Revisiting CSAM and student leaders

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Careers in Student Affairs month is a time dedicated to sharing thoughts and advice to students on our campuses about a possible career in student affairs. I’ve seen some wonderful examples of programs: from shadowing a Dean of Students for a Day to panels of professionals across campus, answering questions about how they first got interested in student affairs and how their involvement as an undergraduate (or lack thereof) got them to where they are today.

I was fortunate enough to work with student leaders on campus in my previous position. I really enjoyed supervising and advising them, in hopes of them grasping some useful takeaways to set them up for success once they move beyond college. I tired to teach them life lessons during one on one conversations, which sometimes didn’t even pertain to the job. All in all, my experiences working with student leaders was awesome and I often miss the opportunity to be impactful on such a close level.

I often wonder how we reach the new generation of student affairs professionals. Our biggest pool, from what I can tell, comes from student leaders — Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, Student Government, RHA, etc. But what about the students on our campus who aren’t involved? I was never a student leader on campus. In fact, I was turned down for an RA position because I didn’t speak up enough during the group interview/exercise process (that’s what was written on my feedback). My involvement on campus was this: attend class, go to football/women’s basketball games, go sit in the radio station booth, graduate. I wasn’t involved because like a crazy girl in love, I listened to my ex-insignificant other at the time who told me that THON and sororities were stupid (YES! WHY DID I LISTEN?). But nontheless, I was nothing like the students I work/ed with.

The only reason I am here today is because 2 weeks before I graduated from undergrad with a degree in English is because my Career Counselor suggested that I pursue a degree in higher education administration. He suggested I look at a few programs and take time off before going to graduate school to think about it. I went back to NJ and met with then VPSA of student affairs at Rutgers, Greg Blimling, who gave me a lot of suggestions and help. It was definitely challenging trying to persuade graduate schools to accept me due to my lack of student leadership as an undergraduate. GWU accepted the challenge and that’s how I ended up in graduate school. ACPA hired me as a graduate assistant and the lovely people at SMU gave me my first opportunity to work in housing/conferences as an ACUHOI Intern. The rest is history.

I would hope as student affairs professionals, we look beyond the traditional student leader and reach out to those who, while don’t have a lot of experience leading on campus, might offer a different and welcomed perspective on the work that we do. We are in a position now to mold our profession into something different and we can do that by looking beyond the student leader.

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