“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 18
As I move into another Thanksgiving week, I am taking time to look back on what I am most thankful for this year within my job. Although many people to not respect or even understand the nature of Student Affairs in Higher Education, I can honestly say that working in my field is truly a gift.
Here are some of the things I am most thankful for as a #SAPro:
1. The ability to learn from my students
The past year-and-a-half as a Hall Director has completely changed me as a person. I know that I constantly say that I have grown personally, professionally, and spiritually from my students every day, but I sincerely mean it. I have the incredible opportunity to work with two residence halls of outstanding young women at an all-female liberal arts institution. I have had the privilege of sharing empowering conversations about feminism, faith, the future, and a number of other topics. When I first came to Saint Mary’s, I was intimidated by the fact that I was the leader and that my students looked up to me. Today I can honestly say that I am confident in my abilities as a Residence Life professional and a young woman.
2. The ability to promote self-care
Although it is typical for Student Affairs professionals to experience burnout from extensive on-call hours, challenging student conversations, and other time-consuming tasks, I am thankful to work at an institution that values self-care. In today’s society, we are often commended on the number of all-nighters we pull or how many hours we work a week. I am glad that I have learned early that these things are irrelevant when we take care of ourselves and still manage to succeed in supporting our students.
3. Knowing that I have influenced a student’s life
Often we find ourselves struggling for some affirmation that we have positively impacted our students. Yes, assessment can statistically show us the impact of our actions as SA professionals, but sometimes having a concrete conversation or a thank you note from a student means so much more. At the beginning of the semester, I was in a position where I had to have a challenging conversation with a student about her overconsumption of alcohol. I was thrilled when I started to see her showing up to all of our programs. It means a lot when a student understands that she wants to be a part of the residence hall community; it also shows me that I have somehow made a positive impact on her life.
4. It’s not weird to hand out free candy or have coloring books in my office
I don’t think this needs an explanation. My job is awesome.
5. My RA staff
I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have an incredible group of RAs. Residence Life staff members are meant to support each other throughout struggles and triumphs. I know that my staff will always have my back when I need it the most and I will always have theirs.
6. The ability to be myself
Often times professionals struggle to incorporate their creativity and personality into their work. I love that I work in a field that promotes vulnerability in daily life. I can decorate my office with my crazy student drawings and collection of door tags. I can have life chats with my students about my personal college experiences. Student Affairs is such a real profession, and I am thankful for that every day.
7. The environment and opportunity to grow
I am thankful to work in a field that promotes self-growth and reflection. I have so many opportunities provided to me, and often find myself being challenged by my supervisor and coworkers to take that extra step or to learn from that additional project. In order to grow, it is important to accept those areas that may not be the strongest. At the beginning of the year, I disclosed to my coworker and friend that I was still nervous about handling certain mental health situations. Either before or after every situation that I handled, she would sit down and walk through the process with me (without using student names). At this point, I am confident in my abilities to handle mental health situations thanks to her. A good coworker will help you to overcome your challenges and will help you to get to that next step.
I have so much to be thankful for this year. I know that I will continue to grow throughout my #SAPro journey thanks to the wonderful opportunities that I have been provided. I challenge all of you to reflect on why you love your profession as well.