It’s been a long 7 days since I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. Seven. Days. Wow. It feels like a month ago when I walked off that plane and into this forgotten, barren land. (The subtext of this post is me not loving Phoenix.)

We arrived here last Wednesday — by we I am of course referring to a bunch of my colleagues and I — and we’ve been taking part in NASPA’s annual conference. NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) is the largest and most highly attended student affairs organization in the states. We spent the first few days interviewing candidates for several open positions at UP and well, it was a little tedious and exhausting, but hey, we dealt.

Then we miraculously had a day off. While it was, of course, still Phoenix, two my of colleagues and I managed to finagle a vehicle and drove about an hour outside of town to a smaller, even more desolately forgotten land than Phoenix; it was a place called Torilla Flat. It was a wondrous land, full of sand, dry hillsides and all the sarsaparilla you can handle.

Honestly though, it was pretty dang fun, even despite the fact that to see anyone get shot at the old western reenactment, we had to endure 10 whole minutes of terrible, racist exposition. It was pretty rough.

Oh yeah! And we also got to pan for gold! That was a whole adventure in itself…but I’ll save that for another day.

A few hours in the car, three flakes of gold, four “rubies”, and an unhealthy amount sarsaparilla later, we were back in the land of the forgotten rain (Phoenix…again).

Later that night we went to some sort of western-themed restaurant and well, due to several previously unforeseen events, it was quite traumatic. However, I was able to successfully stomach a few bits of rattlesnake, which was a big accomplishment, or so I’m telling myself.

We spent the next few days attending sessions during the conference. For the most part, they were very informative and educational, with many takeaways and healthy practices I will use and/or ponder about how to integrate into my career in student affairs.

We’ve heard several fantastic speakers including keynote John Legend (yes that John Legend) in which he talked about this generation’s civil rights battle is going to hinge in education and those who have/don’t have access to it. We heard Lt. Dan Choi speak on what it was like coming out on national television (on the Rachel Maddow show) and getting dishonorably discharged just weeks later. And then Tuesday morning we listened to Trish Downing talk about her life as an avid athlete before and after her tragic accident which left her paralyzed from the chest down. Each one of these was inspiring in their own way, with wisdom and knowledge I will carry with me for life.

In fact, up until this week, I had almost completely forgotten just how inspiring this place can be. Not only do I get to see long lost friends and colleagues and listen to amazing speakers, but I’m surrounded by people who not only understand what I do for a living, but for the most part do it themselves as well; definitely a rare environment to be in for a student affairs professional (a career in which my own mother thought centered around having inappropriate relationships with undergrads).

So it hasn’t been all bad in Phoenix, not by a long shot in fact. While it would be (and has been) easy to focus in the negatives (missing my wife, office politics, not having time to get work done, et al), I’ve tried hard to stay positive and after looking back on this jam-packed week, by the grace of God, I think I’ve been able to do that.


Here are a few photos I’ve taken (with my iPhone) since I’ve been here…

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