Well, folks, that’s it.

I am Ardith L. Feroglia, Ed.M.

I spent the weekend in Corvallis, celebrating with family, friends, and fellow graduates.The theme of the weekend was not just accomplishment, but love and joy and inspiration.

Our faculty speakers, Mamta and Jeff, relayed stories of small moments in time that made lasting impacts. All of us lead lives like that, with the most inconsequential actions leading to greater change and effect. How different things would have been, for example, if I had delayed pursuing grad school by even one year. Later, my good friend, Steven, addressed the cohort as our class speaker, reminding us that although we will be inevitably separated by distance, we–the CSSA Class of 2012–will carry lasting memories of each other. And Dr. Larry Roper–just Larry to us–gave an impromptu send-off, telling us he knew the profession “would be cared for.” It meant a lot to hear these words and stories from people I admire and have the privilege of working with. They are fantastic reminders of why this field has called me to do my best work.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the entire graduating class the next day, a very sunny and slightly windy Sunday. She spoke of leading a rich life, a life in which success is defined on our terms–not the ideas of others or the amount of zeroes before the decimal on our paycheck. She spoke of cherishing family and friends, and she spoke of filling one’s home not with possessions, but with love. Hearing the First Lady relay her story of humble beginnings and giving up the lucrative law firm job to help people again reminded me that what I do is for the greater good. I want to change the world by positively affecting others and by challenging myself to seek out my passions, and to do so all with compassion. I am so much more than just the goofy girl with the big smile; I am love, and I am hope.

I have been absolutely blessed these past few years, despite the hardships I faced. I could not have made it to where I am today without all the great people who were there for me along the way; you know who you are.

And to my CSSA classmates, good luck in your future endeavors. I cannot wait to see what we all do.

Full Circle

CSSA Campus Days, the annual interview weekend for prospective students, happened this Friday and Saturday. I took a low-key role this time around, staffing the hospitality room on Friday and serving as the current student representative on one team of admissions interviewers on Saturday. This year’s event went much better for me, considering that last year this time was not my happiest. I felt like I had much more insight to share with prospective candidates, including pieces of wisdom that were more reflective. As such, I thought about all the trials and tribulations I have faced in the two years since I went through Campus Days as a prospective student.

I had candidates ask me how to select between different graduate programs; I told them what I had been told: listen to your heart. One of the joys of student affairs is that we are encouraged to analyze an institution for its fit with ourselves. I told students about how I wrestled with turning down a prestigious program and another program that was fantastic and only blocks from my comfortable Seattle life. I told them how OSU seemed to call to me, and how the stars seemed to align to bring me to little ol’ Corvallis. I told them about how wonderful it was to see the individual paths my cohort members chose–some folks are wizards at conference presentations, others are the most inspiring professionals and family-oriented persons I’ve ever met. Others, like me, faced personal challenges head-on and found unexpected pathways through our persistence.

What has transpired since 2010 is a process that astounds me. I was excited to see who I would meet on this venture into graduate school, and as I said on Twitter, I could not have asked for more. My classmates are a diverse collection of stories unfolding before my eyes.

I see that with my students, too. I catch those little “ah-ha!” moments, and it’s amazing to share in those with them. I understand that the conversations I have with students today can alter the paths they choose tomorrow. Just today, I heard that a close friend’s younger sister is considering pursuing student affairs; no doubt it has to do with the influence my friend and her SA friends have had. It’s not a profession we recruit for either. It’s a profession that we carry out with passion.

I had a student ask me about the student affairs pathway the other day, and I told her all about the different journeys people I know have taken into the field. While it would be wonderful to someday work in the same field as one of my students, I also recognize how awesome it would be to just know that the conversation may have sparked an interest to search for meaning and purpose. This is not something I can quantify or put into numbers. That’s okay. What I know is that my reward comes in the pursuit of learning and purpose, and seeing how my small contributions eventually change my own course and the course of those around me.