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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Moments of Clarity

There are moments as a student affairs practitioner where you want to pull your hair out. There are also moments where you understand your role to be the most ideal career choice you could have ever made. If there were a tangible way to measure these moments as elements with mass and volume, the latter would be the heaviest.

When I entered the field of student affairs I wasn't so much concerned with affecting change in students lives. I was more concerned with affecting change in my own. I wanted to make a living by enjoying what I did, which would be event planning and programming. Student Development Theory was low of my list of priorities as I strived to make my grand exit from my graduate school program.

Upon entering my first position as a hall director my new priority was treading water. I don't suspect that many people wake up one day in their youth and say, "When I grow up I want to be a hall director". It has to be absolutely one of the grimiest positions in the field. Late nights, large students staffs, committee work, and let's not forget the on-call responsibilities. However, having this position allowed me to begin to understand who and what I have become today.

Day in and day out we interact with students. Those interactions might be intentionally developmental, passive, and interactive. While we probably focus more on our intentional interactions it's probably the unintentional interactions that are often remembered. Those moments when a student realize that you are an individual who has a life that exists outside of the office; those moments when they begin to understand why you've made the choices you've made; and those moments when they begin to respect you for all that you do in your job. It is these interactions that fuel a student affairs practitioner to continue to do their work.

About 18 months ago I was declaring my departure from my current position. I was sure that it was time for me to move on. I had done everything I needed to do and I thought I was ready for my next adventure. Fast forward to the unintentional interaction with a student that I advise that took place during the fall semester of 2006. I have a comfy couch located directly across from my desk. This student came into my office and sat on the couch confidently and began to have a general conversation about the organization that I advise. After giving more than an hour of my time to this conversation I began to consider how important that conversation really was. Not only for his sake but for mine as well. I contemplated this conversation and its meaning over the weekend and came to a conclusion. I am not ready to leave because these moments are why I'm here.

This is the time when students across the world are graduating. These are the times where, as an educator, you are purposely reminded why you do what you do each day. The culmination of all interactions with your students and colleagues has resulted in the march of Pomp and Circumstance and the presence of a new graduate.

Last month a student called to ask if I would be interested in attending his graduation dinner with his entire family and friends. He said that I had been influential in his college experience and wanted me to be a part of his celebration. I was honored and accepted his invitation. His appreciation for the work that I do each day and the understanding that it all has a purpose moved me.

More students will pass through my life. More students will sit comfortably on my couch. More students will remember their experiences and hopefully, think positively of them. More students will graduate. For each moment that was intentional and unintentional I will continue to remember why I am here - because I enjoy what I do on a different level. Whether it's developing a program for students, creating opportunities for them to learn or try something new, or provide a venue for open dialogue where we can learn from one another. I am grateful to have followed this path and arrived to this point in my life.

This epiphany of not only understanding why I am here doing the work that I do and having those I am connected to understand and begin to believe in the work that I do is heavy; especially when you consider the impact you are having on the world. I hope to continue to make a difference and I hope you do as well as we plan for a new year.

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