Getting Involved in NCDA: Tips for Graduate Students

by Kevin Glavin

Attend consecutive NCDA conferences, and network, network, network.
First of all, you have to be in it to win it. If you have not already done so, I would strongly encourage you to attend the NCDA annual conference .  When you arrive be prepared to network. Networking is probably the single most important activity you should engage in regardless of your profession. Unfortunately, it is also one of the toughest. It takes time, effort, and involves putting yourself "out there". It can be mentally challenging and physically exhausting. However, the rewards are always worth the effort. During the 2002 NCDA conference a lady, unbeknown to me, approached a group of colleagues I was having coffee with. Eloquently, she introduced herself stating she knew no one at the conference, and was trying to make new friends. Instantly, she made five new contacts, and gained my utmost respect. Networking involves not only introducing oneself, but also putting time and energy into developing relationships and keeping in contact over time. Bear in mind, friendships are rarely cultivated in one chance meeting, hence the importance of attending consecutive conferences. Who should you network with? Get to know the:

  • Current NCDA President
  • President elect
  • Past presidents
  • NCDA board members
  • NCDA Management Team (Led by Deneen Pennington, Executive Director)
  • NCDA Volunteer Contact
  • NCDA Career Convergence Web Magazine contact (Melanie Reinersman: webeditor@ncda.org)


NCDA also organizes a social event for graduate students and First Timers. This is an excellent opportunity to socialize with other students and meet NCDA representatives. Don't limit yourself to these ideas; networking can take place at anytime, anywhere, with anyone. Introduce yourself, you never know the hidden gifts of friendship and opportunity that await you.

Collaborate and Present
Giving a presentation at the NCDA conference is one of the best ways to become involved in the organization. Not only will you meet a host of new people, it is professional activity you can add to your resume. Unfortunately, for many students, presenting can be a somewhat daunting task. Public speaking is reportedly one of the nation's top fears. However, fear is not always a bad thing. It shows you care, and it will prompt you to prepare well.

There is a common misperception that presentations are only conducted by faculty/researchers, doctoral students and experienced practitioners. Not true, graduate students at all levels have much to offer. NCDA leaders support and encourage the participation of graduate students, and help is available via the NCDA mentoring program. In addition, you will find the contacts you make through your networking may be able to help and guide you in your professional pursuits such as writing and presenting.

In truth, it can prove very challenging to develop and present a topic on your own for the first time. This is why I encourage students to collaborate with other graduate students, faculty, or practitioners. Experienced presenters can help you develop a proposal that has a good chance of being accepted. There are a number of ways to engage in collaborative projects:

  • Ask a colleague or mentor to help you find someone to collaborate with.
  • Attend the conference , network, and indicate your desire to present at the next  conference .
  • Approach your faculty and tell them you would like to develop your presentation skills, and ask them if they will help you submit a proposal for NCDA.
  • Read NCDA publications, such as Career Convergence  or Career Developments, to find authors on topics that could result in a collaborative project.


Attending Conferences on a Budget
Conferences are not cheap. However, there are a number of opportunities students can take advantage of to reduce their costs:

      • Register early to get the "Early Bird" registration rate, or at least the Pre-Registration rate.
      • Consider staying at alternative, nearby, hotels. Use a website such as Priceline to search for cheap hotels (http://www.priceline.com)
      • Use websites such as Expedia and Orbitz to search for cheap flights (http://www.expedia.com, http://www.orbitz.com). Join their email list for airfare specials. Also, generally speaking, the earlier you book, the cheaper your flight will be.
      • Share a room with another conference attendee.


      The Action Plan
      Now that you have decided to become active in NCDA, you need a plan of action. Use the outline below to get started:


          1.Visit the NCDA web site http://www.ncda.org for news about the organization and the upcoming conference.


          2. Submit an article to the NCDA web magazine, Career Convergence.


          3.Apply for a volunteer position at the conference. .


          4.Register for the conference early to get the best rates. Use the tips outlined above to keep your costs to a minimum.


          5.Research who you want to meet and what you want to see before you arrive.


          6.Attend the Cookies and Conversation social event.


          7.Find a mentor by networking or joining a committee.


          8.Submit a proposal for the NCDA conference. Proposals will be available on the NCDA website in July, and must be submitted by September.


        9.Network, network, network. Collect business cards and distribute your own.

      Sometimes all you need is a gentle nudge in the right direction, or some words of advice and encouragement. I have come along way in a short period of time, progressing from Master's student to International presenter. None of this would have been possible without the help and support of the NCDA community. Get the ball rolling by attending your first conference, and then watch it gain speed as you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. I look forward to seeing you at an NCDA conference.

      Kevin Glavin was a doctoral student studying counselor education at Kent State University, OH. Since attending his first NCDA conference in Chicago, 2002, Kevin has presented at every conference since. In addition to presenting, Kevin has attended the NCDA conference as the delegate for Ohio, and was accepted into NCDA's first ever Leadership Academy . As a member of the Membership Committee, and the Graduate Student Representative for NCDA, Kevin is committed to increasing student participation in NCDA at both the national and state level.
      Contact, updated 2010:

      Kevin Glavin, PhD., PC
      Assistant Professor
      Center for Psychological Studies
      Nova Southeastern University

Printer-Friendly Version