I Can’t Keep Quiet Any Longer

I got a job.

Clark College's mascot, Oswald the Penguin

A few weeks ago in February, I received two interview offers on the same day. Both jobs were in the Portland/Vancouver area, one for a private institution, the other for a two-year college. That following week, I had a phone interview for the private gig, and then drove up for an in-person interview with a five-person panel for the other position.

You know that feeling you get after any type of interview where you feel like you could have, should have said something else here and there? I felt that big time.

And then it was time to play the waiting game. Both institutions said “early next week” they would come to a decision. And there was the all-too-familiar silence.

Then, one of my references called me and said, “I just wanted to let you know, I had a message from one of your potential employers asking for a reference.”

Shortly after, I was headed to Phoenix for the annual NASPA conference, armed with an elevator speech and new, personal business cards. I was ready to network and find some new leads on a job while simultaneously attending and helping out with the International Symposium and the general conference.

And then I got the phone call while I was at lunch on my first day. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised! Since I was incredibly sleep-deprived (I caught the 2AM shuttle out of Corvallis that morning), I held off on any final decisions until after the weekend. I went between moments of disbelief and moments of excitement.

I spoke to numerous professionals over the next two and a half days, as well. Each time I said that I had been offered a position at a two-year college, I was met with enthusiasm and encouragement. Seasoned professionals told me numerous times that community colleges are “where it’s at right now.” (I do have to say they were also happy to hear that I, along with some classmates, were looking at the community college route as young professionals.)

After processing and mulling, I made my decision. The job is in a city I want. It is in a functional area I want. It is at a type of institution I want. Furthermore, the people that interviewed me were passionate about what they do, and I got a very good sense that they are team-oriented.

In a nutshell, it is a position I cannot pass up at a time like this.

I start April 16th. I will be completing my final two courses over the next term, commuting down from the Portland area on Tuesdays to attend Budget & Finance and Academic Advising. I will be transitioning into my new role immediately after defending–which will be quite the task, but I am looking forward to it.

My transition from #SAgrad to #SApro is coming much quicker than I anticipated, but I am thankful. I am thankful for all I have learned and all I will learn in the future.

Here’s to moving forward!

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Almost There

It’s finals week, and I’m just about finished with all my work for the quarter. I will effectively have two more quarters–just six more months–left in my graduate school bubble career.

I have train tickets in front of me, and I’m ready to head back to the snowy side of the mountains for what will most likely be my last winter break ever. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished this term: an assessment-heavy internship at a private university, trying to find meaning in personal struggles, improving my ballet technique, reading for fun, writing more in-depth graduate school reflections on my blog/portfolio, and retooling my resume and cover letters (and submitting them to various positions). Although, so far, all I have heard back is, “No, sorry,” I am at least happy I have gotten an early start.

Fall quarter, on the fun side of things, always brings my favorite time of year. I celebrated my birthday, which was on Saturday, starting in Corvallis on Friday night and moving to Portland for the rest of the weekend. It was such a good weekend, filled with lots of fun people, good food, and a few random adventures. OMSI was on my Sunday agenda, and my “little brother” and I went and played with all the exhibits. There’s a paper airplane station that’s pretty fun. I made a basic airplane, tested it out in the mini wind tunnel, then gave it a vertical stabilizer and some winglets. I was proud of myself.

Okay, enough about being an airplane nerd. I don’t have that much to say today because I spent the majority of the day completing the write-up for my internship, as well as a reflection (which will later be posted here).

Wish me luck. Just a few more days left.

Week Five in Review

Well, seeing that Week Four basically didn’t happen, this week was full of scrambling. I have meetings to set up and assessments to develop for my internship, and I have a fairly big assignment due Tuesday. I am also leaving tomorrow for a Girls’ Weekend in Vegas.

The end of Week Five also means this term is almost over.

I feel rushed, and there’s a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something. The reality is I have lightened my load compared to last fall, and I’m probably comparing the two terms in the back of my head. I’ve delegated responsibilities much better for the student organization I oversee this time around, and the class I’m teaching has much more structure. I am in the groove with spacing out my assignments and readings, and I am definitely finding personal time.

My biggest jams are job searching and emotional health. Those are different challenges that are significant in different ways. Negotiating them into my life is difficult, but not impossible, and I am very hopeful.

Oh, also, we had a wonderful speaker in class on Tuesday. The president of a local community college came in, and he is inspiring and down-to-earth. He has a very “normal” background, involving switching majors as an undergrad a whole bunch, failing a class, and never setting out to be a college president.

He had great things to say about how higher education’s purpose (or perceived purpose) has shifted away from “How does this benefit my community?” Actually, he focused on purpose–purpose of college, personal purpose, and the like. “Purpose” is a thread woven through my SA grad experience, and it will be what guides me in my career. I am here to help others be their best by realizing their purpose and pathways.

A good week, in hindsight. More good things to come, I hope.

Week Two Thoughts

Week 2 of Year Two is finished for me, strictly speaking. I have Fridays off from work and classes this term.

I’m still not feeling like myself. I’m going in on Saturday to check my Vitamin D levels and some other statistics to see if there’s some other medical issues screwing with my mood and well-being. I have been processing overtime, and “talking it out” with a lot of people, but I just keep ending up coming full-circle in my discussions. I hope things straighten up soon; otherwise, this term will be rougher than normal.

Ballet class is going alright. It’s definitely a challenge for me, seeing that I’ve put on weight and my dance technique has never been that good. My “learning gears” are rusty, too, so it’s taking me longer than usual to pick up new combinations. I’m usually a quick learner when it comes to dance, but I’m stumbling through a few things. However, I’m glad to be getting a mental and physical work-out, and it’s really showing me that I’m going to need to find good group fitness outlets as I grow older. I am discovering the joy of Zumba currently, and I went to my first full class last night. I’m sore today (which I’m sure didn’t help my coordination in ballet), so that’s a good sign. I’m hoping I can get back down to my “entrance” weight, that is, the weight I was when I got to grad school and wasn’t constantly sick with some strange bug from the residence hall.

Class-wise, things are very good. I am in AHE 558, Organization and Administration, and this past Tuesday, we had a very good discussion surrounding “Mission, Vision, and Values.” Our first piece for this discussion was to retrieve the MMV for our alma mater, as well as the MMV for a different institution of our choosing. I searched for the appropriate documents from WWU and Wenatchee Valley College, then put the statements into a Wordle. The Wordle was a way for us to view the key concepts by seeing which words were repeated the most. For WWU, words like “Western” and “Washington” came up, naturally, but so did things like “community” and “scholarship.” For WVC, “community” was a big one, as well. The take-away from this is that both WWU and WVC are institutions which seek to serve a geographic population, and they are institutions that care about the well-being of those areas and the community members.

As the discussions progressed through the night, we were able to talk more in-depth about how current White House challenges are affecting missions for schools. The big push from the current administration is the completion rate for colleges; that is, the administration is basically pushing for schools to increase and improve the numbers of students that complete their education. Now, there is some debate over what “completion” look like for community colleges. Is it simply the number of students that graduate with an Associates or a transfer degree? Is it the number of degree completions and certifications? What about students that transfer to a four-year institution before finishing a transfer degree (and assuming these students complete their education at the four-year college)? And how does this affect community-centered, non-degree programs, like continuing education courses?

I found this portion of the discussion completely interesting, since after this summer, I have really intensified my interests in both community colleges and public four-year institutions. It’s not to say that I would not pursue opportunities with private institutions, but I think I am at more times aligned with the general missions and visions of public institutions and the community colleges. (After all, there are several private institutions on the West Coast that are dream employers.) I have to say that part of my love for public education comes from the fact that my dad was a public school employee and that I have spent my entire academic career in public institutions.

And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a pretty dang impressive academic record.

I see a lot of potential in students coming through, and there is a bit of a stigma to fight in community colleges. One of my classmates, after we were told that only 2% of philanthropic giving to higher education goes to community colleges, asked if it was because CC’s don’t have the same kind of athletic presence as four-year institutions. I shook my head “no,” stating that I think it’s more of a matter of pride. As our professor said, even students that have gone to CC’s for part of the education will claim their university or four-year as their alma mater.

I want students to recognize the value that comes from community colleges. I loved the environment when I did Running Start, and I loved my internship at WVC this summer. Fittingly, I just taught my first class of the term, which is a transfer student orientation for STEM majors. It’s my hope to not only get my students comfortable in their new home at OSU, but to also have them take pride in their educational background. Community colleges provide a type of diversity that sometimes four-year institutions don’t have. They have a very different atmosphere most of the time, and I want that to be taken as beneficial, not as “two years I spent at a ‘fake’ college.”

Anyhoo, that’s my take on things so far. It’s far past my bedtime, and I have errands to run and meetings to attend tomorrow. Until next time…

First Week

Twelve-hour day, 9AM-9PM, at school and work yesterday.

Today?
A trip to Eugene and UO. It was a beautiful day to get out of town. I figured I could set up at a coffeeshop to happily Tweet away for Student Affairs Live.

Cue me rushing into a strange library, frantically asking library administration for permission to get on the network when the coffeeshop failed me. Whoops. I did snag an “Internet Only, 15-Minute Limit” computer with the unofficial go-ahead of, “No one monitors how long students are on those stations.”

Two hassle-free hours later, disaster had been averted!

Then there was a bit of looking ’round the surrounding businesses and lunch and the search for a new backpack (my Dakine bag finally developed a gaping hole in the bottom).

And back in Corvallis I got some work done, cooked a pattypan* squash for the first time, and generally lazed about.

Tomorrow is full of appointments and one ballet class. I can handle that.

*I had no clue what this squash was called at first. I had to Google the phrase, “I have a squash shaped like a spaceship,” to figure it out.

Out of the Gate

CSSA, Year Two: it’s here.

My friend, a graduate of the program, asked me, “Do you feel wise?”

Short answer: no.

Then, how do I feel?

I feel all sorts of things. I feel more confident in my ability to plan and execute events this year. I feel great about making connections with my residents and the staff in my building. I feel hopeful about getting back into shape. I feel anxious about the job search (which I’ve already mildly begun). I feel equipped to handle my classes. I feel nervous about juggling my personal life. I feel excited about my remaining internships and projects. I feel ready to put together a portfolio.

And I feel in tune with the fact that I feel so many different things.

I was a bit high-strung today. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it seemed. A bunch of little frustrating things started happening after I woke up. Then I had to commute to Salem for my fall internship at a small, private university; I was fine until I missed a few turns and ended up being about 10 minutes late. Then there was paperwork and frustration with not remembering my address from Everett–and there was the knot in my stomach as I was forced to remember that I lived in that sketchy apartment for a year.

I made the mistake of logging on to Facebook when I got home. For some reason, today seemed to be the day to inundate my feed with engagements and wedding photos and baby updates. And while I’m happy for everyone, a part of me still hurts because I’m still waiting. This is going to be my biggest challenge this year, and I have to be patient and know that it won’t be this way forever.

I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished in the past year, though. I uprooted myself from a comfortable city and said, “I’m choosing a program that’s right for me.” I got through some very tough situations. I traveled. I even tried putting my heart back out there a few times.

I keep trying to negotiate with the universe. I’m still wondering how and why and what’s next. 

I’m still here.

264 days left. Let’s go.

Wait, What’s the Plan?

I’m halfway through my graduate program. I’m more than a year into my intentional real world deferment. I was excited to enter grad school because it was a metaphorical exit from one highway to the next. After being in school though, and puttering around the various sights on this sidetrack, I’m a teensy bit concerned about which route I’m headed towards. I had this grand vision of going anywhere I wanted after school, but now I’m not sure if that’s the best idea for me. There’s a lot of neat stuff around these parts that I would miss a lot.

I remember how sticking to a certain level of comfort drove me crazy. I wonder if swinging too far in the other direction would make me miserable yet again.

Maybe what I need is a happy medium. Maybe what I need is to pinpoint a good (and maybe new-to-me) city where I can connect with familiar faces, but that’s a place where I can jump onto a plane and fly nonstop to PDX and/or SEA. I’m no longer worried about being within driving distance of any “hub,” so that’s a step!

While dreams of working abroad or on the East Coast aren’t dashed (I’m an open book for the perfect job!), I’m thinking that a concentrated search west of the Mississippi will be my best bet. I could see myself in California, or Nevada, or Colorado for a bit. I could see myself long-term in Seattle and Portland, too, and I wonder if those are cities to revisit when I’m growing out of my restlessness.

Everything is uncertain at this point. Life has a way of kicking me to where I’m supposed to be. Who knows–what if there’s a major game-changer?

I guess the best I can do is see where this journey takes me in the next year or so. Oh goodness.