Monday, November 18, 2013

West Coast Regional Conference Recap

The West Coast Consortium of Academic Support Professionals (WCCASP) held their second regional conference last week in beautiful San Diego.  A huge thanks to Emily Scivoletto and Kiyana Kiel for hosting the event at the University of San Diego School of Law.  The conference was an immense success.

The morning started off with an in depth look at the state of legal education presented by Emily Scivoletto.  The presentation touched upon many of the issues each of us are facing at our institutions- fewer applications, declining LSATS, and limited resources.  The discussion that followed was robust and could have easily filled the entire day. 

Next, our fabulous keynote speaker Pavel Wonsowicz (UCLA), spoke about how we are "Academic Support Artisans."  We are in the trenches with the students and we are extremely valuable to our institutions (whether our schools realize it or not).  I loved his reference to the verse, "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  As noted, we are teaching our students to "fish" by using many different teaching methods.  Whether we are working with individuals or groups; linked to a course or not; mandatory programs or voluntary; we all are on the front lines at our institutions.  Crafting programs that take into account learner profiles and institutional missions is one way we color our institution's canvas and the lives of our students.

One of WCCASP's missions is to provide support and resources to individuals in ASP interested in pursuing scholarly endeavors.  This year we were honored to have Sara Berman (Whittier) share her writing and publishing experiences.  Her most recent book PASS THE BAR EXAM: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO REACHING ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS was published by the American Bar Association this year.  She brought her wisdom and insights to WCCASP by detailing the publication process from start to finish.   

We were also honored to have three ASPers present their works in progress.  Courtney Lee (Pacific McGeorge), Lisa Blasser (Western State), and Kevin Sherrill (La Verne) gave paper presentations on various topics related to legal education and Academic Support.  The importance of our work as Academic Support Professionals rippled throughout each of these presentations.  Stayed tuned for publication dates...

After a lunch discussion on crafting personal goals, objectives, and a board of directors (post forthcoming), the day ended with three presentations aimed at helping ASPers infuse critical reflection, visuals, and grammar into our programs.  DeShun Harris (UNLV) discussed how we can use critical reflection to improve ASP program materials.  Susan Smith Bakhshian (Loyola) discussed how we can use visuals to teach outlining and essay writing.  And, Harjit Sull (Thomas Jefferson) presented a grammar bootcamp for law students.  These practical presentations provided inspiration and useful tools for all of the participants.

The day was full of camaraderie that many of us do not often experience at our institutions.  If you have not participated in a regional conference, I encourage you to do so.  Consider submitting a proposal for a presentation or simply attend- either way it is a beneficial experience.  As one participant stated in their evaluation, "This is first conference I have attended in a long time where I learned something new from every presentation and I did not get bored."  Enough said.

Lisa Young

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