Recap of my First NASPA Conference #SAGrad

Last week I had the opportunity to attend my first NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) conference in Philadelphia, PA. Although I have been to other student affairs conferences, the NASPA annual conference was a whole new experience (in the best way possible).

During the conference, I had the opportunity to connect with other professionals, to attend a number of sessions in areas of interest, and to take time for self care with some friends in the city. Attending a NASPA annual conference as a student affairs graduate student is a bit scary at first, but inevitably I learned a few things that I wanted to reflect on.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Networking and connecting to other professionals is terrifying if you have never experienced it before. During my first small NASPA Regional conference in St. Louis, MO a few years ago, I challenged myself to talk to random people at the conference. I learned that a lot of others at the conference are sometimes just as scared to step forward and make connections. Sharing your mutual awkward feelings sometimes breaks the ice as well!

Me in LOVE Park. It’s safe to say that I LOVED my first NASPA Annual Conference experience!

It’s okay not to do everything. As young professionals, we sometimes feel the need to take on everything possible at a conference. I have learned that it is completely okay to take time for self-care, sharing meals with friends, etc. at conferences instead of pushing myself to go to every possible session I can. Conferences are a time for us professionals to rest as well as to learn new things, so we always need to keep that in mind.

Go to sessions and speakers that will inspire you. During this conference, I had the opportunity to hear Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak and to attend a panel on Women AVPS and Deans. I was deeply inspired by both sessions and have a lot of words of wisdom to carry into my next few years. You don’t have to push yourself to go to sessions that will always teach you new things. Sometimes the best ones are those that reaffirm your passions and areas of interest.

Don’t be afraid to step away from your friend group. It is definitely easier to stay with close friends if you are attending a conference together. Although it is great to spend time with them, I encourage you not to build your schedule around one another. Our interests lie in different areas sometimes and we all need to do our own thing in order to get the most out of the experience. Plus if you are attending different sessions you will have different things to teach one another after the conference!

IUP SAHE Grads supporting our Department Chair, Dr. John Lowery, at the conference. We were really excited to go on stage for this picture!

Be yourself! It is important to be as genuine as possible when connecting with professionals and other grads in our field. I learned that when I allowed my quirky sense of humor to show through I ended up being more comfortable with the individuals I was connecting with. I was able to give people a few laughs while also discussing important experiences and talking about where we are from. It is possible to be your authentic self and to show professionalism at the same time.

Overall, this was an incredible experience that I will never forget! Thanks to the generosity of a professional development scholarship (and reduced grad rates) I was able to afford and take advantage of this experience. I look forward to hopefully attending another NASPA conference in the future and I challenge you to find the opportunity to do the same!



What I learned from (fully) “Showing Up”

As many other Residence Life staff members know, 9pm staff meetings and programs are a normal in our functional area. Despite the fact that this is common, I still struggle with staying awake past my bedtime (I like to be home by 10 TBH) and finding the motivation to socialize later in the evening. This was the case last Thursday for our first year buildings area meeting. I was already dragging because I had just had another staff meeting at 7pm right before. I was also exhausted because I was getting used to my 6am wake-up time for the first week of classes. Needless to say, I was dreading the thought of going to another meeting.

Despite the fact that I was dragging, my colleague friend and I decided to put together a scavenger hunt for each of the 5 first-year Residence Halls staff so they could bond with new staff members. We added a number of funny items that the students would enjoy, such as taking a photo with the mountain cat mascot statue on campus, writing a poem to their AC (since there are 3 of us that oversee first year halls), and finding something Harry Potter related.

By the time the meeting came, I told myself that I had to put on a smile and fully show-up, both physically and mentally. By forcing myself to stay positive despite my exhaustion, the meeting ended up being one of the most entertaining and engaging experiences I’ve had with my students this year. The RAs were excited about the activity and had a great time taking the photos for the challenge. We all laughed until we were crying, which is more than I’ve laughed in a long time.

The biggest lesson I learned is to go into all my meetings and events with students with as much energy and charisma as I would if it were 11am instead of 9pm. That energy ends up being contagious and the students participate if you are excited about the event. It is so easy to pull into negative thoughts during times of exhaustion, especially in our field. On days when I’m struggling with a student or something that happened on campus, my supervisor reminds me to think about the small victories. Even though they are fewer than the challenges, those moments remind me of why I love what I do. We should all be celebrating our small victories. That’s what keeps our passion for SA fully alive.



2018 Goals: A Year of Reclaiming my Time & Refocusing on Myself

“You can’t be hesitant about who you are”~Viola Davis

January is a perfect time to start over, refresh, and refocus on all the goals that you failed to complete the year before. If you know me, you know that I’m obsessed with making goals and lists. I also love the opportunity to start over with a clean slate. I love finding inspiration in new beginnings. So of course, I wanted to take a few minutes to set my resolutions as always, except with a new perspective on things:

Eat healthy and exercise for the sake of feeling goodInstead of setting weight loss goals for myself (i.e. I’m going to lose X number of pounds by this day so that I can be skinny), I’ve decided to reframe my mindset. Instead of focusing on the number of pounds I want to lose, I plan on focusing on eating healthier for the sake of my body, how gross I feel when I don’t eat healthy, and my mental health. I also want to exercise because I feel strong and have more energy instead of focusing on exercise to be better than others or because I hate my body. I love my body and who I am. I need to reframe my mindset to focus on that.

Find peace in the midst of chaos. I’ve learned that being a grad and having an assistantship are a lot sometimes in the midst of a busy social and family life. I have a tendency to keep pushing myself to work harder or to push through the chaos with the intention of resting when the stressful moments are over. The tough part about this is that this theory really doesn’t work. When one challenging assignment is over I need to start focusing on the next one. When a super busy week of on-call is over it is only a matter of weeks before I have to do it all over again. When I fall into a continuous cycle of stress and chaos, I allow everything to build up and eventually either have some form of a mild breakdown or feed into the negativity that my brain is focusing on at the moment. My goal is to make peace for myself, whether it is stepping away to take a walk or giving myself time to turn off my phone everyday. I also need to work toward forgiveness and understanding the perspectives of others before jumping to conclusions. We ALL deserve peace in our lives, regardless of all the things we have on our plates. 

Don’t fall into a negative mindset, no matter how stressed you are. It is easy for many of us to fall into a negative mindset when things go wrong or we have a lot on our plates. I have a tendency to vent a lot when I’m frustrated. Instead of venting and word vomiting negativity, I am going to focus on stepping away when I’m feeling negative and trying to either do something I enjoy or reflect on the good things in my life. Yes, things are really terrible sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that everything in my life is really, really bad. It’s crucial that I step away so that I can refocus on the good. Staying positive is the key to staying happy, energized, and living my life to the fullest. 

Don’t let grades and school consume my life. This one is definitely challenging as a student affairs grad student. We always focus on comparing our grades, exams, and projects to the other students in our cohorts. Although it’s crucial to have the support of friends and to discuss how projects went, I want to refocus so that I’m not comparing my performance and intelligence to others in the class. I’ve had so many imposter syndrome moments this semester because I’m too hard on myself. This year, I’m committing to doing my academic work to the best of my ability, growing through my personal experiences, and not beating myself up over grades. I need to be thankful for where I am in life and for this opportunity. It is also important to make sure that I am balancing my personal life and making my relationships my priority. School is important but at the end of the day, I need to also remember my support system and those who love me. I will commit to setting aside one day a week that I can spend with loved ones or take myself on an introvert date. I deserve it. School isn’t everything.

Stop saying sorry so much. I am so guilty of this and I know many of you are too.  Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and The Four Tendencies, writes about four tendencies that all human beings fit into somehow. One of the tendencies, The Obliger, is the one that I fit into. Obligers hold themselves accountable to external motivation but fail to hold themselves accountable internally. This fits into my “people pleaser” mindset where I tend to focus on doing things for others and failing to say no. This is also why I say sorry so much. Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I find myself apologizing for my actions. This year, I commit to taking a step back and only apologizing 1.) when I do something wrong and 2.) when I actually mean it. When I say sorry too much, I invalidate my feelings. My thoughts and feelings are valid. 

This year I am refocusing on unselfishly loving myself, my body, and my mind. I’ve realized that it’s easy to forget to appreciate the little things and to recenter myself. This year I am making sure that I’m a priority so that I can be a resource and support system for those around me. As I’m sure you know, I absolutely love writing about self care. When it comes to practicing it, I’ve really let it fall to the wayside this semester. This is just another reminder that it’s okay to reflect on what I need to do better, accept that I’m not perfect, and to move on from here. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! Here’s to a year of falling in deeper love with my life and the world around me. I challenge all of you to do the same.

December Things to be Thankful For #SAGrad

As I wrapped up my first semester of grad school this year, I’ve been thinking about all the good things that have happened in my life over the past few months. In the midst of grad school stress it becomes easy to fixate on the negative or anxiety-inducing things in my life, rather than the positives. Despite this, I know that I need to focus on re-centering myself & finding some peace after a long semester. I also know that I need to reframe my self-care plan to work with my grad schedule, since it is completely different from my previous life as a new professional. In order to start to find some peace after a long semester, I thought it would be good to reflect on the things I am thankful for:

  1. I survived my first semester of grad school! Although this is probably obvious, I still know how much of an accomplishment it is to have made it through my first semester. As a first generation college student, I never thought of the possibility of grad school, which is why this accomplishment means so much to me.
  2. I have an amazing support system. Grad school wouldn’t be possible without the support of my boyfriend, my family, and my friends. It is important that you surround yourself with people who build you up and take pride in your journey. Find people who lift you up no matter what. I promise it makes a difference.
  3. I managed to get enough sleep. This sounds silly, but I am legitimately super proud of myself for prioritizing sleep this semester. I began to take my sleep habits seriously after reading Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. In the book, Huffington talks about the impact that a good night’s rest makes on your life. As a grad, I really didn’t think I would be able to continue with my healthy sleep habits, but I learned that if you develop healthy habits, they will continue despite new changes to your routine.
  4. I work in a profession that I love. Although I have been faced with a million challenges and frustrating situations as a SA Grad in Residence Life, I am sincerely thankful for the opportunity to gain experience in my field. Despite the frustrations, I know that I need to focus on finding the positives and taking a step back when I’m frustrated next semester. Also taking time to be thankful for the job I have will inevitably make a greater impact on my mental health.
  5. I had the opportunity to grow as a person. Although I still have to grow a lot personally, I feel that I’ve grown more as a person and professional through my first semester. I benefitted from the challenge of balancing school, my assistantship, my relationship, friends, family, and a million other things. Challenges make us stronger as people. We just need to make time to step back and reflect on those challenges after they happen. It is also really self-affirming to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished.

This semester has definitely been a whirlwind, but I know that I am where I need to be at this point in my life. I challenge everyone to take a minute to reflect on how you’ve grown from your last few months, what you are thankful for, and what you need to improve on going forward. I know that next semester I have to reflect better on my self-care practices, specifically with my health and physical wellbeing. Here’s to an even better second semester!

Reflections of my #SAGrad Experience

Although I haven’t written a post in a while, I thought it was important to take some time after surviving half of my first semester of grad school to reflect back on some of the things I’ve learned. The journey hasn’t been easy so far (and I totally still have more presentations and papers in the next few weeks), but it’s been a good one. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned so far!

Take time for yourself.

A few weeks ago, I learned the importance of making time for myself despite my extremely busy schedule. I was doing some form of homework every day for some period of time and forgetting to take some time for myself. I ended up getting extremely stressed and frustrated with everything until I finally processed that I wasn’t making time for me. That week, I took an entire Saturday to sleep and do what I wanted without looking at homework. Taking a day (or most of a day) each week for self-care is crucial in grad school.

Stay ahead of your work at all times.

Some weeks it’s impossible to start projects more than a week in advance (because of other projects). Regardless, I try to take steps to begin work well in advance so that I don’t get behind. I always try to have things done at least one day before the class in case something comes up with my assistantship (i.e. a difficult night on call, emergency meetings). Never wait until last minute for assignments if you can help it.

Make time for friends and family.

Although it’s often a challenge with my schedule, I always try to make time for friends and family. My awesome boyfriend sits at Starbucks with me for hours while I do homework. We make time to spend with each other (even if I have to focus on academics while doing it). Fit in time for family and friends in whatever way you can. You can’t forget about your support system.

Take advantage of opportunities when they’re provided.

I make time to take advantage of professional and social opportunities when I can. Although I’m a commuter student (off-campus Assistantship site) I have decided it was important for me to connect with my cohort. I decided to join our Associates for Student Development organization as a member of the Social Event Committee and take advantage of their social and professional events. I also decided to sign up to attend MACUHO this year because I’ve never been to a housing conference before. Take advantage of as many opportunities (whether social or developmental) as you possibly can.

Enjoy the ride.

I’m learning that grad school flies by very quickly. Although the journey is difficult, I recognize the importance of stepping back and enjoying the journey. As a first-generation college student, I recognize that having the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree is an incredible gift that I can’t take for granted. Enjoy yourself during this incredible journey!

Overall, I’ve been having an awesome time in my SA grad program despite the ups and downs. The SAHE program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania is the perfect fit for me and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group of faculty and cohort members. Here’s to finishing out the semester strong!


#Wednesday Thoughts: “I am Worthy”

“You’re Imperfect, & you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love & belonging.” ~Brene Brown 

Sometimes it’s easy to let the world bring us down. To let others make us feel less than. To struggle to find your place in the world.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am worthy, I am strong, & that others will not bring me down. I remember where I came from, how far I have come since then, & where I am going.

Don’t let the world bring you down. Keep going. Remember that you are awesome. The world is waiting for you to do awesome things.


Blog Title Update!

I figured I would update the title of my blog to “A Year in the Life: Confessions of a Student Affairs Grad” (since that’s what I am now. Yay!). I hope to share a lot about my SA Grad journey, which is why I decided on the update. Thank God I chose an interchangeable blog title that I can update when I move to a new position. Enjoy! 🙂

My Friday #Self-Care Reminders

“You can’t pour from an empty cup” ~Anonymous


After a semi-busy week of chaperoning/staying overnight with a summer enrichment camp AND battling a bad cold, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care (like I always do). As a Student Affairs professional & new grad student, it becomes a challenge to focus on myself in the midst of a chaotic week. After looking forward, I realize that August is going to be a million times busier AND I will be starting grad classes on the 28th. Since I have some time to myself today, I thought it would be good to reflect on self-care while re-centering my brain.

It is not selfish to focus on myself.

I have to tell myself this every time I want to take a break or spend time reading alone. It’s a challenge to remind myself that self-care is not selfish or lazy. In a chaotic profession, it is even more crucial that we try to find more self-care time in the midst of our busy lives. Since I was so sick this week, I decided to ask for 3 hours in the morning on Wednesday to recharge & rest during sessions that I wasn’t required to attend. Taking that time was so helpful to my physical & mental health, & I felt more recharged than I had in days.

A photo from my recent beach trip. I found a lot of time to recenter myself that week.

It is not lazy to relax on my day off.

As someone who is constantly up and moving, I have to fight to tell myself that there is no harm in relaxing on my day off. This morning I slept in, made breakfast, & had numerous cups of coffee. I spent some time on social media & worked on organizing & updating my planner. I have so many things to do (i.e. oil change, returning a library book), yet I needed this time to myself this morning. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to clear our schedules for an extended period of time when we don’t have time-sensitive obligations. The “adulting” can wait for later in the day or tomorrow.

My planner helps me stay focused & on track!


Napping does not make me lazy.

I am a huge advocate for naps. A lot of people think that napping is a sign of laziness or depression, yet I find myself trying to make a few minutes of nap time in my routine schedule. Napping was crucial to my undergraduate college experience. As long as I’m showing up on-time & completing my tasks, I don’t see any harm in taking a 30 minute power nap to recharge my brain.

Schedule Self-Care Time.

Something that I’ve been doing is scheduling my self-care time. This is going to be especially crucial once classes start and the students return to campus. I find that scheduling yoga classes in advance forces me to practice self-care when I feel like I am too busy. I also make sure that I take walks every evening around the same time. When you put your self-care practices into your daily agenda, it becomes just as routine as work, class, & other tasks.

Eat Healthy & Stay Hydrated.

Something that I struggle with is staying healthy in the midst of a chaotic schedule. Working in Residence Life makes this even more challenging because there is free food everywhere. Sticking to a healthy diet & staying hydrated throughout the day not only helps me to feel better physically, but mentally as well. The more I take care of my body, the less depressed & anxious I am. I find that using a Fitbit & the Fitbit app help me to stay on track with these goals.

I try to make healthy meals & meal prep when I have the time! This ground turkey & rice noodle dinner was absolutely delicious!

Overall, self-care is a challenge for all of us. If you have the free time in your schedule, focus on you. Remember that your self-care practices (i.e. what works, what doesn’t work) is completely up to each individual person. Although it’s a challenge, it is also important to try not to allow others to hinder your self-care practices. We all have to build each other up in order to make the world a better place, so please support those around you in taking care of themselves. And of course, PLEASE take care of yourself first before taking care of others. 



Today I took some time to take a solo walk on the Johnstown Flood Trail (located near my new home). Sometimes taking time to appreciate nature & silence is all it takes when you’re having a rough week. Remember to appreciate the little things in life, find peace when you can, & focus on your self-care! And as always, keep in mind that spending time with yourself is not selfish. The world can wait while you take time to center yourself & find your peace.

Reflection: What I learned as a First-Generation College Student

As I start to approach the beginning of my graduate academic career, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect on my undergraduate experience. For a lot of students, an undergraduate education is the automatic decision immediately following high school. For those of us who are first-generation students, our college experience wasn’t a “given.” Growing up in a single-parent household, I knew what it meant to work hard for things I didn’t have, one of those being my college education.


FullSizeRender 47
(left) My mum, me (center), & my grandma (right) during my senior week at Saint Vincent College.

Being a first-generation student is a huge challenge. As a scholarship/grant student at Saint Vincent College, I got into the habit of writing tons of essays in hope of the opportunity of attending college. I had over 8 work study jobs throughout my 4 years of school in order to pay off the additional fees. I also went in with no understanding of proper study skills and had to navigate my way through trial and error a lot of times (that usually began with a lot of procrastination).

Me accepting the Ragan Poetry Award from Saint Vincent College President Br. Norman Hipps in 2012.

Regardless, I learned a lot as a first-generation student that I take into my daily work in Residence Life. Many of our students are either first-generation or come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. A lot of them have multiple jobs and scholarships. I’ve learned not to scold students for not sleeping enough, but to encourage healthier habits when they have the time. Unfortunately, with multiple jobs and excessive amounts of homework, students often don’t have the ability to go to bed as early as we would expect them to. I’ve learned to take a step back when a student is being combative or unresponsive in a conversation or situation. Everyone is going through a different struggle and some of those struggles are worse than others. I’ve also learned to “fight” for my “kids.” When I was a hall director in my previous job, I had a student who couldn’t afford to attend the institution. I tried to the best of my ability to see what other jobs we could offer and what other financial aid may be available. I even gave her food money for taking care of my cat when I was away. Fight for them when you can.

We need to look out for our students. Although it’s challenging to deal with students who are combative or student leaders who may be slacking on their responsibilities, we need to keep in mind that they are all going through struggles that may be comparable to our own. Some may be dealing with issues at home. Some may not have homes to go back to. Some may be struggling with identifying their sexual orientation or keeping up with academics or working 3 different jobs just to become the engineer they have always wanted to be. Take a step back to reflect on what your students may be going through. And overall, never forget where you came from and what you needed to do to get where you are today. Being vulnerable and empathetic will make you a stronger guide and model for your students at the end of the day.

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