When I began working at Bergen Community College, BCC, back in the spring of 2011 I was focused on my work as a career and transfer counselor. After all, my internship was based on my master’s program for counseling. But as the months went on I began to get a feel and taste for different elements of student affairs. Enter student life & student conduct.
In my work as conduct officer I met with students who had an error in judgement and needed assistance in, for lack of better words, righting their wrongs. However, in my work within the office of student life with the student clubs and organizations I was working with the students who were trying to do amazing things at BCC. As an undergraduate student myself I never knew an office such as this existed. An office that plans events? An office that oversees 50+ clubs? The office of student life opened my eyes to the possibilities that awaited me as a student affairs professional.
It was due to my work in this office that I began to work with the Student Government Association (SGA). At first I was like a consultant. Someone that the senators and executive board could come to see if they ever had questions about career/transfer counseling. But as time went on, I was asked to be a co-advisor to the organization. It is within this past year that I have truly seen what that role can do for my students.
Enter my student government vice president of this year. The moment I met this young lady I knew she was going to do amazing things. She has and will continue to have a fire within her that most do not have that most do not use to their advantage. And although it may seem she knew that she wanted to be a part of the student government association from the very beginning, she did not. She became the vice president by happenstance.
When I first met, we will call her Natalie for privacy purposes, back in the fall of 2013, she had no idea what organization she wanted to be a member of at BCC. She came to me under the recommendation of my then supervisor who asked me to meet with her as a counselor to help her narrow down what she wanted to be involved in at BCC. Natalie had decided she was going to be a senator, an executive board member for LASA, our Latin student organization, SAB, our student activities board, all while maintaining her 4.0 and 12 credits at BCC. Now mind you she was already working practically full time as well.
It was for the aforementioned reasons that I recommended that Natalie find the one thing that made sense for her in order to give back to BCC. As the year progressed Natalie began to weed out the organizations that did not feel were right for her and when spring 2014 approached she had decided she would be a senator for the upcoming year. I knew that she would make a great senator but an even better executive board member. I asked Natalie if she had thought about running for a position within the executive board and she said no because she had never been a senator. I replied with so what?
We left that meeting with an undecided answer, but by the end of the week Natalie had decided she was going to run for chief of staff. However, fate had other plans for her. Although Natalie won her position of chief of staff in the fall of 2014 she had to step up and fill the role of vice president. It is within this role that Natalie has been exposed to the field of student affairs in her work with the SGA and our office.
She enjoys reading policies at the institution and being a student advocate while navigating the politics and organizational culture at BCC. It is for these same reasons that she has decided to pursue a career in student affairs. I will never forget the day she came into my office and said, “Juhi, I want to do what you do.” And so this upcoming June I will be bringing Natalie with me to the NASPA Region II conference in DC so that I can begin paying it forward to her as many in the field have done with me.
As an SGA advisor, I have seen firsthand the benefits of students who take part in the holistic collegiate experience. Students who work within clubs on campus are exposed to things such as programming, budget, policy and process which assist in their development as leaders and students. The end product is a student who is ready to transfer those skills to his or her next institution or his or her career. After all, aren’t transferrable skills what our field is all about?
In the years to come I look forward to seeing this young lady take over the field of student affairs. I hope to be at her most important moments in order to celebrate with her. And I hope she pays it forward with her future student leaders within the clubs and organizations she works with, at whatever school she lands. Ultimately, the best way to see the success of your work is in your students.
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!