One of the things that drew me to my graduate program, and ultimately one of my favorite parts of my experience, was the requirement to have at least 6 credit hours’ worth of internships. These internships could be with other offices on campus or with other universities; they could be practice- or research-focused; they could take you more in-depth into your functional areas of interest or springboard you into a new area. We could seek out well-known internships in the field, such as NODA or ACUHO-I, but we were also encouraged to reach out to colleagues on campus to create our own internships. The reasoning? In our field, opportunities for collaboration are not handed to you on a silver platter; you must seek out partnerships and learning by building relationships with other offices on campus.
I took this paradigm to heart, and thoroughly enjoyed my internships in Greek life, student government, and the career center. I valued these opportunities for my own personal growth – since I aspired to be (and now am) a student activities professional, I knew that these experiences would be transferable to my future work. But I also value these internships for the glimpse they gave me into my colleagues’ lives and work, and the empathy I gained for that work. No, maybe my career center colleagues don’t have to work late night programs, but they often hold students’ futures in their hands with co-curricular transcripts, mock interviews, and resume workshops. Sure, student government can sometimes seem tedious from the outside, but SGA advisors strive to offer their students sound guidance on how to govern and advocate for their peers. Greek life, undoubtedly, is not without its PR and risk management obstacles, but the professionals in those offices are wholly dedicated to their students’ learning and development as leaders.
My seeking of new opportunities did not end with my master’s hooding. As I mentioned, I very much took my graduate program’s internship lessons on seeking learning opportunities to heart. To that end, I’ve made the most of new opportunities over the past four years of being a professional – as a LeaderShape campus session Cluster Facilitator, as an alumna initiate of a Panhellenic sorority, and as a volunteer staff member and extra set of hands, whenever I can be.
My challenge to you, my colleagues, is to join me in this openness to new experiences. Next time your student activities office asks for volunteers for their late night finals breakfast, sign up for a shift. When Greek life needs staff members for Panhellenic recruitment, get ready to help with bid cards. Next time the student conduct office is looking for hearing officers, consider training with them. When the career center needs session presenters, dust off your facilitation skills and offer a few afternoons of your time.
Not only will you get the chance to brush up on your own skills – which is an incentive in and of itself – but you’ll also build positive, reciprocal relationships with your colleagues across campus. And of course, not only will you continue to strengthen your own (and your office’s) image with your colleagues, but you may gain a little empathy for their work, too. You’ll remind yourself of the reality of our profession – that it is multifaceted, and that there are MANY ways to reach students on a day to day basis. And you’ll remember that every piece of the work we do – from admissions and financial aid, to orientation and housing, to student activities, multicultural affairs, Greek life, student conduct, and ultimately to alumni affairs – matters.