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.
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).
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.
Deciding where to begin a career in Student Affairs is often a challenge for a lot of professionals. Typically aspiring SA Pros will begin their journey by attending a post-graduate program and receiving a Master’s Degree before pursuing employment. A number of professionals, however, decide to take the road less traveled by gaining a few years of professional employment experience before pursuing a Master’s degree. This is the path I took to begin my SA Pro experience.
Beginning with employment in Student Affairs, rather than starting off with a Master’s program, is a huge challenge. Although it was a difficult road, I am so thankful that I worked before pursuing my degree. The greatest challenge was finding a position that was entry level & didn’t require my Master’s. After a lot of job searching & flying around to on-campus interviews, I finally found my first job as a Hall Director at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN.
Many may be wondering why I decided not to begin my journey with my Master’s program. Although this was a difficult decision, I knew that reaffirming my passion for Student Affairs & Residence Life was crucial for me. As a college undergrad, I thought that I was going to be a secondary English teacher until I was in the middle of my student teaching experience. Not only did I realize that I no longer had a passion for secondary education, but that I was completely miserable in the classroom. I decided then to quit my student teaching to focus on my mental health and my desire to pursue Student Affairs. This was the most difficult, yet beneficial decision I’ve ever made. By stepping away from the English classroom, I learned that although I felt called to be an educator, it was no longer inside of a classroom. I also learned that I much rather preferred working with college level students.
It was this decision that caused me to work as a Hall Director these past few years. I have not only reaffirmed my passion, but have given myself the practical experience that will help me to relate to theories and to learn new things in my Master’s classes. I am so thankful that I took that time to myself. If you are still on the fence about a career path but are considering Student Affairs, I seriously recommend that you do the following:
1. Consider working in Higher Ed before pursuing your Master’s Degree. This will give you time to make sure you are in the field you want to be in while also reaffirming the specific content area/office that you want to work with. I always knew that Residence Life was my calling, since I was an RA and an Assistant Hall Director for my undergrad institution. This will also allow you to “dabble” in other content areas and potentially work with advising, which is crucial experience to have.
2. Consider moving away to a new state/area if you do decide to work before your degree. I’ve gained so much independence from my move to Indiana these past 3 years. This has also reaffirmed that I wanted to return to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where my family/support system is. The most growth comes from finding yourself in a strange place alone & with developing a new life/support in that strange new place.
3. Talk to other professionals in the field. I know that I had the help of a number of Student Affairs friends to push me and guide me toward making the right decision for myself. Talk to people in different offices and ask what they do on a regular basis. Ask to do some job shadowing. It’s nice to have some background on some of the job options within our field.
Overall, make the decision that is best for you. If you are one of those people who needs to pursue a Master’s Degree immediately post undergrad, then go for it! If you want to test the waters first, know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so and you will NOT be behind when it comes to pursuing your degree. Know that there are other professionals in the field who have been where you are and are right there with you in your journey.
It’s easy to fall into a mindset where you struggle with self-worth, whether it’s in the workplace or your personal life. As humans, we have a tendency to get into our normal routines, we go through our daily challenges, get frustrated with mundane tasks like sitting in traffic or running to the grocery store. Often I fail to recognize the impact that I’m making in the lives of others, whether I personally know them or not. My Anxiety sometimes causes me to feel like a burden to others, like I’m almost bothering the people who love me because I’m texting them about my day. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels this way.
This year, I have also committed to completing “The 52 Lists Project” journal, by Moorea Seal, which offers a new prompt for a list every single week of the year with a follow-up reflection. This week’s prompt was simply the following: “List Your Favorite Quotes.”
After listing out a few, I finally remembered my favorite quote of all time:
“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.” -Fred Rogers
If you know me, you know that I’m the biggest Mr. Rogers fangirl ever. I absolutely love the work he has done with education & children. I love the simplicity of his inspirational quotes because in the end, he is always reminding us to love one other and be good people.
This quote is important to me personally because of my mental health struggle. By recognizing the small, relevant impacts we share with people every single day, we find value and worth in our everyday lives. This is especially relevant in my job as a Hall Director, when I often find myself confronting challenging situations and sharing challenging (and sometimes negative) conversations with students. I have to remind myself that by giving my students a space to share their concerns and have a voice, I am making a huge impact.Unfortunately, we live in a world where a lot of people find themselves silenced.
As an Empathizer (#1 Strengthsquest result), I have a tendency to connect with my students on a personal level and get emotionally invested in their stories at times. I think that honestly this is a positive, rather than a negative, because my students recognize that I am genuine in my expression of concern, I genuinely listen to them, and I genuinely care about their feelings.
At the end of the day, we need to remember how valuable we are to those around us, even if we don’t always see it. I wanted to write this post to remind everyone that you are a valuable, loved human being who has so much to contribute to this world, even though you may not see it right now. I challenge you to smile at a random stranger, initiate a conversation with a coworker you may rarely talk to, or do some other random act of kindness. You may never know how great of an impact you have on that person’s life.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you would know that it’s not fun. Ever. Panic attacks come in different forms for different things. For me personally, my panic attacks range from experiencing what I call a “perpetual brain fog” that numbs all emotion and causes me to forget a lot of things that are said to me in the moment to having a full “meltdown-esque” panic attack where I start hyperventilating and crying. It differs for all of us who live every day with anxiety.
In student affairs, we often find the need to bury personal mental health concerns because there has been the consistent belief that by having anxiety or depression, along with many other mental health conditions, we are weak and cannot help others. The same goes with introversion and extroversion. I wish I had a dollar for the number of times that someone has told me that “[I] don’t act like an introvert.” Just because I recharge by being alone does not mean that I can’t be the energetic, charismatic, and quirky leader my students need. It does not mean that I’m a socially awkward recluse, which essentially has unfortunately been the consistent perception of introverts throughout the years.
Why is it that these perceptions exist? Don’t get me wrong, the negative stigma around mental health has been slowly decreasing throughout the years, but there is still that awkwardness that comes from a conversation about mental health. Why can’t we talk about anxiety and depression like we talk about a diabetes or celiac disease? They are all things that affect our overall health and well-being. They do not define us, but surely they are a part of who we are. It also becomes frustrating when people try to tiptoe around those of us with depression and anxiety. Yes, we need to be supported as coworkers, relatives, partners, and human beings in general, but we don’t need to be coddled. For many of us, we know what our support looks like and we will ask for it when it is needed. Personally, I simply say that I need to get off-campus or leave the room when I am having a panic attack and many people respect that. That doesn’t mean that I need to walk away every single time that a conflict or stressful situation arises.
At this point, you may be asking what I’m getting at with this post. I simply ask you to reflect on how you can be open about anxiety and depression in student affairs or conversations in general. Maybe that means something simple, like having a program or doing a mental health bulletin board. For me, I have personally disclosed my depression and anxiety with a few students who have disclosed it to me. The point of the conversation was not to simply undermine their concern or to talk about myself. It was simply a gesture of solidarity. A moment to let them know that mental health is something we can talk about here and that their condition is not something to be embarrassed of because a lot of us struggle with it. It was an opportunity to give them a safe space.
I also ask you to reflect on how you can support your partners, coworkers, and family members who struggle with depression and anxiety. Simply ask them how they want to be supported. Don’t coddle them or assume that you need to text them every 5 minutes to see if they’re okay. For many of us, we have it under control. We may simply need a supportive listener or someone to check in when we walk away from a panic attack. Overall, we need to just work together to reduce the negative stigma that still exists when it comes to mental health. We need to stop judging others for their conditions and accept that we are all human beings who deserve the same respect despite the different battles we are all going through.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – BreneBrown
Building coworker relationships is not always easy, especially if you all work and live in the same place. The dynamic gets even more challenging on a 4 person HD staff at an all-female institution. I’ve gone through many years of either witnessing divided Hall Director staffs in my undergrad to experiencing them myself in my professional life. This year’s HD training, however, has been going so exceptionally well that I needed to stop and process what went right. Of course, a huge factor is that we all have similar personality types, interests, and communication styles (so many INFJ’s and blues here). Regardless, us returning staff members were very intentional about how we went about welcoming our new coworkers. Here are a few that I would like to share:
As a student affairs professional (and human being in general) I embrace that I’m a quirky, energetic person (I’m the notorious quirky cat lady on the HD staff if that puts anything into perspective for you). Don’t be afraid to show who you truly are from the beginning while maintaining that professionalism in your conversations. Your coworkers are eventually going to be around you so much that they see the real you. Why not learn how to embrace that from the beginning? Also, it will allow your coworkers to feel more comfortable about being authentic with you from the beginning.
As a product of Catholic Benedictine higher education, we were taught to strive for living the Benedictine values in our everyday lives. One that has always stuck with me is the value of hospitality. I love to make people feel welcomed, loved, and accepted. Before HD training started we coordinated an HD brunch with the new staff members so that we could chat and enjoy a meal before getting into actual training week. Reflect on how you will make your coworkers feel like a part of a family, rather than just a staff. When you build these healthy and more personal relationships from the beginning, it’s much easier to grow together professionally.
Before the new HDs even arrived to campus, my friend (the other returning HD) and myself talked through all the pro-staff issues we had the previous year and vowed that it wouldn’t happen again if we could help it. We worked hard to be more intentional with our initial conversations with the new HDs, and wanted to do more causal HD bonding from the get-go. We also talked about how important it is to discuss “pet peeves” with the other HDs early on so that we can all be more aware of one another in the work place.
Be real about the issues.
As we all know in higher education, we are constantly striving to make improvements in our departments. It’s okay to discuss the issues of previous years and things that would be great to change with your new coworkers (in a professional manner of course). As we have learned, our 2 new HDs have SO MANY incredible ideas for the future of our office, so connecting and discussing our challenges/issues was definitely a positive.
We have to recognize as SA professionals that we all come from a variety of backgrounds and student affairs experiences. It’s always good to open up conversations about what the new staff members are uncomfortable with in regards to the job, whether that is on-call situations or having difficult conversations. When we start these conversations, we can help to reiterate to them that we have their backs as a staff. We also have the opportunity to brainstorm some ways that we can help make them feel more prepared and supported in these situations (like on-call shadowing or mock conversation practice).
I challenge you all to reflect on how your will support your new coworkers. Yes, we’re not always going to be best friends and we’re going to have our moments, but it’s important to be a unified front right from the beginning. It also makes overcoming future challenges together a bit easier.
“If at first you don’t succeed…you’re normal!” –Kid President
After an unintentional 5-month blog hiatus, I’ve finally decided to write again. I guess it’s taken me this long to process through my year, to decide what I need from the upcoming year, and to finally come to terms with the fact that it’s already July (and I literally have no clue what happened to the summer).
In January of 2016 I attempted to begin my student affairs grad search. Despite my acceptance to the institution I wanted to attend, I did not get the graduate assistantship I hoped for. Essentially, I put all my eggs in one basket and made an “all or nothing” decision with this program. After a lot of processing and reflecting after my assistantship rejection, I decided that the best decision for me would be to continue a third year as a Residence Hall Director here at Saint Mary’s College while picking up my grad school search for the Fall of 2017 semester. Although rejection was difficult, I have come to realization that it was absolutely the best decision for my SA career and for myself on a personal level.
Initially, I hoped to attend the grad program because I absolutely fell in love with the city that it was in (mistake #1) . I didn’t take the time to process and reflect on the pros and cons of the institution and what it had to offer. Although Residence Life is my key focus area, the institution did not really offer other structured practicum experiences in other departments. I also did not reflect on the difficulties that a cross country move would be for me (financially and personally). Also as a Pittsburgh native, I feel more and more called to return back home each time I visit. How would I feel if I moved thousands of miles away from my family, especially my 87-year-old grandma?
Although I really enjoyed what the program had to offer and decided to put all my eggs in one basket, I have to admit that the grad assistantship rejection was a blessing for me. Here are a few of the positive things I’ve reflected on and gained from this experience:
I’ve learned that I really need to search for a program that is not quite as far from my family and friends. Yes, I understand that they will always be there to return to when I am finished with my education, but this experience has really helped me to realize where my support system lies. My family and friends are everything to me, and I truly believe that my grad school career would be much more enjoyable with them by my side.
I need to reflect on what I need from both an assistantship and practicum experience. Although I know that I want to advance in Residence Life to a Director-level position, I understand the value in exploring other areas of Student Affairs. A few areas that I would love to gain more experience from are student activities, power-based personal violence prevention work, and multicultural student services.
I need to accept this third year at Saint Mary’s as a finalization of my development here in this position. Through a lot of processing, I have determined some more of the skills that I need to build if I want to be a Director of Residence Life someday. Thankfully, I work at a small, supportive institution where my supervisor and Assistant VP of SA want to work with me on the experiences and skills that I need in order to make my dream job happen someday. I’m looking forward to developing more of these skills and experiences this year, especially co-advising our Residence Hall Association.
In closing, I want to offer some advice to some of my fellow colleagues that are starting their SA Grad search right along with me:
Make a list of what you need from your SA Grad program and what you can do without. Also look at your assistantship and potential practicum opportunities (if the institution offers them) and reflect on which ones will help you to get to that next point in your development.
Don’t be afraid to look at institutions that are close to your support system. I had a long conversation with my Assistant VP of Student Affairs about my desire to look at a program closer to my friends and family at home. I initially thought that I would be judged for wanting to move back home, but she truly commended my decision and said that we need to reflect on what is the best for us personally. If there is a phenomenal student affairs program close to home, don’t run away from it just because it’s near home.
On the opposite end, I strongly encourage you to look at living away from your home in another state for a few years, whether that is during your SA grad career or if you decide to work in higher education before grad school (like I decided to do). I have grown so much as a person by living away from family and friends in another state for the past 2 years and I definitely don’t regret that decision. I have personally gained more independence, have learned to find my niche in the community on my own, and have taken the time to realize that Pittsburgh is where I inevitably want to end up someday in the near future. I have also had the opportunity to affirm my passion for Residence Life and student affairs overall.
I would love to hear back from other SA Pros who are starting their SA grad search or for those who have already gone through their graduate careers! Hopefully I’ve sparked some reflection for those of you starting the search with me (and have reassured you that the SA grad search process isn’t easy for everyone).
Over the past few weeks, I’ve decided to start reading Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis. Girl in the Woods is the nonfiction memoir of Matis’ journey along the Pacific Coast Trail as a way to heal as a rape survivor. Although the book is sometimes graphic and disturbing, I have found so much inspiration in Matis’ account and quite honestly, I think this is a book that every student affairs professional should read.
Matis’ story begins with her first night of freshmen year at a university in Colorado. Matis recounts a disturbing scene where she meets new friends, gets high, and then finds herself victimized and raped by one of the students who came to her room. She proceeds to describe her fight with the institution, which inevitably ended in her being removed from her residence hall while her rapist proceeded to go through classes as if nothing happened. As a student affairs professional and residence life staff member, I ask myself why this was allowed to happen. More importantly, I ask myself why this happens as a result of a lot of campus sexual assaults. Although many institutions are taking measures to meet the needs of survivors while appropriately penalizing persecutors, we still find ourselves in an era where sexual assault survivors are not receiving justice for the wrongs committed against them. We are also still struggling to overcome the normalization of rape culture on our college campuses. As student affairs professionals, it is our time to do something about this violent crime that plagues our campuses. It is also important to recognize that we can also help to train our students to potentially prevent some of these situations from happening with the right tools.
As a Residence Hall Director, I will tell you that Matis’ story has reaffirmed my choice to get involved with prevention work here on our campus. Last May I was offered the opportunity to be certified as a Green Dot bystander intervention instructor. Green Dot (a program created by Green Dot, et cetera, Inc.) is a program that teaches students how to intervene in a situation known as a “red dot,” or an instance where a potentially negative situation could occur. Think of a “red dot” as that moment when your gut is telling you that something is off; for example, an intoxicated student may be leaving a party with another student with seemingly no indications of what is happening. In Green Dot, we teach our students how to intervene in these situations with a simple gesture, such as a direct comment or calling campus security to assist. As an advocate for the Green Dot program, I strongly believe that we can utilize this simple-to-implement program to change our campus cultures and to make it clear that sexual assaultwill not be tolerated on our campuses. As student affairs professionals, we need to rally behind our students with programs like this so that they are informed, prepared, and able to support their fellow students.
I challenge you to consider what you can personally do to help support our campus communities. Does your institution have a prevention program in place? If not, what would it take to implement something like Green Dot? As we often say in the Green Dot program, you only have one choice: to do something or to do nothing. There is no in between. There is no neutral ground. There is only one way to move forward.
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived”- Eleanor Roosevelt
I like to think that I’m living a happy life at this point. I am content with where I am, who I am, and what I am doing with my life. Despite my current state of contentment, I decided to pick up the New York Time bestseller The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book delves into Rubin’s decision to fulfill a year of finding happiness by experimenting with the practices recommended by scientists, philosophers, popular culture, and others. What I love about this book is that Rubin was already content with her life; she just wanted to maximize her experiences to make sure she was “living life to the fullest.” In the first section, Rubin takes advice from the great Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who established a list of virtues that would help to guide him toward his fulfillment of happiness on a daily basis. Rubin decided to create a list of “Twelve Commandments” that she would adhere to daily, and so I have decided to do the same.
The Twelve Commandments of Angela
Okay, so I definitely stole this one from Rubin. I think that it’s essential to refocus and to remember to be myself in all that I do. I need to embrace my flaws, my strengths, my quirks. I need to run with my passions and embrace my creativity. I think this is something everyone needs to keep in mind in a world that makes it easy to doubt yourself and to struggle with self-confidence. Being you is a good thing so embrace it.
Find beauty in the simple things
Recently I’ve made a personal commitment to walking at least once a day outside, rather than just working out in the gym. I’ve been embracing more early morning walks and appreciating the nature around me. The late October leaves have been incredible, especially as the sun starts to rise every day. I find so much peace when I observe and appreciate the simple beauty of our world: a heart-shaped leaf on the ground, breathing in a fresh cup of coffee, finding a moment of silence in the midst of a hectic day. Appreciating these things completely changes my attitude.
Let go, Let God
Sometimes it’s easy to think that I can control everything in life. As a type-A perfectionist, I have a tendency to overanalyze everything that crosses my path. I’ve learned that some things are out of my control and completely in God’s hands. I need to understand the value of living in the moment, being the best that I can be, and understanding patience.
I find myself saying “thank you” on a daily basis (thanks to the awesome manners I learned from my mom). Sometimes I don’t think about it as I’m saying it, which is a problem. Do I really appreciate what that person has done for me? Am I being genuine enough? And am I appreciating more of ordinary gifts that have been provided in my life? When I take time to actually think about what I am thankful for rather than just saying it (#mindfulness), I find that I am more genuinely appreciative.
Find time for reflection
I find that I am most at peace with myself and my world when I self-reflect. I have learned to evaluate my past experiences (and current ones) through reflection. These are the times when I grow the most and understand the best decisions to make. Self-awareness is something that we can all benefit from (although it doesn’t come easily) so that we can embrace our flaws, strengths, and passions.
Find time for self-care
No this is not a joke. Yes, I do know I am a Hall Director. Self-care time is essential to being a successful, healthy, happy human being. In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up with emails until midnight, to take on more projects than we can handle, and inevitably, to easily burn out. Taking time each day to read, walk, bake, or do something else for myself helps me to lower my stress, gather enough introvert time to “be social,” and to find balance. I also value getting 6-to-9 hours of sleep every night, which is sometimes impossible in the Student Affairs world. Despite this challenge, I strive for it daily. My super cool Fitbit also yells at me when I don’t sleep enough, which is really helpful.
I need to be genuine in everything I do and in everything I say. We build relationships from being genuine to others. People connect to others who legitimately care about them, share common interests, and legitimately want to talk to them. If you’re genuine in your daily life, you’re going to connect to others in a deeper way.
“Do small things with great love”
This absolutely fabulous quote from Mother Teresa is one of my favorites and I strive to live by it daily. Doing small acts of kindness can change our world. Every week I send achievement notes to residents who have been recognized by their RAs. I have had so many residents come to my office to thank me for the notes. It’s such a blessing to know that I am helping to bring a bit of joy to someone’s day.
Remember to breathe
I find it necessary to remind myself to breathe before entering a challenging situation, a difficult meeting, or answering emails at my desk. Taking a few extra seconds to collect my thoughts goes a long way.
Live with an open mind & an open heart
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I try to go into every situation with an open mind and heart so that I can fully understand where someone is coming from. Often times we will never know exactly what someone else is dealing with in life, so it’s important to embrace them and to support them no matter what the circumstances are.
Find your peace
When I was younger, my mum always taught me never to go to bed angry. I remember sitting up and talking through family arguments with her and my sister (until after midnight sometimes) so that we would be able to find our peace before falling asleep. It’s important to find peace with those you love, as well as those challenging situations with others that may be nagging you. Or if a challenging situation isn’t possible to resolve, find peace within your heart and hope that the other person finds peace within his/her heart as well.
Talk to your mom every day
I talk to my mum every day, often times 2-3 times a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re 23 or 43, talking to your mom makes everything better. If you’re not close to your mom, find your go-to confidante. It’s important to know that someone has your back at all times.
It is important to continue to better ourselves every day through personal reflection and growth. I am going to personally commit to my “Twelve Commandments of Angela” when I face a challenge or simply need to get through the day. Although it’s much easier to fall into the mundane, I find that I appreciate life so much more when I go out of my way to make the normal days extraordinary. I think this is something we can all strive for.
“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).
“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:
I can get away with traveling for Spring Break in a little over a week (woo San Francisco).
It’s not weird for me to use Snapchat/I know what Snapchat is.
It’s socially acceptable for me to wear yoga pants all the time (ok maybe not, but I like to tell myself this).
I still get to go Grad School shopping in a few years!
It’s acceptable to read young adult fiction (a lot).