Throughout our #CSAM14 Series, we aim to bring you snapshots and spotlights of some amazing folks in our field.
Today’s feature is on Amy Tedesco, Community Director at Texas A&M.
Path to Student Affairs:
When I applied to my undergraduate alma mater, Quinnipiac University, I declared my major as mathematics. QU has a 5-year Master’s of Art in Teaching program, and I wanted to be a high school math teacher. By my junior year, when I began classes in the MAT program, I knew something was wrong with my plan. I didn’t like my MAT classes and dreaded my observation hours in a classroom each week.
At the same time, I was getting really involved with the Student Programming Board on campus- QU’s largest on-campus programming group. I served as the Multicultural Chair for the organization that year, but had been a general member my freshman and sophomore years. In February of that year (junior year), I was selected as a delegate to attend the NACA National Conference. While the thought had occasionally crossed my mind, it was there- surrounded by thousands of other passionate students and professionals- that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.
Returning from that trip, I spoke with the advisor for SPB and asked him how he got to do what he did for a living. I spoke with other professionals in the Student Center office and got advice and heard their stories. And I spoke with the 3 seniors on my executive board of SPB who are now also Student Affairs professionals. The Monday after Spring Break in March, I withdrew from the MAT program and began looking into graduate schools.
I ended up attending the University of Rhode Island. I had an interesting assistantship- I served as the GA for my graduate program (admissions, etc.) and also as a research assistant for one of the professors in the program. The summer between my first and second years in graduate school, I served as an ACUHO-I intern at Texas Christian University. I jokingly referred to that experience as “housing bootcamp” afterward since I felt it gave me a taste of everything in housing. The biggest thing it gave me, though, was a direction for my job search. I knew I wanted to work in housing, in a position with a lot of student interaction.
What motivates you to be a student affairs advocate?
The first thing that motivates me to be a Student Affairs educator is a desire to pay it forward. I have been blessed to have worked with and be mentored by amazing professionals who saw more in me than I ever saw in myself. I feel it is a matter of respect to them to keep that cycle going.
The second, is that the students I work with change me and challenge me in ways that I never saw coming. Without a doubt, I know that my students impact me more than I impact them- they are just that good. But to be there for them in their times of need, or to be the voice to cheer them on when they’re so close to the finish line- it’s indescribable.
Third, I always wanted to be a teacher, but that’s not what I was meant to do. I can still incite passion in others though, and be an educator- through working with students, with my colleagues, and in the field. Helping students to realize how to live their own lives and be positive, contributing members of society is my daily challenge.
Fourth, everyday is different. I love that. I love that I never really know what to expect- it keeps me on my toes and helps me challenge myself.
How can new professionals succeed in student affairs/what does success mean?
While I haven’t been a full-time professional long, I think I’ve experienced enough to know that success is different for each person. Student Affairs isn’t a corporate job- we deal with people and people are unpredictable, even when you think you know someone. For me, my success isn’t determined by other people. Sure- recognition, raises, and promotions are great- but they don’t drive why I do what I do. Success is knowing that I have a positive impact on a student. It is seeing the growth in them as a person, leader, and citizen of the world. It is being there for the struggles and the triumphs and ensuring that a student or someone I work with is having a better experience than they imagined.
What do your parents think you do/how do you explain student affairs to folks?
About a year into my first professional position, I was talking to my dad on the phone. He loves to tell stories and (unfortunately for me), loves them more if they’re about me. He starts to tell me about a conversation he had with a coworker- about how proud he was that I got my Master’s the year before and the coworker couldn’t believe I got my Master’s in mathematics.
I started laughing and asked my dad if he thought my Master’s degree was in math and confused, he said, “Isn’t it?” I corrected my dad, but I know he still has no idea what I do, except that I love my job and honestly, that’s all he cares aboutt.
To other people, I try to strip my job down to the basics- it’s easier for them to grasp that way. Something like, “I work on a college campus and live in a residence hall. I manage the facility, oversee maintenance and upkeep, and supervise the student staff that look out for the residents.” Some people equate my job to being a babysitter for college students, and I reply that sometimes, it is. But it is SO much more than that.
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.