It’s really true what they say about working at a community college – we wear MANY hats.
Since June of 2011 I’ve been fortunate to work as the Director of Campus Life at Jamestown Community College, and no day is a typical one!
I am a ONE-PERSON office responsible for student activities, student government, clubs/student organizations, and new student orientation for an institution of just under 3,350 full-time and part-time students across three sites (fall 2014 enrollment numbers). My role as director is specifically for the Jamestown Campus and the North County Center, an extension site which I travel to once a week. And as is fairly typical of community colleges, not all student engagement efforts have a home in any one particular office. One example of this for us is volunteerism, so some of these initiatives are coordinated through me as well. Oh, my hat rack also includes roles on various college committees, including the Faculty Student Association board, the Retention Committee, the Commencement Planning team, and the Student Affairs Committee to highlight only a few extras. When time allows (Yea right! So even when it doesn’t), I’m also fortunate to be able to do a few things outside my job description like teach one section of Student Success Seminar, a one credit transitions to college course we require of all our first-time full-time freshman.
The flow of my year looks like this…Prepare yourself. You might get overwhelmed just reading about it!
- The last week of August is the first week of classes. I coordinate Welcome Week efforts, which include a Peer Mentor information booth outside in the center of campus as well as annual fall welcome picnics with live music and student involvement fairs at two college sites. Recruitment of freshman Student Senators and Campus Activities Board (CAB) members are a priority for me for the next couple weeks, as is marketing upcoming events.
- September and October are heavy with day events sponsored by CAB, and evening events co-sponsored by CAB and Residence Life. Clubs are gearing up and in need of lots of advice! I attend all the events sponsored by my office and in some cases spend a whole day hosting an artist if they are also visiting classes as part of their contract. A few October weekends get busy with traveling to student leadership conferences as advisor for the Student Senate and participating in a Columbus Day open house. If I can manage it, I might also attend a conference just for me, too!
- November – I can breathe again! Still have weekly events, but it’s not as hectic. Also, it’s time to finalize plans for the spring semester. No more slackin’ off, Kim! Oh, and don’t forget another open house.
- December – Did I just blink? Boy, that was quick. Time to slow down and enjoy holiday community bonding moments like participating with Student Senate in our city’s Christmas Parade every year, especially when we give out FREE HUGS!
- January kicks off with our annual MLK Day of Service and weekly CAB events.
- February is tough because the weather in western NY is brutal this time of year. We’ve had enough of the snow and cold, not to mention occasionally my artists can’t make it in because of canceled flights. In late February, the MLK Program Committee on which I serve hosts its annual MLK speaker residency over three days at all college sites. Also, at the end of February or early March I take my CAB to a regional program planning conference where we scout for talent for the coming year.
- March – I can breathe again! Like November, I still have weekly events and one open house to attend, but it’s not as hectic if you can believe me and spring break is on the horizon at the end of the month – not that I get that week off, but it’s time to start crossing things off my commencement planning to-do list anyways and it’ll be quiet around campus over break.
- April is like September, very busy with events, but a lot of them are hosted by clubs and community organizations. Oh, but it’s time to travel to another student government conference and volunteer at charity walks on the weekends!
- May – home stretch, but first host a Club Appreciation Luncheon, two giant year-end Carnivals at two college sites, and finalize Commencement details. Easy-peasy.
- Mid-May – Commencement Day! Whew, I made it and so did my students. Wait, don’t leave me! I just got you all trained up to be excellent student leaders, and now you’re going to take your talents elsewhere?!
- On the first work day after Commencement through the end of May, I start finalizing orientation planning, auditing club spending, writing year-end reports, and closing on contracts for fall events.
- Early-mid June is Orientation Leader training, including team building, skit rehearsals, and general orientation preparations. If I can manage it, I might attend a few drive-in conferences in the region.
- In late June we start our series of Student Orientation, Advisement and Registration (SOAR) days once a week at all sites. I am in full Orientation mode now.
- In late August, we host two Parent-Student Orientation sessions (without advisement and registration) which include a parent-track and a student track.
- Last week of August is the first week of classes and we start the cycle over again!
So I know that sounds like a lot, and well, IT IS, especially when you add on weekly Student Senate meeting and monthly division and committee meetings, and all the walk-in needs one can’t schedule for. When I said earlier that I am a one-person office, I neglected to mention I do have ONE student worker with limited hours at each site I’m responsible for, but other than that no administrative assistant, no project manager, no assistant director. J u s t m e. There is little to no down time between cycles, and my job requires a lot of foresight and ability to blend big picture thinking and attention to details – hence a lot of hats. And sure, with limited human resources the projects and ideas that I don’t have time for can cause frustration – I’m only human. I do my best to maximize dollars, time, and impact AND maintain energy to be a wife and a mom of two small children at home.
But let me leave you with a story of one of my proudest accomplishments as Director of Campus Life. This is the synergy that keeps me doing what I do.
One of the benefits to working at such a small institution, even in a one-person office, is that there is a culture of cross-functional collaboration on initiatives and innovations. For example, when I started in my position, there were no Orientation Leaders and summer orientation for new students was held only once on the afternoon before classes started. Wow, I thought. We can do better than that! So I outreached to the folks at my institution responsible for the Peer Mentoring program and asked if I could hire the Peer Mentors to work as Orientation Leaders over the summer. We borrowed this model from a few other schools with similar practices and it was a win-win. I was able to train and utilize Orientation Leaders to grow my orientation program, and the Peer Mentoring program got more visibility and higher participation from mentees as a result.
Then the next year I teamed up with the staff member responsible for Advisement and Registration and we created Student Orientation, Advisement, and Registration (SOAR) Days throughout the summer which allowed new students more than one opportunity to attend orientation. We also combined Parent and Student Orientation sessions to provided tracks for each population where previously each were separate event on separate dates. Simultaneously, partnering with our Residence Life department enabled them to grow their orientation program to compliment the efforts we’d made with general orientation. I’m happy to report our orientation attendance numbers for students and parents increased significantly after the implementation of these collaborative changes and attendance continues to grow! So essentially, even with new student orientation being the responsibility of my little one-person office, I forged an alliance of partners from cross-functional areas on campus with mutual interest in combining efforts and sharing funding. We innovated together, and I am truly grateful for my amazing colleagues! It’s because of their team work that my small office is able to accomplish all that it does!
This post is part of our #dayinSA series on highlighting the diversity of functional areas in the field of student affairs. We will hear from #SApros of all kinds – academic advisors, office mangagers, res hall directors, vice provosts of SA, and many many more. Each will share exactly what their typical day looks like, what exactly they work on, and what makes them want to come to work each day. We hope to squash stereotypes within the field and celebrate all the different kinds of great work that #SApros do. For more information, check out the intro post by Sara Ackerson. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!