So, the description of my blog mentions that I am working at a new institution and that I will write blog entries reflecting on my experience.
To be honest, I have been kind of avoiding the topic because while I like where I work and I get to work with some great students, it’s been very frustrating as well. I’m a natural pessimist and I’m worried that I might come off as too negative and that in turn would impact my image that my employer has of me.
But, it’s time to stop being a wuss and just dive in to this topic. So, I thought I’d back track and bring y’all up to speed on what I’ve been doing and then talk about what I am currently doing in any posts that I do.
I started working here on July 1 and I’ve been charged to develop a campus activities office. My supervisor is our SSAO (Senior Student Affairs Officer) and she was the first person hired almost 2 yrs ago followed by a career services person, an admin assistant, a mental health counselor/student disability specialist, and then me. Since then, there’s been a student disability specialist added ’cause it was waaay to much work for our mental health counselor to balance both roles.
Prior to starting the position, I assumed that I would just run with the ball per say and start developing events, work with student orgs, and create leadership development workshops. I’d be autonomous and life would be great. My supervisor mentioned that she had already proposed a budget for my area complete with a salary to hire a second person within the year as well as see my title go from a coordinator to a director.
Over the past 9 months, I’ve been successful in planning some small & large-scale events, created a handbook for student organizations that is constantly being updated as new topics are addressed, done some leadership workshops that were not very well attended, and have even done some advising for our new Student Government. I do not have a budget, I have to get all of my expenditures approved by my supervisor & her supervisor (our provost), and my title has not changed.
I think the biggest & constant source of frustration for me is the micromanaging that takes place where I work. Since we’re so small (around 2500 – which is roughly double from last year) our senior leadership has the opportunity to be keep more of an eye on folks like me & they sure take advantage of it. Also, the organizational structure is set up that you have to go up the chain of command to get approval to do things (especially if you’re wanting to spend money). I really like my autonomy so that’s a big reason why I am frustrated a lot, that has nothing to do with my employer.
One thing that I am struggling with is trying to be “innovative”. I am not necessarily sure all the time what’s innovative (I tend to use this word when utilizing technology) and I wonder if I am trying to move too fast when I don’t have anything to compare that was done in the past. So, I have this dilemma: What should come first – 1) creating things that are common at other institutions or 2) trying to figure out are the best practices out there that are tend setting or 3) use my experiences as a foundation of what to do here.
Having been a student affairs nomad (I’ve worked or interned at 4 types of institutions in a variety of roles) and I like to thing that I have a good variety of experience from different perspectives. So, in a way, I must admit that I kind of have this sense of entitlement since most of the staff at this institution have minimal higher ed experience with the exception of my supervisor.
The one skill that I have had to utilize the most (successfully or unsuccessfully) is patience. I don’t consider that to be a strength of mine so I’m glad that I am being challenged to develop this skill and getting lots of practice.