The countdown has begun: one month left until I graduate from Warner with a master’s in Higher Education Student Affairs! Last week, I shared with you how and why I chose to pursue that degree here. Today, I’d like to conclude this series by telling you what Warner has done for me, and the lessons I’ll take with me into my professional career.
An Instrumental Impact: What Warner Has Done For Me
I came into Warner (as I think many of us do) with a solid idea of what I wanted to do post-grad: my original plan was to work in an undergraduate admissions office, and supervise student tour guides and panelists. I was hell-bent on that idea, and it’s still not off the table. When I delved into class materials and my work environment, however, the world of higher education opened up and was immensely broadened.
Learning about applying student development theories to practice when working with various populations made me curious about different departments. Several of my classes featured guest speakers, and whether they were faculty members at other universities, or staff members here at the U of R, they inspired me to expand my candidacy for internships, assistantships, and full-time positions. I love how streamlined our classwork has been into my positions. My jobs have been extremely challenging, and without the theoretical and literature-based foundation I received in my classes, I don’t think I would have been as well-equipped to handle the situations I encountered.
Thanks to Warner, I’m pursuing a full-time career in residence life, which is something I never thought I’d say. Positions where you work in such close proximity to students initially intimidated me. I went to a small undergraduate institution, and while I’ve always wanted to focus on diversity and equity in higher education, I needed more information about how to best meet the needs of all students through advisement and programming. One of my biggest takeaways from my classes and assistantships is the importance of developing your own informal theories after interacting with students, and to do research on their lived experiences so that you may better understand their behavior, patterns, cultures, etc.
For example, as a hearing person, I work with a large Deaf and hard of hearing population. My Warner classes focused on diversity helped me realize how necessary it was for me to take an American Sign Language class to build deeper connections with the residents with whom I work; that new level of communication has been immensely rewarding and helpful! Now, my ultimate goal is to develop programming with RAs that will allow for them to build those connections with our students as well. I feel comfortable potentially going into a supervisory role after learning about meeting a mixed bag of residents’ needs. I was even asked to write a piece about self-care in residence life for The Student Affairs Collective blog.
Warner has instilled in me many different lessons relating to academia, but I think some of the most influential information I’ve garnered here as been from my relationships with faculty, staff, and peers. When fellow master’s student (and great friend) Emily and I shared an office, we’d leave notes with words of encouragement to each other sometimes, and we’ve attended conferences together numerous times. Knowing that my “fauxhort” is so diverse and simultaneously so understanding of one another’s needs has driven me to be my best, most authentic self at work and in class. The support I’ve received from faculty and staff members is something I’d like to emulate wherever I work in the future; I can’t say enough good things about them in interviews!
Additionally, Warner has taught me the significance of asking questions, and knowing when to “pass the mic,” so to speak. I came into Warner with an inquiring mind, but the faculty here have encouraged me to dig even deeper and find root causes of issues in higher education, as well as how to potentially fix them. I feel comfortable asking questions after thinking critically about how to approach tougher situations, but I also know when to pause and allow others to relay their perspectives. That has been especially important in my larger classes and during my RA training: asking questions lets me fully understand the problem, and hearing diverse outlooks lets us solve those problems together. Warner’s sense of camaraderie and diversity are what makes its environment perfect for both emerging and seasoned professionals.
Overall, I feel very privileged to have had access to the breadth of knowledge of my Warner professors, supervisors, and peers, and I hope I can cultivate a similar environment wherever I end up. Keep an eye out for my farewell Warner blog post next week! Meliora!