Today marks the end of my third semester of graduate school. It’s a bit surreal that I am five months from graduating with a masters degree; it feels that I just started my studies a few weeks ago. Yet here we are, about to complete the third semester.
Studying student affairs in higher education (SAHE) is no easy task. While the studies are not as intense as chemistry, economics, or astrophysics, it is challenging in that I am also holding an assistantship in the Office of Residence Life. In this role I supervise eight Resident Assistants and manage a building (alone) of 264 students. It’s a lot of work, I sleep little, but I enjoy it.
As I reflect on this semester, I think it’s appropriate to comment on my favorite memory, biggest challenge, and most useful lesson learned.
Favorite Memory: I served as the President of the SAHE Graduate Student Association this year. The leadership team and I would often go out to dinner for our meetings. One time we wanted to go to Krishna, a local Indian place, but were tight on time. We called a friend and asked to borrow their car so we could go eat delicious Indian food. The dinner was very exquisite and the company of my friends was even better. I do not remember anything super specific about the dinner, but just remember feeling happy while there. Dinner with friends is always a highlight and this was just a ridiculous trip to our favorite restaurant.
Biggest Challenge: This year I doubled my supervision load (four RAs to eight) and increased my student load (180 to 264). Navigating all of this this semester was really tough and I often felt that I was not able to give this role 100%. I often felt rushed and hurried to complete work and was not always proud of the work I did. Yet, as I look at our residential experience survey, reflect on the year, and work with students I must have done something right. I have more genuine connections with students this year and know more than I did last year. This increased workload was incredibly challenging but I somehow made it work.
Most Useful Lesson Learned: This semester I had a lot of confidence in my work as a educator. With that, I learned that it is okay to not only stick to my position but really advocate for that position because I have a voice at the table. Without going into specifics, knowing that I can (and should) advocate for ideas and thoughts that I have is essential to being a successful educator in higher education. Coupled with that, I learned that I need to pay close attention the people I surround myself with and not let negative people hinder my passion and work as an educator. Negativity hinders my ability to be an advocate as a educator.
This past semester was a whirlwind. The work was challenging, the coursework intensive and enlightening, but it was all worth it. Nights were short and days were long with the packed schedule. There was little time for me to relax and just watch TV without feeling guilty. I tried a few new things (e.g. teaching a course) and better focused my efforts on areas of student affairs and residence life that I am actually passionate about. Confidence in my role as an educator has grown and made me ready (and eager) to enter my final semester and end on a high note.
It will be a quick semester next spring, but one I am looking forward to. The lessons I learned and experience I have had up until now have prepared me well for a final semester of graduate school that will have me encounter the programs comprehensive exam and a job search. The beginning of the end is starting and I’m ready for it!