Hey there! I’m Doug Tate and I’ve just entered my first professional position out of grad school as a Residence Hall Director at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY. While I may be new to the hall director game, this isn’t the first time I’ve climbed The Hill. I graduated from WKU with my Bachelor’s degree in 2012, so the chance to come and give back to the community that sparked my passion for student affairs was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.
I’ve always been a #ResLifer, working as a desk clerk and RA in undergrad. My graduate assistantship at the University of Central Arkansas was as Assessment Coordinator for Housing & Residence Life, where I was responsible for assessing various departmental initiatives. While assessment remains a passion area of mine, and something I believe all SA pros should value, there was always this sense of something missing; a connection to students. Sitting in my office all day staring at Excel and SPSS didn’t give too many opportunities for meaningful interaction with students, only the occasional focus group. So, when I began the job search process last winter, I knew I wanted a position with a high level of student interaction. What better way to do that than live down the hall from them!
When thinking of what I wanted to say in this first post, I found myself mindlessly looking around my new office, when a special memento caught my eye. While it may be weird to have a picture of an egg in your office, it’s a print of the first assignment I turned in for my intro to photography class my freshman year here at WKU. Even though I didn’t remain a photojournalism major long, this photo still has quite a bit of meaning to me.
You see, one of my biggest challenges with photography has always been focus. Bad depth perception and shaky hands have always meant photos with a clear point of focus are somewhat of a rarity. This print comes from one of those rare occasions. Focus, specifically bringing one element into precise focus, is key in producing a solid, well-composed photograph.
Likewise, I’m finding focus to be key in my transition into this new professional role. I’ve been back at WKU for just over a month; the vast majority of that time has been spent in Pro-Staff training. A week or so in, I realized I had no firm grasp on what was going on. Everything was kind of blurring together. I wasn’t sure where to focus.
Now, I’m not saying I wasn’t grasping policy and procedures or that I wasn’t paying attention. What I mean is that I was getting so wrapped up in the workload of trying to prep a building for opening and in learning new things and in getting ready to train a staff for the first time, that I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. Rather than to find that point in the image, focus on it, and compose the picture around it, I was trying to bring everything to the same level. That’s why I felt like I was faltering. And I’m realizing what I need to do. I need to remember to focus on serving the student.
Everything else we do as professionals – all the committees and task forces, all the procedures we design (and inevitably redesign), the hundreds of emails and phone calls – it’s all so we can better serve students. If I can remember to keep them the center of focus, everything else will fall into frame just where it needs to.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.