A REFLECTION OF ‘WHERE YOU WORK MATTERS’
Where you work does matter and it’s a matter of what works best with you. Your beliefs, traditions, goals, and the best time of work environment that helps you thrive to your fullest potential. Little did I know or also expect that the nature of student affairs work isn’t easily transferable amongst different institutions.
While first embarking on this journey of understanding the foundations of students affairs, I initially thought that it was a process that was universal and similar at different types of institutions. I was wrong. It was my understanding that all schools knew what student affairs is about but it’s certainly not the focal point for a percentage of these institutions. For example it appears that some have to apply their role into their school that works best for the majority of the student population.
While reading, my understanding of religious institutions came full circle. Student affairs professionals at these institutions are seen and embark upon a more interpretive role. These schools don’t fall under the ruling of traditional federal regulation. Rather, these schools have an affinity for a certain religion or are funded primarily by a church. So much that the church ends up having a large influence over the experience the student is supposed to receive. So with that, the church has a large influence as to how they guide the student affairs world which in part affects a certain group within the institution. You would think student affairs would be applicable universally but in this case I think that it has to fall under the restrictions set by the religion itself. I find myself wanting to work at a religious institution to advocate for our LGBTQ+ peers but I’m also conflicted in knowing that a lot of religions don’t condone that type of behavior”. Yet I know for fact that there are students at these schools who are going through issues regarding sexual identity and orientation. Without providing these students help they are in my opinion more likely to suffer from psychological traumas that further impairs their ability to succeed in their academics and social aspects of their everyday life. So a part of me would want to work at these institutions, but a fear comes into play in regards to my intersectional background and how that is perceived in this type of school. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea to expose my ideas and work to a school where I’d essentially be fighting my way to the top.
Another moment of clarity in terms of higher education was the chapter about Community Colleges. Let’s start off by acknowledging that I once had a negative internal bias against most community colleges. I was at an ACPA conference workshop last year and I remember saying something along the lines that my purpose in doing this job was really to help curate and help students find their fullest potential in a 4 year institution and not settle for a 2 year community college. I was quickly called out by one of the participants and she questioned me by mentioning, “why can’t people find success in these community colleges”. I was stumped. I hadn’t thought of it critically. Let’s just say I was beyond embarrassed and felt shut down. I had enthralled myself in this false elite reality. These institutions provide as much potential for learning to those who seek it as compared to other 4 year institutions.
I always had a thought in my mind that community colleges were B list schools in comparison to 4 year universities/ colleges, that for some reason they “weren’t good enough”. Well why did I think this you may ask? I always knew a student who would take a credit a semester at the local community college and in my eyes it seemed like it would take years for them to acheive their academic and professional goals. Now I realize that personal anecdotes are not data therefore cannot be applied to all situations. Further requiring me to think critically about why a community college is available in the first place. This was brought up in the book describing how they felt about the perceptions many had about their respective junior/community colleges. Overall after being called out, blushing in embarrassment, and thinking about higher ed holistically. In a sense I find that community colleges provide the benefit of an education to anybody who seeks it out for their own personal academic endeavors. They’re cheap, accessible, and often times provide a stepping stone for people who might’ve been on the line about what’s next in terms of their own learning advancement. So it was a misconception I had established within my thinking from the first place that has showed. A wrong and misinformed misconception.
All in all, I’m not sure where I’ll end up after I finish grad school and maybe I won’t know for a while. So now I sit in silence, drinking my tea, thinking about what students I would like to work with next? Who knows maybe I’ll end up at a religiously affiliated institution after all.