I typically receive looks of surprise and horror when my students and colleagues discover that my undergraduate degree is in Chemistry. When explaining my transition into the field of Student Affairs, I inevitably allude to the “passion” I have for the field and the ways in which being an RA led me to discover my passion.
In the #SAchat a few weeks ago, I was shocked at the number of participants who shared their concern about our field’s necessity for “passion”. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that everyone needs to be constantly jazzed about their work in student affairs. Ultimately a job is a job, and most of the time your job doesn’t need to be your lifestyle for you to be good at it. However, passion has played a huge role for me in residence life. I can’t imagine living in a building full of undergraduates and holding 9-11pm staff meetings if I didn’t love my job and have a deep appreciation for student development.
Martha Compton (@marthakcompton) reminded me of the unfortunate truth that passion, drive, devotion, and commitment are often only recognized in extraverts in our field. It’s not surprising; in introverts these qualities are often shown as loud affirmation, visible excitement, and an absence of constructive cynicism.
I want this to change. I am often quiet in meetings, choosing to listen rather than talk. I engage with my eyes and my ears rather than my mouth, unless I feel that no one else in the room is representing mine and my students’ interests. If you tell me with a week to spare that I need to give up my weekend for an open house, I may sigh as the hope of reading my favourite book for five hours on Saturday goes out the window. But, what supervisors often don’t see, is the extra hours I put in at night talking with and learning about my desk staff or my reflections on meetings with colleagues and developments I work on to improve my area long-term. I love my job; If I didn’t, I would not choose to work extra evening hours, attend extra campus programs and engage in residence life topics on the weekends.
Do you have to do these things to show that you love your job? Absolutely not. But perhaps you show your passion, your drive, your commitment in other ways…and maybe your ways are much better recognized than mine.
Danielle Oldfield is currently a Residence Director at Emerson College, where she also advises RHA. Danielle’s SA interests include parent engagement, student conduct, and hall government. In her free time, Danielle enjoys reading, playing video games, playing ice hockey, and picking up new hobbies. Chat with her on twitter @rd_on_the_hill