In November, a group of involved Illinois State University students traveled to the Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow (SALT) Institute in Milwaukee. The students received a professional development scholarship through the Division of Student Affairs’ Student Engagement Fund to attend the institute.

The SALT Institute is a conference designed for undergraduate students beginning their exploration of the student affairs field. The weekend-long program is sponsored by NASPA (National Association for Student Personnel Administrators).

At SALT, students learned about the history and future of student affairs as well as expectations of student affairs professionals. NASPA describes student affairs as a critical component of the higher education experience stating, “the work done by student affairs professionals helps students begin a lifetime journey of growth and self-exploration.”

Kema Booker-Ward, an interpersonal communication major, was one of the students who attended the SALT institute. “The best part about attending SALT was meeting other undergrads who had the same goals and vision as me,” said Booker-Ward. “Also, it was cool to receive advice from professionals on how to navigate the student affairs field.”

Blair Fernandez, a legal studies major, also attended the conference and learned the following: “As higher education institutions become more diverse, there are some populations that are still being left out. As future professionals in the field, it is our job to make sure that their voices are brought to the table.”

At the institute, students also gained a better understanding of what the graduate school application process entails by hearing from both professionals and current graduate students. “Grad school is filled with reading, writing papers, and doing projects, which is why it is different than the tests you take in undergraduate work,” Fernandez said.

Following the SALT Institute was the NASPA Region IV-E Annual Conference, with attendees from the Upper Midwest as well as Ontario, Canada. A couple of Illinois State students were also able to attend this conference and network with professionals currently in the field.

“I was able to meet many people at NASPA and I made friends from SALT that continued on through NASPA,” Booker-Ward said. “In addition, I networked with a few graduate students from different schools.”

The Division of Student Affairs facilitates personal and professional learning on and off campus. “Providing students with experience in professional settings and at conferences is key to a successful transition into those spaces for internships and as graduates,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson. “Student Affairs is committed to using donor gifts to provide students with experiences that distinguish them as excellent graduates.”

To learn more about how to support professional development opportunities for students, visit the Division of Student Affairs’ giving page.