As an undergraduate, I initially experienced the field of student affairs when, after serving as an RA, the housing department promoted me to the position of assistant hall director during my fourth year as an undergraduate at Colorado State University. A simple result of too few master’s-level graduate assistants and too many residence halls, exceptional undergrads were often recruited and promoted from the RA ranks to serve in a supervisory capacity. I was paired with a graduate student hall director in the SAHE (Student Affairs in Higher Education) program and together we ran Allison Hall. Meanwhile, I was double majoring in Fine Arts (Graphic Design) and Business (Marketing) and also seeking a minor in Art History. I was a classic overachieving and overly involved college student. The following year, I was promoted again and became a Hall Director, supervising the staff of the hall where I had lived as a first year honors student five years prior.
One afternoon in the fall of my fifth year at CSU, I arrived at my internship at a local graphic design firm. Set to get to work on designing logos and yellowpages ads, I sat down at the desk in the cubicle. It wasn’t long before my mind began wandering and shortly I was thinking about the RA staff meeting I was to facilitate that evening. Twelve resident assistants and the assistant hall director were depending on me to engage and inspire them. Overwhelmed with the multiple and conflicting responsibilities and roles, I left my internship that day resolved to clarify my life’s purpose and move in the direction of my true passions—facilitating meaningful engagement with college students. In many ways, I left behind a lonely life in a cubicle for an engaging profession interacting with students and organizations within a higher education context. I submitted my application to the SAHE program later that fall and thus began my career in student affairs.
Over the past 13 years, since completing my master’s degree at Colorado State University, my career has taken a circuitous route through various types of departments at four institutions of higher education. As a new professional, I worked in student activities and leadership development at Indiana State University. Then, I took a position at the University of Arizona in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership where I focused specifically on developing services, programs, advocacy initiatives, and assessment for commuter and non-traditional students. After five years, I worked in the University of Arizona Multicultural Affairs and Student Success office in a role focused on improving first-year student retention and access programs. Among other areas of responsibility, I developed a first-year experience course and led a summer bridge program called “Pathways” (which now no longer exists).
My most recent post (prior to my relocation to Michigan this past summer) was as the Director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center. It is this experience that will primarily inform the future posts from this blog. Working in a university-based women’s center, ten years into my career in Student Affairs, was a turning point for me as an educator and as a professional. I see and experience this profession from a very different standpoint now than I did before I arrived in Idaho. In feminism, people are fond of saying “the personal is political.” I would add that having worked in a Women’s Center, that “the personal is also professional.” I will write about language, conceptions of leadership, hierarchy, decision making, and community. I will discuss how serving in the role gave me a unique vantage point from which I would be able to both impact the institution as well as critically analyze it.
Now, having moved beyond the experience with plans to enter a PhD program, I will write about the observations and key transformations that will likely influence my practice and future career from now on. It is my desire that these observations will have applicable and will resonate with others in student affairs and higher education regardless of whether your career path has led you to a women’s center.