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Siân Stronach Blogs from SACRAO…USA

All I could plan for my visit to SACRAO 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia, near Washington DC, was done and the reality dawned on me that my first trip to the US of A would be to represent SROC, after just 18 months on the organising committee. I was excited and nervous, but mostly excited.

Each year, a delegation of three (one SROC committee member and two SROC attendees from the year before) are given the opportunity to attend SACRAO with a bursary that easily covers the cost of every aspect of your trip. This year, our attendees were Jenni Nock from University of Worcester and Joanna Gilbert from University of Leeds.

It was a fascinating experience to share best practise with experts in Academic Registry and Admissions from across the Atlantic. Whilst it’s clear that the systems are different, the passion and determination to succeed and provide a seamless colleague and student experience, in the same way as we do at SROC, is very much evident.

The scale of the event is impressive. With around 500 attendees, the need to utilise a conference centre meant that it was comfortable and convenient, but you lose a little bit of the personality that each hosting institution provides at SROC. What wasn’t lacking was the hospitality and friendliness shown by the SACRAO organisers and attendees. It was a remarkable experience.

I signed up to attend talks and presentations that focussed mainly on Professional Development. The sessions, with intriguing names, were Progress with Mayhem, Work-Life Balance, Goal Setting (Digging for goals, not gold!), Employee Engagement and Culture Shaping, Surviving the Campus Hunger Games and Building Your Personal Brand.

When I was picking which sessions to attend, I went into it with the mind-set of choosing based on the role I want to progress to, rather than the job I currently do. The highlight for me was Goal Setting, which was hosted by Jana Hayes of Rhodes College. She shared her personal experience of being overweight and trapped in a role she didn’t enjoy. Jana set goals and took control. She began running and saw the benefits in time, and went on to run half-marathons. She set career goals and became an Associate Registrar. The sentence that has inspired me most is ‘Life has no remote; get up and change it yourself!

I also got to push myself from my comfort zone that little bit more by presenting to a group that had come to listen to a presentation called Student Administration Processes in the United Kingdom to a group, sharing the stage with Jenni Nock and Joanna Gilbert.

The conference runs from Sunday to Wednesday, and despite a full schedule of plenaries, workshops and exhibitor events, there is also time to get out and explore.

So if you have considered applying for the bursary in the past and then changed your mind, why not seize the opportunity next time; you won’t be disappointed.

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