What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your job in Student Affairs?
I pride myself on being an empathetic person, which serves me well in my role. However, at times, I feel emotionally and mentally empty because this profession often requires me to give so much of myself. I end up investing so much of my time, energy, and effort into my students that I feel like I’ve got nothing left for myself.
Higher education moves slowly and often spends its resources in ways that are not reflective of its mission.
We also struggle with keeping staff members who are toxic and are no longer effective in their role because of the fear of legal ramifications and because we are in a relational field. When we do this our students lose–every single time.
~Ann Marie Klotz
How to move up the ladder. Let’s be real, this is still a profession dominated by old white dudes, and I don’t identify that way. People joke about moving up or moving out, but honestly I think our field forces some folks out because there are not always pathways for folks to develop in meaningful ways that still benefit the students and our campus communities.
Being forced to carry out policies or decisions that I don’t agree with. (Ex. – Firing a student that I didn’t want to fire, hiring a student I didn’t want to hire all because someone else told me I had to). That’s difficult for me considering the relationships that I’m trying to build with students.
The biggest challenge so far for me was learning to balance the age range of myself and my students. Because I (initially) began working in orientation when I was fresh out of graduate school, I wasn’t much older than the students with whom I was working. Added to that, I was at a community college, where many of the orientation staff members were older than me. It was hard to learn to balance that I was a supervisor and not a “friend” to the students who were only 1 or 2 years younger than me. It was also very hard to balance directing students much older than myself. The first year was certainly a learning experience in terms of determining what my professional boundaries were, and how they needed to be adjusted as I grew as a professional.
I supervised a Resident Advisor who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but did not want to seek professional help or support from therapists. It was incredibly challenging as her behavior and decision-making was clearly being influenced by her brain chemistry, but wasn’t able to acknowledge how this was impacted her ability to succeed, as well as her ability to support residents on her floor. We struggled the entire year and I left the year certain she hated me. The day she graduated two years later, she strolled into my office, cap and gown in tow, and handed me a three-page, handwritten letter thanking me for not giving up on her and how much my support meant to her and her success.
I suppose it was walking into my most recent job and finding that the program I was hired to lead was entirely underdeveloped. What was meant to be an on-boarding/retention type of leadership program turned out to be a series of once-a week-for 6 months lessons, (not enough lessons, mind you), pieces of paper. It was definitely disheartening to know I had nothing in front of me, but was expected to walk into the classroom and kick off this (not all that new) new program. After a few months or mostly trial and error, however, I was able to put together a solid program that did improve retention and relationships between the education department and students.
I’ve given up on balance. Balance is something that indicates a give-and-take that you can’t win. I try to blend work and life in healthy ways that allow me to spend time with my family, continue my education and enjoy hobbies, etc. It’s not easy, but focusing on time management and trusting others to get work done has helped immensely.
About our contributors:
Ann Marie Klotz
Bio: Dr. Ann Marie Klotz is the Dean for Campus Life and Chief Student Affairs Officer on the Manhattan campus of the New York Institute of Technology. Previously, she spent 14 years working in Housing and Residence Life at Oregon State University, DePaul University, Ball State University and Albion College. She earned her B.A. from Grand Valley State University (Political Science) and M.A.’s from Michigan State University (Student Affairs) and DePaul University (Women and Gender Studies) respectively. She recently earned her doctorate in the spring of 2014 from DePaul University where she studied the career trajectories and leadership styles of ten female university presidents.
She is the current National Co-Chair for the Women in Student Affairs (WISA) Knowledge Community for NASPA and is the recent recipient of the 2014 ACPA Standing Committee for Women Research and Scholarship Award. Personal and research interests include women’s career development, professional staff recruitment, developing on-line communities, personal branding, and first generation college students. Learn more at www.annmarieklotz.com
Years in field: 11-15
Connect with Ann Marie on Twitter: @annmarieklotz
Julie Larsen is a graduate of the Seattle University Student Development Administration program and has worked in student affairs for 8 years. Functional areas of experience include residence life, leadership development, student mentor programs, and academic advising. She is active with NACADA, and is the current chair for the Technology in Advising Commission. Most importantly, Julie loves burritos, good beer, pretending to know about fashion, Shonda Rhimes produced television, and dancing it out.
Years in the field: 8-10
Connect with Julie on Twitter: @julieclarsen
Bio: Jennifer Keegin is currently the Associate Director of Campus Activities at Binghamton University while serving part time as the Division of Student Affairs Communications Manager. Previous to work at Binghamton U, Jennifer worked in Student Activities at Loyola University New Orleans and in Residence Life at the North Carolina School of the Arts. A big fan of Twitter, Jennifer enjoys all social media and new technology while at the same time collects images of retro technology used by women on her blog jenniferkeegin.com.
Years in the field: 16 – 20
Connect with Jennifer on Twitter: @JenniferKeegin
My name is Emily and I graduated with my Masters in Student Affairs from Kent State in 2009. I started working at Tallahassee Community College in Florida as Orientation Director later that year. In that capacity, I worked with all incoming students in orientation, and also assisted with admissions, advising and graduation checks.
In 2013, I moved to Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts, where I work as Academic Program Specialist. I work with the undergraduate students in the program from the application process all the way through graduation, and everything in between (orientation, advising, registration, financial aid, etc).
I love working with students and watching them grow and mature throughout their time in school; I love watching them learn who they are and what they stand for. When I’m not working (or volunteering on film sets with the students), I enjoy spending time with my husband and our 2 year old son, baking, and going to the beach.
Years in the field: 5-7
Marci Walton is proud to serve as the Assistant Director for Academic Support and Learning Communities for Residence Life at Loyola University Chicago. She is interested in residence life, social justice, service, and the intersections of identity. She is passionately curious about social media, women’s leadership, and finding the perfect spot to admire Lake Michigan. Marci can be found on Twitter @MarciKWalton and blogs regularly at www.marcikwalton.com.
Years in the field: 8-10
Connect with Marci on Twitter: @MarciKWalton
I am an educator with a foundation that exists in the overlap of leadership and student developments. I believe in meeting students where they are at and that anything is possible with the power of awe.
I am a reader of many things and a writer of fiction. I love crossword puzzles and warm weather.
B.S.-English, M.A.-Higher Education Leadership
Years in the field: 0-1
Connect with Jamie on Twitter: @JamieSara22
I am the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life at Gustavus Adolphus College, a small, private, liberal arts institution in southern Minnesota. I have a master’s degree in Educational Policy & Administration from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and am currently a doctoral student there. I’ve worked at the University of St. Thomas and St. Olaf College and have been at Gustavus (my alma mater!) for three years.
Years in the field: 8-10
Connect with Charlie on Twitter: @pottscharlie
This post is part of our #CSAM14 series, looking to highlight both the careers of amazing student affairs professionals, and specific questions that dig deep into what it means to be in student affairs. Each post reflects the insights of student affairs professionals of all kinds. For more information, check out the intro post by Ryan Bye.