Sunday, April 27, 2014

So, You Have an #SAgrad in Your Life - Now What?

Note: This, of course, does not necessarily apply to ALL #SAgrads, and does not necessarily apply to JUST #SAgrads, so take my sarcastic advice with a grain of salt. :)

Student Affairs graduate students are going through a unique stage in life. They've entered a part of their academic career that may not have been part of their master life plan. After the required 13 years of pre-college education and the expected minimum of 3-5 years of undergraduate experience, they're back in the classroom for, at the very least, another 1-2 years before being able to pursue a full-time position in the Student Affairs field. Most of the time, it's in addition to balancing multiple part-time positions, assistantships, and internships, and for the brave, in addition to raising children and maintaining a healthy relationship or marriage. If you can imagine, it can be a pretty sensitive and emotional time.

So, how do you deal with the #SAgrad* or #SAdoc** in your life? Since I'm about half way through my #SAgrad experience, I'm in a position to hand over some do's and don'ts to those who may not be familiar with what these students go through. Hopefully this list can help you better understand your crazy-busy, high-strung, over-tired, crushingly-passionate, emotional rollercoaster of an #SAgrad!

DO be understanding of their busy schedule. Trust us, we want to see you and miss you just much as you miss us, but our schedules tend to swallow us whole and 3 months can go by in a blink of an eye. Quick coffee and lunch dates or joining us for a low-key movie night (if you don't mind us studying or checking emails throughout) may be your best bet to hang out with us in the middle of the semester.

DON'T (or try not to) get upset if they have to break plans. Our schedules also tend to change frequently, and honestly, our studies and jobs are taking priority during our time in grad school. If  we're feeling overwhelmed with assignments, we may favor a night of homework over a night of fun (weird, right?). If we are presented with an awesome professional opportunity like presenting to a group of undergrads or going to a drive-in conference, we may ask you to reschedule. Remember that we still love and care about you and would love to be spending time with you instead of working, and we'll be sure to make it up to when our schedule isn't so crazy and unpredictable!

DO humor them and listen to their ramblings & rants about the field. Graduate students are passionate about their field (otherwise, they wouldn't be voluntarily going to more school). This is especially true for #SAgrads. We can often go off on long-winded tangents about different issues surrounding college students and higher education, especially when an issue strikes particularly close to home. (That's why a lot of us have blogs. :P) Sometimes we won't be able to get it off our mind unless we tell someone about it, and it's usually the people we're closest to that we want to discuss it with. Just humor us and let us blab about it for a few minutes, even if you have to tune us out for a bit. ;)

DON'T make assumptions. This, of course, applies to every group of people, and that includes those pursuing a career (or currently have a career) in the Student Affairs field. When #SApros/grads/docs try to explain the field to those that may not have a full understanding of what we do, we tend to get a lot of:
  • "So you're basically a glorified babysitter?"
  • "So you're basically the fun police?"
  • "So you're basically going to school to be in college for the rest of your life?"
No, no, and no. College students need support in many more ways than just the classroom, and that's where we come in! If there is something that you're curious about in regards to the Student Affairs field, I enthusiastically encourage you to follow the next piece of advice...

DO ask them questions. As mentioned above, #SAgrads are passionate people, and we LOVE to answer your questions. (Any excuse to talk shop!) We know that Student Affairs is a unique field that not many people realize is a thing, so we are used to getting confused looks when we mention what we're studying. We're happy to clear up any confusion and explain anything that may be new to you. Ask away! Except...

DON'T ask us what our post-graduation plans are. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, our schedules tend to swallow us whole, and it's pretty unusual not to have a 10 hour day (not including studying when we get home). We're usually just trying to survive the current week, and even if we've only got a year left, graduation still seems like an eternity away. #SAgrads have an unbelievable amount of hurdles to even get to graduation, let alone plan where they're applying for jobs. Though it's not unreasonable to ask what type of Student Affairs job we want after we graduate, asking us to give you our concrete 5-year plan can be a bit overwhelming at the moment. Maybe ask again when we know for a fact we'll be getting our diploma! :)


I hope this post is somewhat helpful in dealing with the #SAgrad in your life. We are fully aware that we can be crazy, unpredictable, and difficult at times, but we promise it'll only be until we graduate! ;)

Do you have an #SAgrad in your life? Are you an #SAgrad yourself? 
Let me know in the comments!

*#SAgrad: Hashtag used to describe students in a Higher Education or Student Affairs graduate program.

**#SAdoc: Hashtag used to describe students in a Higher Education or Student Affairs doctorate program.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

25 Before 25: Have Coffee or Drinks with a Previous Mentor (#10)

A few weeks ago, Louie and I went out to dinner and drinks with our former Lasell supervisor and mentor, Jenny! I met Jenny through Lasell's Leadership Scholar program, and through working with her and the program I got involved with the college in ways that I would have never thought possible - becoming an Orientation Leader, Peer Mentor for other Leadership Scholars, Resident Assistant, working for Career Services... everything under the sun! Without the support and encouragement from her and the program, I probably wouldn't have gone down the student leader path and probably wouldn't have wound up chasing a Student Affairs career. She's a major factor of why I am where I am in my life, and I can't thank her enough!

From left to right: Me, Jenny, and Louie!

Jenny invited me back to Lasell next month to speak to a group of undergraduate student leaders about my experience at Lasell, and I can't wait to go back and see how the Leadership Program has developed since I've left! It just goes to show that staying in touch with those that make a significant impact in your life (beyond just when you need something from them) can really make a difference in where your life goes. Keep those relationships that are important to you and make the effort to stay connected - even if it's just an email to say hello!

Thanks for all you've done and still do for me, Jenny! 

*I'm attempting to reach 25 goals before I reach the age of 25! Want to see the whole list? Check it out here!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reinvent: ACPA National Convention 2014 (25 Before 25 - #3)

Just arriving at the conference. Running on about 28 hours without sleep at this point!
Not sure how I accomplished it (probably the coffee), but I made it to Indy and #ACPA14! :)

Considering I haven't shut up about it in the weeks leading up to and the days following my trip, you should probably know by now that I spent a few days in Indianapolis last week for the 2014 ACPA (College Student Educators International) National Convention. I got the opportunity to meet and interact with student affairs professionals from institutions across the country, attend educational sessions on a variety of interesting topics pertaining to the field, and engage in conversations involving topics that I may have thought about on my own time but never had the opportunity to explore further with others in my daily life.

The great thing about going to professional conferences in your field is that you're surrounded by people who just get it. Student Affairs and Higher Education is a unique field that not many people realize is a thing (I didn't even realize it until half way through my spring semester of senior year at Lasell!) making it a bit more difficult to discuss issues that surround the profession. I'm lucky enough to have a significant other who works with college students for his job, have a few close friends that are pursuing the field themselves, and my parents have heard me talking about it for so long that they understand as much as they can without actually going through it themselves. But trying to explain what you do to someone who didn't have a traditional college experience (or sometimes any college experience at all) or someone who wasn't involved at college past working with their academic advisor and going to class can prove to be quite challenging.

But being in the conference "bubble", you can just state who you are and what you do and people will know exactly what you mean. All of us are going through or have gone through similar things, and we can give each other support and advice from those shared experiences. It's nice knowing that no matter what I go through in my graduate or professional life, there are thousands of others out there that know exactly how I feel!

#BSUlife friends at the Tweet Up! :)
Left to right: Janine, myself, Brittany, and Ed!

The conference itself was an eye-opening and inspiring experience. I've been to both the Northeast Regional and National NACA conferences this past year, which are focused on Student Activities, but attending a conference that had a wide range of Student Affairs professionals in every area of expertise you could think of was a very welcome change of pace. I felt inspired (and, to be completely honest, a little bit intimidated) by all of the people I met and things I was learning, and it really made me consider where I want to be after I graduate. I'm still in love with the prospect of working in Student Activities or Orientation for my future career, but now I'm really thinking about getting some Athletics Academic Advising experience as well. Athletes are one of my favorite student populations (who never really have an advocate for them in the SA world), and would love to get to work with them in some way! It's a relief to get some direction in what I want to do, because lately I've been feeling a bit lost among all of the grad students who know exactly what they want out of their careers!

The presentation crew!
Left to right: 
Dr. Hyde, Dr. Kocet, myself, and Janine!

I also got the opportunity to present at the conference, which was an extremely awesome opportunity in itself. My professor, the Associate Professor of Residence Education at LSU, a fellow grad student, and I presented on the Ward v. Wilbanks case and were able to generate a good amount of conversation on the topic. It was such an honor to be asked to present at a national convention, and I hope to submit a presentation proposal for the 2015 Convention!

1. Cheese-stuffed burger from Scotty's Brewhouse! #drool | 2. Selfie with the Indianapolis skyline on an afternoon run!

I wasn't expecting it (sorry Indy natives), but Indianapolis is an awesome city! It's so clean, quiet, and genuinely beautiful there. The food's great, the people are lovely, and everything's near by! Our hotel was connected to the convention center by skywalk (which was nice on the off day that it rained), and though it took about 15 minutes to walk there, it was definitely great to not worry about bringing a coat or crossing the street! I definitely wouldn't mind visiting there again - there is so much that I'd still like to check out that I didn't get the chance to!

Attending the ACPA Convention was such a positive experience for me, and I feel so lucky to have been given that opportunity as a first year grad. I came into grad school expecting to go to my assistantship, go to class, do my school work, and that's it, but Bridgewater has provided me so many more opportunities than I would have thought possible. I don't think I would get this opportunity anywhere else, and I'm so happy I decided to attend BSU! I'm looking forward to attending the Convention again next year in Tampa. I'm hooked! :)

I made a quick video with some of my main takeaways from the conference. A lot of what I talk about echos what I've said in this post, but I thought it would be important to include in this post none the less! :)

*This crosses off #3 on my 25 before 25 list - Visit a new city. I'm attempting to reach 25 goals before I reach the age of 25! Want to see the whole list? Check it out here!