The Student Affairs New Professional

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 9

Post 9 from Tryin' to Get Paid

Mood: One more day to Christmas!!!
Music: Chuck Brown "Merry Christmas Baby"

Well, I finally escaped from work (actually, I filed my vacation paperwork and gave my handshakes to colleagues, wishing them a joyous holiday season) and I'm home. Back to crab cakes and Dunkin' Donuts. Plus, I got to see my nephew that I haven't seen since he was 1 month old. Now, he's 8 months old, has some teeth, and is babbling a lot. It's really cute, and I get a great smile out of it. It's finally good to see him in person; when work begins to get to me, I look at his pictures that I have in my office and it keeps me grounded.

Now I'm finally realizing that I've survived my first semester working full-time. To tell you the truth, I've really enjoyed it (plus the steady paycheck...hence my name). I will admit, the long nights at student organization meetings weren't as fun as advertised, and getting phone calls late at night when I'm on call (the kitchen door won't lock...what do we do?) aren't the most enjoyable thing on my mind when the phone rings. However, I've really enjoyed the conversations I've had with my students. I can honestly say that I've expanded my mind on many fronts just by talking to students and seeing the world through my eyes. I now understand why they have protested on having non-hormonal milk in the cafeteria, or expanding financial aid's reach to lower-income students, and even the dissention of building a new athletic facility to replace a 90-year old building that is falling down (not literally...I hope). At first, I felt a little uneasy about coming to a place that had a massive reputation of being trendy and insightful of thought. However, once I got past my shock-and-awe that I was in such an environment, my mind has expanded to great lengths, and it really helps me in developing their minds and judgements when I can meet them where they're thinking and see the world the way they do.

As a professional, I don't know if I'm still learning the job or if I'm finally in the groove of things. There are tasks I can roll full steam on, then there's tasks I'm completely dumbfounded on where to start. Working with students of color is a strong suit for me, but looking at artist contracts and dealing with agents is still a struggle. It's hard to keep in mind that some things are new to me, and every situation I handle is one that I can learn and reflect (ugh, that "r" word) upon. I think I spend too much time what my colleagues think, but I know that I have a few that understand my newness to the field and the challenges that I face. But, being the kind of person I am, I will keep moving, because nothing will stop me from being the best professional I can be.

Well, before I jam to Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis", I hope your holidays are relaxing, enjoyable, and blessed. And, if you have any young children around, be sure to not let them use your finger as a chew really hurts, trust me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 11

Quote of the Day:
"Some people come into your life and quickly leave
Others stay for a while and leave footprints on your heart
And you are never ever the same."

- Anonymous
[I hope I got that quote right...I know it goes something like this.]

I can't believe my first semester as a "full-time professional" is almost over. Sometimes time just flies by...

This week I've been watching my RAs and students go through the craziness of finals week. The grads in our department are just as stressed and are pulling all-nighters to finish up papers and study for exams while trying to close their building.
I definitely don't miss that. This week has been really relaxing for me...I mean, most of my regular meetings are cancelled this week and the "closing" craziness won't hit me until Friday really. But even though I've spent a lot of time in my office, I haven't been half as productive as I wish I had. There's this End of Semester report that should be written. There's other little things to finish up for Closing. And there's all the stuff to prepare for Training and Opening in January. I was so effecient when I was stressed over academic advising and worked 14-hour that I don't get to the office until 10 and have time for lunches with colleagues and random phone calls during the day, I don't get anything done anymore. The only thing I've been good about is putting treats into my staff's mailboxes every day to keep them motivated through finals and closing.

But I wasn't going to talk about work today...
I was actually thinking about grad school and the friendships from grad school. It's strange how just a few months ago, we all felt so close and were ready to promise to stay friends forever...and now, just a few months later, I hardly talk to anyone. I occassionally check people's Away Messages on Instant Messenger and I may think for a second about IMing them but then I don't. After all, it's been so long and we're leading such different lives...I wouldn't even know where to start in terms of catching up with them. And do they even want to stay in touch?
Maybe it was just the intensity of grad school - the stressful life. the spending 12-hours a day together between classes, practica and assistantships, the complaining about classes and work - that made us feel this incredible bond and closeness. And now that we've returned to "normal" life that bond is gone. And now you really know who the people are that you can count on...a handful of good friends, with whom you didn't just bond because of grad school and work but because you actually had things in common and care about each other.

Sometimes it makes me wonder though...
In our profession, we move around so much, especially in the beginning. Nobody stays in an entry-level ResLife job for more than 2 or 3 years (4 is pushing it). Half of our full-time staff will probably leave by the end of this year. So how good friendships can you really establish in these short times? Or are we destined to have many of these intense but short friendship that last throughout your time at a specific institution but end as soon as one of you leaves?
We make friends so easily because we spend way more time together than you would in a normal profession...and we really go through the ups and downs together, from work to personal life...because let's be honest, who manages to really separate the two in Student Affairs? But we also move on so quickly...a new institution, a new group of colleagues, a new support system and a new group of friends.

And sometimes it also makes me wonder...
We are all so damn friendly with each other. There is all this talk about supporting each other and helping each other. But then there's also this underlying competition. We have all these "recognition initiatives" from "Staff member of the month" to shout-outs on a Web site...and while we all try to recognize each other, isn't there always that feeling of "why didn't I get nominated?" or "if this person is doing that, should I be doing that too?"
I was working on my End of Semester report today...honestly, I wrote like a page - not even - and then I e-mailed some of my colleagues with whom I've done some programs to get their input on the format of the section we're working on together...and the feedback I received was, "you need to stop e-mailing stuff because it's making me cry because I haven't even started to think about that report." I don't want to make people cry! I don't want to make anyone feel bad. But I also can't stop working just to make others feel better. And while I may have started on my report, they may have done something different that I haven't even thought about yet. Or one staff member may have 20 room changes, while I only had of course I'm going to have more free time right now.
What scares me most about all this competitiveness is how it affects our "friendships" and how it makes you sensor what you say in professional staff meetings and around colleagues.

Someone once told me that you should try to find friends that don't work in Student Affairs or have anything to do with the institution you're at. I think that's great advice. But when I'm spending every second on or near campus and the staff are the only people I know in this area, it's easier said than done. And I love the staff here and feel like I really connect with many of them. If it just wasn't for all that hidden competition and the question whether or not this is a true friendship or just one based on convenience...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 8

Post 8 from Tryin' to Get Paid

Mood: Upbeat for such a gloomy day...
Music: John Legend "Heaven"
Status: Arsenal in 6th (6!) place (16 fixtures played, 26 points)

I have to tell you, before I get to the work stuff, that I'm glad I've had a student affairs training, especially in the residence halls, because it prepares you for the unexpected. I fondly remember the nights I went on rounds, making sure things were fine in my building, and rolling up on who knows what, and having to use my training to approach the situation. My training kicked in Friday night...on public transit nonetheless. Lemme give you the situation...

I went out to downtown Friday night to catch a basketball game. The game was great, and I left feeling pretty good. I'm in the middle of a major US city at night, with the streets buzzin' in action, and I decide to catch the light rail train to the Mall for some late night shopping. While I'm on the train, a crew of 5 folks stumble (literally) on the train. Apparently, one of the women in the group got promoted, and took a college-esque approach to celebrate by imbibing as many spirits within a 2 hour time frame. She's pretty happy to be promoted, but her language around children might get her demoted. So, out of all the seats available on the train, she sits next And, she uses my shoulder as a head rest as she blabs on about her job and the wedding she went to last week where...I'll leave the conversation about that in the train. But, as she's guessing my name, she asks an intriguing proposition involving the removal of clothing. As nice as it sounded for a nanosecond, my training kicked in.

BAM!!! You must use the developmental force to overcome such urges and help this woman!!

So, I cooly tell her, "Listen, I wouldn't want you to lose that nice promotion and scare these children, so I'm sorry." I continue to tell her that it wouldn't be morally prudent in front of the riding public (Kohlberg, anyone?) and her actions might set the notion of the working woman back several years (Josselson's Women's a stretch). So, she calms down, and the rest of the ride is in peace. A crisis had been averted, thanks to development theory.

As for work, it's not that exciting as the train. Finals are going on this week and next, so students are running around trying to get all their work done. I kinda laugh because that was me a couple of years ago, but then I remember I have work to do, contracts to sign, and programs to next week. So, I'm running around also. But, student organization meetings have ended for the semester, so my evenings are a little calmer. It's been exciting to go to these meetings from the get-go and see the students develop, especially the leadership of several groups. The organizations are finalizing big plans for next semester, and they're really excited. I'm happy for them, even if it means more work for me. I don't mind, unless it involves taking the light rail late at night to get things done...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Learning to Fly - Post 10

Quote of the Day:
"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."
- Sirius Black, Harry Potter

Wow, it's been a while. I apologize for not posting in so long. I really don't even have a good excuse because the last few weeks haven't been that busy...

You know those days, when the most stressful time of the semester is finally over, and you just have a few little things to accomplish, but you're absolutely nothing done...yeah, that's what it's been like.
We're closing the buildings at the end of the week. I like my residents, but to be honest I can't wait for all of them to be gone...

I'm spending winter break here...I'm probably going to visit a friend for a couple of days, may meet up with some other people...nothing big though. Christmas Eve (which is when Austrians celebrate Christmas) I'm just planning on lighting a fire in the fireplace of the Living Room of my residence hall, reading a good book (probably "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent" by Julia Alvarez...since that's the new book for our book the way, I got to pick it and I'm really really excited), and eating some ice cream. Everyone who finds out that I'm spending the holidays here by myself is making such a big deal out of it...but honestly, I couldn't imagine a better Christmas. This semester has been hectic enough and I really just want some peace and quiet!!!

I'm already sick of Christmas music...and all the Christmas commercials on TV. Don't they realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas??? I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in a family that doesn't celebrate Christmas and constantly be bombarded with Christmas songs in every store you go to, Christmas shows and movies on TV, Christmas decoration in the streets, and and and.
I'm having the hardest time trying to explain to my staff that they should say "Happy Holidays" and instead of playing "Secret Santa," do something like "Secret Snowflake." They just don't seem to get it...
It's so frustrating sometimes.

Other than that, there's not much going on here. I have to turn in my letter of intent for next year very soon (in January). So I've been thinking about it A LOT! I think I want to work with a different learning community. No, let's be honest, I don't just "think" I want to work there...I've become "obsessed" with the idea of working there. I just think it'd be the perfect fit for me. It's the "Leadership" Learning Community and I'm all about student leadership. I mean, that's what I love about the job. I like interacting with my first-year students, but the best part of the job with my student leaders, from RAs to RHA Exec Board members to Hall Council members. They are the students that make this job worth having. And of course, not every student in the Leadership Community would be that king of leader...but it's a start. And I have all these great ideas of what I could do for programs...
I'm trying not to get too emotionally attached to the community yet. It'd be too devastating if I don't get it. But it's hard...I just get so emotional when it comes to this job. Uh uh, not cool (that's the newest saying of the RHA Delegation that went to the regional's really funny...mmm, I guess you had to be there).

Alright, it's time for bed.
For those of you out there, who are taking classes: Good Luck with Finals!
For everyone else, good luck for the end of the semester!!! :)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 7

Post 7 from Tryin' to Get Paid

Mood: Absolutely bitter cold...almost to the point of torturous
Premiership Standings: Arsenal 3rd Place (15 games, 25 points)
Music: D'Angelo "Spanish Joint"

You know, there are times I feel taking this job was a mistake. Rather, it might have been a punishment from a higher power for some past wrongdoings. It's not the work that I incur, or the people I deal's the weather. I should have known when the job was in the Upper Midwest, it might entail some cold weather conditions. Let's just say that I'm not a cold kind of person, and the local coffee/hot chocolate/tea market has benefitted from my generosity. Some local coffeehouses know me by name (so does the local Mediterrean cafe...I apparently hold the record for most chicken gyros eaten in one setting).

Enough about food and weather conditions...I'm glad the semester is ending soon. That means I'll get a little break of sorts. No more 10:00 p.m. meetings for a while, no more getting contracts signed one day before a performance, no more meetings about scheduling meetings about future meetings. Now, I'm not saying that I'm looking to make a jail break outta my office and I dread coming to work, but I fear that burnout is trying to set in. I've been moving at about 100 miles an hour since I got here, and I think it's catching up with me in some ways. I'm more tired coming into the office, I've been a little more irritable, and I've been spending more of my time buying coffee to perk me up (as I noted before). I've tried combatting this with more sleep at home and exercise, but I think I need a break.

I just think this is the final swing of the semester, and the students here are tired too. I think a fog as swept over campus and made us all drowsy and looking forward to winter break in a couple of weeks. Or maybe it's all this damn cold weather...