I began my journey in the field of Higher Education at Carson-Newman University through my AmeriCorps placement with their Bonner Scholars Center. I was coordinating an after-school program in the heart of East Tennessee Appalachia in which I connected students to literacy development opportunities. Going into this job, I really did not have a clue about the profession of Higher Education and honestly saw myself working in a nonprofit in the coming years. From my AmeriCorps placement to my brief stint in housing to coordinating volunteer activities and now serving as the Assistant Director for Spirituality, Service, and Justice at DePauw University, I’ve really enjoyed my journey working in the field of Higher Education.
First, I love the field I work in which I can connect students to volunteer opportunities, as I passionately believe that students have a vital role in local community development. I love coming to work and advising my leadership team as we talk about purpose-driven careers, spirituality, and social justice issues along with having fun through silly get to know you games. I traveled with students across the country from the mountains to the oceans and even had the experience of going internationally with students on service trips. I have been a part of my student leaders lives after college by writing letters of recommendations and serving as a reference on their job applications. Seeing transformation of students through our programs is one of the biggest highlights of this field.
I also really enjoy the atmosphere of creativity that is continually knocking on our door. From launching a new website for student voices around issues of social justice, to developing weekly vlogs with students, to new flyers, new shirts, new programs at night, the university is a constant place of creation and innovation that I get to be a part of. I often tell my students that our office is a moving ship. We are not anchored in, swaying back and forth and reacting to the waves that hit us, but we are at full sail; we are movement, we go against the waves, we are not afraid to get tipped over, we are not afraid of failure, we do not wait, but we innovate. People want to be part of movement and achievement. Our students are getting grants, presenting at national conferences, going to top grad schools, but most importantly, they are setting realistic goals and accomplishing them through their leadership and community work.
When I think about values and what defines me, here are some pieces of wisdom that I have found that continue to guide how I work:
- Take risks. Avoid SMART goals as much as possible. They limit you to realism. Think big and do not be afraid to chase after something worthwhile.
- Be an expert at all that you do. Read the literature, know your field, know the learning associated to your field, and know how it impacts the college experience.
- With that said, quantify what you do. Everything. Your interactions, student participation in your programs: develop a system to track your information as much as possible.
- Learn Excel. Pivot Tables and Pivot Graphs will make you look like a champ. It’s literally four or five clicks in the program, but you would be surprised at how many people do not know and fear this program. You’re able to summarize large datasets within seconds.
- Always ask, “do i really need to print this”? Reduce your paper use.
- Exercise during lunch a few times a week. It gets the blood flowing, promotes good health, and gets you out of your office.
- Go Vegetarian. Sorry just had to add this one in here =)
- Do not compromise who you are as a person. Ever. I skate to work sometimes, I’m a punk rock dad, I can braid my daughters hair, listen to EDM and 90s punk at work, play guitar in the office for quick breaks, and all around have a weird, sci-fi goofy personality. Authenticity draws people in. We live in world covered in plastic and I really think that students and people around you value authenticity.