SACRAO 2013 - Letters from America 3rd Feb
So, down to business.
Sunday starts with a free morning, so an opportunity to suss the locations of session rooms and to start the networking. The complex is complex if you excuse the pun. The conference is within a resort hotel on an isolated hill overlooking San Antonio, so moving out of the conference environment is impossible without prior planning.
Today will start with a 2hr session looking at how to retain 'males of color' throughout their HE student experience. I need to really get used to this term whilst in the US as BME appears not to be used. When in Rome I suppose - and to be honest as someone newish to the subject (and race relations in America), I bow to their expertise although I do wonder how the term 'men of color' would be accepted in the UK? Mind you, I'm a white middle class male - who probably needs to do thinking on the subject.
Interesting that this 2 hr session takes place even before the official opening. It's just expected that we (delegates) just 'slide into' the conference experience. Me, I like l a distinct start and finish - I need my operational parameters clearly set with a welcome and finish session.
There is also a 'first timers' event which we are encouraged to attend. We even have little green tags stuck to our name badges so everyone knows about our SACRAO virginity. But this is America, and the green tag works with fellow delegates willing you to have a positive experience. This can be taxing at first but the positiveness is very infectious. Being in such an environment demands that you talk, respond fully to questions, even replying to 'how ya doing' with a 'very well thank you'.
The first 'Key Note' follows but as yet, the subject and speaker is not known - wow, Obama? surely not!
A personal observation. The UK and US in terms of communicating, in having conversations and professional relationships with students/customers are poles apart and sometimes this colours our view of the total difference between us. The reality is that from reviewing the breakout sessions, on listening to fellow delegates, there are very few differences between us in terms of the business. Lets leave cultural differences to take their natural course. The actual work of providing services to our customers; in supplying information services and support - there is no difference. The service and information issues in the US and the same as in the UK and probably the world over - whether it be programme management systems; support to widening participation students... all the same... except our American friends really like to tell people what they are achieving (blast this British reserve).
So to end today on a positive note (as the American positivity infection is taking hold), if you ever take up the SACRAO bursary and go to the States, you can use the English accent to great effect, with fellow American delegates willing you on to talk to them cos, 'I just love the way you talk'.
(I didn't realise how much I disliked 'Country and Western' music, it's everywhere! Yesterday was Groundhog Day and tonight is the Super Bowl final which I think this a form of Rugby with shoulder pads; and televised over a too along a period (3hrs?) - a new experience for someone who isn't exactly the sporty type). I'm British, I just needed to say this!
ps. Interestingly, the speaker of the 'males of colour' and the SACRAO committee member chairing that session, both were impressed with the Uk term BME; and both indicated that they would use this term in the future.