We have arrived at the second reflection of the year, and with that I don’t just mean for these blog posts, but total. Okay, I might be exaggerating (definitely am) but in a way reflecting to write this has helped me be more intentional about my reflections. Instead of letting my mind wander aimlessly (which by the way, inevitably leads to singing showtunes), reading the books and thinking about how what each one covers is applicable to me has helped me remain on course with my reflections. This does not mean that I have found all the answers, but it just feels more productive and I feel better after.
As I began reading, and thus reflecting on “Where you Work Matters” I started to feel a little anxious.I have known for a while that all colleges are different and that each one has its own culture. I also knew that in order to have some sort of fulfillment from my job I needed to be some place where I connected, that aligned with my values and that placed importance on things that I consider most important and dear. However, I had never gone about trying to materialize what this would look like. I had always just assumed I’d look at job descriptions and look into the mission and vision of the institution and that would be it. I never considered how the fact that there are different types of institutions might affect how student affairs departments function at each one based on type (I know, what was I thinking). Reading about the types, and the perspectives of SA pros who work in the different institutions has been a good start in thinking about where I want to end up. I think that I need to do further exploration, and hopefully that can be through experience, because while I enjoyed reading this and felt it had a lot of useful information, it did not make me feel like inclining in any particular direction. It just made me realize how many options there are out there, and I don’t think I’d be content with picking a path without further exploration that includes some experience. I mean, this is a big decision! Committing to an institution where you will spend your golden years, it’s a big a decision as marriage! (again, maybe exaggerating but you get what I’m saying).
I have already had the opportunity to start on this exploration journey, by experiencing different types of institution during my undergrad and now. My undergraduate school was more research type and bigger than Adams. There were many “branches” of student life, many resources and a lot of specialization from the professional staff. As big as my undergraduate school was, it was not very diverse so when I was doing my research on Adams I was very excited to find out it was an HSI. From being here for a couple of months already, I can see how the nature of the work and the way people relate to each other differs. I can see the benefits of working at both types of institutions, in general and for myself, and I have yet to find a something big I dislike that would make me not want to remain at an institution like Adams. I still have the rest of the year to keep learning as much as I can, and I am looking forward to it!
Reading “Beginning Your Journey” has been, for lack of a better word, a journey in and of itself. When I first got the book there was a mix of emotions happening. On one hand I was very excited to dive in and absorb all the information I could, but on the other hand I had this mini crisis where the path that I have chosen for my life felt real. For some reason, having a book called “Beginning Your Journey” in my hands gave my decision a sense of finality. I had to take some time to think about what my journey was, where was I in it and what it would look like from here. As soon as I began reading the panicky side that had surfaced began to calm down, as I discovered in the first chapter (and kept reading in later chapters as well) that concerns are common even if not everyone has the same ones, everyone has some.
There are many things that I have learned from reading this book, and some of them I feel like I have known all along but reading them in a book about starting a professional journey in student affairs just brought their importance to mind. The biggest one for me in this sense, was a common thread throughout the book: starting with yourself. I have a history of overlooking this little detail, so I appreciated that it was brought up in different chapters. I already knew self care was important since I have heard it before but reading about how it’s important for different things made me want to take a harder look at myself and actually do it. With assessments for example, it is important to assess your own work and progress. I have not done a very good job at this in the past, but as I said before, it has now been brought to mind and I will try harder to improve at this. Another common thread in the book that similarly was something I knew, but it’s been made present is relying on other people. This is something that I also have not been very good at in the past, but I realize its importance. Making connections is crucial for many aspects of our journey, from having someone that can help us navigate the career or a new environment to just having someone who can be there when you need to talk. This is the most challenging for me, being vulnerable enough to lean on others for support and trust that they will not let me fall. I recognize however, it is even more challenging and maybe not even possible to go through this journey alone and that requires some vulnerability from my part.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that I learned by reading this book was to begin thinking about each institution and even departments as their own culture. I found myself thinking more and more about this, and even though it may not be the exactly the same as immersing oneself in a new culture there are some similarities that come to mind. For example the different terminology in the two institutions I have been a part of can be compared to the different slang terms I had to learn when I first came to America. Having this lens of looking at each institution as a new culture will have certain advantages as I will be able to apply similar methods of absorbing each new culture, and more than anything it will be interesting to see how each culture is unique.
All in all this book has been a great way to get started with this year of readings. It seems like the perfect book to always have at your bedside and revisit as time goes by, I feel like it is kind of like a journal that you did not write but it has some sense of familiarity to it, it seems like something future you wrote and sent back in time for you.
P.S: Please enjoy my (poor) first attempt at a haiku in the beginning, I think I will be writing one for each post!
Growing up I had a knack for being usually well liked in my elementary school classrooms. I would blurt out random phrases, get a laugh and so on. My mum would call it charisma, I called it just being so uneven headed. I remember in Ms. Riveras 2nd grade class she announced that we would be electing a class president for the day in contribution to the ongoing U.S. election during that time. I won by a landslide, and while my goal of building a roller coaster for the school was immediately shot down, I was able to give out jelly beans to my classmates that engaged in good behavior. See, the thing is that while this small role seemed so unimportant in my development, it actually has inspired me much more looking back now. I would look on the tv and they would show the occasional video clip of a couple scraggly senators in navy suits and striped ties talk about “the economy”. Did I forget to mention they were white? While I knew I wanted to be in the government one day, there was something about who I was that seemed as a barrier to me accomplishing that goal. While hard to understand then, (Disclaimer: I don’t want to become a politician now) it was hard to see myself in this role mainly because no one who looked like me was in that role. I thought only “white men” lead and it was because of the treacherous path like systemic oppression that leads someone to feel inadequate.
While reading, it often focused on the parallel between both anglo-american cultures and what we know as historically underserved collectivist cultures. My favorite. Well, my favorite until Aunt Caro decides she needs to budge in for dinner uninvited and you have to spare your second servings. Collectivism is fun and all but presents challenges that I believe are truly generational. It talks about hospitality being big amongst Latinos and a sense of hope being something that drives them. Well it’s certainly changing. I was casually reading last week and it mentioned that when Latinos have immigrated to the U.S. their grandkids feel a lot less connected to their Latino roots meaning one loses their sense of Latinizmo. Scary. Scary because we’re caught in fighting worlds. An american world focused on “me, me, me” and a collectivist culture focused on “we, we, we”. You’ll see in my family we’re more reserved and to ourselves even though it’s expected we hug everyone we meet and say “mi casa es tu casa”. Contradictory to the cultural norms but it has become my norm regardless. It’s changing and I think it’ll continue to change and generations develop. These things that were once valued will morph into something else and will consequently turn into a faint memory.
Anyways, I feel like I’m ranting. Oh wait, I am. I screenshotted a specific picture on my phone and sent it to my family…they agreed. The book noted that some Latinos want things done immediately, no room to waste time. Also that we didn’t want to do things on a comfortable schedule. This is seen as pushy and emotional and not having good manners. While originally I was like, “this book can’t dictate my life”, this is very much true. I hate wasting time, and being slow with many things. It infuriates me but I acknowledge it’s something I need to work on. I’m not pushy because I want to overthrow someones authority, I’m pushy because I care so much about the cause I’m advocating for and want to make sure we’re moving along towards a solution. If you’re passionate about it, why do it in the first place.
While general I appreciate this book for reinforcing what it means to be a leader from a multicultural aspect. Dear white people, you can be leaders too but so can us black, American indian, and latino leaders as well. Hey the world is changing, meaning we also got to change with the times too.
When we were handed the book, Leadership and Self Deception we were given a very cautious warning. “This book can be very dangerous” was said over and over again. To an extent I thought I was going to read something regarding “why you should run away from student affairs” or a “you thought you were a great leader?…… SIKE”. Frankly that was a slightly extra way of looking at it but I think overall the book dove deeper into ourselves as “leaders” in everyday situations. Leaders are not only the people who drive a team to success or get their work done way before the deadline but someone who is constantly thinking about the future and where to go next.
How many times has it been shoved down our throats that “oh you’re such a great leader!” and felt like a boost in our ego has incurred. We held our heads high and walked in triumph. Why? Well because it’s well deserved. I think that’s the real danger in leadership, it’s constantly telling people they’re awesome, and while they might be sometimes it can go a little way too into their heads. The feeling of invincibility is sure to be felt and no feat is even a feat to begin with. This get’s complicated real quick….
The book touched on self deception; a term essentially used to justify us getting our way, no matter what. We all have a moral compass right? It seems that sometimes people use it more than others, and it’s harder to justify when people spill their beer on us at the baseball game or when someone cuts us off on the highway. Sometimes I’ve found myself in situations where I try to skew someone’s decision to fall into my ideal situation, it would make things 100% easier if the person just agreed with us. When they don’t, we get upset when it doesn’t go our way. Yet we’re the only ones aware of this. Why are we upset? Is it because we thought we had the almighty answer and someone didn’t agree. We got to let go of our pride because what’s it worth to always be upset that things didn’t go our way.
Collusion also spoke to me. Over my years of working I’ve encountered people who’ve I’ve adored working with and some who I dreaded seeing every so often. When a person crosses us in a negative light, we see them as the worst person possible. Everything they do is terrible, and the misconception of “they’re probably just as terrible everywhere else too”. So at this point we hold a deep negative perception of this person and we use everything they do or say against them to fit in our perception of being a bad person. If they did something that wasn’t questionable or even out of bounds, we have a tendency to find reasons that don’t exist to back up this behavior.
Overall at the end of the day, we all got to realize we’re just another human on an earth filled with a lot of other complex humans and seeing them as so. Putting ourselves in a humbling sense of self is crucial before we implode down a hole of “What ifs” and “this person is just trying to get at me”. Chill.
Throughout my undergrad, I had multiple opportunities to sit in on interviews for different professional positions on campus. After reading this book, I feel a little naive because I did not fully realize what went into selecting a university to work at. I have had quite a few friends apply for different jobs but not once did I ever have a conversation with them regarding the type of university or college it was. What I gathered from these soon to be Student Affairs professionals was that finding a job was extremely hard so they would take what they got. I find myself questioning that thought process and wanting to challenge myself by digging deeper into the schools history and what their mission and vision are.
After reading through the chapters, I would stray away from working at a Religiously Affiliated Institution. I attended a private school my whole life until I went to college, so the fact that this schools are religion based is not the main reason why I would not want to work at a religiously affiliated institution. Before reading this book, I had my personal reasons as to why I would not want to work at that type of institute, which includes but not limited to the lack of bureaucracy. A past advisor of mine had switched to a private university and ended up returning back to my alma mater because of the lack of control and rules. She specifically was working with their Greek Life and found the students had lack of respect for her role as an advisor. That was her personal experience but the book gives another great example of this lack of bureaucracy.
“…I have come from a public institution into a private institution. The public institution hat I came from was very highly bureaucratic, which was extreme. This one seeme to be at the opposite extreme because we are so decentralized and sometimes I think there has got to be balance in everything. So there is not a lot od red tape but that causes confusion sometimes because there are no rules.”
I think that if after I pursue my masters in Student Affairs and Higher Education I would be open to a couple options regarding the type of university I would work for. I think people don’t give Community Colleges enough recognition and the book does a good job of describing what they are: The Producers. I think that no only refers to their students but also the professional staff. I found it disappointing that those who work at Community College mentioned that there was a stereotype that they were viewed as second-class citizen education. Another comment was made that “… universities are in the limelight. It’s more prestigious to be at a university opposed to a community college.” What I found intriguing and interesting was that professionals from Community Colleges said they were very student service focused. I also liked the idea of working with a wide population. One professional said “I have two types of clients. One is the 18-22 year old, out of high school, needing a little help in making choice as far as their major and colleges nad professional areas. The other type is the 25-85 year old adult. They really need to know how to work or at least begin to develop some knowledge of working…” I think this type of college would be a unique experience and a challenge in itself because I wouldn’t be working with the normal student.
The Comprehensive Colleges and Universities are what really stood out to me. One reason being because they consider themselves to by a hybrid: they mix the traditional focus of liberal arts education with the research focus of a campus that offers graduate education. Professionals at comprehensive institutions serve specific functions but the nature of the campus enables them to work extensively in other functional areas thereby requiring them to view issues from a multitude of perspectives. One of the mission statements was described as general but what I found amazing was that the campus offers liberal arts and professional training; it serves day students, evening students, full-time students, part-time students, those from groups who have always pursued higher education and those from groups who have not. Comprehensive colleges and universities provide a solid liberal education at the undergraduate level and also offer advanced professional degrees. From a professional point of view, I appreciated the fact that there are these separate offices with specific focuses but that doesn’t hold professional staff back from getting involved and delving deeper in a different office. The opportunity to learn and network at the university is something I value.
There were many parts of this book that caught my attention and made me reflect on my past but also on the future. The first couple of pages in Beginning Your Journey took me back to my undergrad days, specifically my sophomore and junior year. I changed my major a total of four times before truly realizing what I want to do with my life. “New professionals are pleasantly surprised to find that the experiences they loved as undergraduates can be turned into a full-time job.” Once I got involved with different organizations, I had the opportunity to work with people who sparked an interest in Student Affairs. Watching current Student Affairs professionals showed me the passion and desire behind the jobs that they did. The struggle of students in college that was mentioned at the beginning of the book also stood out to me. I know that my college career had struggles but it was also a pivotal chapter in my life. If it wasn’t for the SA professionals who pushed me and guided me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. After my experience with these SA professionals, I realized that I wanted to work future college students to help them through their struggle, help them find their passion in life and be that guidance that I received that made my experience amazing.
The Assessment chapter really stood out to me when I was skimming through the book. In our world today, the SA isn’t always seen as important as academic part of college. Assessment is important for my many reasons; one being that it helps with the student’s growth. As we prepared for the SLC Retreat, I was struggling on how we would be able to see student grow through assessment. It is natural to watch students and understand where they started out and then explain how they have grown since the beginning. When the PAs worked on the assessment, I was hoping that it would actually give us some answers based on the growth at the student life center retreat. I hope the PAs can sit down soon to look through the pre and post. Assessment can also be used to help student leaders grow through allowing them to analyze assessment results. This skill allows them to help make decisions, which allows the student leader to gain a deeper meaning and purpose to what the organization and staff want to accomplish. The strategic plan part of the book stood out to me due to my newly acquired knowledge through the AS&F plan. I appreciate the time and effort that was also put into the ASU 2020 plan because it sets a great guideline for the faculty and staff on campus
Beginning your Journey: A Guide for New Professionals in Student Affairs tackles the current issues that faculty face as they enter the profession. It acts a s a great guide for students who are transitioning into the work force. The personal stories that were included made it easier to connect with the topic and apply it to my everyday life.
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.