One of the cornerstones of my job (and of many student affairs professionals) is encouraging students to seek opportunities during their academic career to promote growth and self-development. College is a time of discovery and opportunity. We know through research that students succeed academically and integrate socially when they are engaged on campus in a variety of ways, such as through research, field work, or holding positions of leadership that will help them to grow as a student.
While we as student affairs professionals often push students to grow and challenge themselves to gain useful, applicable experience, we often forget that it is important for us, as well, to continue to develop professionally. Sure, many student affairs professionals are fortunate to have professional development funds and can attend a conference or add to our book collection each year, but do these experiences truly allow for professional development? Do we use what we learn and apply it to our own professional practice? And even if we do, it is often hard to set aside time for professional development as the demands of our jobs take up more and more of our time. Some days, it’s a miracle to leave work at a reasonable hour, much less think about engaging even more.
Over the past six months, I have begun to meet twice weekly with a colleague to discuss our own development and goals. What began as a friendly discussion between friends has evolved into something much more — a homegrown, professional development opportunity. Our conversations revealed that we both have an interest in developing our own student development theory related to student growth and potential that can be turned into practice, and as a result, we have begun meeting to write our own theory. While it is only in the beginning stages, I can honestly say that I have never felt more energized or rejuvenated in my job as I do now. For the first time in my career, I am participating in a professional development opportunity that is a passion project and allows me practically apply what we discuss.
While I don’t know where this professional development opportunity may lead (even if it ultimately leads nowhere), I do know that putting in the extra time to focus on a project I am passionate about has helped to re-excite me about the work I do. It may seem counterintuitive that putting in more time and effort above and beyond my typical job responsibilities gives me more energy, but it’s the truth. I’ve been reminded that working in an environment of growth and development helps to motivate me, and sometimes putting in the extra time to cultivate our own interests and skills helps to improve our own ability to work in student affairs in the long run.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Tyler Miller on Student Development Theories, Part I