When I first began my fieldwork placement at Bergen Community College back in spring of 2011 I would never have imagined that would end up staying 5 years at the institution. What began as an internship placement for my masters in counseling program at Montclair State quickly became my 1st career in higher education. For all intents and purposes, Bergen #comm_college became my #SAPro training ground.
In my short time at Bergen I took on various roles within student affairs. That’s the beauty of a community college, you can usually get involved in many different areas of student affairs because help is always needed and being understaffed is constant. I began my work as a career/transfer intern for my Masters. I met with students to discuss academic, career, and transfer questions. This role allowed me to better understand registrar and financial aid issues as they related to my students. I took the time to learn more about the systems at play so that I could better assist my students. At a smaller community college such as Bergen, it was easier to learn more about various functional areas in student affairs.
My main motivation in knowing as much as I could know?
1. To do well in my internship
2. To make sure I became a “one stop shop” for my students if I could
One of the realities of community colleges are that many students are working between 1 to 3 jobs, taking care of a family or assisting their parents in taking care of their siblings. In other words if the student makes it to you, you do everything you can do take care of as many of their issues as you can. The average community college student has a schedule I would not have been able to manage or handle when I was in undergrad and so the more I learned, the more I could help them troubleshoot when they took a day off work to come to campus to take care of some student related issues.
That knowledge not only helped me better understand my students but it propelled me forward as a student affairs professional. I expanded my knowledge and skill set within student affairs while assisting my student population. It is a skill set that will now be with me forever. Yes, student affairs will look different at each and every college or university but a base line knowledge within the field will always assist you wherever you go. So if you ever find yourself at a community college, begin by understanding who your students are and what they need. That knowledge will assist you in your development as a practitioner and in the long run it is best for you and your students.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Krista Kohlmann on Community Service