by Kea'erra Wilson, assistant program manager, career services and next generation initiatives, ICMA
The ICMA Annual Conference is the biggest highlight of the year for many ICMA Student Chapter members. There they can take advantage of a wealth of networking and professional development opportunities among public service professionals at all career stages and peers from colleges and universities across the nation. ICMA’s Regional Conferences exist to present some of those same opportunities to members on a smaller scale and in a more intimate setting. In past years, student attendance at the regional events has paled in comparison to the ICMA Annual Conference. To expose students to the benefits of attending the ICMA Regional Conferences and to present similar growth opportunities to those who may not be able to attend the annual event in September, ICMA offered 34 student chapter members scholarships to the regional conference of their choice.
To qualify for free registration, students were required to be members of the ICMA Student Chapter Facebook Group and create a post in the group that detailed what fueled their interest in attending one of the regional events and what they expected to gain from their experience. All students that fulfilled the scholarship submission requirements before the February 28 deadline were awarded full registration scholarships.
Student participation in this year’s regional conferences took many forms. Bucoda Warren, MPA candidate at the University of Washington and 2018 Local Government Management Fellow, used the opportunity to network with managers from the state of Washington, volunteer for the planning committee for the ICMA Annual Conference in 2020, and present his capstone research on police recruitment and retention. Melissa Plageman, also of the University of Washington, reconnected with mentors from earlier in her academic career and established some new connections with mentor prospects. Reuben Ovbiebo, MPA candidate at Tennessee State University and this year’s NACA regional conference scholarship winner, solidified confidence in his choice to pursue public service as a career while attending the Southeast Regional Conference. He was also able to further develop some public speaking skills, thanks to a session on meaningful and memorable speech.
Student attendees even organized their own social events outside of conference hours. Students in the West Coast organized a dinner before the conference and made time to take advantage of activities in and around Stevenson, WA, the host city.
Overall, students were overwhelmed by their reception at conferences that they once believed were “advanced career professionals-only” or “professional-focused.” Not only were they welcomed, students were encouraged to share their own experiences and present their research, and ushered into regional networks of city managers that may have otherwise gone untapped until they became managers themselves. Shenicka Hohenkirk, of Auburn University at Montgomery, considers her time at the ICMA Southeast Regional Conference so pivotal, she recommends that all MPA students "have at least one ICMA conference experience" before graduation. Similarly, Carly Joerger, MPA candidate at the University of Washington, enjoyed her experience in “an inclusive environment for students to attend and participate” in a professional conference. She left Stevenson “feeling dedicated, energized, and supported to pursue this profession.”
Sharing Performance Management Knowledge with Students- This 2018 Blog post share some insights that students from Northern Illinois University learned about performance management.
Student Chapter Resources- This Page includes all the information need to run a student chapter.
Career Stage Guide for Students- This page gives information on all the upcoming and ongoing educational opportunities available to students