I love the spring carnivals, orientations, karaoke nights, and field trips to local sporting events. These are the things I share on social media and what friends and family think I do all day. And it’s true, these are definitely a part of my job as a Student Affairs professional, but it’s not the whole picture. And truthfully? It’s only part of why I come to work every day. I’m also here for the Other Duties As Assumed.
Lest you confuse these tasks with “Other Duties As Assigned,” let me show you the difference. No one asks us to do these things. We’re not evaluated on them and our merit increases aren’t attached to their success. We take on these tasks, above and beyond our regular job descriptions and committee assignments. We do it because we find value in it, not because we’re compensated or praised.
Sometimes it’s writing recommendation letters, meeting their parents during Homecoming Weekend, attending their thesis defense, and cheering them on at their games. But sometimes it’s not all free t-shirts and balloon arches. Sometimes it’s hard.
The days when a student can’t pay her tuition bill because she has to help pay her family’s back rent. Or he’s falling behind in classes because he’s also working part time, and his newest sibling was up crying all night, and he’s navigating his 3rd funeral of the year. (Real funerals – not the kind that suddenly pop up when a paper is late).
When she looks at you with tears brimming and explains that she’s…late. Or when he loses his athletic scholarship and RA position because of a bonehead Thursday night (or a series of them).
When you spend hours supporting and encouraging them through these situations and it’s still not enough. They drop out. They assure you they’ll be back next semester, that they’ll enroll in community college classes until they can save up some money or raise their GPA.
When you realize that you are the first adult that has looked them in the eyes and told them that you’re proud of them. Or that you’re not.
That you know they aren’t meeting the expectations you’ve set. That you care enough to hold them accountable, even when it’s hard and it hurts. You’re not a social worker or counselor, but you may be the first person they’ve trusted, let their guard down for, wanted to impress – or at least not to disappoint.
These are the other duties as assumed. These are the things that sometimes come before emails, between meetings, and occasionally in late night text messages and phone calls. There are no CAS standards for this. But sometimes, without these most basic needs being met? Nothing else stands a chance of succeeding or mattering.
Oh, but when they do succeed? There is nothing sweeter! Watching students cross the stage at graduation is the ultimate reward. The path isn’t always straight, but they’ve reached the finish line. No matter how many times we ask families to hold their applause until the end, I revel in the whooping and hollering that explodes when these students hold their diplomas.
This post is part of our month-long series #OrgAdvising, an in-depth look at the different aspects of the student organization advisor role. This series hopes to bring front-and-center a role otherwise overlooked or forgotten in the discussion of “advisor.” For more information, see the intro post by Cindy Kane! Check out the other posts in this series too!