Tomorrow I start my comprehensive exam (comps). 30 pages for two questions over 23 days. Needless to say anxious levels in the program are high currently and my cohort and I are all fixated on comps. Yet, as I have been talking with folks throughout both my program and the department where my assistantship is (the Office of Residence Life), I cannot help but appreciate how much I have grown (and how much I have learned) during my time in graduate school.
Two years are a quick time; especially in graduate school when your days and nights are full. The fast paced environment that is graduate school rarely allows for reflection, even though my program integrates quite a bit of reflection. For example, it was not until the summer between my first and second year of graduate work that I realized how much I had learned during my first year. I was confident in my supervision style and knew I was a quality worker. Yet, I was still timid during my ACUHO-i internship at the University of Washington. I knew I knew student development theory, had a good understanding of organizational theory, and knew a bit about assessment. My time at the UW was good and only continued to emphasize what I was good at (e.g. supervision, assessment, administrative tasks).
Yet, it was not until I returned to Oxford and sat through ORL training that I truly found my passion. It was not until a training on Living Learning Communities (LLCs) that I realized that these academic programs were where my passion lied. LLCs offer a giant potential for students to truly integrate their classroom learning with their co-curricular involvements. The potential that LLCs have for supporting student learning was made clear to me during that session, and my passion for LLCs was realized.
So now, as I prepare for my comps in conjunction with the job search, I have that confidence that I know what I am good at. I know I still have learning to do (learning never ends!) but I have a core set of skills that I am good at. I have a passion area that allows me to integrate my desire to support student learning with my passions of working with students, collaboration with faculty and campus partners, and residential living experiences. While the next 23 days are sure to be filled with long days and short nights due to writing comps, the Placement Exchange, a day of the NASPA Annual Conference, and other phone interviews, I know I have a core set of skills that will serve me well as I enter student affairs as a full time student affairs educator.
These are exciting times to be in. I am glad I now realize the amount of learning (and growth) that has occurred during my time in Oxford. I am a fundamentally different person than when I started this program in August 2014. So, I am ready for this new wave of challenges; bring it on!