Grey Friday

I’m still in my pajamas, and the only shopping I did today was from the comfort of my own couch. I bought a LivingSocial deal for two pairs of yoga pants. $29 for $119 worth of athletic gear? Okay. I needed long stretchy pants that I can wear to my workouts anyway.

It’s raining outside, but I’m okay with that for now.

I’ve been doing some preliminary research into doctoral programs, even though I don’t imagine I’ll have the resources and/or the need to pursue a PhD or EdD within the next decade. New Zealand’s University of Auckland is a front-runner, given their pricing model and flexibility in studies, but University of Newcastle has my ultimate reach program, the Integrated PhD in Education and Communication. Of course, there are also several California schools and some other institutions in far-off corners of the world that I’ve identified (in the meantime). I know what it means is trying my hardest to attend and present at conferences, identifying burning questions to drive research and innovation, and staying on top of developing my connections and being aware of trends in higher education.

Part of the trouble as a new professional, though, is maintaining mentoring relationships and moving forward with a different support system, now that I’m out of graduate school. It kind of feels like I’m a big sister that is currently being overshadowed by the arrival of my new, cuddly student affairs siblings (a.k.a., the new SA grads). My needs are still attended too, but there’s an expectation of independence and proficiency that I haven’t yet developed.

Here’s what I specifically need help with:

– maintaining my involvement in professional organizations. I can’t afford my membership fees for NASPA or ACPA right now because my school isn’t affiliated with either, and $240+ for a $100 discount on the “maybe one conference” I can attend isn’t going to work.
– finding conference presentation opportunities. My other SA pals seems to be getting their foots into the doors as far as regional and national conferences go; why am I missing a lot of that same information? I’ve asked several times for resources on SA and related conferences, but have found exactly one database.
– solidifying mentors in the field outside of my immediate work environment. Most of my support personnel have new cohorts filled with shining stars to help out and I don’t want to appear needy, but… I am needy. I still need my hand held in some ways, and I don’t want to tax my colleagues’ patience in my new workplace. (Granted, I have great support at work! I’d just like to keep a strong, diversified network, you know?)
– lending my support to other new professionals and graduate students. I feel a bit disconnected, so what can I do to give back to a “new generation,” so to speak?
– getting started in research when I’m outside an academic program. This goes with solidifying mentors, I think. What should I do after I identify those fields of inquiry? Invade a school library silently? Lurk on the internet?

Any insight will be much appreciated. These questions and needs have been formed over the past five or so months, and I don’t want to lose my momentum now that I’ve made it into the student affairs field.

And in other news–I hope you all had a lovely holiday. 🙂 Now it’s time to reunite with some grad school friends, funny enough.

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The Newbie

#SAchat focused on how to make new staff members feel welcome at their jobs this week. Since I was working at my new job during the chat, I chimed in with my own thoughts just a few times. One question addressed what has been done to make you feel welcome as a new member. With 140 characters and a crunch for time, I mentioned the call I got from my director and the training scavenger hunt I did. A few people said they would feel overwhelmed by the process, but I tried to hastily explain, “No, no, no! It was perfect for my new college setting! And I loved it! Ack!” given the smaller feel of the community college and the willingness of other employees to converse with the brand-new employee.

And really, it’s been much, much more than those few things that have helped me begin to integrate into my new setting.

Even before I started, I was welcomed via phone by not just my supervisor, but also our director. When I arrived, my name was already on the entrance of my space, with little to indicate that I was stepping into a space that used to belong to someone else. It was my work space from the start.

My department took me to lunch the first day.

Human Resources gave me a training binder that not only required me to complete modules and worksheets, but to talk to people and to explore my new setting.

I was even invited to attend trivia night at the end of my first week.

I am included in campus events, and I shadow my colleagues during advising sessions and presentations. I have regular meetings with my supervisor. We close emails with smiley faces now and then. I am introduced at meetings, and people are genuinely interested in the academic and professional experience I already have.

This is a two-year institution that is proud of where it has come from, and it has set many strong goals for itself due to the foresight of its administration. This is an institution that doesn’t just display its Mission Statement for show; I see the commitment to enriching students’ lives and enriching the community. And I see that by integrating new members by orienting them to not just their jobs, but the campus culture.

Of course, how each department and institution approaches welcoming people will differ. And that’s good! I like exploring and independent projects, but that would have been nightmareish on a bigger campus. I could not imagine replicating all the orientation activities I did at Oregon State University or even smaller Western Washington University. That would have resulted in something scary–although probably very humorous in hindsight.

In essence, the trick to integrating new staffers seems to center around not just job processes, but the social and cultural aspect. And why wouldn’t it–we’re all social and cultural beings. (Don’t shake your head, Reclusive Gamer!)

As Week 3 of the new job winds down, I am settling happily into my penguin den. Is that what penguins live in?

A Grad Student’s Reflection on NASPA ’11

“Educating for Lives of Purpose.”

This was the theme of the national NASPA (Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education) conference, held in Philadelphia, PA. I flew out on Friday, March 11th from Portland, OR, and proceeded to spend the next five days not only learning more about my field, but reaffirming my own personal purpose and motivation for going into student affairs.

My reasons for attending NASPA this year may be a bit different than the typical grad student. Due to finances and my need to save what I can for a potential international internship, I had resigned myself to not attending the conference this year. I rethought this plan of action when my father passed away at the beginning of February.

Dad was a former educational administrator, serving as a guidance counselor and principal, among other things. This past summer, he told me, “You are the type of person who can make a difference.” When he passed, I thought to myself, “Is missing out on this conference because I think it may be too expensive really a good reason?” With the conference theme resonating, and my new leadership position with the NASPA International Education Knowledge Community, I decided that the conference may be just what I needed.

I confirmed my registration and flight the day after Dad passed away.

After spending five days with other student affairs grads and professionals, I knew my decision was for the best. I began my time at NASPA with the International Symposium, leading a thank-you dinner for the planning committee which ended up going quite well. Throughout the International Symposium, I connected with professionals working all over the world–Lithuania, Spain, Germany, Qatar–and learned first-hand what it’s like to work in the different systems. I was particularly inspired by the colegios mayores model found in Spanish universities, which function kind of like living-learning residencies or Greek houses with a central faculty member. What the faculty members do in their roles can be translated to what I do as a grad student: build relationships, inspire directed and in-depth learning, and provide a solid foundation within a much larger institution. This transferability will be helpful when considering how to craft effective programs and strategies.

Speaking of how to craft effective programs, what I took away from the rest of my sessions–not to glaze over them–was that I need to be innovative and collaborative, and that my goal of educating global citizens is in-line with educating for lives of purpose. I want the students with whom I come in contact to think about why they do what they do, and to challenge themselves to create good by being good. I want them to find out what really drives them, beyond money, beyond nice cars, beyond individual status; I want them to consider what they bring to the global table.

I learned not only about new ideas on leadership, but saw how the spiritual side of life seeps into everything else: wellness, academic success, purpose, and so forth and so on. I reaffirmed my inklings that community is what I want to build, and that community is what keeps me happy and sane.

Overall, NASPA gave me that hard reset I had been yearning for all quarter. I connected with people from all over the country–and all over the globe–and took away new ideas and new approaches that I will need to deliberately put to good use.

But most importantly, the conference showed me that I am where I am for a purpose–to be great through being good, and being myself, and not losing sight of that idea of making a difference.