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Vick Center and ACA Host Professional Development Day

Professional development day event, auditorium filled with attendees

The Vick Advising Excellence Center and the Academic Counselors Association (ACA) hosted the 34th annual Professional Development Day conference at Rowling Hall on February 16, 2024. What started as a small, half-day retreat for members of ACA has grown over the years into a day-long conference with sessions covering a wide array of topics, professional skills, and personal growth for academic and student affairs professionals. Over the years, PDD has expanded to include attendees from institutions across the state of Texas.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Advisors Assemble: Working in Community,” with a program featuring 20 sessions focused on student learning and development; academic advising; assessment, evaluation, and research; personal and ethical foundations of leadership; technology; and justice, policy, and practice. Over 260 attendees benefitted from the conference, including about 40 off-campus partners representing Texas State University, Austin Community College, the University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Houston, Southwestern University, and Concordia University.

Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker, associate dean of student engagement, success, and wellness for the Undergraduate College, gave the keynote address. In her keynote, Dr. Holleran Steiker presented the audience with practical and relatable words of advice from her experiences as a therapist and social worker, including strategies for being empathetic and engaging with students despite the challenges of high caseloads and limited time. One attendee commented, “[It’s] great how equally compassionate yet challenging she was. I feel like I was able to walk away with small, tangible items that would make a big impact.”

This year’s PDD conference was the first planned and organized by the Vick Advising Excellence Center in partnership with nine ACA member volunteers representing several colleges, schools, and units. Given the Vick Center’s mission to provide UT Austin academic advisors with the training, tools, and resources needed to best support their students, ACA membership voted in May 2023 to move the primary planning responsibilities for PDD from ACA volunteers to Vick Center staff.

Jeff Handy, director of the Vick Advising Excellence Center, said, “Our team is thrilled to be in a position where we can plan and deliver a PDD experience that is responsive to the needs and interests of our student support professionals. Vanessa Garcia, our assistant director, did a fantastic job of leading the planning committee toward a valuable and accessible conference experience. We’re excited to build on the success of PDD year over year and to continue our partnership with ACA in those efforts.”