2019 CASCO Conference: June 17-19, Brunswick, ME

If you work with guiding underrepresented and first-generation college students along the path to college preparedness, admission, and enrollment success, this conference is for you.


The CASCO Conference at Bowdoin College unites and empowers professionals from high schools, community organizations, and college admissions, financial aid, and student affairs* in building solid pathways for student success.


*Conference currently focuses on methodology and resources within residential liberal arts colleges and universities.


For general inquiries, please feel free to contact Justin Fahey, associate dean of admissions, at or join our mailing list.



Register now for the 2019 CASCO Conference. The registration fee is $225.


Learn more about opportunities for funding assistance (with generous support from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation). Please note that all funding assistance has been assigned and is no longer available.

A Case for Competency Development

by Nancy Hunter Denney

Going to college was a game changer.  This is where I learned just how much it was I still didn’t know.  This is where I messed up, made up and moved on.  College represented a place to “find myself” while growing as a human being.  A liberal arts education stood on its own merits.  I was free to choose a major based upon my unraveling interests, change majors five times and figure it out as I went along.  A college degree would guarantee a host of career options and success.

If that jog down memory lane resonated with you, you are most likely from the Gen X, Baby Boomer or beyond generations.  Fast forward to today.  Generation Z students question whether a college degree is even necessary; is it worth the cost?  Are they better off than if they didn’t have a degree or the enormous accompanying debt?  Will they do better in the workforce? 

After almost 40 years in higher education, I humbly answer “No.”  There is a reality to be reckoned with; let’s focus on what matters most.  Specifically, what are you doing in your work with students (and colleagues) that is truly preparing them to be successful in their work environments and careers?  Are they properly equipped?

The more you know about today’s students, the more you recognize the need to encourage their exploration of self, provide candid feedback, teach problem-solving strategies and encourage initiative.  Each of these represent a leadership competency as defined by Dr. Corey Seemiller in the Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook (Jossey-Bass).  By using actual “competency language” and familiarizing yourself with the competencies Dr. Seemiller’s research notes as the most important to today’s employers, you provide yourself with the knowledge, language and content from which to program and train.

According to Seemiller, a competency is a “cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge, understandings, and skills that enable a person (or an organization) to act professionally and effectively in their jobs.”  Because they are used in interviews, promotion considerations, evaluations and position placement by approximately 85% of employers, referencing a particular competency proficiency or deficiency with the accompanying “evidence” or “proof” is significantly more beneficial than “job well done.” In other words, you offer up specific observations suggesting the need for growth of a particular competency or you identify signs that growth has occured.

Not only is the incorporation of competency language valuable, Seemiller notes the use of competencies for your program development, inventory efforts, program transparency, and program assessment.  In addition, it provides a common language for strategic planning and can be used to promote programs by making a connection to career readiness.

Another application is the use of competencies as a guide for your leadership programming.  From one-day conference formats to workshop series, by selecting the most relevant competencies for your particular population, you can identify or create programs that develop the understanding, knowledge and skills around a particular competency or group of competencies.  In other words, the competency drives the program selection. 

With the assistance of leadership practitioners and researchers (including Dr. Seemiller) I created the Lead365 National Conference held in Orlando.  This annual conference is for undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals dedicated to the development of collegiate leaders.  The undergraduate curriculum offerings, learning outcomes and general sessions are completely linked to specific competencies.  The professional and graduate student track focuses on innovative program designs, and the application of current leadership research.  In addition, electronic credentials are available through the SLC Badging program.

What can you do to incorporate competencies into your work?  How can you alter your language to include “competency speak” more often?  A wonderful resource to get you started is where you can find free assessment tools, inventories and more ideas on the application of Dr. Seemiller’s work.

College needs to be a game changer where we honor the true and never changing role of the educator; to teach students just how much it is they still don’t know while preparing them to be productive and contributing members of society.  Our own proficiency at the competencies of self-awareness, providing feedback, problem-solving and taking initiative, for example, will either help or hurt those we serve to learn these same skills.  What did your college experience teach you?

About the Author

Nancy Hunter Denney is a nationally recognized keynote speaker, author, and educator dedicated to empowering others to maximize their personal influence, inspire others and seek happiness. She seeks to encourage a personal sense of responsibility (and obligation) for serving a greater social good by sharing strategies for enhanced engagement in one’s work place, areas of study, organizations, communities and relationships.

Learning About Yourself

             As student affairs practitioners, we are constantly thinking about how to improve the experiences of students. We might even find ourselves asking questions like, how do we get on the same level of students? Or, what resources can we use to help students in their educational endeavors? Both questions are important in meeting students where they are developmentally and allowing them to see personal growth as learners who can find success in their educational career. However, while we should remain focused on the experiences of students there is a need to also identify and pursue opportunities for our own growth and development.

             Doing so will give us more skillsets and experiences to utilize in dialogues with students transforming us into stronger practitioners. This is possible through getting to know the variety of strengths we possess and our personality type. Having attended numerous training and workshop sessions in the past I was given the opportunity to identify some strengths I have. One of these being my need to learn and continuously improve. Finding this out about myself made sense since I enjoy new challenges and the actual process of learning. Helping students to formulate their own techniques and ways of learning is one reason that I became interested in higher education.

            Another aspect that I learned about myself was my sense of responsibility as it applies to serving student populations. I find myself brainstorming new ways to help students connect more with their campus environment whether it be in a small or large way. In the past when I have seen a student who is having a hard time making their campus community their own I have provided guidance. Sometimes students benefit from having a conversation about what student organizations they can be involved with to give them a sense of belonging. During these conversations, I have found it helps the student to give them a variety of options to participate in.

            Taking the initiative to become more familiar with those strengths I possess has aided me in helping students grow into engaged learners. Nonetheless, while becoming more knowledgeable about my strengths I know there are other areas that could be focused on. Understanding your personality and how it contributes to your environment is also crucial when working with students. If you are more introverted like I am as opposed to extroverted this can also aid you in developing methods for working with students. I have realized that this also gives me perspective when helping students who identify as being introverted. Reflecting on my undergraduate experience it was hard for me to initially participate as I was hesitant about putting myself out there. Each day I worked on becoming more comfortable with my environment and continuously working to get others to know and understand the true me. Being able to relate my process to a student’s experiences allowed me to show them that it is possible you just need to go at your own pace.

            This goes to show that being more in tune with your strengths and personality can serve you and those students who you are working with well. Practitioners should be working to use their own background and knowledge to relate to a student’s experience. In this way, they will be more equipped to help them develop into the type of engaged learners they want to work to become.

About the Author

Benjamin W. Bucklin, M.Ed.

Ben is currently working with Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Maine and Colby College in Waterville, Maine on a variety of projects around student life. He is always looking for new ways to get involved with the field of higher education and in his spare time enjoys volunteering within his community.

NECPA Summit 2019

Our 2nd Annual NECPA Summit will be Thursday, May 16th at University of Rhode Island (URI), in collaboration with URI’s Division of Student Affairs.

Social Justice in Higher Education

At New England College Personnel Association, we are focused on student development across all functional areas and professional levels. In partnership with our parent association, ACPA – College Student Educators International, we strive to promote social justice education and educate higher education students and professionals on anti-oppressive, liberatory, and critical frameworks.

This year’s Summit encompasses a focus on this mission of providing professional development around social justice education. Join us from 9-4:30 on May 16, 2019 at the University of Rhode Island at the 2019 Annual Summit, where speakers will focus on topics related to the need for equity and unity within all groups in higher education.

More information, including details on our Keynote Speaker and registration costs is available on the event webpage.