Volunteering for CPGE Online Student Conference: A Personal Perspective
Published: February 22, 2022 by Rosa Rodriguez
[In this interview, iSchool alumna Rosa Rodriguez shares her experience and reflections as a lead volunteer working for the first Online Student Conference at the SJSU College of Professional and Global Education.]
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a first-generation Mexican college graduate who came back to school after almost 20 years. One of the proudest moments was when my daughter and I both earned our Master’s degrees last year. Having graduated with a Master’s in Library and Information Science, I am pursuing a career in outreach librarianship.
During my time at San Jose State University (SJSU), I was the founding president for the new REFORMA SJSU iSchool Student and Alumni Group (REFORMA SJSU). As the founding president, I created the group’s signature program, the Cafecito con… event series, which invited librarians and library professionals to share their work with the Spanish-speaking and Latinx communities. I also sought out collaborations with other iSchool groups for the REFORMA SJSU. We collaborated with the Society of American Archivists Student Chapter for the event Janet Weaver from the University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Women’s Archives, Mujeres Latina Project: Migration is Beautiful. We also partnered with REFORMA National for the Hispanic Heritage Month: Virtual Author Showcase where I moderated the event and interviewed the authors.
I also engaged in two leadership programs: the Leadership and Career Certificate Program (LCCP) in Spring 2021 and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) in Fall 2021. Being a part of these two programs offered opportunities to enhance my skills as a leader and connect with other students and staff. The LCCP provided resources and tools that helped me identify my strengths as well as areas that I could improve. In the process of completing the NSLS program, I met other student who were dedicated to becoming leaders. We supported one another, offered tips, and resources that might help meet our goals.
What motivated you to sign up as a volunteer for the CPGE Online Student Conference?
I was presenting at the Director’s Meeting for student organizations when Dr. Luo made an announcement asking for support for the first online CPGE Conference. As an outreach coordinator at a university library, I have experience in creating, planning, and organizing events. Having never planned a conference, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to develop new skills as well as support this new initiative. Knowing the importance of presenting at conferences as a student, I wanted to help make this conference happen so that students would have the chance to present their work.
Can you share with us what kinds of conference planning work you were involved in for the CPGE Online Student Conference?
I led the planning and judging subcommittees. The planning team organized the live sessions, invited the keynote speakers, and hosted the virtual happy hour. For the judging, the team invited the judges, provided the judging criteria, and assisted with selecting the awards. Each subcommittee had three students supporting different components and tasks of the conference planning. My responsibility was to set up meeting with the subcommittees, guide the work, and communicate with Dr. Luo on our progress. I also shared in the tasks with each subcommittee.
I was invited to host the conference’s opening and closing sessions. To prepare for this responsibility, I reached out to the keynote speakers, asking them to share a short bio. I outlined the structure for the session. It was also important for me to ensure that I had support with monitoring the conference chat for questions and sharing information about the conference website for the attendees. I had the honor to announce the awardees and acknowledge the planning committee, keynote speakers, and the judges. It was a wonderful experience.
What are your major takeaways from working as a volunteer for the CPGE Online Student Conference?
The most important takeaway is the need for everyone on the conference committee to work together. We had many students who signed up to support the conference and we were all enthusiastic being a part of the planning. As someone who has experience with event planning, I felt that having a year to plan gave everyone enough time to work on their individual tasks. It was helpful having the work divided and for each student to know what they were responsible for and when each task was due. Communication is essential. I cannot stress enough how important it was for everyone to hold themselves and each other accountable to accomplish what was needed to make the conference a success. As a leader of the subcommittees, I had to be in regular communication with each student. Although it was a long-term commitment, the experience I gained is invaluable. The skills learned from this experience can be readily applied to a librarian career. As you look for a librarian position, you can speak about the knowledge from being a part of planning, organizing, and supporting a virtual conference. The ability to work and collaborate with stakeholders speaks to your strengths in project management and communication.
You have done amazing work as a volunteer for the conference. How do you balance all the busy tasks - work, life, and school activities?
I have been in school since 2008. I returned to college after almost twenty years. I set priorities for myself. I love my job, but I also know that once my workday and weekend is here that I need to leave my work at work. Choosing to do the MLIS program part-time was the best choice for me. During my first Master’s program, I was a full-time student working on a thesis, balancing three part-time jobs, and supporting a daughter in high school. I was completely exhausted by the time I completed the program. When I enrolled in the MLIS program at SJSU, I changed my approach. While I focused on school, I sought a better balance where I could still make time for my family and for myself. When I became involved in school activities and student organizations, it was not until 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. It was certainly challenging to strike a balance with work, life, and graduate school. My partner, my children, and my grandson have been crucial to supporting me throughout the MLIS program, and I also dedicated time away from the deadlines by taking up gardening and baking.
What suggestions do you have for students who wish to be more involved in school activities?
I highly recommend that students become involved in school activities and student organizations. iSchool students can attend the Meet and Greet sessions held at the beginning of each semester to learn about all the student groups. It is an opportunity to ask questions, become a member, and seek leadership opportunities. I never considered myself a leader, but I realized that we all have knowledge and skills that can shape us into great leaders. Being a first-generation Mexican college graduate whose first language was Spanish, I have often experienced impostor syndrome. It is hard to let go of those feelings. But I also knew that I had come a long way and that I needed to continue moving forward.
Becoming involved in REFORMA SJSU, leadership programs, the CPGE Conference, Hispanic Heritage Month, and creating a virtual graduation room using Mozilla Hubs during my last year in the program have been important steps to being a leader. They have provided experiences and connections beyond what I could gain in the classroom. I hope that my story inspires students like myself, to believe in themselves, to know it is never too late to take a chance, to believe and that Si Se Puede (It can be done)!