real. The email even referenced making a social media post! Although, for some reason, I made the executive decision that it made more sense for this to be spam, and I ended up deleting the email. A weekend passed, and one day my supervisor, Dana Chrisman, eventually gathered all of my fellow admissions office mates and congratulated me. Dana explained that a counselor I had worked with had written the most thoughtful recommendation about my visit at one of her high schools.

The MIDWest Conference was a transformative experience for me. Surrounded by like-minded individuals who are passionate about their work and its impact on our communities, I felt a sense of unity. This unity transcended geographical boundaries and professional experience, creating a collaborative environment that was both welcoming and inspiring.

Throughout my life, I’ve often found conferences to be cliquey, especially coming from a small rural area. However, the MIDWest Conference was different. The seasoned professionals around me were supportive and offered honest guidance, which reassured me about my place in my professional life.

On the second day of the conference, I found myself in a room that quickly transformed into a powerful interactive panel and group activity. I had the opportunity to hear honest feedback from peers and current and past leaders of the various ACAC organizations that make up the MIDWest. These individuals, many of whom I had never met before, have each played an important role in shaping my professional journey.

Attending the Iowa ACAC meeting was another reassuring experience for me. It showed me all the room I have to improve and all that I can work towards achieving in this space. Interacting with Theresa Putnam-Genz at one of the high schools and trying my best at one of my first high school visits, then fast-forwarding to accepting an award as a finalist for admissions professional of the year will be something I look back on for the rest of my life. Less than 8 months into my career in higher education, I now have the ability to actively learn more about my options and future in a role that leaves me feeling excited for what lies ahead.

As I build my confidence in my current position, I hope to become more familiar with the Iowa ACAC organization. Speaking of Iowa ACAC, I want to thank Gail McMahon for her kindness and willingness to open her arms to me. Gail is obviously the heart of Iowa ACAC, so her acknowledging me, along with the other finalists and individuals who received awards, really made me feel extra comfortable at the conference.

Attending the Midwest ACAC conference provided me with so much more than I expected. I felt reassurance from everyone I met regarding my first experiences with scheduling high school visits, as well as how tough overall working in college admissions can be. I’ve never felt that I clicked so well in a professional space and all these individuals around me were there first to pave the way for me to feel so optimistic and motivated.

Thank you for welcoming me into this incredible community. Here’s to many more months (and years) of learning, networking, and championing higher education!

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