As a part of my role at Pacific, I coordinate the university’s New Member Institute for all new additions to the fraternity and sorority community. In the final activity of the program, participants watched a TED Talk by Candy Chang in which she discusses how she engaged her community in reflection and helped people prepare for death by completing the statement “Before I die, I want to…” Candy Chang’s talk is phenomenal, and I recommend you watch it if you have not seen it yet.
To relate this to New Member Institute, the participants were asked to reflect on this concept by answering “Before I graduate I want to…” The students shared their goals, creating a philanthropy to help engage students in reading, helping those around them, having a fun experience. As they shared, one student asked me what it was I wanted to accomplish before I graduate. I had reflected on this before this activity but was still a little caught off-guard by the genuine interest in knowing what I wanted to accomplish before I leave Pacific.
Which is officially in one month.
As a graduate student, I only have two years to make an impression. This has been an ebbing journey of trying to capitalize off of my short time to feeling like a temporary addition with little investment and back again to creating a lot of change in minimal time. Regardless of my view, before I graduate I want to leave a legacy that continues on after I left.
Which, I will recognize is the cliché goal of every senior student leader before they graduate. I recognize that the type of impact I have is different than from when I was a student leader. My goal is based upon structural change compared to peer influence.
Specifically, I want the work I placed into New Member Institute to continue after I graduate. I implemented a five-week long program based upon a proposal. This proposal gave suggestions and outlines for the program, but lacked curriculum. So I created curriculum reflected on the values of the community and the purpose of holistically building new members, predominantly freshman, in the fraternity and sorority community. I reached out to faculty for engage students academically, partnered with Conduct, and supervised both undergraduate and graduate facilitators for this program. I even made participant workbooks to further facilitate student development. I managed the multiple sessions of New Member Institute and was able to successfully see the final class the institute completed this past Sunday. I am proud the work I was able to accomplish within my role and hope to see this program continued with the core I built. I understand some of the activities will change based upon feedback, and I want to know this program is continued in some similar capacity next fall. To know the New Member Institute program I implemented will be continued after I graduate is my goal and students continue to find this structure beneficial.
And to crash a wedding at the chapel on campus. Wedding ceremonies take place almost every weekend, but that goal is not very relevant to my journey into Student Affairs, as jovial as it is.
In Candy Chang’s TED Talk, she talks about how one of the most empowering things we as people can do is prepare for death. How often in Student Affairs do we prepare for leaving our current job or institution? I entered my time at Pacific with a clear end date, and I did not begin to seriously think about what I still wanted to accomplish until the beginning of this semester.
Similar to Candy Chang, I think one of the most empowering things I can do as a professional is prepare for when I leave the current role or position. I understand there is unknown with the length I have in a job. And there is an equal unknown in when my death occurs. By preparing for both, I can be purposeful in both my professional and purposeful actions. As a professional, I should be driven to make every action impactful for when I am no longer in that position. Realistically, my first professional position will be the next three to five years of my life. That is a short time to make a measurable impact within that role.
From the moment I begin, I should be motivated to think about how I want to leave the office, department, and individuals around me when I no longer serve in that role. This is empowering because my actions are motivated by the solutions I develop and the impact of my influence. This begins each position with reflection, considering the expanse of my role, my ability for influence, the role this position plays supporting the mission of the institution, and how I can capitalize on this position thoughtfully to consider where I envision myself and those around me when I would be leave the job. This creates a drive to be intentional and purposeful that each interaction leaves those I work with in a better place than before I began the role.
As I consider where life will take me post-graduation, I am constantly thinking about what I want out of my first job. A question I am now asking myself is what I want to achieve before I leave that position. By consistently reflecting on the limited time I may have at a college or university, I can be empowered to be intentional in my influence and driven to align my actions with my ability to leave those around me in a better place than from when I began.
With each job or role, it’s important to ask what one wants to do before you leave. Time is short, but the impact one leaves can continue long after your role.