9. The Developing Professional
Competency #9 has, by far, been my favorite competency on which to reflect. The bulk of my blog posts touch on this subject in one way or another. It is only natural, since I constructed this blog to originally function as a career portfolio of my life out of college. I had no idea that I would return to school to study how to work and administer within education systems. Beyond this personal development, Competency #9 challenges me to think about who I am and my professional philosophies.
I feel lucky in that I enrolled in courses like COMM 318 – Professional Communication and COMM 498 – Ethics of Communication (which functioned as the capstone program course) while I was an undergraduate at Western Washington University. In those courses, I learned vast amounts regarding professionalism and business ethics. As a young professional, I saw these standards and ethics put into practice; I learned what was acceptable within my organization and what was acceptable within other organizations. I also learned to discuss my needs and wants, such as knowing I need to be in an environment that is, in some way, committed to the improvement of local and global communities.
When thinking about ethics, the first thing that comes to my mind is how I function in my professional capacities. It would be easy to use bribery or blackmail to get to where I want, but I believe strongly in integrity. Part of this stems from my perception of interconnectedness within communities to which I belong. Belief in karma–there’s that spirituality thread–is part of this. I do my best to do no harm, whether that means pulling my weight in group projects, refraining from gossiping, or honestly answering a student’s question with, “I cannot answer that, but I know some people who probably can.”
I believe in “assuming beneficial intent” when interacting with others. I believe in taking care of my online presence and brand, as well. As technology becomes more integrated into my life, I know that I have had to consider how others perceive the messages I send out, whether those are words, images, or any other media.
As a leader, I believe strongly in collaboration. It is much easier to work towards a goal, especially in a new environment, with allies; that usually means seeking out allies in a professional capacity, learning who is able to help and in what kind of situations. As a collaborative individual, I find myself drawn to conferences. They are an opportunity for me to connect and engage with my colleagues throughout the world, and they are a chance for me to see what kind of work is already being done and how I can further contribute. At the 2012 NASPA conference, I realized that a part of me still wants to research the Asian American/Pacific Island (AAPI) experience; as a mixed-race Filipino-American, I have personal foundations that will help me launch this portion of the journey. I am also very aware that I have the support of Oregon State University’s Dean of Student Life, as she herself has just contributed to a ground-breaking book on AAPIs in higher education. By stretching myself to embark on more research, I hope to inspire students to similarly ask themselves big questions and perhaps contribute to their disciplines, too.
I understand that someday I will have to have difficult conversations. In a supervisory role, I will have to share feedback with co-workers, and there may come a time when I have to tell someone their fit within the organization is not right. However, I know from a communication stand-point that approaching these situations with compassion and in ways that preserve their dignity (“saving face”) is highly important. While there are folks that would view this leadership style as weak or overly feminine, I do not. Is there truly anything wrong with validating human beings even in tough times?
The same goes when working with students. Students sometimes learn best when they try and fail. They learn even more when, after failing, they reflect–and then try again.
Community involvement beyond the campus is something I value highly. Why? Presently, I have a good sense of resources available to students off-campus in Corvallis. Helping students understand that learning extends beyond the classroom and beyond the campus is important, as it becomes a way for students to explore their professional and personal passions in new venues.
Giving back to community is crucial in a time where public perception of higher education seems to be deteriorating. One way to help fight back against this is to demonstrate–and not just tell–to communities how education contributes back to cities, states, and countries as a whole. If we can articulate our strengths in the same way a person articulates his or her transferable skills as assets in many different capacities, I believe our students will find more community support. I anticipate this aspect becoming central to my professional career, especially if I pursue the community college or transfer student services routes.
Going through my own “quarter-life crisis” (QLC) beginning in 2008 has challenged me to engage in more thoughtful decision-making regarding my personal and professional life. Through the help of a book by Nicholas Lore, The Pathfinder, I worked through sets of questions which helped me identify my strengths, workplace needs and wants, and other aspects I had never analyzed. Additionally, Molly Mahar’s organization, Stratejoy, provided support for me by connecting me with a community of women that were also going through transitions in their 20’s and 30’s. It was through these types of venues that I eventually figured out I was meant to be in higher education.
Now, on the cusp of my re-entry into the professional world, I continue my soul-searching, examining my fits within various functional areas and trying to make sense of how my personal life weaves into my professional goals. It also helps that Spirituality in Higher Education (AHE 599) is one of my current courses; it has challenged me to articulate my spiritual and religious beliefs, as well as helped me figure out how to prepare myself to work with students who may be questioning their meaning and purpose in the universe! Understanding my own holistic development and needs will allow me to be a more approachable and effective professional. This is especially important, too, since there are religiously-affiliated institutions that seem to speak to me in terms of their missions and values. Like I said earlier, if the right private institution comes along, I will happily join the team; I understand that my needs in an institution include supportive co-workers, opportunities to grow, and the chance to collaborate with community members.
The opportunity to hold an assistantship and multiple internships has helped me identify my passions within higher education. I was very happy to have the opportunity to work with transfer students as part of my job with the Honors College. I have always been curious about how transfer students make the transition into a new environment where they have to navigate new programs, new faculty, and new peers after spending a significant portion of their education at a different institution. Learning about Schlossberg’s transition theory alongside teaching an orientation course was especially eye-opening, too. Although there are many facets to transition, one aspect that I have locked onto is that of building community. Transfer students often need some assistance in finding new peer networks, connecting with faculty and staff, and also in finding space on- and off-campus to function as home. (Side note: Seattle University is one institution that really attends to this, as their Collegia program allocates space for students, like transfer and commuter students, to utilize.)
Additionally, I envision myself as an advocate for community college and public education, as I believe that those who want an education should be able to attain it. I am not a huge fan of elitism, and I agree with Dr. Rick Stettersen, author of Not Quite Adults, that a Toyota Corolla will get you to the same destination as a Mercedes-Benz. This attitude also means that I will grow to be an ally for students at private institutions that may feel out-of-place due to socioeconomic standings and hurtful stereotypes they have applied to themselves. Basically, I am here to advocate for the chance for all students to find a path that suits them and helps them grow and learn.
The strengths I bring to any workplace can be identified in simple terms. Words like humor, perception, intelligence, motivation, and communication fit me well, and they are words that provide the building blocks for strong relationships within an institution.
My hope as a professional is to contribute to the field in scholarly ways and administrative ways. I hope to become more involved in transfer student services research and have already identified The Association for the Study of Transfer Students as a potential association to which I hope to belong. Through this, I expect to further explore community college administration and programs to gain an understanding of how integration into local communities affects change and community dynamics. I also anticipate continuing to explore the impact of developing technology on my field and how advances can help administrators reach students. Additionally, I see this as an opportunity to study access issues in higher education, as well. To synthesize all these interest areas will most likely lead me to also study transitions and cross-sector collaboration, as I am curious about how administrators effectively prepare diverse student bodies to work in public and private, for-profit and non-profit organizations. I want to know how cross-institutional relationships impact learning and how we can continue to expand opportunities for our students.
AHE 551 – Programs and Functions was one of the very first courses I took as a graduate student. In that course, one of my assignments was to design a job description for a position I would potentially pursue in the future. I included items regarding type of institution, location, and job duties. Additionally, I created a list of my current skills, areas for growth, and a professional philosophy statement. In reviewing my document for a Study Abroad Advisor, several things become apparent. First, although I have decided to pursue advising in a more general sense, I still retain my passion for international education. (In fact, I will be bolstering my role in the IEKC by functioning as both the Technology Chair and the Marketing Coordinator for the next term of the positions.) I have broadened my functional area interests to capture my broad personal interests, as well as to accommodate current economic realities. Second, I managed to fulfill the majority of the goals I laid out for myself: (a) work in an international setting; (b) international program planning (which, due to external factors was not fully carried out–I did go through the process of finding partnerships, developing budgets, and presenting the program proposal to the study abroad board); (c) gain more in-depth advising experience; and (d) gain experience in curriculum integration. The curriculum integration piece was incredibly valuable, since I will be exploring very soon how to provide students with study abroad opportunities while maintaining an appropriate pace towards graduating. What helped me stay committed to fulfilling these goals while continuing to explore other areas of interest was evaluating my personal values and reflecting often. I have kept an open mind and sought out opportunities, networking with individuals who share common goals and interests.
All in all, I have lofty goals for myself. My dream job probably involves being a Dean or a community college president, but I have no idea where I will ultimately end up. I do know where I will begin, though–as an advisor at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. I believe the greatest thing I can do for myself at this point in time is to embrace uncertainty and enjoy the chance to continue to learn. This enthusiasm, I do know for sure, will carry over into the work I do with students, and I will work–no matter what role I am in–to help them discover their own passions for life-long learning.
National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students. (2012). About us. Retrieved from http://transferinstitute.unt.edu/content/about-us-history-national-institute-study-transfer-students