Who is Mairead Kiernan?
My name is Mairead Kiernan, and I’m a new #SAPro working as a Resident Director at Stevenson University just outside Baltimore. I’m a May 2014 graduate of the M. Ed. program at Texas Tech University, and prior to that, spent four years at Syracuse University study communications and sociology. Professionally, my areas of interest lie in student conduct, violence prevention, and risk management. Personally, I enjoy cooking, wine tasting, traveling, learning the ins and outs of being a cat mom, blogging, and the occasional Netflix binge!
What was your path to Student Affairs (feel free to include your plans as an undergraduate, etc.)?
I went into undergrad having no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I became an RA my sophomore year, and let me tell you…I was THAT RA. I was excited about everything and anything Res Life. I signed up for every opportunity, because a senior RA my second and third years, and was groomed by some awesome supervisors to move into the field. When OPE came around, I was sure I didn’t want an assistantship, but rather was planning on working professionally first for a bit. Instead, I accepted a position as a grad at Texas Tech, continuing my work in Res Life. I met some awesome new professionals in my time at TTU, but also quickly realized that Res Life wouldn’t be my forever home in Student Affairs. When I was exposed to Student Conduct my second year, I had that “aha!” moment. As I’ve moved into another Res Life position heavy on the conduct, I’ve come to find myself thinking about violence prevention and risk management (or a lack thereof) on campuses, and have realized I want to be part of that movement.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your job in Student Affairs?
The political games. I’ve always been a talker and was raised around movers and shakers, so I think in some ways, I have had a leg up on the political game for a while. With that being said, it’s not always about whether or not you can play the game, but whether or not you want or should have to. It blows my mind that, as a collective group of people who are supposed to be working with one purpose (re: students) in mind, universities can so quickly lose sight of what’s important when dealing with politics. I know they are a necessary evil, but trying to be the right person for all the parts of the game has been truly exhausting during certain times in my young career.
What are the most important tools for learning about a career in Student Affairs?
Ask people already in the field. We’re a field of people who (for the most part) love to talk about who we are and what we do. I say this for people at all levels. While at Texas Tech, I emailed the Dean of Students and asked for a meeting with her to discuss her career path. She took time out of her day to sit with me and chat about how she got to where she is and gave advice on how to get there. If you’re willing to put yourself out there by asking the questions, there are going to be people who are willing to answer.