At least once a day, someone will ask me what I’m studying in grad school. I always answer, “I’m currently studying student affairs administration at Lewis & Clark College.” After providing information about my degree program, I’m usually faced with a look of confusion or subtle hesitance from the person I’m talking to. In a situation like this, I usually decide whether I want to go further into explaining what my degree is or simply change the subject.
I knew I wanted to study student affairs since I was a sophomore undergraduate student due to the exposure I was given to multiple departments on campus, such as Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation, Housing and Residence Life, and Educational Support Services, along with many other departments. My long-term career aspiration is to serve as a college president where I can advocate for more affordability and accessibility for all students wanting to obtain a higher education.
More often than not, I am asked the same question: “Why student affairs?” Once this question is asked specifically, I gladly explain how much I love being involved with making a difference in a person’s life during their time as a college student. As a grad student I have worked in various functional areas, including student conduct, student activities, and leadership program development initiatives, and each experience has been more rewarding than the last one!
I truly believe student affairs is either a field that an individual stumbles upon or one that finds them. If you think about it, many folks don’t have clear aspirations to enter this field as a career option. Think back to when you were in elementary school and your teacher asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Most commonly you heard other children say they wanted to be lawyers, doctors, or the president of the United States. I’m pretty sure no one has ever heard a child say they want to be Dean of Students of a college or a University Provost when they grow up. For me to have discovered this field as a sophomore in college is an experience I’m forever grateful for, because I know the choices I have made about this field of study and career choice have had no regrets behind them.
In the classroom, I have the opportunity to learn about how to implement initiatives into a college campus that revolve around diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. This is not too common in many other fields, which is why I value the information I’m learning. There was a time one of my mentors asked me a series of questions during my time as an undergraduate student as follows:
“How do you want to make a difference?”
“Who or what are you going to fight for when you wake up in the morning?”
“How do you plan to turn your thoughts into action?
As an undergraduate, these were some pretty tough questions to answer, which is why I’m glad my mentor told me to contact them when I have an answer. As a second-year graduate student, I have developed answers for those questions and recently contacted the mentor who challenged me a few years ago.
1. How do you want to make a difference?
With each student I am able to work with, I want to make a difference by identifying the great qualities I see in them that they may not see themselves. Being able to contribute to another individual’s success will always bring me joy and fulfillment.
2. Who or what are you going to fight for when you wake up in the morning?
As a future student affairs professional, I plan to continuously advocate for more students being able to attend college without the hardship of worrying about it financially. The cost of a college education alone can be a huge deterring factor for many individuals who want to go to college, and I don’t believe that should have to be the case.
3. How do you plan to turn your thoughts into action?
I plan to turn my thoughts into action by continuing to stay current on what is going on within college campuses, connecting with as many students as possible regardless of my role or title at an institution, and effectively ensuring that all of my connections with other professionals in the field are intentional and genuine. For what I want to do, I already know I can’t do it alone, which is why I want to collaborate with as many individuals as possible in higher education so my goals, as well as theirs, are accomplished, with students benefitting from those efforts and initiatives.
I graduate from Lewis & Clark College in June of 2016. Once the goal of graduating with my master’s degree is accomplished, then the real work begins. Here’s to an awesome end of the school year!
Stay tuned next week when Kevin shares some of the top summer programs and internships for graduate students in student affairs and higher education.