12, 245(3), 5 – no, those aren’t my training run stats; they are my undergraduate stats. Twelve years, 245 credit hours with three very slight major adjustments, and five institutions. Everything I did as an undergraduate seemed nontraditional. I was a working parent so it took me twelve years to earn my bachelor’s degree in psychology after spending one year as an English major and another year as a social work major, as well as dealing with life changes – moving across country twice and attending five different institutions. I never learned that I could appeal transfer credits, so I took abnormal psychology three times and statistics three times. I worked in fast food, waited tables, served as a customer service representative for a teaching supply company, was a project manager for a small family-run printing and publishing company, was a temporary receptionist for a temporary employment agency and a representative for an applicant tracking and recruiting company.
It wasn’t until six months before graduating in August of 2006 that I learned about the field of student affairs. My academic advisor at the time said “You would make a great academic advisor.” Having been through about ten different advisors (the good, the bad, the mediocre) during my twelve years, I couldn’t resist looking into it. Of course, I was too late for that year’s applications to the two programs that were within driving distance, so I took a temporary job processing Medicare/Medicaid claims and started making contacts. I’m sure my husband and kids thought I was crazy. But the two-year structure of the Bowling Green State College Student Personnel program gave them some relief, and we all celebrated when I finished in 2009 with a cohort of wonderful people young enough to be my children.
I realize much of what I’ve shared so far doesn’t relate to my career ‘in’ student affairs, but I shared the history because I came into the field later in my life than many colleagues. I was 39 and geographically bound when I started my job search. I am hoping to find other professionals who did not take the traditional route and timeline into student affairs. I’ve never experienced residence life or greek life, and I doubt I ever will. I struggle with having so much experience and yet so little of it in the field where I believe I am good at what I do. I can name other specific experiences where I lack what someone my age should have progressed to, including budgeting and leadership, even as I try to fill those gaps through professional development.
My first student affairs job was part-time as a Student Success Mentor at Owens Community College. After spending two years driving 75 to 90 minutes each way to classes and my internship, the 45 minute drive didn’t seem so bad. When an opportunity for a promotion presented itself I decided that going back to making a 90 minute drive was a sacrifice I would have to make. I served as an academic advising manager for almost three years. During that time, I decided I was ready to pursue my doctorate, and we made some adjustments. I shared an apartment with my daughter, who was then a student at Bowling Green State University herself, during the week and came home on the weekends. Budget cuts at Owens and a dislike of being away from home during the week sent me job hunting closer to home, and in 2013 I accepted an offer to become an advisor at Rhodes State College, knowing it could be difficult to present stepping out of a leadership role on my resume.
Now I’m two years away from completing my doctorate (hopefully less), and we are looking to move out-of-state again. My hope is to stay in higher education. At the same time, I know life can take some interesting twists, so I am open to other possibilities.