In early September, Dr. Rebecca Newgent, professor in Western Illinois University’s Department of Counselor Education, served as the chair for the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling‘s national conference. Held at the iWireless Center in downtown Moline (IL), the event drew participants from 27 states and many different institutions.
“She did an excellent job organizing the event and received rave reviews for the venue and content,” noted Lloyd Kilmer, assistant dean of the College of Education and Human Services at the WIU-QC campus.
Recently, Dr. Newgent provided an overview of how one goes about organizing such a large gathering for fellow counseling educators and counselors, all the while keeping up with the daily demands of being a university faculty member.
Q: Can you provide a little background about the AARC’s National Assessment and Research Conference?
Newgent: The Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC), a division of the American Counseling Association, is an organization of counselors, educators and other professionals that advance the counseling profession by promoting best practices in assessment, research and evaluation in counseling. The purpose of the AARC’s National Assessment and Research Conference is to advance the mission of AARC by promoting and recognizing excellence in assessment, research and evaluation in counseling. The benefits of the AARC conference include professional development, professionalization, research and knowledge, human development, public awareness and collaboration.
Professional counselors, counselor educators, researcher and educators attend. It is held annually in various cities throughout the country. This was the first time the conference was held in the Midwest, and we had attendees from 27 states and almost doubled the attendance from prior conferences.
Q: How did your chairperson position of the National Assessment and Research Conference come about?
Newgent: Each year the executive board of AARC accepts proposals from members to chair and host the next conference. With the help of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Quad Cities was selected—over major cities around the country—for the 2014 conference. We began this process approximately 14 months prior to the conference.
Q: What the benefits of chairing the conference for you as Western Illinois University professor? for your students?
Newgent: As a university professor, it was an honor to chair the conference. As chair, I was able to highlight my department and Western to my colleagues across the country. My students also benefited, in that they were exposed to national leaders; several came to classes to talk with my students about their leadership roles. Additionally, WIU had the largest number of student attendees at the conference, where they were exposed to cutting-edge information about assessment and research and also had the opportunity to meet the president-elect of the American Counseling Association, Dr. Thelma Duffey, our keynote speaker.
Q: What are the duties of the conference chair?
Newgent: In AARC, the conference chair must wear multiple hats. From the submission of the proposal to host/chair the conference through the post conference accounting, the chair is involved in every aspect. Fortunately, we have a great conference model to follow. The role was intensive for the entire 14+ month period, but fortunately I had a great committee of graduate students who made my job much easier.
Q: How do juggle those duties with your instruction and other scholarly work as a WIU faculty member?
Newgent: It was certainly not easy juggling my conference chair duties with my faculty position. It was not uncommon for me to work into the wee hours of the morning and all weekend just to make sure that I was keeping up with all of my responsibilities. Would I do it again? Ask me in a couple of years!
Q: Any other info. that you would like shared/highlighted about the conference and your work with the AARC for it?
Newgent: Personally, I love being associated with AARC. This association provides me with valuable information, tools and a network of colleagues that are leaders in the field of counseling. Over the years, I have increased my involvement with AARC. In addition to having chaired the 2014 national conference, I am the editor of Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, a national peer-reviewed journal published by SAGE in association with AARC.
Next year, AARC will celebrate its 50th birthday and the conference will be in Memphis, TN.