Finding Passion (and learning that it’s okay to change your mind)

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sometimes it takes a complete “post-college crisis” to understand what you are called to do in life; sometimes you have to quit something and close the door in order to move forward, to grow, and to understand your passion. I’m saying this because I did that 2 years ago with my student teaching experience. I quit something important for the first time in my life in order to do what I love and it was the best decision I have ever made.

I have always felt called to life as an educator from a young age as I played school with my dolls and idolized my own teachers in the classroom. I knew upon entering Saint Vincent College in 2009 that I wanted to pursue Secondary English Education so that I could share my love of literature with high school students. I went through my entire 4 years of college knowing that I was called to be an educator, yet somehow deep inside, something felt off when I went into the classroom to teach. I had a very successful, happy life, yet nothing felt quite right. It was during my student teaching experience in October of 2013 when I fully understood how much I hated being a high school English teacher. I despised “teaching to the test;” matching every single thing I spoke about to a state education standard. I hated that students did not find passion in the same literature that I had loved so deeply when I was their age. I did not like the environment, and I no longer found passion in the classroom.  And so in October, I quit student teaching because I wanted to find happiness. I knew that going through one more day of student teaching would not make me any happier, and so I quit to take on projects that I loved in Student Affairs in Higher Ed.

Throughout the entire student teaching experience, I was starting to realize how much I loved being an Assistant Hall Director (which was my other job during student teaching) and sharing those learning moments with students outside of the classroom. I knew I was called to be an educator, just not in the classroom. After quitting student teaching I began to seek more opportunities at Saint Vincent and gained experience making rubrics for the Office of Student Conduct and assisting the VP of Student Affairs with compiling our Annual Report for the year. My post-grad year at Saint Vincent was an extremely difficult, yet humbling experience for me and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I worked at a Barnes & Noble part-time while fulfilling my ARHD duties and completing side projects. During that time, I decided to start applying for full-time Hall Director positions, and in July of 2014, I ended up here at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN as the Hall Director of Holy Cross Hall.

My time at Saint Mary’s has been a huge period of growth for me personally, professionally, and spiritually. I have grown so much in confidence through the incredible young women I work with here. I have learned to challenge myself to go outside of my comfort zone in order to grow. Ultimately, I have learned that I am in a position that I love and I am finally fulfilling my passion in life. Throughout my time here, I have grown to be the extraordinary, confident young woman I am called to be; I wouldn’t trade my life for any other.

I am thankful for the courage to quit something I failed to love, to accept that failure in order to grow, and to move forward into doing what I love every day. My job is challenging, but fulfilling; I am an educator who helps students to grow as individuals outside of the classroom through their real life experiences, new-found independence, and daily challenges. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to turn my life around in order to do what I love. As I reflect on this past year-and-a-half, I realize that my time here at SMC has truly been a gift;  I’ve learned to love and to accept myself for who I am in order to be a role model for the students I work with. I know that I’m in the right field, and that my next step (wherever that will be) will continue to help me to grow in confidence. I know that the future holds so many wonderful things for me (and I seriously can’t wait).

staff

The Importance of Being Young

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12


Sometimes being 23 is challenging, especially when you start a new professional job. Being 23 becomes more challenging when you work as a supervisor for 18-21-year-olds. Although being young has been a consistent challenge, I must admit that overall, I’ve found that there are a lot of benefits to being close in age to my staff members. Not many SA professionals can admit to owning The Lizzie McGuire Movie or being a 90’s child. I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m the “baby” of our professional staff as well. When some of my fellow pro staff members talk about their college or high school experiences, they will often ask “how old were you, Angela?” and I have to admit that I was in the single digits age wise. My supervisor also brought in teen magazines from her childhood and I had to admit I was in the 3rd grade when half of them were issued (who knew that Justin Timberlake was so old…).

Despite the common humor of my young age, I was challenged last week when a resident tossed the fact that I was only one year older than her back in my face. The resident was upset about a sanction I provided for her Code of Conduct hearing (lots of big Student Affairs words), and to simplify a long story, she brought my age into the equation because I was a “college student not that long ago” and could surely understand why she wouldn’t want to complete the task I assigned (which I didn’t agree with FYI).

So there is both a positive and a negative to this situation: the positive being that I am relatable to all students because we are close in age. Yes, drawing that line between friendship and supervisor has consistently been a struggle (like it is for all SA professionals at one time or another), but students appreciate knowing that I can understand where they are coming from because I’m only a few years older (for the most part anyway). The negative point is that I felt disrespected because of my age to a point. If I were older, the student may have respected my decision a bit easier (maybe) and would have accepted, rather than fought me on it.

I guess I knew that my age would always play a factor since I made the active decision to pursue employment before my MA in Student Affairs. Although I had that one challenging situation, I must admit that overall my youth has been a blessing and I’m thankful for that ability to connect and relate to the students I work with every day. I realize that I still have so much more to learn and to take from the world, so I may as well make the most of it.

Other Perks of Being 23:

  1. I can get away with traveling for Spring Break in a little over a week (woo San Francisco).
  2. It’s not weird for me to use Snapchat/I know what Snapchat is.
  3. It’s socially acceptable for me to wear yoga pants all the time (ok maybe not, but I like to tell myself this).
  4. I still get to go Grad School shopping in a few years!
  5. It’s acceptable to read young adult fiction (a lot).

An Introduction

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” –Mr. Fred Rogers


The quote above is my favorite quote of all time by one of my favorite role models. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the popular PBS children’s show, you’ve definitely missed out. Fred Rogers, a native of Latrobe, PA (home of my undergrad, St. Vincent College), served as an advocate for the importance of children’s education for decades; with his words of wisdom and brightly colored sweaters, I still find myself inspired by his mission in another way (I also love brightly colored sweaters). I like to think of the quote above when I’m experiencing those rough days where I feel like I can’t just get it right or I’m not influencing the life of a student in a way I had hoped. I like to think that even though I have these moments at times, somehow, someway, I am positively influencing the life of another person.

See: Residence Hall Director.

Hall Directors are those essential, yet sometimes forgotten members in the world of Higher Education. We’re the ones who keep the building in line by supervising your lovely Resident Assistants, planning cupcake decorating events, and having those often dreaded, yet enlightening conversations about the 10 shots of vodka you overconsumed (and then vomited everywhere in front of security) last weekend. We process a lot of paperwork-y things (see: work orders for all things broken, see: key reports for all missing keys ever) and serve as a supportive resource when you’re not comfortable in your living space or struggling with a difficult situation. Despite the challenges, lack of sleep, and assortment of chaos, we love what we do (or most of us do anyway).

In July of this past year, I accepted a full-time Residence Hall Director position at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN, a beautiful little all-women’s liberal arts institution just a mile across the street from the University of Notre Dame. I knew when I accepted the position that I would continue to grow as a leader, a Student Affairs professional, and a strong young woman. Despite the challenges, I know that I was called to this place to be a role model for my young women and to somehow grow personally within my own life. I know that I will continue to learn from my mistakes, to grow as an individual, and to continue to develop as that extraordinary young woman that I am. I like to think that with every “hello” or “goodbye,” every roommate conflict meeting, every documented alcohol incident, or professional development experience, or community program that I am somehow, someway leaving a positive part of myself with someone else. Here’s to a fabulous final semester!

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