I’ve been fortunate enough to attend AOTA’s Annual Conference for four years in a row now, and this year’s Centennial (#AOTA17) was my first year attending as an official OT practitioner! There were about 13,000 attendees in Philadelphia this year, and it was truly an amazing experience. I was able to present an AOTA-sponsored session with my Emerging Leaders mentor, deepen friendships with my Emerging Leader cohort, develop skills in my new practice area, and learn about cool things happening in the world of OT. I had a great time and I was sad to finally leave Philly, although I was SO ready to sleep in my own bed again! Still, in the week that I’ve been home, I’ve been making an effort to keep all of the OT energy from Conference going strong!
By this time all the Conference attendees have headed home and everybody has likely settled back into their daily grind. And while you may not be attending any fun educational sessions, dance parties, or networking events in the near future, there are several ways you can continue making the most of your conference experience even after you’ve returned home.
This post is Part III of a four-part series to help occupational therapy students and practitioners find ways to fund their OT education.
This post is full of tips, advice, and resources for current OT students who are looking to save money as they pursue their degrees! In case you missed them, you can read the first two parts of my Funding Your OT Education series for advice about how to find funding for OT school and what you can do before starting OT school to make the most of your money.
There were volunteers of all ages and stages at the conference, including retired OTs, veteran volunteers with 10+ years of experience, current and future OT students, and others. Don’t let your age, student status, or anything else deter you from serving in Chicago this spring! You don’t have to be an AOTA member to volunteer – but you’ll probably want to be one when you’re done!
In addition to helping support and promote one of the fastest-growing, influential, and dynamic professions around, there are several other benefits that come with being a conference volunteer. Read on to find out more about why volunteering will be the best thing you can do for yourself and your career in OT!
Meet some of the most influential people in the profession. As a conference volunteer, you have the chance to meet the people whose blogs you read, whose papers you’ve referenced, and whose Twitters you follow in person! Rubbing elbows with such accomplished (and really nice) people is a major high and a can’t-miss networking opportunity!
Cut the cost of attending Conference. Conference attendees must pay nearly $300 simply to attend, and that’s the student rate – not including travel, food, lodging, and other expenses! But volunteers can view special exhibits, attend one or two sessions, and see the posters for FREE. As a volunteer, you won’t necessarily be able to attend the session of your choice or participate in all events, but you will get to experience many of the best parts of the conference without paying for much of anything! Pro Tip: Check with your OT program, graduate student association, or employer to see whether there are special funds available to help cover your travel and other expenses.
Attend the Expo for FREE! Where else in the world can you get a TON of free stuff in exchange for just a few hours of your time? Just think: in the time it took you to sit through one overly long OT school class, you could be having fun, making friends, and earning your way into the Expo. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is too good a deal to pass up! Note: Only AOTA Marketplace/Member Resource Center volunteers can earn this privilege.
Diversify your resume and grow your professional experience. Volunteering at the national conference shows that you are involved and invested in your national professional association and your profession as a whole. Whether you are planning to apply for a leadership or volunteer position with AOTA, a position in your state OT association, or even a job, having a record of service to the profession will definitely give you a boost.
Make a difference and be an advocate for OT. Have you ever wondered how all those bags get stuffed, how all those signs get posted, or how an event with thousands of attendees seems to run so smoothly? It’s not magic – it’s volunteers! By serving as a conference volunteer, you can be a part of the team that makes the AOTA Annual Conference such an amazing experience for attendees from across the U.S. and around the world and have a great time while you do it!
Network with students and faculty members from OT programs across the country. While I served as a conference volunteer, I had the opportunity to talk with fellow OT students, meet instructors from numerous OT programs, and exchange ideas and information with a variety of people. Volunteering at conference is a great way to meet people who may have similar interests to yours, so be sure to keep those business cards handy!
…well, what are you waiting for? Visit the AOTA Volunteer Signup page today and find your place! (And click quickly, because spots fill up fast!)
As I mentioned in this post, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2015 ASD Annual Meeting during the AOTA Annual Conference in Nashville this year as a delegate for my OT program. If you’re wondering about what the Assembly of Student Delegates is, I’ll refer you to their page on the AOTA website for the most concise, up-to-date information. However, the ASD’s purpose and goals are outlined in the following excerpt:
“The Assembly of Student Delegates provides a mechanism for the expression of student concerns, and offers a means whereby students can have effective input into AOTA affairs. The mission of the Assembly of Student Delegates is to support student members of AOTA by communicating their interests and advancing their professional contributions. This Assembly upholds the AOTA mission, promotes Association membership, and provides a forum for the development of student leadership and political awareness to enhance the viability of the profession.” (AOTA, 2015)
Last year when I volunteered at the Baltimore conference, and this past year, I searched for information about the ASD and couldn’t find much about what actually happened at the meeting. The presentation slides were posted, and social media accounts had photos, but beyond that I couldn’t find much. Hopefully this post will help shed a little light on what goes on, and inform future delegates about what they can expect.
This post is a bit long, but so was the meeting! In it, I’ll cover topics such as
Meeting structure and content
Read on to learn all about my experience as an ASD Delegate!
Greetings from Music City! The AOTA Conference officially starts tomorrow, on April 16, but I had the honor of being selected as one of my program’s AOTA Assembly of Student Delegates (ASD) delegates for the 2015-16 school year, and I just got out of the 2015 ASD meeting. It started at 8 and ended at 5:30, so I’m pretty exhausted at the moment. However, it was truly an amazing event, and this post is the first in my “All About the ASD” series inspired by my #AOTA15 experience. Throughout the meeting, many of the delegates were wondering exactly what they should do with their amazing newfound power all of the exciting information, news, and updates! There are only a few official duties expected of delegates (which I’ll describe in an upcoming post), but there are so many more things you can do to make the most of this experience both for yourself and for the students and programs you represent. After conversing with several other student delegates and reflecting on what I learned, here are six suggestions I have for students who – like me – are new to their role as an ASD delegate or Steering Committee Member:
Determine your goals. What do you want to get out of being an ASD delegate? What can you do for others as an ASD delegate? When the whirlwind of Conference eventually dies down, I encourage you to take a moment and make a list of goals and priorities you have for yourself, for your program, or for ASD or AOTA as a whole. Being a delegate provides a unique opportunity for you to network with our professional leaders (both students and practitioners), benefit from their knowledge, and use that knowledge to benefit others. It also gives you a great opportunity to hone your talents and skills, and taking time to decide how this opportunity can support your personal and professional goals will help you decide how best to move forward.
KISS (Keep It Simple, Student!). The ASD meeting was long. VERY long. And it was also very informative! However, trying to cram a whole day’s worth of information into a presentation for your classmates during finals time (aka the end of April after Conference) isn’t an effective way to share what you learned. Decide what the four or five main points are from the discussion and make a 10-15 minute presentation (complete with calls to action and links to information) that your classmates can benefit from immediately. For example, discuss the upcoming spring scholarship deadlines and resources for students headed out to summer fieldwork instead of the fall 2015 ASD Elections or Student Conclave.
Don’t reinvent the wheel! Although you are responsible for being aware of what is happening within the profession, you don’t have to go far to find this information. Use “ready-made resources” like the OT Student Pulse newsletters, social media outlets, and AOTA emails to help inform your presentations to classmates about what’s going on. If you haven’t already, consider creating an “AOTA” or “ASD” folder in your email inbox to help keep track of important information and updates as they arrive.
Think ahead. As an ASD delegate, you have the opportunity to be the first line of information for your peers when they have questions about ongoing professional events, especially regarding student-specific programming. Take a minute to jot down or type up a rough outline of the dates and deadlines for events like the Student Conclave or ASD Elections, and update it as necessary. By preparing this now, you can have a resource to provide for your classmates for the present and the upcoming year, as well as having a rough outline of the more time-sensitive topics you should focus on as you disseminate information to your peers, SOTA, or program throughout your term as a delegate.
Keep the fire burning! If you’re anything like me, attending this meeting was just the push you needed to finish the school year strong and remember just why it is that you chose to join this amazing profession! When you get back from Conference, take the time to use what you learned and apply it to your life – don’t wait! If you heard about a volunteer opportunity that’s right up your alley, apply NOW! If you can’t wait to begin crafting your campaign for next year’s ASD Steering Committee, get going on a cool slogan and platform. And if you were inspired to jump start your personal or professional development, begin organizing your applications for the various programs you learned about (i.e. the COOL Database or the Emerging Leaders Development Program).
Continue the dialogue. Just because the meeting is over doesn’t mean the conversation is! After I asked a question at the ASD Town Hall meeting earlier today, new ASD Steering Committee president Joseph Ungco found me (while I was writing this blog post, lol) and followed up with my thoughts. He asked me what I hoped to accomplish as a delegate, and encouraged me to continue talking about my ideas and passions with fellow ASD members, ASD Steering Committee members, and AOTA leaders both online and in person. His advice was fantastic, and I hope you’ll continue to talk with your classmates about what they would like to see from ASD, to contribute to social media and in-person discussions about ASD, and to add your own ideas to the mix!
I hope you have a fantastic #AOTA15 experience, and I’ll be back again soon with more info about the 2015 Assembly of Student Delegates meeting!
This post is part of my Conference Countdown series. Check out the other posts about missing classes for conference, networking, and planning your itinerary! You can also read my posts from the 2014 AOTA Conference in Baltimore HERE and HERE to learn more about the conference experience.
Last year was my first year attending an AOTA conference, and it was easily the highlight of my not-yet-started life as an OT! I went by myself as a volunteer, but I met and talked to so many cool people it was like I was there with a bunch of old friends! Still, going for the first time was a little intimidating, so I’ve written a guide for people who are going that haven’t been before and may not be sure what to do or expect!
This post includes information about:
What to wear
What to bring
How to prepare
Which events and sessions to attend
Linking conference happenings to your classroom or workplace
How to make the most of your conference experience after returning home
There’s advice for students and practitioners, and I hope you find it helpful!