When I started my undergraduate experience at Rowan University in 2004, I vividly remember seeing the orientation leaders dancing on stage. My mother whispered in my ears, “You should do this!” Two years later I was one of those upperclassman performing to new audiences of incoming students. I didn’t realize those experiences would greatly shape my change in career path from journalist to higher ed practitioner.
While I never thought I would serve our community in academic advising, it was one thing mastered when I was a college freshman. During my first meeting with my advisor, I came with an entire four-year plan plotted out. I was one those students who took the course catalog booklet after orientation and would read, highlight and memorize class schedules.
During the spring semester of my sophomore year, I reached a “fork in the road” when I was struggling in one of my news reporting classes and I started to question my future as a journalist. I didn’t enjoy the course and the instructor shared via email that I didn’t have the talent to be a writer. During that same term, I asked if I could complete an internship with our centralized advising center as part of a course requirement. That opportunity gave me the first “ah-ha” moments in my undergraduate experience. I could have become the Rory Gilmore of Rowan but instead I took that semester’s “lessons” and powered through to create a new set of life goals.
At the end of my undergraduate career I had experiences working in new student orientation and academic advising. Beginning graduate studies at Rowan in Fall 2008, I started to see student affairs through a paraprofessional lens. Throughout those two years, I worked in the Vice President for Student Life office. This allowed me to take on new projects, working with various administrators on the areas of parent and family services, student enrichment programming, student leadership development, and sophomore year experience. Advising sophomores through the student government was a profound experience that gave me a second “ah-ha moment.” I started to believe that advising might be the career for me.
Post graduation in 2010, I embarked on a long, exhaustive job search that at some point made me lose hope in my ability to find employment. But I kept in mind that it was all about fit. In October 2011, I found placement at Temple University at the Fox School of Business in the Center for Undergraduate Advising. It was an academic advisor position that I felt at the time was made for me. It had elements that would allow me to use my experiences in student affairs to bring forth a fresh take to advising.
After almost six years at Temple I have come to love working with our first and second year students. I have learned so much working in an academic environment that I didn’t think about during my years working in student affairs. My role currently centers around helping students understand their academic programs, schedules and plans. I also break down academic policy and procedures. There are days when I channel my “inner-orientation leader” to find the strength to uplift students in their toughest days.
While my journey into higher education is not uncommon, it is one that shows a transformation from orientation to commencement. I never sought out a career in college administration. I found it through a greater pursuit of finding a career that would bring me joy and happiness. I learned I loved helping students throughout their journeys of higher learning. Just as I was learning to pick up the pieces of my dreams, I realized I had the opportunity to do that for undergraduates. It’s powerful to find your calling. For me it took seven years after starting my first day of college to find my place in our industry.
I am a proud #SAPro and academic advisor who takes the lessons from my mentors in student affairs and mix them to serve an academic audience. Synergy is key to my journey.
October is Careers in Student Affairs Month (CSAM). While increased awareness of entry-points into the field are important to highlight, CSAM also serves as a way to discuss the larger culture of student affairs. Our pursuit of ensuring student affairs staff is representative of diversifying student demographics can’t come at the cost of health and well-being of staff. Add your voice to the conversation by using #CSAM17. Have ideas about a future series for the Student Affairs Collective? Contact Nathan Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org.