Ah, NAPAHE, where do I begin? It has been my privilege to be associated with the organization for nine years and I can safely say it has been one of the best professional development moves of my life. From the e-Round Table topics which have, on more than one occasion, offered me timely options and ideas for tackling projects just then assigned by my boss, to the networking opportunities that have yielded friendships…and a lot of laughter. But the best part has been the chance to hone leadership skills alongside colleagues I respect for their dedication, persistence, creativity and determination to “get it right.”
And if that’s not enough, each year NAPAHE offers a smorgasbord of excellent conference topics for members’ growth and there are multiple ways to get involved – which is definitely the best way to make the most of the organization. I initially held back from volunteering (introvert that I am), but since jumping in with both feet, I’ve enriched my conference experience tenfold, not to mention been offered chances to stretch (with initial terror at times, yes) and enhance my personal and professional abilities. Skills such as organization, communication, public speaking, triage – all PA mainstays – have been called into play. And while I still get nervous, I now have a fully equipped PA tool belt and colleagues I can contact for trusted advice. With a NAPAHE membership well over 600 strong, THAT is a resource.
Kim H. Durr - Chief of Staff
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois
NAPAHE has been a critical component of my professional toolkit throughout my 20 years of service in the Office of the President at The College of New Jersey. Given that each institution has only one president’s or chancellor’s office, we must reach out to colleagues on other campuses to build connections. The issues we face on a daily basis may be unique to our campus, but you can rest assured that others who sit in our seats across the country are dealing with the same questions and concerns. The ability to pick up the phone or send an email to a colleague on the opposite coast prevents us from working and making decisions in isolation. NAPAHE provides the infrastructure for our network, but we bring it to life through our communication and dedication to enhancing our roles. The icing on the cake is the opportunity to come together once a year at our national conference. Spending three days immersed in professional development and networking keeps me going all year long. Not only does NAPAHE enhance my work, but through my work, makes my institution even better!
Heather M. Fehn
Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees
The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ
I became a NAPAHE member in 2008 and attended my first conference in 2009. NAPAHE membership affords me an opportunity to build relationships with my colleagues in higher education. These are the people who understand what I do and speak the same language as me. My NAPAHE membership has been an integral part of my professional growth as a Presidential Assistant. I love having the opportunity to exchange ideas with other PAs in a confidential environment; sharing stories, ideas and solutions through the e-Round Table and the annual conference. The friendships and connections I have made through NAPAHE are invaluable.
Barbara Sandoval - Senior Executive Assistant to the President
Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington
NAPAHE has made a difference in my career and at my institution. NAPAHE was my first professional conference in higher education after I transitioned from the President’s office as an Administrative Assistant to the Sr. Vice President/Provost’s office as Executive Assistant. It was in San Diego and I was alone. The first-timer orientation and evening reception gave me an opportunity to make new friends and have a few familiar faces that first morning. I met dozens of colleagues before the first round table and that set the tone for the entire conference. I still have relationships with those colleagues today, and my network has grown with each year since. My institution sees the value and our participation has grown, as well. NAPAHE has given me a network of professionals who gladly share their experience and provide guidance, support and often a laugh or two while helping me to do my job more effectively and enjoyably. I look forward to learning and growing with NAPAHE for years to come.
Presidential assistants have a unique job, and for many of us, it’s hard to find resources on our campus to inform all aspects of our work. NAPAHE has connected me to presidential assistants across the country who understand broadly our challenging and complex work, and who can give specific recommendations about making certain tasks easier or more efficient.
Each year, I look forward to the NAPAHE Conference as a chance to mentor and be mentored. I’ve garnered advice (about planning a presidential inauguration and about participating as a member of the president’s cabinet, for example) and given it (about thriving during a presidential transition and developing your own professional skills). But, most importantly, I’ve developed relationships that sustain and energize my work. And, NAPAHE continues to add value to my work over multiple years of participation.
Kathryn A. E. Enke, Ph.D.
Chief of Staff and Lead Title IX Coordinator
College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, MN
For those who are thinking of joining NAPAHE but are on the fence because they don't have the words 'PA' in their titles, NAPAHE is not just for presidential assistants. As a Dean's Assistant, I have been a NAPAHE member for four years and have attended three NAPAHE conferences. The professional development opportunities are great, and the colleagues I have met are always a resource in my pocket.
Titles are just titles. The skills you learn, the connections you make, and the advice you receive as a member of NAPAHE are relevant to any administrative role, whether it be for a Dean, a Vice President, a Provost, or the President/Chancellor.
Anne Marie Maratea, Assistant to the Dean
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The College of New Jersey
I joined the University of Central Missouri (UCM) President's Office Staff in 1999 as the Assistant to the President. At the time, I was new to higher education and had much to learn about the culture and the environment. Within months of starting my new position, the President's Executive Assistant, who was a member of NAPAHE, introduced me to the organization and encouraged me to join. I have been a member ever since that time and with the exception of 2003 when I was mobilized with my US Army Reserve unit, I have attended the annual workshop every year. Like most public institutions, UCM has continued experiencing losses in state funding over the past several years, which has required all of us to make cuts in one area or another.
Up until two years ago, I had the good fortune of attending two professional development workshops each year, but with the loss of funding, I had to make a choice of one. While both workshops were of benefit to me, the decision was a relatively easy one for me to make -- NAPAHE. I chose NAPAHE for a number of reasons. First - the E-Round Table has been a very valuable resource to me through the years. The knowledge, experience and advice that I have been able to access through my NAPAHE colleagues, has been of tremendous help and benefit not only to me, but to many others in my organization. Second, the annual workshops offer a good variety of topics and presenters to help me in my job of supporting my President and institution. And, last, the opportunity for networking that NAPAHE provides throughout the year and during the annual workshop is a priceless tool for generating new ideas, problem-solving, and establishing professional and personal friendships! It's an organization that you continually learn and grow from, no matter how long you have served as a presidential assistant.
Executive Assistant to the President,
University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO.
Having the opportunity to speak in a confidential setting among professional colleagues is a valuable resource that has paid off tenfold.
As you know, higher education is changing as rapidly as the amount of apps introduced to Apple on a daily basis, which, according to International Business Times, average about 1,000/day. How do we, as the executive support staff in colleges and universities, assist our presidents and institutions in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment without support? We don’t!
We have NAPAHE! NAPAHE is an organization consisting of individuals like yourself who come together to discuss best practices in higher education on an array of topics.
Are there times when you have questions about policies and processes on such topics as new technologies, Title IX, or presidential transitions? Are there also times when, quite honestly, you could use a life raft? If so, NAPAHE is for you! Support is always available either by phone, email or by meeting your colleagues at the annual NAPAHE National Conference in March. I encourage you to join NAPAHE and join us at the conference! You will be glad you did.
Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Board of Trustees
Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY
After arriving at my institution and slowly finding my way through the position, I began to develop a sense of loneliness. I had no colleagues who I could turn to for advice. My other cabinet colleagues could not relate to my own experiences, or the confidential nature of my work prevented me from seeking their counsel. Joining NAPAHE provided me that network for which I longed.
Attending my first conference provided me a chance to debrief challenging situations I had experienced, and in many cases learn that many others face them too, while gaining valuable insights about improving my work in the future. Even when I think I have developed a best practice, I attend a NAPAHE conference or check the e-Round Table and find ways to refine my work. Without a doubt, I am a more efficient and effective presidential assistant as a result of my relationship with NAPAHE.
Wesley R. Fugate
President, Wilson College
Former Vice President and Chief of Staff,
Secretary of the Board of Trustees
Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia